Blog 06/29/2023 - Body & Soul
“Body & Soul” U.S. Naval Chaplains & Medical Personnel in Vietnam
Photo: Navy corpsman Steve Vineyard displays the Purple Heart and Navy Commendation Medal he earned on July 30, 1969, while serving with the Marine 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Quang Nam province. To train for his job in the war zone, Vineyard attended 16 weeks of Hospital Corps School.
In Vietnam the U.S. Marine Corps 1st & 3rd Marine Divisions were supported by the U.S. Navy both spiritually by the Chaplain Corps & health wise by the Medical, Dental, Nurse, Hospital & Medical Service Corps. The Chaplains and Corpsman were indispensable to the Marines who fought in Vietnam. Plus, the Doctors, Dentists & their medical support created a new era of combat medical support that saves countless lives.
The Marine Corps, the amphibious arm of the U.S. Navy, relies on U.S. Navy corpsmen, nurses, and doctors for medical services.
Photo: A good look at the Repose Helo Pad. Nurses provide care for the wounded.
Off the coast of Vietnam were two hospital ships that were built for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The USS Repose (AH-16) & USS Sanctuary (AH-17) were Haven-class ships that also served during the Korean War. They were among the first ships to be able to receive casualties directly by helicopter and were the first fully air conditioned ships in the USN. The USS Repose was on station from January 1966 to May 1970 (reaching a full complement of 29 nurses by March 1966 while serving as many as 200 helicopter admissions during a 24-hour period of intense fighting) while the USS Sanctuary was on station from April 1967 to summer 1971 (also with a complement of 29 nurses.)
Photo: A Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse of Maine Medium Helicopter Transport Squadron 263 (HMM-263) prepares to land wounded on the U.S. Navy USS Repose (AH-16) off the coast of Vietnam, in 1966.
The Navy’s 3rd Medical Battalion had a collecting & clearing company for each of the infantry regiments and one company at the division headquarters. The collecting & clearing company was intended to be mobile so it could move within the infantry regiment to be close to the front. However, the war in Vietnam was essentially a “frontless” conflict with little movement, the collecting & clearing companies thus were in fixed locations.
Photo: Bottom: Charlie Med & Top: Operating Room
When they initially arrived in Vietnam “We ate out of mess kits,” recalled CDR Almon Wilson, Charlie Med’s (Charlie Company) first commanding officer. “We did our own laundry. The shower consisted of a 55-gallon water drum with a small pipe with a valve its bottom. Water ran into a large can with holes punched in the bottom to give the effect of spray. We did not have hot water for nearly a year.” Despite their limitations at the outset, within a few short months these collecting & clearing companies had become real hospitals. Charlie Company organized at Da Nang, Bravo at Chu Lai, and Alpha at Phu Bai. Before long, Delta Company was also operational. CDR Wilson recalled the newness of the experience: “We were going through the typical learning curve of young surgeons in a war. It has to be said that when each war comes along, a new population of surgeons has to learn war surgery. Fortunately, or unfortunately—however you wish to put it—in the civilian sector few injuries are true counterparts of combat injuries. That may sound funny but it’s true.”
Charlie Med, situated on a flat, sandy area bordering on rice paddies, was fairly typical of how these makeshift combat hospitals eventually looked once up & running. Beyond the rice paddies was the ocean. A helicopter pad for receiving casualties lay in the center of the compound. Canvas tents housed the medical staff but these gave way to screened, wooden-framed structures with corrugated metal roofs called “hooches.” Operating rooms consisted of two plywood boxes side by side inside a canvas tent. The tents were surrounded by sandbags to protect against rocket & mortar harassing fires. Between another operating rooms was a larger tent that served as a recovery room and an intensive care unit. Open-air wards would eventually give way to hardbacked hooches or the ever-present military “Quonset” hut.
Captain Harry Dinsmore, Chief of Surgery at Naval Support Activity Hospital Da Nang, holds the Viet Cong 60mm mortar shell he removed from South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) PFC Nguyen Van Luong on October 1, 1966. The round's impact fuse was within a fraction of an inch of exploding, with the threat of killing everyone in the room. First Class John Lyons, an EOD specialist, assisted with the operation & safely disarmed the round after it was removed. For their brave actions, Dinsmore was awarded the Navy Cross and Lyons was awarded the Silver Star. Nguyen was back to duty in six weeks. You can see the mortar shell and Dinsmore's Navy Cross on display at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.
