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Interview with James Apple, January 15, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with James Apple, January 15, 2003
January 15, 2003
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Apple, James Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview: 1/15/2003 Series: Military Chaplains Length 60 minutes

Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I’m a staff person of the Randall Library at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. We’re in Wilmington, North Carolina and our interviewee is Rabbi Apple

Zarbock: Good morning, sir, how are you?

Apple: I’m fine, thank you sir.

Zarbock: Tell me, why did you get into rabbinical studies and where?

Apple: Interesting story. I had a paper route, people have paper routes. I had a morning paper route and an evening paper route and on my paper route, it was the morning as a matter of fact, I had a Methodist minister. I used to always wind up collecting money from him, he was my last person.

Zarbock: Where was this sir?

Apple: This was in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised. And I always got cookies and milk and we would sit down and discuss Bible and Theology and I liked him. To me, he was just a genuine person. It came time for me to go to college and my mother said to me and my father said to me, “You need to go into Jewish engineering”, so that’s Business Administration. So I was going to Pennsylvania State University.. I had made up my mind I was going there, I was accepted there and I was going into Business Administration.

One day I get a phone call from him that his wife had died. He was very sorry to let me know. So I would go to his home anyway and sit with him and we would talk and he would cry and he would talk. Then one day he said to me, “I have to move” and gave me a date. I was very sad about that and I didn't know what to do so I simply kept giving him the paper, but refused to collect my money.

He was moving and he called my father and said, “I want your son to collect the money I owe him”. I said to my father I didn't want to collect the money that he owes me, it was my gift to him. So my father and I had a long discussion about what was right and what was wrong. My father said to me, “The man wants you to do this”, the minister and I didn't want to do that. My father said to me that I had to do what he wanted, not what I wanted.

So I went to his house and it was very emotional, I loved the man.

Zarbock: How old were you in those days?

Apple: I was 16 or 17 years of age, I was in High School.

Zarbock: And the year is?

Apple: 1955 I’d say. He was a really neat guy and I liked him. He pushed me. I went and collected the money and he cried. I said goodbye to him, gave him a big hug and I left. But he impressed me as the person I would want to be. He was a tremendous role model. Now the Rabbi in the Temple Israel at the time - whom I don’t remember - wasn’t a real role model for me. So I said to my mother, “I really am impressed”. I used to go to services with my parents once a month.

That was a requirement. You had to go to services Friday night with my parents. So I went to Pennsylvania State and I was in Business Administration for a semester and I said to my mother and father that I wasn’t a happy camper there because I didn't feel at home. In the meantime, I remembered this man, what he had done, what he was like and I said to my parents, “I’m going into theology because I’m going to become a rabbi”. Well you don’t know what that did.

My mother said it was no job for a Jewish boy. My father just looked at me and said, “You’re never going to make any money” and they had my sister come and talk to me and say that this was not what I really wanted to do, that there was no money in it, that you live in a goldfish bowl, that life was not going to be pleasant for me. But I said to them, “No, I want to do this and I have to do what I want to do”. So I went and wound up graduating from Pennsylvania State with a Theology Major with an English Literature Minor.

I was impressed. You really have to appreciate when you meet someone who is warm, is approachable, you can talk to, is decent, has ethics and morals and values and is everything you would want in a clergyman. This man was so he became my role model which is very interesting, not a rabbi, but a Methodist minister. So I went and decided that was what I wanted to do. Then I went on to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was the Reform Seminary.

I vacillated between that and Social Work so I was accepted to Yeshiva University School of Social Work and they really went after me cause they said, “You can be a Rabbi anytime. We don’t need Rabbis, we need Social Workers”, but no I turned that down and I was accepted at the University of North Dakota for English Literature. I really was vacillating and then I finally made up my mind I wanted to be a rabbi. So I went to Hebrew Union.

Zarbock: This is probably 1959.

Apple: ’59, yes. I turned down Yeshiva University School of Social Work. I turned down the University of North Dakota Graduate School of English Literature and I went on to Hebrew Union. So I went there and I didn't know very much. I learned by the seat of my pants. You had to have an oak bottom. I got through it and then in my fourth year…

Zarbock: What did you mean by an “oak bottom?”

Apple: You had to sit there and if you didn't know the Hebrew and you didn't really have a solid Jewish background, the only way you could get it was to sit on your rear end. Oak bottom and just sit and grind it out. Right? Well I’m in my fourth year and I’m listening to these rabbis teach me about the rabbinate who never had any practical rabbinical experience. So I decided what I needed to do was to take a leave of absence and go to Montreal, go and be an Associate/Assistant to the Rabbi for a year and learn practical rabbinics.

So I had a choice Montreal, Canada or Kansas City, Missouri, and I wasn’t going to Kansas City. I went to Montreal which sounded really exotic. I went to Montreal and I worked for a rabbi who has since died and his wife has died and I learned practical rabbinics.

Zarbock: What were your obligations and chores and duties?

Apple: I ran a 300 member, 300 student religious school. I did everything he didn't want to do except I couldn’t marry in Montreal. So I buried people. I didn't do converts, he did the conversions. I was there to learn from him. I preached. I did the service. That was it. I did it all, but I was a gopher. You understand, I only did what he wanted me to do except for the religious school. It’s like being an Assistant Rabbi. Well that turned me off right away. I never wanted to be an Assistant Rabbi.

Assistant Rabbis are gophers. All they do is just what the senior wants them to do and I wasn’t going to be a gopher. So I came back and I was a different person. I came back and I knew what I wanted. I didn't want to be Associate Assistant Rabbi. I was going to go solo. I got ordained. I did my Master’s thesis while I was there and I came back and I was ordained in 1965.

Then I looked at various pulpits and I went to Concord, New Hampshire. This is a classic story. Well let me go back a minute. They said if we accept you, you have to agree to serve in the military if we want you to. So I was told in my senior year that I was going to apply to go in the Air Force. So I filled all the paperwork out and took my physical exam at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. They accepted me into the Air Force.

So who’s eligible to serve in the military? We met in the President’s Office one day and he said, “There are two names that do not have to go into the military, I’m drawing these two names out of a hat”. I was one. So I called up Master Sergeant Hoolan O’Sullivan. I’ll never get over that name. I said to him, “Master Sergeant O’Sullivan, withdraw my name”. I was so proud. O’Sullivan did not want that to happen and he would not leave me alone. So finally I said, “Master Sergeant, forget it, I’m not military material. Leave me alone”.

So I didn't go into the Air Force, but I kept the paperwork just in case. And Vietnam was going on, right? So I went to Concord, New Hampshire and they were really neat people. They had money and they said to me, “Rabbi, you can’t break us”. I said, “If you can go along with some of my zany ideas, and you have money, it’s a marriage. I’ll try to break you financially and you’ll just have to go along with me”.

So I went to Concord, New Hampshire and I did some zany things there. (Laughter) I said to the Board of Trustees one day, “You have to come to services” and so I produced this chart with their names and I said that they had to do X amount of services and “If you don’t attend, you don’t belong on the Board of Trustees. Every time you come to a service, I’m giving you a gold star”. And I produced this chart at the Board of Trustees meeting.

The people used to say to me, oh, I’m missing, I’ve got to make it. I did things like that. We had brotherhood, we had sisterhood.

Zarbock: How old a young man were you?

Apple: I was 28, 29.

Zarbock: And you’re pushing these people around.

Apple: I am pushing these people around. No, I’m 25, 26, no, I’m 27.

Zarbock: What was the dynamic? Why did they permit you to push them around?

