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Interview with S. David Chambers, December 11, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with S. David Chambers, December 11, 2002
December 11, 2002
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Chambers, S. David Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  12/11/2002 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  101 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock, staff member with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Randall Library. Today is December 11, 2002. We’re located in Fort Myer, Virginia, in the chapel. Admiral White, retired, has a magnificent job of arranging interviewees and today’s interviewee is S. David Chambers.

Zarbock: Sir, when did you get into the ministry, why did you get into the ministry, where did you get into the military and why did you get into the military? We’ll take it from there.

Chambers: I decided to enter the ministry when I was a junior in high school and that undoubtedly through the influence of my family. My father was a minister, all the leaders of my Boy Scout troop were church people and I saw they mirrored a church relationship. I had already made my decision as a Christian and so I decided I was going to go to the ministry, although my other two options that I was very much interested in was music and radio announcing.

I loved to listen to Lowell Thomas and the other announcers and I was in every musical organization in high school that there was, the concert band, the German band, the Spanish band, the dance band, and the orchestra. I played on Major Bowes Amateur Hour and led Sammy Kaye’s orchestra on the Aster roof. I loved music, but the ministry finally won out and I’m pleased for it.

Zarbock: What instruments did you play?

Chambers: I played the trumpet. I played the trumpet on Mayor Bowes one night.

Zarbock: How did you do by the way?

Chambers: We came in 5th. There were three of us. We played a trumpet trio, Three Solitaires was the selection that we played and since it was a very classical number, we felt that we had done fairly well coming in fifth out of 15 contestants.

Zarbock: Sir with all due respects, a number of years from now the name Major Bowes known to you and I will have disappeared except for remote and obscure documents hidden in the back of libraries. Who was Major Bowes and what was the program?

Chambers: Well it was Major Bowes Amateur Hour and Ted Mack was his right hand interviewer and auditioner. We went to New York.

Zarbock: From where by the way?

Chambers: I lived in East Orange, New Jersey. Went over to New York and we were interviewed by Ted Mack and was auditioned by Ted Mack. He accepted us as candidates and the night was a Friday night. When the program began, and I believe it was 8:00 or 9:00 on Friday night, and Major Bowes was a great figure. I imagine 20 million, they used to say 20 million people listened to the program. Since I was selected among the three of us to do the talking, I can honestly say I spoke once to 20 million persons.

Zarbock: What year was this?

Chambers: This would have been in about 1939 or so.

Zarbock: Pre-World War II?

Chambers: Yes, 1939. I graduated from high school in 1939 and that was our final year. It would have been in the spring of 1939.

Zarbock: And you entered college after that?

Chambers: From high school, I went on to college, Grove City College which is Presbyterian College in Pennsylvania. That’s where I studied for the ministry and I can remember sitting at my desk when President Roosevelt came on the radio on a Sunday afternoon saying the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. My interest immediately was piqued from that point on in becoming a chaplain.

I had always loved the sea. I had studied and read Coast Guard books and Navy books. I loved the sea so at that point on I felt that everything continued in the war as it was going, my eventual ministry would lead me in that direction. So as soon as I graduated from college in 1943 in May…

Zarbock: You were not studying computer science in those days?

Chambers: No.

Zarbock: What was your degree in?

Chambers: My Degree was the Bachelor of Arts degree, majored in Greek and a Bible minor. I immediately went to Princeton Theological Seminary. Princeton had just instituted a new program in conjunction with the Navy where students coming into the seminary, committing themselves to enter into the chaplainry after graduation from seminary, would be accepted by the Navy into active duty as enlisted people. Then eventually, upon graduating from theological seminary, they would go on and be commissioned in the Navy.

Now as I say, this would never fly today with the relationship between church and state. Today it would have to be separated because the Navy paid for my tuition. The Navy paid me $50 a month. The Navy paid for my uniform which was a Midshipmen’s uniform, although I was an AS, an Apprentice Seaman. The Navy ordered me every place I went.

So when the theological seminary was on a break, those of us that were in this program, and there were 24 of us at Princeton, we were ordered to various stations and I was ordered to Floyd Bennett Airfield in New York, to St. Albans Naval Hospital on Long Island.

