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Father Aloysius H. Schmitt (December 4, 1909 – December 7, 1941) was a Roman Catholic priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque, who served as a chaplain in the United States Navy during World War II.[1]

Early life and ordination

Born in St. Lucas, Iowa, Fr. Schmitt studied at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.[1] He then studied in Rome for the priesthood. He was ordained on December 8, 1935. Father Schmitt was assigned to parishes in Dubuque, 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 rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG) on June 28, 1939.

Assigned to the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Fr. Schmitt was serving on board the battleship, USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. 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.[1] 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.

Posthumous honors

He was honored posthumously by the U.S. government when it awarded him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. A destroyer escort named USS Schmitt was commissioned in 1943 by the Navy in his honor, and served the U.S. Navy until 1967 when it was transferred to Taiwan.[1] 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. An island in the Mississippi River near Dubuque, Iowa is also named in his honor. The island, called Chaplain Schmitt Island, is the location of Dubuque Greyhound Park and Casino.

See also


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