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Lieutenant Junior Grade Aloysius H. Schmitt, CHC, USN: Silver Star 


An undated photo of Lt. j.g. Aloysius H. Schmitt who was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.  (Photo Courtesy of Loras College/Released)

An undated photo of Lieutenant Junior Grade Aloysius H. Schmitt, who was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941 (Courtesy of Loras College/Released).

Lieutenant Junior Grade Aloysius Schmitt, a Catholic priest and assistant chaplain onboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37), willingly gave his life during the 7 December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack while assisting shipmates exiting from the overturned and partially submerged hull of the stricken battleship. Although Schmitt's communion chalice and Latin prayer book were salvaged from Oklahoma soon after the attack, his remains were not definitively identified until September 2016. They were subsequently reinterred at Christ the King Chapel, on the grounds of Loras College, Schmitt's alma mater in Dubuque, Iowa. 

Originally, Chaplain Schmitt was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, a non-combat award. In 1945, when the Navy reexamined its award policies, it was determined that he was eligible for the Silver Star. However, his award was not confirmed until 6 October 2017. Schmitt's Silver Star citation reads:

 

THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY 

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the

SILVER STAR MEDAL posthumously to

LIEUTENANT (JUNIOR GRADE) ALOYSIUS H. SCHMITT

CHAPLAIN CORPS

UNITED STATES NAVY

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on 7 December 1941 while serving as Chaplain aboard USS OKLAHOMA during the attack by Japanese forces on the U.S . Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When OKLAHOMA capsized, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Schmitt, along with other members of the crew, became trapped in a compartment where only a small porthole provided outlet for escape. With unselfish disregard for his own plight, he assisted his shipmates through the aperture. When they in turn were in the process of rescuing him, his body became tightly wedged in the narrow opening. Realizing that other men had come into the compartment seeking a way out, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Schmitt insisted he be pushed back into the ship so the others might escape. Calmly urging them on with a pronouncement of his blessing, he remained behind while his shipmates crawled out to safety . In so doing, he gallantly gave up his life for his country. Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Schmitt's magnanimous courage and self-sacrifice reflected great credit on him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

For the President,

[R. V. Spencer] 

      Secretary of the Navy 

 

Original correspondence, including the official citation and award certificate, may be viewed here (1.4 MB PDF).  

Published:Thu Dec 07 12:19:11 EST 2017