Zarbock: To do what sir?

Chambers: To serve in the chaplain’s office as, I can’t say Assistant Chaplain, Chaplain’s Assistant, but it was marvelous training. The Armed Guard Center in Brooklyn, Chaplain Herb Albrecht was there, 90 Church Street with Witherspoon, so many different assignments we had. I loved them all. We would go to these places for duty when the other students would go home on vacation.

So at Christmas time, Easter time, summertime, we were studying around the clock for two years. It was an accelerated program doing all of the theological work, but also participating in the V-12 program at Princeton University. Because with, all of the draw, my name, Chambers, was the highest letter on the alphabet, I was named Officer in Charge of our 24 seminarians going into the chaplaincy.

Zarbock: So it really was dual training, wasn’t it? Experience in naval protocol plus your theological training.

Chambers: It was marvelous training because at one time, the Command at Princeton University was over-demanding we felt. We had volunteered for this and they began to come down hard on our time. We had to study theological matters. So I sat down and I wrote: FROM: Officer in Charge, TO: Lieutenant Commander Guy, Officer in Charge of the V-12 Unit, SUBJECT: Observations and Reflections on the V-12S Program, with a whole outline of where I thought they had to consider what we were doing.

We participated in their program fully. We did our athletics, we did physical training, we had boxing, we went to their programs at their university, but we also had our seminary and this is what I wanted them to recognize. Later it’s not only what you stand for, it’s what you won’t stand for. We had wonderful relations, really wonderful relations with them and this continued for two years.

Zarbock: You were probably 22 at the time?

Chambers: I was just 22, yes 22. So that when I graduated from theological seminary, I was 24 and probably one of the youngest, wet-behind-the-ears chaplains to go into the Navy. I finished Princeton on the 28th of May I believe it was. I was Commissioned on the first of June. I’d say the 1st or 2nd of June 1945 at William and Mary College where the Navy had its Chaplain School.

At William and Mary of course we had three months. Those that came from the pastorate had a shorter period at William and Mary, but those of us that came from the seminary had a little additional time because we were sent out on field work. One of my field exercises was Quantaco with the Marines and I was able to climb into a tank and be the starboard gunner in their exercises around the tank course at Quantaco.

Lloyd Heindman, an old chaplain, marvelous fellow, was the senior chaplain at Quantaco. Another field exercise was the Navy YMCA on Gramby Street in Norfolk. It’s a famous old YMCA and they would put a young person like me as the chaplain in the lobby, well a little room just off of the lobby. We had a desk and we were to take care of all the people that would come into the Y that needed assistance.

Like a wife came in one day, with six children in tow from Washington. The State of Washington. She said, “ I need housing. My husband is coming in on a ship.” Well back in those days, no one knew the movement of ships. No one knew the movement of ships. I asked her, “ How she knew that?” and she said, “ She just knew, that he was due in here in a few days on a ship.” She stated, “ I need a place to stay with my children!”

Well I called up and asked about the ship, “No chaplain, we can’t tell you”. In three days it arrived. It came in, but we had found her a place to stay. That’s what our work was in the Gramby Street YMCA in Norfolk. I was there for four weeks. Went back to college, William and Mary, for the graduation of our Chaplain’s Class.

From there I went to ComNavServForPac, Commander Naval Service Forces Pacific, which was Admiral Nimitz’ headquarters at Pearl Harbor. It was a marvelous assignment. It was the farthest assignment of anyone in the class at William and Mary. In fact, we had had a lottery that whoever gets the farthest duty out of William and Mary will take the class to dinner at the Williamsburg Hotel. I won. It cost me about a month’s pay as a Lieutenant JG.

I went out to Pearl Harbor and was in the Office of the Fleet Chaplain who was C.A. Neiman. We called him”CAN.” Clinton A. Neiman, a marvelous, marvelous, old chaplain. He had been a former Commandant at the Chaplain School, so he knew what we had studied. I was the underling in his office. It was good apprentice training. Chaplain Neiman was meticulous in everything he did.

