Jill Kruse of CNS reports that Father Aloysius Schmitt’s remains have been identified and have been returned to Iowa for burial.
There was nothing yet infamous about Dec. 7, 1941, when Father Aloysius Schmitt woke up aboard the battleship the USS Oklahoma to celebrate Mass that Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor. But just minutes after the liturgy ended, a surprise Japanese attack was underway, and Father Schmitt would lose his life while helping save the lives of 12 others, becoming the first U.S. chaplain to die during World War II.
On the fateful day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Father Schmitt’s ship was hit by four torpedoes and capsized, trapping him and much of the rest of the crew below deck.
Father Schmitt and a number of other sailors who were in one of the ship’s flooding compartments managed to find a small porthole that provided a way out of the ship. In the frantic moments that followed, survivors reported that Father Schmitt scarified his own chance of escape and instead helped 12 men through the porthole to safety.
He received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart for his brave actions that day. In 1943, the U.S. Navy named a destroyer escort in his honor — the USS Schmitt.