Apple: Because they knew I really was concerned about Judaism and people and the Temple and I wasn’t getting paid very much. I was making $7000 a year. However, they went along with this. Then they said to me, I said that the University of New Hampshire wanted a part-time Hillel Rabbi , and I wanted to do this. The Board of Trustees agareed to this..

Zarbock: Hillel being the campus?

Apple: The campus, so I was going to the University once every two weeks for a day and I would drive there. They were happy cause I was now on the college campus and I started taking courses in Education at the University of New Hampshire which was a lot of fun. Then a town up north called Laconia had a small congregation and they wanted a rabbi to come up. So they said to the Temple,” can we borrow your Rabbi ?” And they said “do you want to? Go up there for a service and one day a week to do Hebrew school,” and I said “Sure.”

So I was driving to Laconia, so I became a circuit rider which was okay. So I had a good time. People in Laconia, I merged with the Temple and I learned a lot from the University of New Hampshire, learned an awful lot education wise and I had a good time on the college campus. So I stayed there three years. The snow and the cold got to me, big time got to me. It was cold. But the people were lovely and they didn't want me to go. They offered me a raise in salary. They would do anything for me to stay, but I really was cold.

I wanted to get away from the snow and the ice. Didn't know how to ice skate, didn't know how to ski and New Hampshire is a wonderful place. So I left there and cadidated around and finally wound up in Columbia, South Carolina. I stayed there two years.

Zarbock: The year is now roughly what? Give me a time sequence here.

Apple: This was 1958, I went to Columbia in 1968. You can’t take a Northerner that’s Liberal, a Pennsylvanian that’s Liberal and put him in the Deep South in 1970 and I was immature at the time. I did not realize that. So here I am in Columbia, South Carolina…

Zarbock: Was it a big congregation?

Apple: Yeah, it was 130-140 members. It was pretty big and I made it even bigger because I kept pulling in the Northerners who had come South. The problem was with me being a Northerner and going into the Deep South, no one ever explained to me what it was to be a Southerner! I was offered a teaching position at a black University.

The congregation said to me that I couldn’t do that, suppose there’s a riot and the rabbi hits the front page of the newspaper, the Columbia Record. This is not good, “You’re not going to teach there. We’ll just give you another increase in salary”. So Martin Luther King was coming to Columbia and I said to the Board of Trustees, “I’m going to go hear Martin Luther King speak” and they said, “No you’re not because suppose there’s a riot and you hit the front page of the newspaper”.

Well to be turned down from being able to teach at the black University, they had two black Universities there, Benedict College and Allen University, was one thing, but being told I can’t go hear Martin Luther King, that was the night, when they said that to me at the Board of Trustees meeting, I made up my mind that I am not going to stay. It was time for me to go because it’s not really a marriage and I’m not really happy.

It really was bothering me that they would say that to me. I mean Jews who knew persecution, who understood that, whose history was all about that, would have the utter mitigated gall to say to me, “You can’t do that rabbi, think about what would happen”. They put that pressure on me. I didn't go to hear Martin Luther King, but when I didn't hear him, I said to myself how can you stay here and that was when I decided it was time to move on.

Zarbock: How are transfers affected?

Apple: Good question. You have a Rabbinical Placement Commission.

Zarbock: Located where?

Apple: In New York City. So all you simply do is you simply say I want to move pulpits. What are the job listings and that was it. So that’s what I did when I wanted to leave Concord, New Hampshire. I went to a variety of places, had a lot of job offers, pulpit offers and I turned them all down because I wanted to go where it was warm so I went to Columbia.

Zarbock: And how long were you in Columbia?

Apple: Two years. I was there a year and a half and I put my letter of resignation in. That was it. Well I started looking at pulpits. What happened, this is how I came into the Navy, what happened was the Jewish Welfare Board which is an Endorsing Agent for all rabbis in the service calls me up and says, “You didn’t go after seminary because your name wasn’t drawn. You have a moral obligation to come into the service because you didn't go five years ago”.

So I said this does not sound good to me. This sounds like you’re ethically and morally blackmailing me and they said” no, it’s not blackmail, it’s the fact that it’s your turn”. They said do three years and I said “ Fine, okay, I’ll try the Air Force.” They said I “couldn’t go in the Air Force. They said Army or Navy.” I said “ I didn't know, I’ll let you know” The Navy Senior Jewish Chaplain, Sam Sobel, who you really ought to interview, who is in Norfolk, Sam’s a sweetheart, calls me up and he says, “We’ll send you to Japan in three years all expenses paid”. “Oh” I said, “What a wonderful thing to do, go to Japan”.

Zarbock: Are you married now, by the way?

Apple: Am I married? I was married and went to the Seminary and I was still married to my first wife which is another story we’ll get into. So I said it sounded interesting and her father ( My first wife’s father happens to be a rabbi and a professor at the Seminary) comes and says to me, “You really ought to do this. Then you’ll go to Japan. What more can you ask?”.

So I said “Okay, I was going to go into the Navy.” So I filled all my forms out and I knew nothing about the military because my father had never served in the military, only my uncle and he was a private when he went in World War II and came out a private. That says something! So I fill out these forms and I pass all the physicals and all that good stuff and I’m ordered to Newport, Rhode Island for Basic Training.

So I go to Newport and I go to Chaplain School and then I get my orders to Great Lakes, Illinois. I’m not going to Okinawa, I’m going to Great Lakes, Illinois.

Zarbock: Now for a person whose never been in, you’re new in the Navy. What did you learn?

Apple: What they taught us in eight weeks of Chaplain School was how to salute, how to do physical fitness and we did Transactional Analysis. I’m Okay, You’re Okay, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Values and what to look for in the Navy. But I’ve got to tell you, they really didn't teach that much. You had to learn when you got out.

Zarbock: How long was that training?

Apple: Eight weeks, but you didn't learn much because I mean you were just a lot of people thrown together and then you were going out and you all got orders. So you were there for eight weeks and you were already worried about where you were going, what it was going to be like, etc., and I didn't have any military experience so I’m a novice in a nunnery here.

So I get orders to Great Lakes, Illinois and off I go to Great Lakes which is north of Chicago. We get in the Base Housing which was really very nice and in the rabbinate, my wife was an important part of the Congregation, but in the Navy, it’s a different ballgame. I’m the person who is responsible and the wife is there as a support. She didn't really like it. She did not like being not a key cog. Even in the Jewish Chapel, she was not the cog and Great Lakes was a Navy Training Center Boot Camp.

There were service schools and the like. After a year there, she said to me, “I can’t stand this life”, but I had a three year commitment. I’m not going anywhere. So she said, “I’m out of here” and so she found herself another husband and she left. She left, she picked up and married somebody and left, okay?

Well now I’m at Great Lakes and I’m single, with me? My first assignment is a Transient Personnel Unit. It’s got all the guys and girls who are leaving the Navy. That’s the homosexuals, the bed wetters, the druggies, the bottom of the barrel and the reason I’m given this job is because the Roman Catholic priest who wants to be called Monsignor, says “What do you do with the Jewish Chaplain? You give him the worst job in the world”. Nobody wants to go to Transient Personnel.

So I go to the Transient Personnel Unit and the Commanding Officer, I go to him and I say, “Listen, I’m as green as they come so I need to be trained what to do as a Navy Chaplain”. He said to me, and we’re friends to this very day, “I will train you in what you need to be a Chaplain. As a Jewish Chaplain, you know what to do. I will train you how to get along in the Navy. I will train you so you know what the Navy is all about”.

So I was there for six months and I learned how to counsel. I learned from someone who took me under his wing which not very often does that happen. So I am doing very well and then the Senior Chaplain said to me that I had to go to be a Service School Chaplain, that they had to move me around every six months. So I became a Service School Chaplain, then I became a Recruit Training Command Chaplain. Then I wound up part time in the brig as a Brig Chaplain. That was a lot of fun. Then I went back to Transit Personnel Unit again.

