11.15.2010

My Fighting Congregation

Just finished off My Fighting Congregation by Chaplain William Taggart. It was a very interesting memoir of a chaplain during World War II. I just randomly picked up from the university library when I was avoiding some other school thing I really should have been doing. (I always get the best books that way.)

I don’t usually read memoirs, so that aspect was fascinating to me. I’m very used to novels, where all the parts of the story must dovetail neatly or the whole thing come off as poorly constructed. However, Taggart gives us just glimpses of people and things happening. He mentions people and places in passing that sometimes never reappear. It was disconcerting to a degree.

The single thing that interested me the most was how effective he was as a chaplain. Taggart acts not only as a spiritual adviser, but he intercedes with the chain of command for soldiers, organizes sports and other recreational activities and helps with everyday chores. One of the most heart-wrenching stories that he imparts is the day ‘Soup’ Silva asks for his help in cleaning up the blood of his buddy, Hegdahl, from the plane. Taggart willingly does it, just happy to have been asked and to be of use to his congregation.

I am unused to the idea of chaplains being so, well, a part of the Army. I’m the daughter and sister of soldiers, so I know of chaplains, but most of the ones I’ve known haven’t been a big deal to my family. Which is ironic, considering our own beliefs. I don’t know where the difference arises, but I do know that Taggart joins because his congregation is being drafted to war and he knows that they should not, cannot go alone. His parents, in particular, his fellow pastor and father believes that they are pacifists and should have no truck with the War. Apparently, at the time, which was news to me, there was a great deal of debate about the appropriateness of the presence of ministers in the ranks of the Army. Taggart firmly concludes on every page of the book that ministers are necessary anywhere that man may be, regardless of the daily circumstance of his work or the clothes he wears to do that work.

While the book is a peek into an ignored subject of WWII, it does one thing remarkably well. It records and honors the names and deeds of men. In fact, I will let Taggart’s final words of the book sum this all up:

“Paying your respects to Tojo’s Jinx, Chaplain?”
“To Tojo’s Jinx and to those who flew her.”
Hascall looked at the line of bombers, brought his hand up to his forehead in a quick salute, and said: “To Tojo’s Jinx, to those who flew her, and to those who died in her.”

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