CAPT (Dr.) Harry Dinsmore, USN(Ret) was recognized for many achievements in his lifetime, but is perhaps best known for his service during the Vietnam War, when he surgically removed a live mortar shell from a South Vietnamese soldier's chest while serving as the chief of surgery at the Naval Support Activity Hospital in Da Nang, Vietnam in 1966. He was at the largest I-Corps front-line hospitals which means wounded soldiers were flown by helicopter right in from the battlefield or transferred from a collecting & clearing company.
A Life Magazine photo spread in the Oct. 14, 1966, issue told the story of this dangerous exploit. As a commanding surgical officer, he gave orders on who did what, and which wounded soldiers were top priority. Then came the day when a Vietnamese soldier was brought in with an unexploded mortar shell lodged in his chest.
"Of course, at the time, he was brought in (the same) as any wounded soldier," Dinsmore said but once an x-ray was taken, the true severity of the injury was revealed. Dinsmore decided this was a job he couldn't assign to anyone else. A mortar round is an explosive projectile, fired at a high angle usually from a distance. The ordnance was a dud but there was a chance it might explode when doctors went in to remove it. He decided to perform the risky procedure himself, with the help of only one other person. "This young soldier ... was riding in a tank at the time," he said of the wounded ARVN tanker. With his head sticking out of the tank, the mortar shell hit him on the top of his shoulder, penetrating his skin and stopping just outside of his ribcage,” Dinsmore explained.
He knew he might not have come out of the experience alive so the captain wrote letters to his loved ones ahead of time. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Petty Officer John Lyons assisted CAPT Dinsmore with the surgery. First, they had a wall of sandbags built around the operating table. Then, as Lyons held the shell steady through (the tanker's) skin, Dinsmore leaned over the sandbags and made an incision. Lyons removed the shell, dashed outside and disarmed it. If the shell had triggered during surgery, Lyons explained, "If it had there would have been no more operating room." The procedure to remove the mortar shell took about an hour, & about six weeks later the tanker, who was only 16 at the time, had recovered enough to return to his unit.
Every Marine who has experienced combat has heard the cry, “Corpsman Up!” The name “Corpsman” separates our combat corpsmen from the rest of the Navy; especially if you were an 8404 Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Corpsman. The circumstances varied widely, but the result was a constant. A U.S. Navy Corpsman, wearing the same dirty, torn, and smelly green utilities worn by his Marine brothers and “armed” with his M3 Medical Kit whose contents were likely carried in less conspicuous places to fool enemy who targeted corpsman, went to the aid of wounded Marines. Usually under enemy fire, these “Docs in Green” performed lifesaving miracles with complete disregard for their own safety.
Corpsmen assigned to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) attend Field Medical Service School before joining combat units. Their training includes familiarization with small arms, basic combat skills, and treatment of combat wounds. When not engaging in a firefight, patching up Marines or getting blasted with incoming mortars, corpsmen also provided basic necessities & medical care to local civilians.
Obviously, these FMF Corpsmen were something special to all Marines. Although they took their fair share of kidding and good-natured harassment, they were in every sense of the word a fellow combat Marine. They took the same chances, lived in the same mud-filled paddies, and ate the same cold C-rations as every Marine grunts.
Like every Vietnam grunt, corpsmen also fought heatstroke, malaria, fatigue, rain, leeches, insects, rust, and foot fungus. They too lived in the dirt, slept in fighting holes they too had to dig that provided some protection from enemy mortars. Corpsmen ran more than any other human in the Vietnam War, to get to wounded Marines when we were hit. The Marine Corps will always hoist a special toast to all corpsmen!
Navy veteran & medical corpsman Donald “Doc” Ballard didn’t think twice when he rolled over on an enemy grenade to save the lives of Marines under his care.
As a young sailor assigned to the M Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division in the North Central Coast region of Quang Tri province, he snaked his way through the thick I-Corps Forest to provide medical assistance in case an enemy’s bullet found the moving units members. Over 55 years ago on May 16, 1968, Ballard was treating two Marines who suffered from heat exhaustion. Having evacuated the duo, he witnessed a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) unit ambushed his rifle company, & moved while under fire to attend a wounded Marine. Organizing a fire-team of four to evacuated the WIA an enemy grenade landed near Ballard, the wounded Marine and four of his buddies. According to numerous accounts, Ballard threw himself on the grenade to shield the five Marines from the blast.
To Ballard’s amazement, the grenade didn’t explode, but once he realized what had occurred, he hurriedly threw the grenade away from the Marines where it then exploded, saving all of them from severe injury or death. Ballard was awarded three purple hearts for wounds in later combat.