Zarbock: Was your congregation exclusively a Jewish Congregation?

Apple: Oh yes, I dealt with the Jews.

Zarbock: Only?

Apple: It was a Jewish Congregation, but I was the chaplain for all faiths.

Zarbock: The brig for example?

Apple: At the brig, I dealt with everybody. They didn't have any Jews in the brig so I was the Brig Chaplain for everybody. A chaplain is a chaplain for everybody. The denomination tells you what services will be for this particular denomination or whatever. A chaplain is a chaplain is a chaplain. A rose is a rose is a rose.

Zarbock: What did you do as a chaplain in the various commands including the brig?

Apple: Well I counseled, I ran Bible studies, I ran educational studies, I went to court-martials. I did marriages for them. I helped them when the girlfriends came, who had no money, or when their wives came to visit them who had no money. I started the Drug Abuse Program at Great Lakes because I had all these drug people in Transit Personnel. There was nothing for them to do, no one to teach them so I started that program. I did a lot of programs.

Zarbock: Did you initiate the programs or run the programs or both?

Apple: I initiated them. The Drug Program, I initiated it and ran it. Then I turned it over.

Zarbock: What about alcohol? Problems there?

Apple: Alcohol problems? I had people who were alcoholics who were being discharged from the Navy because they were alcoholics and they would send them to be dried out, but there was no follow-up. The young people, they didn't really care, but the other people they dried out, went to AA meetings. I would rather have a recovering alcoholic work for me than anybody. Recovering alcoholics are very honest, up front and they’re great people. I mean I really go to bat for recovering alcoholics all the time.

So then we had a Russian Orthodox priest who came in relieving the Command Chaplain, a Catholic priest and he said to me he had been passed over once for promotion and he said, “You need to become my assistant”. So I was the Administrative Assistant and that was when I really saw the workings of the Navy.

Zarbock: What was your rank in those days?

Apple: I was a Lieutenant, bottom of the barrel, Lieutenant. I did all the paperwork and I ran the office. I ran the Chaplain’s Office. He would say do this and I would do it, right, but I would argue with him. So I would argue with him because I felt sometimes that he was doing things that were wrong and I would say “ you can’t do this “ and he would say “ make it happen” and I would say,” put that in writing because if you put it in writing, I will do it!”

If you tell me to do it verbally and I do something wrong and I get caught, it’s my neck and not yours. So I used to say to him, “Put it in writing”. He wouldn’t do it so I wouldn’t do it. So six months in that job, I went away on leave over Christmas. After Christmas I came back and was transferred out.

The reason I was transferred out, we had a black chaplain who wanted to print hymn books and I said to him, “Why do I have to spend all this time printing hymn books for him when you can buy hymn books? After services are over, is he going to collect those hymn books or are they going to be laying on the floor in the Chapel?” So it was cheaper to buy ones that were already printed than ones that are already made. “You want them to be typed up, sent to the printer and it’s going to be more money than you need.”

He said to me, “I want you to do what he wants” and I said “Put it in writing because I’m not going to do that because it’s not cost efficient and I know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to do it, the other way is cheaper and I’m interested in fraud, waste and abuse and as your Assistant, I have to keep you out of fraud, waste and abuse”.

So ultimately he didn't do anything until I left. Then I left. He brought somebody in who was not as strong as I was or as morally concerned as I was and that person printed up these things. So one day I’m in the Protestant chapel and I walk into his office and say, “Here are all these hymnals on the floor and they’re dirty.”

I said, “Here, this is how you wasted your money, my taxpayer’s money”. He said, “Get out of my office” (laughter), so he threw me out of his office. But I subsequently wound up burying him. He died. He died here in Wilmington…

Zarbock: Rabbi, I’m greatly relieved that he died before you buried him.

Apple: No, no, no, he died and they sent me to part of the Burial Ceremony and he was buried in Wilmington at St. Nicholas’ Greek Orthodox Church. His wife still lives here. We became good friends. Now after Great Lakes, I got so cold after four years, I called up the Detailer and I said, “Send me where it’s warm”. He said I’ll send you to Camp Lejeune to the Marines.

What do I know about Marines? I know nothing about Marines, right? So I go to the 2nd Marine Division which is the…do you want me to talk about this? This is very funny. I’ve got a lot of very funny stories. I go to the 2nd Marine Division which is the group that goes out. These are the Operational Forces and so I go in and they send me to 2nd Engineer Battalion. So I go to 2nd Engineer Battalion and I go to the Colonel and I say to the Colonel, “Listen, I never served with Marines before. What do I know?”. He says to me, “Okay, we’re going to train you”. I said “ I was open.” So I was with the 2nd Engineer Battalion.

Zarbock: And you’re still a Lieutenant?

Apple: I am still a Lieutenant. I’m having a ball. It’s like being with the Boy Scouts. I’m out in the field, I’m getting dirty. I’m going on maneuvers. I go to Cuba. I mean I’m always out doing something. I’m having a ball. I get a promotion to Lieutenant Commander and in those days you could frock. Frocking meant you gave the person the rank, but not the pay, and the judicial responsibility that goes with that rank, right?

So he calls me into his office one day and I don’t know anything about this and my wife is there and all the officers are there and he says, “I’m going to promote you. I’m going to frock you”. So I get frocked. Now the Jewish Chapel came under the Base. I’m 2nd Marine Division, Marine Corps base owns the Jewish Chapel. I am doing services at the Base Jewish Chapel.

The Base Chaplain who happens to be a Southern Baptist doesn’t like me because I said to him, “This chapel is a pigsty. Look at this chapel. You haven’t maintained this Jewish Chapel. I have to go in there with the 2nd Engineers and clean it up and make it look like a chapel. It’s dusty, the paint is peeling off the windows. It is a mess. I want money”. He says, “I have no money to give you”. Oh, I said, “Why don’t you have any money?”. He said, “You didn't give me a budget”.

“Oh”, I said, “You knew I was coming here. You knew I was going to do Jewish services for you and you didn't give me a budget?”. He said, “No, I didn't give you a budget”. I said, “That’s nice. I’ll give you a budget for next year, but that is totally unsatisfactory. You being a Captain should know better”. Well you know, I’m a Jewish Chaplain and I don’t give a hoot. I think that his man if he’s concerned about all faiths should have been concerned about the Jewish Chaplain’s needs, right?

The 2nd Engineers are fixing the chapel up, they’re helping me, right. I go to my Colonel and explain to him and he says, “No problem, do whatever you want”. What then happens is I get frocked and I go into see to pick up some stuff for the Jewish Chapel cause he bought wine, he bought candles and he says to me, “You have no right to be frocked. You’re not eligible to be frocked”. I said to him, “You tell my Commanding Officer that I have no right to be frocked. He frocked me, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to say?”.

So he said again that I had no right to be frocked. So I said to him, “I’m doing Jewish Services because I’m a rabbi and I’m doing them because it’s the thing I have to do and you’ve insulted me and you’re a needy Captain. You haven’t done anything for the Jewish Community and I really take offense at that”. I said, “I’m really hurt. I’ll give you your budget, you give me my money and whatever you want me to do, I will do and I will report to you, but I’m really insulted” and I just turned around and left.

Now the Division Chaplain who was a Lutheran calls me into his office one day and he says, “I’m going to teach you what you need to know to be a good Marine Chaplain.” He said, “I want you to come to my office for lunch”. So I go to his house for lunch. He takes me upstairs and he shows me how to iron my shirt, put creases in my shirt. I’m saying to myself, “Well, everybody’s got their eccentricities, right. Iron the shirt, have your creases”. So anyway I had a great time. Then what happened was…

Zarbock: Was there any more education?

