398th Bomb Group

The Chaplain Remembers

Chaplain James Duvall

The chapel was located in a building in the Group Headquarters area. It was also used for general briefings. A Sgt. Russell, who worked with the Clerk of the Works, (Civil Engineers), built and erected the steeple, which identified the building as the Chapel.

We had very little altar equipment. When we needed a candelabra someone made one out of welding rod and shell casings. It seems that whatever was needed someone would either find it or make it. For Christmas Eve, some men made candle reflectors out of Number 2 cans. These were placed in the windowsills but were blown off when some bombs began to pop off when two planes crashed on takeoff at the end of the runway (See FLAK NEWS Vol. 4 No. 4). Many happenings might seem insignificant to some but meant much to me.

For a period of time, we did not have an assigned Catholic chaplain. It was necessary to find a civilian priest or chaplain from another base for Catholic worship services. It was a great day when Walter Sullivan was assigned to our Group. We then had one to share in the day-to-day activities and conduct services.

Each of us had a Chaplain’s assistant. Corporal Dick Gray assisted Chaplain Sullivan and Corporal Elwyn Coburn assisted me. These men did our typing and routine office work and assisted us in the worship services. They were also required to pull Squadron duties.

Chaplain Fierman, from 8th Fighter Command, would come by occasionally and conduct Jewish services. At other times, one of the men from the Medical Group, who was a Cantor, would conduct the service on Friday night and I would speak. It was nothing out of the ordinary for a Chaplain to serve all personnel without compromising his faith.

Informal meetings were also conducted. Bible studies were held and we would discuss, question and answer the teachings, as we understood them. At times, a few men would ask to get together for a more intimate discussion. These were enjoyable times and we learned from the experiences of one another. This seemed to bond us and give us strength for whatever the day might bring. The American Bible Society furnished us with pocketsize New Testaments and other religious literature was available whenever it could be found.

Colonels Hunter and Berryhill were supportive of the Chapel programs and attended services whenever possible. Both enlisted and officer personnel assisted in the worship services. Some would help in preparing the chapel for worship, play the small field organ; Dick Frazier would form singing groups, decorate for special Sundays, assist in serving the Holy Communion or whatever needed to be done around the Chapel.

Many times men would ask if they could assist in the Sunday services. There was never any lack of help. To this day, there are those who are still being used in their civilian churches. I thank God for their help, their witness, then and now. And for their lasting friendship.

Printed in Flak News Volume 10, Number 2, Page(s) 10, April 1995

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