I had to log every letter that came into the office, track it and then log it when it was completed and when it went; and that never left me. That never left me. Years later I served on a Selection Board when I was in the Chief of Chaplains Office, and I remember that there was a marvelous Navy chaplain who had an excellent record except one Commanding Officer wrote that,” he didn't answer his correspondence,” and that sank him! He never went beyond the rank he was in.

So the training I received from Chaplain Neiman was very good. One incident I remember, I learned that if you say, “ chaplain” very fast to the Navy community, it comes out as “captain!.” A sailor called up one day and wanted to see a chaplain. So Chaplain Neiman said, “Well Chaplain Chambers, you go out and talk with this sailor”. So I called up the motor pool and said I would like a boat to go out to USS such and such, “Yes, we’ll have it there at the fleet landing in 20 minutes!”

When I arrived at the fleet landing, I thought ‘this is a pretty classy boat they have for me here.’ It didn't register really what was happening. They had a sailor on the bow and a sailor on the stern and a sailor at the wheel as we went to this ship. But as we grew nigh to the side of the ladder of the ship, the sailor on the bow started ringing some bells. I climbed up and saw eight side boys. They had mistaken “ chaplain” for “captain” and there was the Old Man standing at the head of the side boys waiting for Captain Chambers to come aboard, and was he disgusted!

It was, however, a little ploy that you could use in your ministry very conveniently. Of course it comes out better in the Navy than it does in the Army, Captain Chambers. One day Chaplain Neiman said, “Chaplain Chambers, I think it’s time for shipboard duty and so I was assigned to a destroyer tender that was in the stream. It was anchored out. Destroyer tenders swing around their anchor.

We say, “ they’re aground. They’re aground on their coffee grounds.” They’re positioned so that other destroyers and destroyer escorts come to them to be repaired and I was to be the Chaplain on the destroyer tender, the USS Altair AD11, an old Navy ship. I doubt if it can make over 11 knots or so, but it was a good working mechanical ship. There was one problem. The morale was rock bottom.

The sailors had come back from the War and they wanted to go home. These were all professional men. They were men that had been recruited into the Navy out of industry. They were skilled in their professions. Now the war was over. It was 1945 and they wanted to go home.

The second day on board, the Executive Officer said to me, “Dave, I want you to accompany me out into Honolulu to the Honolulu newspaper. There’s a woman out there who runs a column, “Miss Fixit”. It seems that other sailors on the ship have written to her a letter complaining about the morale on this ship. You’re now the Morale Officer. We’re going out and you’re going to fix it with “Miss Fixit,”

So out we went to the Honolulu newspaper and met “ Miss Fixit” and I knew at that point the Exec and I were going to be apart, which we eventually were. So I started to work to build the morale in addition to my Sunday services and everything else on the ship. As I say other destroyers and DE’s would come around. On one weekend, we had 38 destroyers and DE’s around us. We were the mother hen with all the little chicks.

I would hold services there and on my ship, but I started to work to build morale on board our Altair. I began a program, a news broadcast, every noon at 12:00 noon, not of world news but of Navy news. I was told that everything on the ship stopped, everything stopped to hear that five minute broadcast of Navy news. The sailors were waiting for their number to come up when they could be discharged. They had to accumulate so many points.

They would all listen to this program. We started Friday night amateur hours and specialty programs on the afterdeck of the ship for the fellas. We had some boxing matches out there. One thing I would never do today, I would never, never, never do today. Just offshore about a mile and a half offshore, two miles, was a large barracks. Back in those days were DAC’s, Department of the Army Civilian women. A huge barracks of women.

I got the idea, “ Wouldn't it be wonderful to have one of those as a blind date for the winner of the amateur hour?” I would never do it today, but I went out to that barracks and saw the matron of the dormitory. “Oh”, she said, “I think I can find you someone”. She found a beautiful, beautiful, lovely, young lady to be the prize for the amateur hour. We brought her picture back, put it all over the ship. Blew it up!

Well, you can imagine that amateur hour and how it went that night. This sailor won it. He won the prize. He won her! That was a Friday night. The date was for Saturday. I don’t know whether it began to dawn on me about Saturday, the precariousness of this, but I sat up until he was back on board the ship at 12:00 midnight. I telephoned to make sure that she was back safely and everything came off marvelous. But that’s what we did to try to keep things alive and build the morale.