Apple: That was it, that was it.

Zarbock: Put on those stripes…

Apple: Yeah, that was it. He said to me, “Don’t bother me. If I need you, I’ll be in touch with you. Let it go”. And that was it. So I was having a wonderful time, but I was Lieutenant Commander. Then what happened was the Division Chaplain, he said to me one day, “The chaplain is leaving Headquarters Battalion. That’s 1800 people. You have to go move to a more demanding battalion because you are Lieutenant Commander”.

So I did that. Oh, that was fine. I’ve got to go back. I’ve got to talk about my marriage. So I divorced my wife, my first wife, because she did not want to be a Navy wife. Then I met a divorcee at Great Lakes with four children. She was a lovely woman, sweet as they could come and I married her and I’ve been married to her ever since, for 31 years, and she loved the military.

She liked to travel. She liked the experience, she liked the people. She was like me. She just had a great time. She was a great help. So we go to Camp Lejeune and she’s there. While at Camp Lejeune, she says to me one day, because the book “Greening of America” is big. She says to me, “I really want to be a nurse. I got a Degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I got a Teacher’s Degree from Marquette. I want to be a nurse”. So I said, “Whatever you want, it’s okay by me”.

So here I have a wife who’s studying, right? I got four children over in school studying. It was fascinating. It was a great experience. So she got her degree. Well I’m at Camp Lejeune and I get a phone call one day -- you’re going to Okinawa! Do you want to go accompanied or unaccompanied? So I said, “There’s no discussion on this one. My wife and children go with me”. So my children cried, they wanted to know where Okinawa was. I said it’s a Prefecture of Japan. “We don’t want to go”, but we all go.

I said to them, “Finish school.” I left in January. Get your Degree at Coastal Carolina Community College and I’ll come back and then we’ll all go. We’ll visit your father, your mother, I’ll pack you out and then you’ll come over and that’s what happened. So we were in Okinawa 39 months. It was a wonderful time. Now in Okinawa, I was the Assistant Base Chaplain. Great Lakes I had anywhere from 50 to 100 recruits going to the Jewish chapel. At Camp Lejeune, I had between 100-150. Okinawa I had 500 people. That’s a lot of people.

Okinawa, I’m a Navy Chaplain to the Marines at Camp Butler and I was using an Air Force Chapel because Okinawa had Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard. So I used the biggest chapel which was the Air Force Chapel which was really good because I had a few people who had a relationship with the Air Force because the Marines and the Air Force are ….they threw the Marines out of the Rocker Club. They didn't want the Marines in their Club so it got pretty touchy there.

So I went full time in Okinawa. I was the Assistant Base Chaplain and I had the whole island. So I was covering Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Zarbock: And what were some of your duties?

Apple: I was the Assistant Base Chaplain. I was the Administrator. I was at the brig. I had to visit the outlying camps. I had to go all over the island and talk to people. That was enough because we all had to cover the whole island.

Zarbock: And it’s a big one.

Apple: 67 miles long and 10 miles wide. So we had three Base Chaplains, Catholic, Protestant and Jew and we had to deal with all…we owned the property. The Base Chaplain owns the property so we had to go out to different housing areas, had to deal with the people.

Zarbock: How much counseling did you do?

Apple: An awful lot of counseling, an awful lot. We ran marriage seminars. The Marines would get their first piece of sex, taste of sex. They would get their first sex and they would love it. They would come back and say, I want to marry her and take her home. Well we had to approve the marriage. Some of these women that these men brought in were really unattractive.

I used to say to them, “Your mother and father see her, they’re going to disown you”. I mean some of them didn't have teeth. But sex is what drove them to say they wanted to be married. The three of us stopped a lot of marriages.

Zarbock: Was the chaplain, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, signature required?

Apple: They had forms. You had to go see a psychiatrist. You had to see your Commanding Officer. You had to get a whole list of approvals to get married. An officer, psychiatrist, doctor, chaplain, if any one of those say no, there’s no marriage.

Zarbock: Like clearing the base or something.

Apple: You had to get clearance. Now if you took her off the island and got married and brought her back, that’s another story. But if you wanted to get married on the island, then you had to get clearance. Well because we knew that if he took her back to the States, there would be a divorce and then what happens? You’ve got a resident alien.

So I was on Okinawa and then after Okinawa, which was great, my children cried when we had to leave, but I went to Chaplain School. I got promoted while I was at Chaplain School to Commander. Then I was frocked to Chaplain School as a Commander. Then the Advance Chaplain Course, there were 18 of us. Eighteen Commanders in this course for nine months. It was wonderful. It was teaching us the state of the art of ministry as it existed in 1980-81.

We brought in, the Navy paid for this, key people to lecture to us in all areas of the ministry. It was fascinating. So I had a wonderful, wonderful nine months of knowledge which I took and have used ever since. I was kept on as a faculty member.

Zarbock: Tell me again, where was this located?

Apple: It was in Newport, Rhode Island. I was kept on and I was the first Jewish faculty member. So one of the funny stories was somebody said to me, “You’ve taken a Protestant billet” and I said to them, “The only billet in the Navy is designed for a person who is the Command Chaplain in Rota, Spain and has to be a Roman Catholic so don’t tell me I’ve taken a Protestant billet.” Wrong answer, wrong thing to say to me. You can see I’m pretty feisty because I refused to be a second class citizen ever in the Navy and I never was.

Zarbock: Rabbi, this tape will be seen some time in the future and some of the words with which you and I are familiar may not be familiar so what is a billet?

Apple: A billet, good question, a billet is a slot that enables you to put an officer…in other words, you have say Newport Chaplain School has eight billets. That means they have slots for eight officers of different ranks and then the Navy decides what their ranks are. You might have eight enlisted billets, eight slots. So a billet means that. It means a job slot, okay.

So I had a great time at Newport, but as an instructor, all my people did well and I made sure they did well.

Zarbock: What were you teaching?

Apple: I taught the Advanced Course. I taught the Basic Course.

Zarbock: In what?

Apple: The Basic Course is how to become a chaplain. The Advanced Course is the state of the art of religion and I came in and taught what was happening in Judaism.

Zarbock: So these are really kinds of methods courses?

Apple: The basic course is Methods, Advanced Course is knowledge, methods, current state of affairs. We had a Lutheran minister and say to us, “You have to…” talking about preaching. Now he was different. He said, “You have to look at an object and everything has a story and it’s the story that you tell.” So he said, “We’re going to go out for a walk”. So we go out for a walk and he picks up a hat out of the gutter, he picks some stones, he picks up a coat hanger and says “Why are these here, why are these discarded?”.

And he weaves a story and he said, “Everything in life is a story so get rid of your introduction three points to conclusion and a poem and tell the story, make it relevant”. So it was a fascinating experience. We had Episcopalians come in and teach us how to preach. We had people come in and teach us religious education. We had people come in and teach us what’s happening in the Roman Catholic world and in the different Protestant worlds and the state of counsel in forms of counseling, an update. It was really a wonderful course.

Zarbock: Was anybody coming in to teach the other students or expose the other students to what was going on in the rabbinical training?

Apple: Yes, yes, yes. We brought in a rabbi from New York, we did.

Zarbock: So you got equal time and billing.

Apple: Absolutely, it was wonderful. It was great and there were only 18 of us in that Class plus two instructors. So you learned. You learned what was going on in the Navy. We had a prisoner of war come in and talk to us about his experiences in Vietnam, fascinating story.