For conspicuous gallantry & intrepidity at the risk of his life he was presented the Medal of Honor by President Nixon on 14 May 1970.
In the early morning of 19 March1969, Fire Support Base Phu Loc 6, located on a hill adjacent to Liberty Bridge in Quang Nam Province & the command post of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines located were both attacked by an estimated NVA battalion. U.S. Navy HM2 David Ray, the senior corpsman for Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines moved from artillery position to position during the attack rendering medical aid to wounded Marines. While doing this he was seriously wounded before coming face to face with two NVA soldiers within the battery area, he killed one while wounding the other. After refusing aid from the other Delta Battery corpsman, he continued his lifesaving efforts under enemy fire receiving a fatal wound. In his final act of heroism, he threw himself atop a wounded Marine when an enemy grenade exploded nearby. He was posthumously presented the Medal of Honor.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an HM2 with Battery D, 2d Battalion, at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa. During the early morning hours, an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the battery’s position, and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire perimeter. The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties among the Marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack. Undaunted by the intense hostile fire, HM2 Ray moved from parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. Although seriously wounded himself while administering first aid to a Marine casualty, he refused medical aid and continued his lifesaving efforts. While he was bandaging and attempting to comfort another wounded Marine, HM2 Ray was forced to battle two enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing one and wounding the other. Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his severe wounds, he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire to other casualties. Once again, he was faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops and, despite the grave personal danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds. HM2 Ray’s final act of heroism was to protect the patient he was treating. He threw himself upon the wounded Marine, thus saving the man’s life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby. By his determined and persevering actions, courageous spirit, and selfless devotion to the welfare of his Marine comrades, HM2 Ray served to inspire the men of Battery D to heroic efforts in defeating the enemy. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Over the years Ray would be memorialized as the namesake of a missile destroyer (DD-971), medical clinics in Quantico, VA, and Everett, WA, a Bachelor Enlisted Quarters in Camp Pendleton, & an elementary school in his hometown of McMinnville, Tenn.
Today, if you visit any Navy medical command you will find Ray’s portrait proudly exhibited among the 28 pictures of hospital corpsmen, physicians and dentists who have been awarded the Medal of Honor. For everyone in the Navy Medical Department these individuals are symbols of service and sacrifice in the most trying moments of battle & standard-bearers for what one Medal of Honor recipient later described as acts of “true spirit [and] determination.”
Two In One (Above): Father John Wishard, a Lieutenant in the Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy, was also a dental technician here seen during a medical civic action program in a local village.
When the 1960s began, the Dental Corps operated from 160 shore-based facilities and aboard 156 ships. Innovative field support doctrine was developed for the Marine Corps that included mobile dental unit trailers with advanced rotary instrumentation. These new units more than proved their worth during the Vietnam War. At its peak, about one-fifth of the Dental Corps, 420 officers & 790 dental technicians, support sailors & Marines in Vietnam.
LT Donald Wilton, USN spent his first year of practice with the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in Southern California before being deployed to South Vietnam, where he treated Marine, Navy & Army personnel on ship & shore.
Wilton said his desire to have the latest equipment & treatment methods for his civilian patients stems from his Vietnam duty where he worked in less-than-desirable conditions with simple tools. “We had high-speed drills and generators,” he said but only one of his many in country bases had running water.
Wilton saw numerous military personnel who had never had any form of dental care. His work also included treating Vietnamese citizens who desperately needed dental work. During two hours of dental care in one day in a village, he said he extracted more than 200 diseased teeth. “It was self-training, but good training,” he said of his time in Vietnam. He admitted he thought dentistry would be a safe military assignment when he arrived in Vietnam on the Fourth of July 1967. Less than two months later, he was wounded by NVA rocket shrapnel, which would earn him the Purple Heart.
It was 1968, & Robert Blumenstock Hospital Corpsman/Dental Technician quickly found himself deployed directly into the heart of the bloody Tet Offensive. Overwhelmed, but unwavering, Robert rushed to help the wounded, perform on-the-spot fabrication of prosthetic devices, aided with emergency oral surgery, & provide forensic identifications of Marines killed in action.
Never to be discouraged & a humanitarian at heart, Robert participated in numerous Civic Action programs in Vietnam; including visiting small villages & hamlets to treat injured Vietnamese civilians. Unfortunately, like many other of his fellow Marines in Vietnam, Robert still has many health complications related to his service near Agent Orange defoliation areas.
