Dubuque County

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Fayette County

The photograph was published after his death in the Mason City Globe Gazette, July 16, 1942.
U.S. Navy Chaplain, Father Aloysius Schmitt

Chaplain Schmitt
Navy Chaplain Lived & Died Serving Others ~Photo published DesMoines Register, Dec. 4, 2016

 

 

 

PLAN MEMORIAL FOR CHAPLAIN
Services for Pearl Harbor Victim to Be at St. Lucas, Dubuque

WEST UNION – Memorial services for Father Aloysius Schmitt, U. S. navy chaplain killed in action at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, will be held at 10 a.m. at St. Lucas by Father John Schmitt of Manchester, a cousin.

Another service will be held at St. Mary’s church in Dubuque at 10 a.m. Monday by the Archbishop F. J. L. Beckman. The Rev. Mr. Schmitt was assistant pastor of St. Mary’s until March, 1940 when he entered the service.

He is survived by the following brothers and sisters: Will, West Union; Nick, St. Lucas; Mrs. L. T. Sloan, St. Lucas; Mrs. Ernest Hauber, Calmar; Sister M. Germaine, teaching at Pocahontas; Matt Schmitt, St. Lucas; and Mrs. Richard Burcheit, St. Lucas.

The Rev. Mr. Schmitt was educated in the parochial school at St. Lucas, attended Loras college from 1929 until 1933; attended the American college in Rome from1933 to 1936 and was ordained in Rome Dec. 8, 1937. He served as assistant pastor at the cathedral in Cheyenne, Wyo., from Sept. 1938; then assistant pastor of St. Mary’s, Dubuque, until March, 1941, since when he had been a chaplain in the United States navy.

Source: The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, Saturday, December 20, 1941

Name Destroyer for Lt. Aloysius Schmitt; Was Navy Chaplain

DECORAH -- Because he was the first chaplain killed in this war, Lt. Aloysius Schmitt of St. Lucas will be given the honor of having a ship named in his memory. The ship is a destroyer escort vessel and will be launched next month in Massachusetts, according to the navy department. Lieutenant Schmitt was the chaplain on the USS Oklahoma hich was bombed at Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 1941.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 13, 1943

Receives Crucifix Made From Sunken Battleship

DUBUQUE, Ia. -- (AP) -- The Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque today possessed a 24 -inch crucifix made from salvaged material of the battleship Oklahoma, sunk, Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor.

The crucifix, with its cross made from teakwood from the deck and the figure of Christ from metal parts of the ship, was presented by the navy department to the archdiocese Saturday in honor of Lt. Aloysius Schmitt, navy chaplain who lost his life when the Oklahoma was sunk. Lt. Schmitt was assistant pastor of St. Mary's church here at the time he entered the navy in June, 1939.

Source: The Daily Times, December 11, 1944

Plan College Chapel as Schmitt Memorial

DUBUQUE (AP) -- A new Loras college chapel will be built from donations of priests of the Dubuque archdiocese in memory of Lt. Aloysius Schmitt, first Catholic chaplain to die in World War II, according to the Most Rev. Arch bishop Henry P. Rohlman.

The chapel, part of a building program which also included a memorial hall, also will be built in memory of the service and bravery of the other chaplain priests from the Archdiocese. Both buildings will be three-story structures, and the memorial hall will have a fourth floor annex.

Source: The Council Bluffs Nonpareil, June 8, 1945

Honor WWII chaplain

By Thomas Ryder

DUBUQUE, Ia. -- Several hundred persons are expected here today for the dedication of a memorial for Navy Lt. (j.g.) Aloysius Schmitt of Dubuque and St. Lucas who was the first chaplain to lose his life in World War II.

It was nearly 32 years ago when Schmitt, a Catholic chaplain, died a hero's death as the battleship USS Oklahoma turned over in Pearl Harbor, the victim of Japanese torpedoes.

The dedication is being sponsored by the Navy League of Dubuque. E.A. (Sandy) Sanderson, in charge of arrangements, said relatives and friends of Chaplain Schmitt, and veterans, including Malcolm McCleary of Silvus, Ill., one of the sailors who tried to pull Chaplain Schmitt through a porthole to safety, will be on hand.