He takes off his shirt, he has a Navy uniform you know, coat and tie, takes off his shirt, takes off his t-shirt and you could see the scars and walks around the class and says to the students, “Put your hand on my pectoral muscles, put your hands on the scars on my wrist”. He said, “The code of conduct, you will hold on to it, but you will break so expect that. You will not survive. They will find ways to make you confess, whatever they want you to confess.”

The people you’re with have got to put you together. If they can’t put you together, you’re going to die so John McCain was a prisoner of war. He’s a very strong person because they, his friends over there, put him together. You understand what I mean? When you come back broken in body and spirit, okay?

So I left there and a chaplain comes there, John MacNamara, he’s a Roman Catholic priest, sweet guy. He died, but a sweet guy. He says to my wife, “Where do you want to go”. My wife says, “My husband wants to go to Europe to the 6th Fleet which has its Headquarters in Italy”. And he says, “Never know”. I got orders to go to the 6th Fleet. I moved to Gaeta, Italy, with my wife.

Zarbock: I’m sorry, what was the name of the city?

Apple: I moved to Gaeta, Italy, to the 6th Fleet, between Rome and Naples. I’m riding a ship 70% of the time. I come home, I’m home for a couple of days, I’m circuit riding all over the Mediterranean. I rode over 120 different ships. The only ship I didn't ride was a submarine and a battleship. I was going to go on a submarine, but I had a head cold. When I went on the submarine, I could hardly breathe so I had to get off.

I rode every type of ship. I flew every type of aircraft all along the Med for two years and it was a good experience. I spent a lot of time with the Marines. I was on the ship for five days, then I would move. I had scars on my legs. There was a rainstorm one day and I had to transfer ships. So they put me in a motor boat and they take me to the ship and she’s going like this and it’s raining. They throw the cargo net overboard, the rope net. They throw the rope down, they haul my luggage.

The coxswain of the boat says they were going to back up to the ship. “When I say jump, jump onto the rope and climb because I’m moving away and I’m gone. If you fall in the water, you got problems” (laughter). True story. So I jump, grab hold of the cargo net and I’m climbing up and it’s banging against the side of the ship and it’s raining and it’s horrible out. I’m climbing up and I get to the top and they grab me and they pull me overboard. I look up and I say, “This is not for the Jews”. And the guy says, “Not for Christians either” (laughter).

Zarbock: Well you were saying, you’re on a ship off the coast of Italy. The year is?

Apple: 1984-86. I climbed on board that ship and they hauled me on board, right. It was really funny. I get on board that ship and the Captain says to me, “we are going”…(it was a destroyer) “ that we’re going into the Black Sea, that we’re going through Istanbul.” Okay, so we go to Istanbul. It’s Christmas time. So I went to the Command Master Chief and I said to him that it was Christmas time and he says to me, “We have to do something for Christmas”.

He said he had a Christmas tree. He says, “Chaplain, I’m not going to decorate that Christmas tree. You do it”. So I get this Christmas tree and I’m decorating this Christmas tree.

Zarbock: How did he get the tree?

Apple: He had one folded up in a box. He had it in storage, Navy issue. So I am putting this tree together and I’ve got all these lights and I’ve got all this tinsel and I’ve got all these little things you put on. I said to the chief, “Do you have gifts”. He said, “I’ve got gifts, I’ve got mothers and wives to have gifts for everybody”. Good enough, but “We have to make cookies”. We’re going to go to the galley to get cookies. “We’ll get Santa Claus cookies”. He said we “didn't have Santa Claus cookies, we had gingerbread men”.

So I said with the gingerbread men, he should get M&M’s and I told him we should go in the galley and put eyes and noses and belly buttons like snowmen. We were going to make snowmen cookies with M&M’s. He said “no problem.” So I do this Christmas tree bit and I’m making cookies, and we get the gifts. Then I say, “We have to have a Catholic Christmas Eve Mass, we have to have a Protestant Christmas Service.”

So I get the Protestant hymnal and I Xerox up Christmas music and I got get the Catholic Reader and I Xerox up the Mass. You could see I really know what I’m doing here and I got the Catholic Mass and I had the Protestant Service. Now I go to the Commanding Officer and I say, “You’re either Protestant or you’re Catholic and you need to show up”. He said he couldn’t leave the bridge. I said, “This is your crew and you need to be down there even if it’s for five minutes. Let the Executive Officer take the Bridge, but you have to show up and wave to the crew”. Maybe at both services because one was at 10:00 and one was like at 11:30 at night. No, I take it back, 8:00 and 9:00.

We were going to have a big party, everybody on the ship. So he did. He came down and we all sang Christmas carols and it was really an interesting evening. So then the Captain says to me that there is another destroyer here and they didn't have a chaplain so they wanted to send me to that destroyer. I said “okay, but how am I going to get there?”. He said, “We’re going to high line you”. “Oh” I said, “What does that mean?”.

He said, “You’re going to go across on a high line”. So I said, “Never done that before”. What they did was I sent my luggage across. You get in the breeches buoy, that’s a little suit you get into. You put your feet in and you’re on a line and the ships are going like that. As I began to go I yelled at the Captain, “No baptism for me. No baptism in the water or out. Don’t be funny”. So the Captain said, “Here’s a Christmas cake. Take it over to that ship”.

So I’m going across, not holding on which I really wanted to do, but I’ve got this cake in a box I’m holding from this particular ship to the Captain of the other ship. So I go over and get off and I was high lined. But you go and the ships are steaming just like that, same time, you know, the line is sort of tight. So I did Christmas Eve on that ship.

Zarbock: Let me interrupt chaplain and ask you this. As a chaplain, you’re conducting a Catholic Service. I set it up and I preached. I didn't do the Mass. I made the lay reader do the Mass, but I preached at the Protestant service and at the Catholic Mass. You’ve got to believe I’m talking about Jesus and the manger and what Christmas means. I know it sounds crazy.

Zarbock: It is crazy!.

Apple: But I said to you early on, a chaplain is a chaplain is a chaplain. These are my men, figure of authority, and if I don’t give them a Christmas message, what is it? It’s nothing. So here is a rabbi talking to these men about the manger and Jesus and what it means to be born and what Christianity is all about and what it stands for.

Zarbock: With a pagan Christmas tree?

Apple: With a pagan Christmas tree. I got to tell you…

Zarbock: Your social boundaries are rather porous, aren’t they?

Apple: (Laughter) Right and it was wonderful. I left that ship, the second ship I was on and the Captain was so impressed, he gave me a plaque. He gave me a plaque! He said, “Anytime you want to come back and be Chaplain on my destroyer, you’re welcome”. But you can’t really do that, destroyers don’t carry chaplains.

I left there and I came back to Camp Lejeune. I came back as the Base Chaplain, an Assistant Base Chaplain. I went back to Camp Lejeune and they said to me that the Jewish Chapel, that whole building is going to be gutted so I should design the chapel the way I wanted it to be designed. So I designed the Jewish Chapel and the classrooms and the social hall and I was there to see it start and I was there to see it finished.

Then I get a phone call one day, I’m still a Commander, okay? I get a phone call that I was going to Orlando, Florida. Don’t buy a house. It translates to me that I’m going to be there a short time. I went to Orlando Naval Training Center. They said I would be there a short time and probably get promoted to Captain. I go to Orlando and am promoted to Captain. Okay, I’m promoted, but there’s a Captain over me.

He retires, right. He retires, I’m still a Commander. I’m the Command Chaplain. I go to my Commanding Officer who’s a Captain and I said to her, “Why don’t you frock me” and she said, “No, we know who you are. We know who the Command Chaplain is. Why should I frock you. Wait your turn.” So I was Commander for like 11 years, that’s a long time. Never failed a promotion, but the Navy was cutting back on money so they cut back on promotions.