In 1963, LT Bobbi Hovis volunteered to go to Vietnam, where she and four other nurses were tasked with converting a run-down Saigon apartment into the first U.S. Navy Station Hospital—in four days.
Station Hospital Saigon
Station Hospital Saigon, was a converted apartment building on Tran Hung Dao Street in Saigon, that served from 1963 until it was transferred to the Army in March 1966.
Headquarters Support Activity, Saigon was established in 1962 in response to the military buildup but the need for a military hospital & medical service in the capital soon became apparent. After much deliberation, the senior medical officer chose a former hotel as the future site for Station Hospital Saigon. The long-neglected building required lots of work, but by October 1963, the 100-bed inpatient facility was ready, and by winter, increasing numbers of Navy physicians, dentists, nurses, & hospital corpsmen began arriving in Saigon. Although dependents & embassy personnel still in country used the hospital for outpatient care, the patients were primarily military. Navy medical personnel could stabilize & treat most casualties & perform minor surgery, but the more serious cases were medevaced to other military treatment facilities in Japan or the continental United States.
In addition to combat casualties, the increased terrorist activity in Saigon itself brought home the importance of a hospital in the capital. Despite the Americans low profile, Viet Cong terrorists were active, exploding bombs not only in the Central Market but in bars & theaters frequented by U.S. personnel.
The five-story, concrete building, located on Tran Hung Dao, downtown Saigon’s busiest street, was a busy hospital, from the day it opened, to receive American combat casualties directly from the field. And it especially filled the need for an inpatient facility in the southern portion of South Vietnam, a demand precipitated by the fighting in the Mekong River Delta area. The only other existing American hospital at the time was a U.S. Army 100-bed field hospital in Nha Trang, 200 miles north of Saigon, a distance that required flying patients to & from. Right behind the main hospital building and attached to it by a series of stairways was another five-story structure. This annex provided an excellent isolation facility. A one-story stucco building was quickly constructed in the courtyard to house a central supply, emergency treatment room, & operating room (OR.) A concrete wall topped by wire grenade screens surrounded the entire complex. Terrorist activity was a constant threat, making security a full-time job. In addition to the protective screen, U.S Military Police armed with shotguns, ARVN soldiers & police patrolled the compound around the clock.
The senior physician was assisted by nine medical officers, including two general surgeons, an internist, a psychiatrist, four or five general practitioners, seven Navy nurses, & eight Thai nurses. The staff also had two Medical Service Corps officers, 76 trained hospital corpsmen, & 40 Vietnamese employees, who were clerical assistants, drivers, and janitors.
The hospital treated dependents of American personnel until they were evacuated in February 1965. Vietnamese patients were admitted for emergency care. Once stabilized, they were transferred to local hospitals. Shortly after the hospital’s opening, a helo pad was built on a soccer field about a five-minute ambulance ride away. Patients also arrived at Tan Son Nhut airport by fixed-wing aircraft & were transferred to the hospital by helicopter.
Photo: CAPT Archie Kuntze, Commander, U.S. Naval Support Activity (NSA), Saigon, presents Purple Heart medals to (left to right) LT Barbara Wooster, LT Ruth Mason, and LTJG Darby Reynolds for wounds sustained during the Christmas Eve 1964 bombing of the Brink Barracks. A fourth nurse, LT Francis Crumpton, was flown earlier to Clark Air Force Base, Philippines, for treatment. The nurses, although injured in the Communist bombing of the HQ on Christmas Eve, refused medical treatment for themselves while rendering First Aid to others wounded by the explosion. CDR Miles Turley (far right), Kuntze's executive officer, was wounded New Year’s Day 1965 while investigating reports of sniper fire on water skiers in the Saigon River.
For a time, terrorist bombs resulted in mass casualties more than actual combat. On Christmas Eve 1964, a Viet Cong parked a bomb-laden car in the underground garage of the Brink Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ.) It detonated an hour later, killing two & injuring approximately 60, including four Navy nurses. The four would become the only Navy nurses awarded the Purple Heart during the Vietnam War. One of them, Lieutenant Darby Reynolds, remembered the event: “I was looking out of my room though the French glass doors & had my face pressed up against the glass. All of a sudden, the bomb went off. The door blew in & the glass shattered & fell down right on top of me. I thought, ‘Oh boy. Hospital OR call. Here we go!’”
Photo: LT Fran Crumpton back in country after being WIA in the Brink BOQ bombing works with one of the Thai nurses.
