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A Priest Who Died a Hero at Pearl Harbor Honored by the US Navy

December 23, 2017

Seventy-six years after his heroic death, the Catholic military chaplain on board the USS Oklahoma was honored posthumously by the US Navy for gallantry in action.

 

On December 7, 1941, the USS Oklahoma sank 50 feet deep in the Japanese army’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It brought down nearly 400 sailors with it, recalled The Des Moines Register in its December 7, 2017 issue. Hundreds of them were trapped under the decks as water rushed into the ship.

Among them was Sub-Lieutenant Aloysius Schmitt, a Catholic chaplain on board the Oklahoma. When water started coming into the compartment, and the crew tried to save his life, the priest chose to help other sailors escape instead.

76 years later, on December 7, 2017, the family of Fr. Aloysius Schmitt assisted at a commemorative ceremony and Mass at the Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

Their uncle was awarded a posthumous Silver Star, a decoration granted for gallantry in action.

The priest’s rusted chalice and his breviary damaged by the water were found in the ship, but his body was never found.