The chaplain on board a ship as you know is the Librarian. Back in the old days in the Navy, the chaplain was always the most educated so he was placed in charge of the library. At Pearl Harbor the PT boats had come back. The PT boats similar to those that John F. Kennedy was skipper of ; and there were about a dozen or 15 PT boats just anchored a way out there in Pearl Harbor.

Now I got the idea that quite probably they had a substantial library on each PT boat. So I got two or three sailors and out we went in a motor whale boat and sure enough, they had stripped the electronic gear, but they had never taken the libraries. We brought back thousands of books, good books, from the PT boats and added them to our library on board the Altair.

My Skipper was a recluse. He had been, I’m sure, recalled for the Navy during the War. He lived alone in his cabin with a dog. Now this is not exactly standard operational procedure in the Navy to have a dog. He had a little wire haired terrier on board and that was his only companion. That was his only friend. Three times a day, he walked the dog around the deck with the Master of Arms in front of him calling, “Attention on deck!!”, and anyone out on the deck would have to stop what he was doing and salute.

By the next time the Captain came around, that fellow had disappeared, but that dog was the only friend the Captain had except I would go up to see him upon occasion and we would talk. One time he and I had a difference. He had called an inspection of the sailors’ compartments and their lockers and he did not like the condition of their lockers. So he said he would hold another inspection.

He called it for 11:00 on Sunday morning and that was my sacred hour. I didn't say anything to him beforehand. I didn't want to embarrass him or you know, have him renege on the inspection. Afterwards I went to see him and we had a little reminder that in Navy regulations you don’t hold inspections during Divine Services.

Zarbock: Did he attend services by the way?

Chambers: He did upon occasion, The Executive Officer? Never. One day, and I could have gotten myself into difficult here, I ran across, we had 850 men on board, I ran across a sailor who had medical problems. The doctor thought that he should have medical care ashore, but he didn't send him ashore. So I said to the doctor, “ you line up all the appointments on shore and I will take him ashore,” which I did.

Everything was signed with a medical. I probably should not have myself done it, although I don’t know, that’s optional I think. I felt that I was doing right. I took him ashore to the medical on the shore. For two weeks the Exec and I never spoke after that. We never spoke. I reported my presence aboard at the 8:00 muster in the morning, “Chaplain’s Department all present and accounted for!” I was the only one. But we were on different tracks.

I taught a sailor how to play the trumpet. Down in the evaporator room on the ship, there’s an awful lot of noise. You could put Sousa’s band down in the evaporator room and they would never be heard outside of the compartment. But we found a trumpet and this young sailor wanted to play and I taught him how to play the trumpet.

I think my departure from that ship was the most emotional of any departure from any ship that I had. When I left that ship (voice cracking), all the fellows lined the rail and this fellow got out and played “Auld Lang Syne” and it was an experience. I’ll never forget it (very emotional).

Zarbock: Did the Captain and the Exec Officer say farewell in any way other than a perfunctory…??

Chambers: Just a handshake, that’s all.

Zarbock: Godspeed and goodbye.

Chambers: It was all the sailors. They knew what I had gone through. We did one other thing at Christmas. The Department of the Navy had decreed that all monies in the Recreation Fund in excess of $5000, should be returned to the Department of the Navy. We had a Recreational Fund of $15-20,000 because all these ships would come in and buy, and we would get the little profit. So I went to the Captain and said, “Listen, we don’t want to send all of our money back to Washington. Let’s buy gifts for every man on board.” So with a group out of the Recreation Department and myself, we went to Schofield Barracks on Hawaii and we bought three gifts for every man on board the ship.

Back in those days, you know, they had the Waterman pens like yours, a good fountain pen. We bought a fountain pen for every man aboard the ship and some other gifts. It was a great day just before Christmas. We gave out these gifts to every sailor on the ship.

I left the Altair and went to what I think would quite possibly have been the most desirable tour of duty in the Navy at that time had other chaplains been aware of it which they weren’t.