Although injured herself, LT Reynolds managed to report to the hospital. “Then we just went to work & took care of all the patients & got them settled. I waited till the end after everybody was taken care of & then they sutured my leg. I remember one man in the next suite of rooms at the Brink. He was buried for several hours. They found him around midnight & brought him into the OR to try to save him, but he died on the table right across from me while they were working on my leg.”
Such attacks became more frequent in Saigon. In order to keep beds open in anticipation of mass casualties, the hospital’s commanding officer, CAPT Russ Fisichella, MC, USN instituted a rapid evacuation system.
Patients able to travel were transferred to the Army hospital in Nha Trang. The 8th Field Hospital employed a 30-day holding policy, & two air evacuation flights per week were used to transfer patients to the hospital at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. “We attempted to keep the hospital at no more than 50 percent occupancy in anticipation of possible mass casualties,” Fisichella recollected.
Photo: U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Joan Brouilette checks the condition of a Marine PFC in a Quonset Hut in Da Nang.
Navy nurses went on to serve: in the Provincial Health Assistance Program at Rach Gia from 1965 to 1968; and at the station hospital at Da Nang from August 1967 to May 1970 (which would became the largest combat casualty treatment facility in the world, with 600 beds with a throughput of 63,000 patient admissions.)
SOULS – THE GRUNT PADRE
Photo: Top: Chaplain LT John F. Walker leads a worship service from a Marine M274 “Mule” near Da Nang, 29 March 1965 (Note the M416 Trailer in the background.) Bottom: Chaplain CDR John J. O’Conner, USN, offers Mass in Da Nang, 24 March 1965.
In the field hospitals & in the field, the U.S. Navy Chaplain in Vietnam could be found with the Marines who needed him most. The first chaplain arrived in country during Operation Shufly with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362, in April 1962. Over the next nine years, more than 700 others followed in LCDR Baez’s footsteps. Chaplains are classified as noncombatants, meaning they don’t actively participate in hostilities, but he could not serve the Marines of his unit without sharing their daily hardships and dangers they faced.
It was not unknown for a chaplain to brave intense fire, in order to be at the side of a grieving infantryman who had just lost his best friend in combat. With skill and patience, he helped the surviving Marines deal with the pain of inevitable, yet still traumatic losses in battle, even while he comforted the wounded, the sick, and the dying.
Photo: Top: Chaplain LT Bradford Lovejoy, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, holds Easter Service on Hill 502. Bottom: While Marines stand guard on the Observation Post (rear) Chaplain Ralph Wensley celebrates an Easter Service on an altar improvised from ammunition boxes for Marines on Hill 119 near Da Nang .
In the relative safety of the rear area base camps, the chaplain's efforts did not diminish. He provided counseling over a wide range of subjects, to improve and ennoble the lives of Marines. He became a builder & restorer of village orphanages, schools, & hospitals that had been destroyed or damaged by the harsh blows of combat. At least 46 new chapels became visible across I-Corps. His ministry & compassion extended into the villages & the locals as he sought to provide aid & comfort to all those victimized by the war.
Father Vincent Capodanno from his actions while deployed in the field earned the nickname “Grunt Padre” for sharing the hardships while living, eating and sleeping in the same conditions as his Marines. In the community where they were stationed, he organized outreach programs, started libraries and gathered and distributed gifts for the local children. He spent hours reassuring the battle weary, consoling the grieving, lifting morale & listening to confessions.
Capodanno was ordained as a priest in 1957 & had been in Southeast Asia for eight years in Taiwan as a missionary & then teaching children in Hong Kong. By the mid-1960s, America’s involvement in Vietnam had grown to such a point that Capodanno felt the urge to serve his country. So, in December 1965, he volunteered to become a commissioned officer in the Navy’s Chaplain Corps. He arrived in April 1966, joining 1st Infantry Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (1/7) in southern I-Corps. He served a year in-country & finished with 1st Medical Battalion. He requesting a six-month extension after his tour & returned with 3rd Infantry Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (3/5). Four months into that extension, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Operation Swift, intended to be the fourth and the last of the 1967 operations in the Que Son Valley, began unofficially on the morning of 4 September when Delta Company, 1/5 was attacked before dawn by a superior NVA 2nd Division & the VC 1st Regiment force while in a night defensive perimeter next to the village of Dong Son. 38-year-old Capodanno was with 3/5 when the 2,500 NVA & VC slammed into 1/5 that was in immediate danger of being overrun. 3/5 sent two companies to reinforce & Chaplain Capodanno who was at one of the company command posts, decided to leave this safe haven & brave enemy gunfire to get to one of his platoons under attack.