So 11 years after I was Commander, I was picked up for Captain and in another year, I get my date of rank so she says, “We’re promoting you this day.”

Zarbock: What year was this?

Apple: I have to check my I.D. card, I think it’s on there, I’m not sure. 1989, I don’t know, let’s see. Probably ’90.

Zarbock: How old were you?

Apple: Oh shoot, I don’t know, well in my 50’s, 52 maybe.

Zarbock: That’s a young Captain, isn’t it?

Apple: It’s an old Captain. Remember I came in when I was 32, no, when I was 30. No, I came in when I was 32.

Zarbock: But in 20 years you’ve gone from Ensign…

Apple: No, it’s probably my 21st year, maybe it was ’92 I made it, I forget.

Zarbock: And a Navy Captain is the equivalent of an Army Colonel.

Apple: Army Colonel, O6. So we invite my mother down and my mother comes down. My father’s died and my mother, she knows nothing about the Navy. All my mother is concerned about is her son is a Navy Chaplain. She never brags about her son being a rabbi. She brags about her son being a Navy Chaplain who’s a rabbi. To her, this is the epitome of what a rabbi should be, serving his country.

So after the promotion ceremony is done, my mother grabs my female Commanding Officer and gives her a big hug and kiss and says, “Just take care of my Jimmy” (laughter). What am I going do? She says “Take care of my Jimmy!”. The only person that ever calls me Jimmy is my mother and my sister. So anyway I was in Orlando and that was good.

It was a good experience because I was only there 18 months and I was the first Jewish Chaplain at Orlando. Again I’m the First Command, you have to understand, I was the first Jewish Command Chaplain ever to be at Orlando. I was the first Jewish Chaplain ever to be at Chaplain School and now comes another first. I leave Orlando after 18 months and I’m ordered to the 2nd Marine Division as the 2nd Marine Division Chaplain. That means I am the chaplain over, I’m the head Chaplain for 18,000 troops. I have like 25 chaplains and 27 enlisted working for me.

I mean I’m the person who assigns them! I’m the person who’s responsible for them. This is a key job because it not only means I’m the Chaplain of the 2nd Marine Division, but there’ll never be another Jewish Chaplain that does what I did for a variety of reasons. So then I would go out in the field again with the General and I would go out and get dirty and go out on maneuvers. I also had to staff the migrants, the chaplains for the migrants at Guantanamo Bay, the Battalion.

So I was with the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, all my equivalent. So I would be tasked to provide Marine Chaplains. Well you know, everybody was arguing with everybody who should send what, so I decided the way to do this is to simply go meet them, sit down and talk with them. So I would go and talk with the Navy Chaplain at the time, Barry Black, who you interviewed. I’d go talk to the Air Force who became the Chief of Chaplains and I would go talk to the Army Chaplain sitting in Atlanta, Georgia.

I was on the phone and I would negotiate with these people because I did not want to rip off, I did not want to see my Battalions losing their Chaplains. So I did that. I also had to send the Command Chaplain to Guantanamo Bay. I went there. So that was really good and I learned a lot. So it was a fascinating experience. I’m walking and get more with my chaplains and they said to me, they called me “El Hefa”, The Heavy, right? I said I’m not a heavy, I’m just a chaplain.

So I said to the chaplains, “What are you doing for the Jews, the Cuban Jewish migrants”. “We don’t have any Cuban Jewish migrants” they said to me. I said, “That’s a lot of nonsense”. So I’m walking to the camps and the Cuban Jewish migrants are seeing the Star of David and the tablets on my collar and they’re coming up to me and saying, “Rabbi”, they’re talking to me.

So I met with them. Then what happened was I came back and I went to the Marine Corps and I said, “There are 300 Jewish migrants in those camps”, well I said that there were at least 200 Jewish migrants and I don’t know what other ones, but there are Jewish people over there too. “I want you to provide Kosher Passover meals. These are called meals ready to eat”. I said, “Here’s what I want, here’s where you go get it, no wine, just grape juice, matzo and everything else”.

So the Marine Corps said “ fine!” So they bought 600 Kosher for Passover meals. I had it air freighted out of Cherry Point to Guantanamo Bay. So I call up the chaplain and I said to the chaplain, “There are Kosher meals for the Jewish migrants for Passover, there are two meals per migrant. If any of your chaplains take them and eat them without the Jews getting them first, I will be very unhappy and I will personally come over there and talk to you about it, but you keep me posted”.

So the meals got there. They got all the Jewish migrants and gave them two Kosher for Passover meals which they could eat cold or they could take to the mess hall and have heated and what was left over, they gave to the Jewish enlisted and officers that were there. That’s just the influence of being the Division Chaplain and doing that.

Then I decided because they had meals ready to eat, they had C rations, meals ready to eat in boxes, this is again the chaplain in me, I have Seventh Day Adventists who are vegetarians, I have blacks that are Muslims. There are white Muslims too and I’ve got Jews who do not eat non-Kosher food. So I ran a test. I got meals ready to eat to come down and give us the Kosher MRE’s, there called Hallal, Hallal for the Muslims, vegetarian for the Seventh Day Adventists, Kosher for the Jews, all wrapped up into two.

We tried these and I took out a survey and I sent the survey to Massachusetts I actually had them here watching the whole thing. They decided that in every box of MRE’s, 12 MRE’s, meals ready to eat, they would put two Kosher and Hallal vegetarian MRE’s. So any MRE that you get now in the Navy or in Marine Corps, you’re going to have these because you have Muslims and you have Jews and you have Seventh Day Adventists and you have vegetarians who eat that. So that’s how I got that done.

It wouldn’t have been able to be done if I wasn’t a 2nd Marine Division Chaplain. So those are only two interesting stories. Now I did an awful lot. Then after 2nd Marine Division, I was supposed to go to Norfolk and become the Marine Forces Atlantic Chaplain and every Marine Chaplain on the east coast and Barstow, California which was the supply base, go figure that out, would come under me. The General said he wanted to come down to where the troops were.

So he moved the Marine Forces Atlantic down to Camp Lejeune. So I was the Marine Forces Atlantic Chaplain and I would visit all these different bases to check out the chaplains and I sent my assistant to Barstow. He came back. He was livid!! He could have lynched me he said. “It’s so hard to get there”. I told him that was why I sent him (laughter). He was an unhappy camper.

Now to show you how I was responsible for everybody on the East Coast, Operational Forces. So I would go out and also on exercises.

Zarbock: Where were these exercises held?

Apple: Here.

Zarbock: In North Carolina?

Apple: Here at Camp Lejeune, Guantanamo once, but we would have exercises. We would go hiking. Did we hike? 20 miles!!

Zarbock: And you were hiking 20 miles?

Apple: Well I was lucky. We started hiking 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles. So I’m hiking on the 15 mile hike and I stepped in a puddle and I ruptured my Achilles tendon so I’m hobbling around with a cane and they put me on a six month Limited Duty list. So I go in and see the General and told him I wasn’t hiking anymore and gave him my Limited Duty slip for six months. So he said “Okay, you’re not hiking anymore.”

On the 20 mile hike, he has myocardial infarction. They have to Medivac him to Portsmouth where he has a pacemaker put in. His Chief of Staff continued to hike. The General never hiked again. He was retired after that.

Zarbock: This is a sideboard to history, but on a hike like that, what were you required to carry, what was your pack?

Apple: They told you what to put in your pack. You had an extra pair of boots, socks.

Zarbock: Raincoat?

