On December 7th, the US Navy chaplain corps memorialized two chaplains who died in the line of duty during the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Chaplain (CAPT) Leroy Kirkpatrick, aboard the USS Arizona, became the first Navy chaplain to die in what became known as World War II. Chaplain (Lt) Aloysius Schmitt, aboard the USS Oklahoma, was the first Roman Catholic chaplain killed in the war.
Few may realize that two years later the US Navy launched the USS Schmitt (DE-676) and the USS Kirkpatrick (DE-318), two of only seven US Navy warships named after chaplains.
The Chaplain of the Marine Corps, Chaplain (RADM) Margaret Kibben, visited the USS Arizona memorial in November and recalled Chaplain Kirkpatrick’s sacrifice at the time:
“I was profoundly moved by the fact that we are the recipients of a history that so many chaplains have laid out for us, and a hero that Chaplain Kirkpatrick is, it really is what being a chaplain is all about,” Kibben said. “So for me, it was incredibly humbling, it was the weight of responsibility for chaplains to live that legacy. It was awesome, just awesome.”
Wherever US troops go, chaplains go as well — from the training grounds to the front lines, and the chow hall to the foxhole.