By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor
Following last week’s editorial about Father Clarence Howard and his uncle, Father Clarence Hagan, an Army chaplain who gave his life in World War II, Father Benedict Brown — himself a Bronze-star-winning chaplain in the Iraq War — was kind enough to bring to our attention the contributions of other military chaplains from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
In his letter, Father Brown noted that in addition to Father Hagan’s memorial marker in St. Catherine Cemetery in New Haven, Ky., the priest and chaplain is “remembered at a spot called ‘Chaplains Hill’ in Arlington National Cemetery.”
Father Brown, while admitting that, like the rest of us of a certain age, his memory might not be what it once was, nevertheless proved to be a cornucopia of information.
“Of the other Louisville priests who served in World War II, I can name Fathers Dominic Altieri, Leo Sheeran, Bernard Spoelker, Henry Stuecker and James Meder,” Father Brown recalled in his letter.
“Father Meder, whose seminary studies were in Austria through the spring of 1939, found himself with the Army in Europe from 1942 to 1945, serving on the opposite side of his former classmates — priests who were with the German forces.”
Father Brown also noted that Father Meder’s service in World War II wasn’t his only ministry in the military.
“Father Meder would return to combat with the Marines in Korea in 1951,” he said.
And he recalled that Franciscan Father Herman Felhoelter was “brutally killed by enemy forces in Korea,” and is remember with a plaque outside St. Martin of Tours Church in Louisville. “St. Martin is the patron of military chaplains,” wrote Father Brown.
Father Felhoelter was the first U.S. Army chaplain killed in the Korean War. He also served as a chaplain during World War II and was awarded the Bronze
Star for service under fire.
Father Brown also wrote that “there is an iconic photo of the liberation of Rome in the spring of 1945 which shows Pope Pius XII blessing the crowds from the upper level balcony” in Vatican Square. “Pointing to the Pontiff from an open-roofed Jeep in the piazza is an American chaplain,” Father Brown noted. “The story told at his funeral in Louisville in 2010 said that the pointing finger belonged to Father (Henry) Stuecker.”
Father Brown pointed out that in Father Clyde Crews’ book, An American Holy Land, there is a section that tells of Catholic chaplains “serving at Camp Zachary Taylor (on part of what is now Poplar Level Road) during World War I. According to his research, the National Training Center for Catholic Military chaplains was established there in April of 1918.”
In another book by Father Crews, The Faithful Image, Father Brown notes, there are photographs of the military funeral provided for Sister of Loretto Mary Jean Connor who succumbed to influenza.
“She and many others served heroically at Camp Taylor and earlier during the Civil War at the St. Catharine and Nazareth Convents as well as on the battlefield at Perryville” in Kentucky, he wrote.
Father Brown noted that the late Father Jim Lichtefeld served in Vietnam along with Fathers Al Hartlage and Charles Bindner, and that Father Bindner earned a Purple Heart from wounds “sustained when the hospital in which he was serving was fire bombed.”
“These are a few items which might be of interest to your readers,” Father Brown concluded. “Certainly more names and their stories would surface with further research. But I offer these with thanks … for their service.”