Zarbock: The date is what and how old are you?

Chambers: I’m still 24, I’m as green as they come and the date is probably January or February 1946 now. We had ended the war with the bomb at Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the question had arisen in the Navy, “supposing an enemy force had an atomic bomb and dropped it on our fleet at Pearl Harbor the way the Japanese had bombed us. What would happen to the American fleet?”

So President Truman declared Operation Crossroads and it was to be an operation of two atomic blasts, Able from above, Baker from below. It was to take place in the Bikini Lagoon in the Pacific. I’ve never been able to figure out why the bathing suit is called a bikini except these were the smallest islands I’ve ever seen (laughter).

At any rate, the natives were moved out of Bikini to the new home at Rongerik and I was assigned as the Chaplain, the only chaplain, no other Protestant, no other Catholic, no other chaplain, I was the Chaplain for the experiments at Bikini Atoll. We were to set the stage for these blasts. We had to clear out the coral, first of all move the natives to their new home at Rongerik, clear out the coral, deffuse any mines that the Japanese had put in the waters. The lagoons were filled with mines.

Then we were to establish the moorings for these many, many, many ships that were to be brought in. Our USS Nevada was to be the center target, but right in the foreground was the USS Saratoga and many other ships that were outmoded now. The Prince Eugen was brought over from Germany, the Nagato was a Japanese battleship that was brought in. Submarines were brought in. It was just interesting, I used to go out with the men and walk over them.

You had to keep your head down on the Japanese ships because the overhead was so low. But I recall that there was a submarine there. The front of it opened up and there was a trap for a plane to go out. It was a Kamikaze, because they could not retrieve that plane, but that submarine was there. We had just a multiple number of ships for the atomic blast.

We published a newspaper. I ran across a Lieutenant JG on board who was Lieutenant Roy Nelson. He became the Professor of Journalism at the University of Oregon years later. He was marvelous with the cartoons and pens. He became the editor. I wrote the articles, became the “copyboy” and the two of us published this Crossroads newspaper every week.

A copy was sent to the Congressional Library. I don’t know whether they’re all there now or not.

Zarbock: They’re there, I’m sure.

Chambers: They may well be, but I know they came to Washington because one day our command received the inquiry, “ Who’s this revealing confidential information in this Crossroads newspaper?” Well we were able to show the Commanding Officer that the article that was being quoted, we had gotten from a newspaper in Chicago.

Zarbock: What ship were you on?

Chambers: The USS Bowditch. I sailed out there on the USS Sumner as a passenger and then I was transferred on to the Command Ship. Captain Shiano was in charge of the whole exercise. No, my Captain was Shiano in charge of the whole exercise. Of course my ministry now was on that ship, but all of these others, I had 17 ships around me. YMS which are minesweepers, the 8th US Coast Guard Ship, Rosebud, it was a buoy tender and others.

For our newspaper, we would interview people. The Rosebud Captain had been first trumpeter with the Boston Symphony. Used to get out at night on the deck of his ship, the Coast Guard Rosebud, and he would just play. It was just beautiful, beautiful music. These were stories that we would run. But my services had to be on the Bowditch, or on some of these other ships and work around there.

Zarbock: Not the target ships?

Chambers: No, no, no, not the target ships. We had 17 I think it was, ships in our Task Unit that were to do the job. Then one day an AP, an attack personnel transport ship came in and about 600 Seabees. They were to build the platforms that would monitor the explosion. They were to build them on the island and they had all of the construction work to do. About 600 Seabees and a chaplain, Chaplain Keller from Coutersport, Pennsylvania.

It was such a relief for a youngster like myself, having an old-timer, a pastor. Our ministries never crossed. He did his work on his ship, I did my work with my men. But I knew he was there and I was here and we could get together on occasion and we could communicate together. Well because we worked all the time, we felt it legitimate to ask our Command’s permission, as soon as our Easter service was completed, to make a visit to the Bikini natives that had been moved to Rongerik.