In a display of selfless service & courage, he darted back and forth across the raging battlefield on a knoll assisting the corpsmen by carrying the wounded to a place of safety. As he sprinted unarmed through heavy fire, he carried sacraments to dying soldiers, praying with them & blessing them as they took their final breaths.
AK-47 & PK Chinese Communist Bullets filled the air, & even after one mangled his right hand he did not give up. Even when teargas flooded the battlefield, he gave his gas mask to a Marine so he could keep fighting. Years later, the same Marine who took the gas mask recalled Chaplain Capodanno coming to his rescue, describing it as “the hands of God reaching down.”
Despite the hail of gunfire, explosions and other chaos at the scene, Capodanno moved around the battlefield, giving last rites to the dying and aid to the wounded. He was eventually hit by shrapnel from an exploding mortar, causing multiple arm & leg wounds. Mortar shrapnel penetrated the Chaplain’s shoulder, completely disabling his right arm. Yet he did not give up. Capodanno refused any medical help directing Corpsmen to help their wounded Marine comrades. He calmly continued moving around the battlefield, encouraging & inspiring Marines.
When he noticed a wounded Marine who was directly in the line of fire, he rushed to try to help. Vincent Capodanno’s final minutes were spent near a machine gun nest, where he gallantly gave his life while he kept ministering to his dying friends. It was there that he was shot in the back by the enemy, and it was there where he passed from this life to the next. He was nearing the Marine when an enemy machine gun burst hit the Chaplain 25 times killing him instantly.
The Chaplain’s tragic loss was immeasurable to 3/5 but his bravery inspired the outnumbered Marines to hold on until U.S. artillery & combat air support broke the enemy’s will. He went on to posthumously earn the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star. On 7 January 1969, his family received the Medal of Honor on his behalf. Capodanno is one of nine military chaplains to have ever earned the country’s highest honor.
In the half-century plus since his death, several chapels and other buildings have been named in his honor. Staten Island’s main thoroughfare, Seaside Boulevard, was renamed for him. The USS Capodanno (FF-1093) was his namesake, even receiving a papal blessing in 1973 from Pope John Paul II upon the ship’s commissioning. In 2014, the chaplain’s medal was donated by his family and dedicated to the Capodanno Chapel at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. The Capodanno Memorial Chapel in Area 62 at the home of the 5th Marines at Camp Pendleton, CA was slated to be torn down due to its aged condition & disrepair. The Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group (DPMRSG) rescued this historic gem from its unfortunate plight & provided funds for renovations The DPMRSG through vigorous fundraising efforts began renovation of the Chapel in April 2017. The support group worked closely with 5th Marines who provided labor and construction expertise. The transformation continues but this house of worship now has the dignity befitting all those Marines & families who give such selfless sacrifice.
The work continues to keep Chaplain Capodanno’s memory & love of his Marines alive through the Chapel:
Efforts are still being made to have the Roman Catholic Church canonize Capodanno as a saint.Vatican consultants felt there was insufficient information supporting the standard that Father Capodanno lived a “virtuous life.” They also suggested that the priest’s often fastidious appearance could have been a sign of sinful pride (don't they have any pictures of him in country) & that venerating someone from the military might be inappropriate for the Church while wars persist in the world (ask the Vatican if letting godless communist take over the world would be appropriate.)
Archbishop Broglio, the “petitioner” for Father Capodanno’s sainthood cause, went to Rome last November to meet with Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints. The meeting was cordial & positive resulting in the prefect allowing the opportunity to respond formally & provide additional information about Father Vincent’s lifelong development of virtue and spirituality that led to the freely giving of his life on the battlefield.
Archbishop Broglio, the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has established a three-member commission to present more information that would support the cause.
With the Catholic Church constantly under attack by President Biden’s Department of Justice, for example, the DOJ recommended zero jail time for the case against Mr. Adam “Maeve” Nota, who identifies as a transgender female. Mr. Nota, broke into St. Louise Catholic Church in Bellevue, WA & did $100,000 worth of damage including assaulting a church employee. His spray-painted hate crime graffiti against Catholics on the church walls were deemed a peaceful protest.
I would think this worthwhile sainthood effort to honor Father Capodanno would be a positive godsend for the Church. Updates posted here: https://www.capodannoguild.org/moving-forward-again/
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