Apple: Poncho. They told you what to put in the pack so you were hiking with a pack, not a full pack of 60 pounds, but you might be hiking with a pack of 30 pounds.

Zarbock: No weapon?

Apple: Chaplains don’t carry weapons, but they would tell you what weapon you would carry. Some would have knives, some would have side arms, no rifles.

Zarbock: Did you ever carry a weapon?

Apple: Chaplains are not supposed to carry weapons so I never carried a weapon. Now I was raised by my father and mother who said you will never own a weapon, you will never have a weapon. So I was at Great Lakes and they had a course in how to serve a .45 and qualify, then you got a ribbon. So I took the course and qualified and earned Expert Pistol.

The Command Chaplain sees the ribbon with the E for Expert and says, “Chaplains should never earn a ribbon that says they shot a pistol”. And I said to him, “I know nothing about weapons. Jewish law says if I’m going to be attacked, I’m not going to stand up and say I surrender because I’ll get killed. So if it’s your life or my life, I need to know about weapons in case I have to pick one up and kill.”

Now I don’t believe in killing, but if it’s your life or mine and you’re coming and shooting at me and they’re 20 of you and just one of me, I’m not going to say I surrender because you’ll just mow me down. I’m going to learn what a weapon is and to respect it. So then I have a Sergeant, a Jewish Chaplain Marine Sergeant and he says to me, he sees the ribbon and he says, “Hey Chaplain, you know how to shoot an M 14?”. So over Thanksgiving, he takes me out to the rifle range run by the Marines and I shoot an M 14 and I qualify first time around.

I give him back his rifle and I said “I’m done. I qualified for a ribbon. That’s enough”. So I had a Rifle Ribbon and a Pistol Ribbon and I took the E off because the Command Chaplain made such a fuss over it. I took the E off, but I never carried a weapon. Now there were chaplains who carried weapons and were sent back from Desert Storm and subsequently sent home. Yes, yes, yes, there were chaplains who carried weapons. You’re not supposed to.

You have a driver. You have a Chaplain’s Assistant. He carries the weapon. He’s the one that’s supposed to protect you.

Zarbock: So military regulations prohibit?

Apple: Prohibit, yes, and if any of the chaplains you talk to say they carried a weapon or they shot a weapon or whatever and it’s not in defense of their life, then they had violated military law. There were chaplains who were relieved, also in Vietnam I’m sure. Chaplains were relieved for carrying weapons because you’re not supposed to. And I don’t own any weapons, but I know how to inspect a weapon. I know what it’s all about because I think everybody should know.

Zarbock: All weapons are always loaded no matter if you just cleared it is still a loaded weapon. That’s respect!

Apple: That is respect. So then I’m at Camp Lejeune and it’s getting close for me to get orders and they’re talking to me about maybe moving to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps Chaplains. Now I have met the Commandant of the Marine Corps who’s a born again Christian and I know that he and I would probably have had words. My colleague who was his chaplain is getting up at 5:00 in the morning and doing devotional services with him and it’s killing him.

So I said to my colleague, “This is not going to happen to me. I’m not getting up at 4:00 in the morning to hold 5:00 morning devotions” and this particular Commandant Marine Corps had a brother who was in the Chaplain Corps who never made it past Commander and would often say that he was a better chaplain than half the people in the Chaplain Corps.

That used to bother me too so I said to the Detailer, “I don’t really want to go to Washington. I just want to go someplace for my final tour of duty that’s nice and comfortable”. At that time I’m doing services at Camp Lejeune. So I’m the Jewish Chaplain, every place I’ve been, I’ve been the Jewish Chaplain.

So Wilmington, North Carolina, comes to talk to me and they said that they had an 82 year old rabbi and they didn't want him to drop dead on the pulpit. “Are you interested in maybe leaving the Navy and retiring and coming to Wilmington and be the co-rabbi, then the Associate Rabbi and then the Rabbi of Temple Israel?”. So I said I really didn't know. I didn't have to leave the Navy, I had four years left. I told them I would have to come down and check them out.

So my wife and I came down and we met the people and attended a couple of services, preached a couple of times, visited the religious school and they were nice people. I said to my wife, “It is time to retire, put roots down someplace, have friends and die with friends and have friends in case one of us dies, to be friends to either one of us, the widow or the widower. You need to have friends. If you keep moving around, where will we wind up and we won’t have roots”.

So I thought now was the time to jump off. So I put in my papers to retire. The Commanding General comes to see me and he says to me, “You really don’t want to do that. You really don’t want to retire”. I said to him, “I really do”. He said, “Well let’s reconsider” and he walks out of my office.

The reason he didn't want me to retire was this. At our staff meetings when it came time for Christmas time, I would say to them, all these officers at the staff meeting, “I’m going to be at the USO Christmas morning to be with the troops that have no place to go and I’m going to shoot pool with them and I’m going to play ping pong with them and I’m going to talk with them.”

“If you want to be a true Christian, and I don’t mean this derogatively, but you need to take your family down there Christmas morning and spend time with people who are serving the Government and our country and let them feel important. Maybe take them home with you. So I think everybody at this table should not just open their gifts Christmas morning, don’t go to church, go down there. That’s where church is. Don’t roll over and go to bed either. Get up and come down to the USO”.

Then I said, “You know what I’m going to do. I’m going to take a lot of goodies to all the gate guards at all the gates at Camp Lejeune. I’m going to do that for them because they’re standing guard on Christmas morning. I want to see you people there.” So the General says, “I’ll be there” which is a funny story.

So I get there and I’m shooting pool and I’m loading up my utility vehicle with all cakes and cookies because I’m going to deliver them later on and he’s shooting pool. This young Marine says “What’s your name?” And he says, “Call me Charlie”. The young Marine says, “Okay Charlie, rack‘em up”. And I want to tell you he’s shooting pool. They didn't know who he was from a hole in the wall, right. No officer from our staff shows up except he and I.

At the next staff meeting, he says, “The Chaplain and I spent Christmas morning and part of the day, most of the day at the USO. None of you were there. I just want you to know how I feel about Christmas” and that’s all he said. So he comes back one day and he’s laughing hysterically. He says, “You know, I’m shooting pool with these Marines who are calling me Charlie”. I said I remembered that.

He says, “I’m walking by one Marine and he sees me, “Hello Cha…, Cha…General”. He was going to say “hello Charlie.” He said his eyes got as big as watermelons. So he says, “That was a reward for me”. So anyway later, he kept trying to keep me on, but I said that I had to go and that he ought to go too. “You’re a North Carolinian.”.

So I left to Wilmington and he subsequently left and went to Florida to Tampa and became four stars, he went from three stars to four.. He should have. He was really good and then he retired to Norfolk

So I got a real interesting career. I’ve done amazing things. Again I was the first Jewish Chaplain to ever be a Division Chaplain and the MARCORLANT Chaplain, which will never happen again. The reason I say these things is because Jewish Chaplains don’t want to go out in the field, don’t want to get dirty, don’t want to do what I did, don’t want to rough it up and be a Marine. They find it better to sleep at home with their wives while I was out all the time.

Zarbock: Chaplain, were you ever ordered to do anything that you felt violated your ethic or your value base and if so, how did you handle it?

Apple: The only time, and it really wasn’t ordered, it was close. I got a call to see the general so I went in.

I got a call to go see the General. He says to me, “What are you doing Friday night, November 10?” He said it was the Marine Corps Ball. I said to him, “First of all, you should know better than to ask that question. You know where I’m going to be. I’m going to be at the Jewish Chapel running services where I belong”. He says, “Oh, because I was going to invite you to my home for dinner and then we could all go, my key staff, to the Marine Corps Ball”.

