ALL THE WAY
Father Aloysius H.
December 4, 1909 – December 7, 1941
Roman Catholic priest
of the Archdiocese of Dubuque
Chaplain in the United States Navy during World War II
He was born in St. Lucas, Iowa and studied at Loras College in Dubuque after which he prepared for the priesthood as a seminarian in Rome, where he was prophetically ordained on Our Lady's Feast, the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1935. Father Schmitt then served in Dubuque parishes, and one in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After four years, he received permission to become a chaplain, and joined the United States Navy. He was appointed Acting Chaplain with the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG) on June 28, 1939.The USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor
On December 7th, 1941, Fr. Schmitt was serving on board the battleship, USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He had just finished saying Mass when the call went out for "general quarters". A Japanese hit caused the ship to capsize. A number of sailors, including Fr. Schmitt, were trapped in a compartment with only a small porthole as the means of escape. Fr. Schmitt helped a number of men through this porthole. When it came his time to leave, he declined and helped more men to escape. In total, he helped 12 men to escape.
Fr. Schmitt died on board the Oklahoma. He was the first chaplain of any
faith to have died in World War II. His example inspired a number of
other priests to become chaplains.
He was honored posthumously
by the U.S. government when it awarded him the Navy and Marine Corps
Medal along with the Purple Heart. A destroyer escort named USS Schmitt
was commissioned in 1943 by the Navy in his honor, ceremonially
launched by his sister, and served the U.S. Navy until 1967 when it was
transferred to Taiwan. The Christ the King Chapel at Loras College was
dedicated in his memory, and contains some of Fr. Schmitt's property
that was donated to the school. When the USS Oklahoma
["the Oakie"] was recovered his body was never identified, but his
liturgical book was found. There are many memorials in his honor. A
picture of one on the web is HERE.
Another link of interest
that includes Protestant [amended from previous error of Catholic
identification] Chaplain, Fr. Kirkpatrick [Captain] of the USS Arizona is HERE.
We chose the
shell as one of Father's symbols because it represents the Sacrament of
Baptism, rather than the Navy anchor. The medal is the Purple Heart.
The title of this brief memorial is taken from the video documentary of
the same title which was broadcast on EWTN. The image of him in his
Navy uniform is the only one we could locate. The documentary has many
fine black and white photos of him.
THIS IS HOW CATHOLIC TRADITION
WANTS TO CELEBRATE THE FOURTH OF JULY,
FOLLOWING HIS QUIET EXAMPLE, INSTEAD OF FIREWORKS.