The site of the dedication is a 100-foot-square plot at a Mississippi River harbor named after Chaplain Schmitt in 1968. The focal point of the plot is a limestone marker sculpted in the form of a pilot wheel sinking beneath the waves of a turbulent sea.

Chief speaker will be Capt. James Killeen, deputy chief of the Navy Chaplain Corps.

Also on hand will be Sister Germaine Schmitt, O.S.F., of Dubuque, a sister of the chaplain.

At 7:15 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack began. The venerable Oklahoma took three torpedoes and began to list to port. Minutes later the ship took two more torpedoes.

The rapidity and devastation of the attack trapped hundreds below deck. Chaplain Schmitt was one of them.
In 20 minutes the vessel had slipped on her side in about 40 feet of water. Of the 1,354 persons aboard, 405 perished.

Sister Germaine said she got the story of her brother's death from several sources.

She said she learned he was preparing for mass on the Oklahoma, his first shipboard assignment, when the alarm sounded.

"He went to sick bay which was his station in a battle," Sister said. "But it soon became apparent that the ship would sink.

"The men opened a porthole (a 14-inch opening) and began to climb out and swim away.

"As a chaplain my brother's responsibility was to his men and his duty was to remain until all others were saved."

Sister Germaine said that when the chaplain thought all were out, he started to climb out himself and was helped by others outside, and that he became stuck.

"Then he told the men he heard others behind him and told the men to push him back," Sister Germaine said. "They didn't want to, but there was little time.

"As the ship listed still more, Father helped the remaining 12 men through the porthole."

Sister Germaine referred to the following graphic account of the final minutes. It was in a letter written by Electrician's mate 1st Class W.A. Perrett to the Navy Chaplain Corps to testify to Chaplain's heroism.

He wrote, "The ship was listing 20 degrees to 25 degrees when I was pulled through the porthole. At that moment I heard some yelling and looking around I recognized Chaplain Schmitt. He said "Boys, I'm having a tough time getting through." So we all get together and tried to pull him out. But no luck. His next words really took us by surprise and will linger with us for some time -- "Men, you are endangering your lives and keeping others from getting through." But we tried again to pull him out. One of the men said "Chaplain, if you go back in there you'll never come out.

"He disappeared back in the ship knowing well he would never come out of there alive.

"The ship was slowly turning over. Soon we had to leave as it was getting too hot. You must realize bombs were being dropped and we were being strafed. We left the Oklahoma by jumping into the sea and swam toward the USS Maryland (another battleship) where we were hoisted aboard. A few minutes later, the Oklahoma turned turtle and with her went a brave and courageous man who gave his life in keeping with the best traditions of the US Navy.

Chaplain Schmitt later was awarded posthumously the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and Citation.

Sister Germaine said that 17 months later when the Oklahoma was raised it was discovered that the safe containing the chaplains ceremonial materials was open.

"Everything was there but the leather packet in which he kept oils for anointing the dying, " she said. "We believe he stuffed it into a pocket of his clothing and it was this packet that caused him to be caught halfway out of the porthole."

The victims of the Oklahoma were buried in a common gave in a government cemetery near Pearl harbor.

Chaplain Schmitt, who died at age 31, was born and reared in St. Lucas. He was as associate pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Dubuque before entering the navy.

Source: The Des Moines Register, September 16, 1973

Pearl Harbor Hero's Remains Return Home After 75 Years

The remains of an Iowa priest who died saving 12 men during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, returned home this week nearly 75 years after his death.

The Rev. Aloysius Schmitt died Dec. 7, 1941, at age 32. The Roman Catholic priest and Navy chaplain of the USS Oklahoma grew up on a farm outside St. Lucas in Fayette County. His remains will be laid to rest Saturday at a chapel dedicated to him at Loras College in Dubuque. [excerpt]

Source: Iowa City Press Citizen, October 8, 2016 (photo included)