To quote President Franklin D. Roosevelt " Yesterday, December 7th...., a day which will live in infamy..." something remarkable happened : after 76 years, the United States navy awardd its third highest honor "For Gallantry in the face of enemy action" to Father Aloysius Schmitt Catholic Chaplain who died aboard the sinking U.S. OKLAHOMA in 1941 at Pearl Harbour.

Now read his story of Priestly self-sacrifice:


A day on which we remember a heroic young Catholic Priest who gave his life acting in Persona Christi just 74 years ago today, and pray for his intercession on behalf of our present day Priests.

"Haec Dies"...This is the day, but unlike the prayer which goes on "..which the Lord has made...", this is the day, the anniversary of the day,  "which will live in infamy". For today is the 74th  Anniversary of the cowardly Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour which began the War in the Pacific.
 7th December 1941 was a Sunday.


Father Aloysius Schmitt was a 32 yrs old Catholic Priest, serving in the United States Navy as a Chaplain with the rank of Lieutenant(JG) -Junior Grade. He served on one of the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet Battleships - U.S.S. OKLAHOMA. Sunday morning had dawned beautifully at his Pacific island base.Father's day began like any other in his recently-commenced Naval career as Chaplain , which had begun nearly 6 months ago on 28th June. He celebrated Holy Mass for the Catholic members of the crew at 0615 and, after making his thanksgiving, slid his Breviary into his jacket pocket.

U.S.S.OKLAHOMA was moored in the tropical charm of Pearl Harbour. Situated in the Hawaiian Islands, Pearl Harbour was the great Western bastion of United States Naval power. Here row upon row of mighty battleships, cruisers and destroyers were moored in idyllic peace. Life can be good -balmy weather, gentle island breezes, the order and glamour of the great fleet, then add the sublime - the devout celebration of Holy Mass. 

Unnoticed simple actions can have the most serious consequences.
Within minutes, the devastating and treacherous Japanese attack - prepared as the Japanese Ambassador gained time with phoney Peace Talks in Washington - had begun. Father Schmitt went straight to his Battle Station in the great ship's Sick Bay to minister to the injured and the dying. Suddenly OKLAHOMA herself was struck and shaken by exploding torpedoes. She took on water rapidly and commenced to list badly, then steadily rolled over as the weight of her huge main armament gun turrets had effect.

In the turmoil, the young Priest followed his charges in the search for a safe compartment. They found one with a porthole still giving access to the open air. Father Schmitt stood back and helped push men to safety through the small opening. When his turn came, those outside, now pulling him, found that they could not get him through, as the Breviary in his pocket jammed in the porthole. 

 As they frantically struggled, Father insisted that they let him go as more men had entered the compartment."Please let go of me and may God bless you all", he said and slipped back to resume his work, pushing the newcomers to safety. In all Father Schmitt pushed 12 men to safety.  Within 20 minutes of the first torpedo hit , OKLAHOMA settled in the mud of Pearl Harbour.

Father Aloysius Schmitt drowned when the compartment finally flooded. He was an authentic hero and an authentic Alter Christus faithful even unto death - giving his life so that his flock might live. We pray often for a good death. Father Schmitt as a holy and faithful Priest could not have served his Master better.

Father Aloysius Schmitt was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal with the citation "His magnanimous courage and self sacrifice were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave up his life for his country."

Well, Father Schmitt was acting in the highest traditions of another band of brothers, the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, Who gave up His Life that all may have eternal life.

The story of Father Aloysius Schmitt is told with the help of information in the HAWAII NAVY NEWS 14 October, 2005. Father Schmitt was the first United States Chaplain to die in World War II.

When we think of that terrible day, at least as far as Father Schmitt's heroic sacrifice, perhaps we can, in considering him, conclude the prayer we referred to at the beginning "....let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Father Aloysius Schmitt, pray for us and our priests. May your Priestly heroism never be forgotten.


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