Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Saturday 04 February |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Rabanus Maurus
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Pearl Harbor: Catholic Chaplain Went Down with USS Oklahoma

Fr Schmitt Courtesy of Loras College

Photo Courtesy of Loras College

Russell E. Saltzman - published on 12/07/15

Lt. Aloysius Schmitt, Catholic chaplain, had just finished celebrating Mass; stepped aside for other men to escape

You can get Aleteia inspiration and news in your inbox. Our specially curated newsletter is sent each morning. The best part? It's free.

Sign up here

The USS Oklahoma carried a crew of 1,300 sailors and 55 marines when it capsized in 50 feet of water during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 74 years ago. Four hundred twenty-nine sailors and marines were killed, a loss second only to the Arizona’s. Hundreds were trapped below decks as water filled the stricken ship.

Thirty-two of those trapped were rescued over a three-day period as salvage crews, hearing them bang on the hull, frantically cut through the bottom of the ship. Some few escaped through tiny portholes, pushed by comrades who couldn’t fit or who were determined to let others go first.

One of those who stepped aside for the other men was LTJG Aloysius Schmitt, the Roman Catholic chaplain aboard Oklahoma. He had just finished morning Mass three decks below. Reports say that as water was swiftly filling the compartment, he gave up his turn for escape and instead remained helping other sailors through the porthole.

Though his body was never recovered, Fr. Schmitt is believed to be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, in a grave with about 400 other unidentified bodies recovered from the Oklahoma.

Father Schmitt’s corroded chalice and water-stained Latin prayer book were found in the wreckage. The book was still marked with a page ribbon for prayers that morning, turned to the Eighth Psalm.

O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! I will sing of your majesty above the heavens.

Fr. Schmitt was the first Catholic priest killed while in service with U.S. military forces. The USS Schmitt a Buckley-class destroyer escort in the US Navy, was named for him.

You may learn more about Fr. Schmitt here.

Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here. It's Free!