So as soon as our services were over, and we held Sunrise Service by the way on the beach at Bikini, and with the international dateline and where Bikini is located, this could quite possibly have been the first Christian Sunrise Service in the world on that Easter day, 1946. Then right after that, we climbed on board one of my YMS, yard minesweepers, sailed all night and on Monday morning at 7:00, a little boat took us from the YMS,and dropped us on the shore on the island of Rongerik.

Zarbock: Approximately how many natives had been…??

Chambers: 162 to the best of my recollection.

Zarbock: Young, old?

Chambers: Oh, it was a community. It was men, women, children.

Zarbock: Mixed bag.

Chambers: The first one to come down to me, was this man, Juda. If you go to the National Geographic or if you go to the web and bring it up, you’ll eventually see the picture of Juda. He was the Head of the tribe, King of the tribe. He came down and greeted us, and he didn't speak English and we didn't speak Melanesian, but we pointed to the cross on the collar. These were all Christians!! They had been evangelized back in the 1800’s by a missionary out of Hawaii.

They were all Christians. We pointed to the cross and shook hands. He led us up to a large building that the Navy had constructed. It was, I think, a combination schoolhouse, community center, wide open with a thatched roof. He seated us on the only two chairs at the head. So Chaplain Keller and I were seated side by side and then all of the natives began to come up in front of us. They sat down in a semicircle, as if we were to present some kind of a lecture, or some kind of a presentation to them.

Finally Chaplain Keller said to me, “Dave, what are we going to do?” I said that, I had absolutely no idea. He said, “Well let’s sing, that’s universal.” So he with a good baritone and myself, with a lot of enthusiasm, stood up and we began to sing our Christian hymns, “The Church’ One Foundation;” “ Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus.” It was 8:00 in the morning, but we sang “Abide With Me, Fast Falls the Evening Tide.” We noticed a spark of recognition in their eyes with every hymn.

And so we did sing and they came back with the same hymns with a little more of a rhythmic beat and so forth. This went on for an hour. We would sing and they would sing, we would sing, and then they would sing and with just a marvelous communal experience that we were building between ourselves.

Zarbock: In two languages? You were singing in English?

Chambers: We sang in English, they sang in Melanesian, yes, back and forth, back and forth. Well at the end of the hour, we dissipated. They went their way, but one man remained on. We learned he was the Pastor. He was the Pastor of the group. He went back to his little shack and brought out a book. It was the New Testament in the Melanesian language from the American Bible Society that a Lieutenant JG in the Navy had delivered to the little community of the Bikini natives on Christmas day, 1944 I think it was.

I believe it was Christmas Day. I wish I had copied it down out of the book what was written on the page. He had his name, a Lieutenant JG carried it over and gave it to them and that was their New Testament in the Melanesian language. Well we stayed there Monday to Friday. A windstorm had demolished their church so they were busy rebuilding it. The children would shinny up the palm trees and cut the palm fronds. They would fall down. The youngest children would carry them to the women.

The women would weave them into thatch and the men were all over the scaffolding of the chapel putting up this as they sang. They sang all the time they did this. The closest thing as to what I would recognize as being the Church of the First Century. It really was. We ate the evening meal with them. They had a large space on the beach where they would congregate.

They always ate together. They didn't eat at their homes. They always congregated together. Families, and we would eat with them. Well 7:00 on Friday morning, the boat came in from the YMS to pick us up, and we came down to the beach. Juda came down with us and the people followed. They came down. We shook hands and they bid us farewell.

The best that I can recollect, when Chaplain Keller and I got back to the ship, we tried to recover the words that they had said or the words that we had heard. (Melanese) Anag Ebone Ma’en Barlo Dro, I can’t be perfectly certain that those are accurate, but it’s the best that I can remember. They sang them – “ God be with you , ‘til we meet again.” And we went back to our duty stations.

It was a marvelous experience and I think any chaplain in the Navy would have given almost his right arm to have had that experience.

Zarbock: You really traveled two separate worlds.

Chambers: It was.

Zarbock: Just as if they were different planets.

Chambers: Yes, yes, and marvelous people.

Zarbock: I was thinking the same thing about your remark about that must have been the early Christian Church.

Chambers: Yes.

Zarbock: Many aspects of it.

