(Traditional) Catholic Chaplain Receives Unique Honor
75 Years after His Death at Pearl Harbor, He Is Finally Laid to Rest in His Chapel
(Traditional) Catholic Chaplain Aloysius Schmitt
A Hero of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
The Priest Had Said the Traditional Latin Mass that December 7, 1941, Sunday Morning
Then Gave His Own Life to Help His Shipmates Escape the USS Oklahoma
Imparting to Them His Traditional Latin Blessing before He Passed to Eternity
His Remains Have Now Been Identified by DNA Technology
And He Was Laid to Rest on October 8, 2016
In the Iowa Chapel Dedicated to Him in 1947
Together with His Chalice and Latin Missale Romanum
Which Had Been Found in the Wreckage after the Attack
Fr. Schmitt's corroded chalice, with a cross etched in its base, and his waterlogged Latin Missale Romanum were recovered from the wreckage of the USS Oklahoma months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Fr. Schmitt, 32, had just said the Traditional Latin Mass that December 7, 1941, Sunday morning, the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when the ship was hit. Fr. Schmitt's remains now join in his memorial chapel that chalice and Latin Missale Romanum. After World War II, Christ the King chapel was built as a memorial to Fr. Schmitt. Then-Chief of Naval Operations and war hero Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz attended the chapel's dedication to honor the courageous (traditional) Catholic chaplain.
The heroic (traditional) Catholic chaplain was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism. The medal citation states that after helping several shipmates to safety, he became stuck in the porthole as other sailors tried to pull him through. "Realizing that other men had come into the compartment looking for a way out, Chaplain Schmitt insisted that he be pushed back into the ship so that they might escape. Calmly urging them on and imparting to them his traditional Latin blessing, he remained behind while they crawled out to safety." [Some information for this Commentary was contributed by the Washington Post.]
True Catholics, what can we say but "Requiescat in Pace"? Not "Rest in Peace," not "R.I.P." No, this was a traditional Latin Catholic priest, one of the innumerable heroes for the true Faith that the (traditional) Catholic Church turned out over a period of 2,000 years. He sacrificed his life for his shipmates while imparting to them his (traditional) Catholic priestly blessing. Providence rescued his Latin Missale Romanum, carried by all Catholic chaplains in World War II, still marked with a page ribbon for the next day's Mass, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Introit for that day is a fitting epitaph for this heroic traditional priest: Anima mea in Deo meo, quia induit me vestimentis salutis (Isaias 61:16/V).