So he says, “I should have known better” and I said, “Yeah, you should have because you were a Methodist raised with Jewish people before you became a Catholic”. He and I got along really well so he laughed. He said, “Yeah, I did date a few Jewish girls in my time”. So I walk out and there’s the Chief of Staff who’s one of these born again Christians and he says to me, “What are you doing on November 10”.

He doesn’t know what the General has up his sleeve. I said to him, “You should know better than to ask me that question cause it’s Friday night”. And he says, “You’re right.” That’s the only two times anything ever came of who I was. Now people knew that I was a rabbi and I was a chaplain and they knew I was concerned about everybody, but they knew I was not going to short change who I was as a rabbi.

Other religious faiths will do whatever they would do to get promoted and I’m not casting dispersions. I’m saying there were many people who do what it took if it meant getting somebody else to pitch in for them on a Sunday, they would do that. But not me! I simply said, I’m not going to do this, this is not the way I am. I’m a Jew, I’m a rabbi and I’m not going to short-change my faith for anybody and I didn't. So people knew that about me.

They also knew that I was a person who came in and started Jewish programs and created a Jewish Chapel, created a Jewish community and left the Jewish community. So any Jewish Chaplain who followed me always had a Jewish community. I come to Camp Lejeune and there hasn’t been a Jewish Chaplain there in years and I had to start a Jewish community in 1974.

I walked the beach, I looked for people who looked Jewish. I know it sounds tacky. I go to the hospital. I look up Jewish doctors. I put an ad in the newspaper. I get the Alpha listing of all the Jews that are in the command and I contact all of them and I create a Jewish community instead of simply putting it in an email saying there’s a rabbi on board. I went out and did that every place I went.

I went on ships and the Commanding Officer would say, “We don’t have any Jews on this ship”. I would say, “You’re wrong” and go troll for Jews. “I will find you Jews” and I always found Jews on the ships, two or three. I was on aircraft carrier and the chaplain said, “We don’t have any Jews on this ship”. I said, “You are so wrong” and I would find a congregation of 35 Jews, 35, that’s just from the time at the day when one microphone went over the ship. If I really pushed hard, I probably would have gotten more people because they were working.

I was a rabbi and I was a Navy Chaplain and I did both well and that’s how I made Captain. If I wasn’t any good, I would never have been a Captain. I did a lot of things. I’m at Great Lakes and they’re serving soul food. This is a funny story. The blacks are getting soul food, the Mexicans are getting soul food. Why can’t the Jews get soul food? So I go to the food service officer and I said, “You’re serving soul food, you’ve got to have Jewish soul food for Rosh Hoshanah.”

He said, “What do you want”. I said, “I want chicken”. This is a true story. “Chicken and I want lox and bagels and cream cheese for breakfast the next morning”. So he says, “Let me request through the chain of command”. I give him the whole menu, okay? The menu for the next day, lox, bagels and cream cheese. Rosh Hoshanah treat, right, Jewish soul food. He does it. I proceed to get phone calls from all the rabbis, even rabbis from Chicago.

Great Lakes has taken all of the bagels, has bought all of the lox. There is no lox and there are no bagels in Chicago. Great Lakes has bought them, right. I loved it (laughter). I loved it. I got a nasty gram from this one rabbi, he wrote me a nasty letter, how dare I do that?. I wrote him back and said who better to eat, who better to serve than the people who serve our country. It was just one of the funny things. I can tell you story after story after story.

Zarbock: Is God really revealed in the military?

Apple: I don’t know what you mean by revealed.

Zarbock: Is there suddenly an interest, a devotion, is there a movement towards…

Apple: God in the military. Well I think God was already there. There are no atheists in a foxhole, that’s number one. They find that military people are churched. They go to worship services because they look at themselves as men of peace or women of peace. They keep the peace and to do God’s will, they need to continually refresh themselves and remind themselves that they’re here doing God’s work so I find very few people that are atheists or agnostics. I find people that are churched.

Zarbock: That’s nice, yeah.

Apple: I don’t know if that’s a good answer for you, but I find that. Chapels are not empty, chapels are filled. The other thing you need to realize is that other denominations besides the military chapels come onto these bases and pick these people up. They all have buses and they all go, the Pentacostals, the Baptists, the Methodists and the Presbyterians and people have cars and they drive to churches in town. They want to go to churches in town because they want their children to be in that youth group and they want their children to have some type of roots.

I’ve always made the point to my chaplains as a Command Chaplain that you should have one foot in the military and one foot in the civilian world. Don’t marry the military I used to say to them because if you marry the military, then you become one dimensional. So I always encouraged people to go to churches when they’re not doing services to see how the other people worship and maybe pick up some points from them. So I believe that so they are churched.

Zarbock: In your military career, did you ever have or how much did you experience a sort of a withdrawal from you as a result of being a Jewish rabbi?

Apple: I found people, I didn't find anti-Semitism, let me start that way. I found people ignorant of being Jewish, if what Judaism is and because they were ignorant, they didn't know how to take me. When I met somebody like that, I made it my business to cultivate their friendship and go talk to them and let them see that we don’t have horns, that I’m just like anybody else and did that.

So my wife and I did a tremendous amount of entertaining of people who needed to be in a Jewish home. We did that for chaplains and for nonmilitary or non-chaplains. So people came to my home and had dinner and set in a Jewish home and had fellowship within a Jewish home and I did that every place I was. That’s one of the reasons why I have so many friends in the military. I didn't hide behind Jewish skirts. I didn't say, “Oh, he’s an anti-Semite”, never did that.

I’m a Holocaust Survivor, that’s what I am – I’ve heard that and I’ve had Jewish chaplains use that, they’re all excuses. I simply said, “We’re all created equal and we need to understand that”. So I’ve had all types of people at my dinner table.

Zarbock: Finally before we started the taping session, I told you the obvious which is that you’ll never be a day older on this tape than you are today so you’re going to be frozen in time. I don’t want your language or your thoughts to be frozen in time. So I wonder if you’d look into the camera, address yourself to your wife, your children.

Apple: Listen, my wife is a sweetheart and all life with her is an adventure. I have had a wonderful time with my wife and she’s a sweetie pie. She’s the glue that holds my family together and you all know that. David and Michelle and Rachel and Danny, you’re just wonderful people. You’ve made my life exciting and just great. To your wives and your husbands, Mindy you’re a sweetie pie, I enjoy you. To Traci, you’re great, you’re still the great baker and you keep me on my toes.

Kevin, you’re alright Kevin, you know your stuff, you’re a big guy. To Rachel, well Rachel, keep that artwork up and you’ll get married and you’ll have grandchildren before I did and that’s my wish for you, Rachel, and you know that period. I just want to say that.

I have two other things I want to say to the children from my first marriage. To Lori, it’s been good to know you and to get to know you again. I’m happy about that and our relationship will improve and improve and improve. To Danny well, I’m sorry that you couldn’t see things like Lori did and that’s the way life goes. You made your decision and so I can’t help that.

On that note, I’ve had a good life, I’ve had good children, I’ve had good family, I’ve got great experiences and I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China. That’s all I have to say. You look sad. Can you edit some of this out?

Zarbock: Why, it’s wonderful. Chaplain, one of the interesting things about the English language is we are, to my knowledge, the only language that says goodbye like you’re going to disappear over the horizon and never come back which probably is part of our frontier heritage. But I think to me, the conclusion of a conversation is best illustrated in Japanese where the world sayonara does not mean goodbye, it means well then. So no conversation is ever ended, it is temporarily interrupted. So chaplain, sayonara.

Apple: Sayonara and to my family I would say Shalom hith-rut and sayonara because we will always be with each other.

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