Chambers: Yes. Years later if I may jump ahead to 1978-79, somewhere around there, I went when I was on Guam to visit the Governor of the area out there. The United States who had the government of the Isle of Bikini, we talked about the natives. They had been moved from Bikini to Rongerik. They didn't like Rongerik. They didn't get along well in Rongerik at all so they were they moved to Kali Island in the Pacific, another small island.

They always wanted to get back to their home in Bikini. I say again if you read the National Geographic articles, they pleaded with our Government. But you know the ground was infested with radioactivity. We eventually went in and cleaned all that off I think. I don’t know where the natives are today.

Well I had to make a decision at that point whether to stay in the Navy or with all of the others to go on the mass exodus out of the Navy. I elected to return back at that point to civilian life. So I was released from the Navy on I think it was the 11th of August into the Naval reserve. I became a faculty member at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania for 5-1/2 years.

Zarbock: What were you teaching?

Chambers: I was teaching in the Department of Religion, Old Testament, New Testament, the philosophy of religion, comparative religion. But it was with the same age group, young men, the same age group as my sailors, you know. Then Korea came and the Navy wrote to me and said, ‘ we feel you have an obligation because you were trained at seminary at the expense of the Navy’ and I agreed. So I returned to Active Duty January 1952. I’ve never regretted that I came back.

Zarbock: After an absence of about five years did you say?

Chambers: Five years.

Zarbock: What struck you as being dissimilar from the time you got out of the Navy until you went back in the Navy? What had that five year gap done if anything?

Chambers: I would say that five year gap had not done nearly as much as a five year period in the 1970’s. The 1970’s would have been a great difference. It was still a male Navy back in the 1950’s.

Zarbock: And segregated?

Chambers: Not as much. Partially, yes. When I was aboard the Altair, all of our Stewards Mates were Filipino. In fact, I used to take them out on special trips. They had to serve the meals so they couldn’t be at my service. So I arranged a special service for them at 1:00 after all their chores were done. Then upon occasion I would take them in a recon truck, you know, an Army recon truck so that they could get to see the island, almost catastrophically, because I drove that thing.

We went out to, you know, the Blow Hole, we went out to the Blow Hole on Hawaii so they could see it and on the way back on that road, for some reason, we decided we had to go back to the Blow Hole. I decided to turn that truck around in the middle of the road and just as I got it over, I saw a car coming from way down. I put the truck into what I thought was forward.

It was double reverse and we went back and hit a boulder, which saved us from the wide blue yonder. But I used to take these men out because they didn't get out, but they were all Filipino. The desegregation I think came later.

I returned to active duty in 1952 and was sent to Camp Lejeune to be with the Marines after a one month what was called refresher course at the Chaplain School. I had always wanted to serve with the Marines. In fact I had anticipated when I first left William and Mary College, that that was going to be my duty assignment. We appeared before a board and they said, “Chaplain, what would you like to have for first duty?” and I said, “The Marines.”

Well they sent me to Pearl Harbor. That was compensation enough, to go there. But here now I was going with the Marines at Camp Lejeune. I was assigned to the 2nd Combat Service Group, but I also picked up the 8th Tank Battalion which I liked and the 8th Motor Transport Battalion. These were my primary duties with the ministry and the counseling and everything that goes along with that chaplain ministry on a base.

However, I was free on Sundays. Because the Base Chapel was within walking distance of the barracks where all of our men were quartered, they felt that I did not have to hold any services on Sunday. The Base Chaplains would do that at the base, beautiful chapels at Camp Lejeune, a Catholic and Protestant chapel. So I went to the Senior Chaplain who was a great old chaplain, Abbot Peterson. He had two Silver Stars from the War.

His head was cocked over because he had taken shrapnel in the neck and I said, “Chaplain, do you have any place that I might be useful on Sunday”? “ Well,” he said “they had a trailer park there.” The Marines had a lot of trailers, taken the wheels off and had mounted them on a cement block foundation. He said, “They had all of these trailers, there must have been a hundred of them, in this place known as Trailer Park.”

He said, “ They had a chapel there and no services.” I said, “I would take it.” It was known as Peyton Place and that’s what it was. You could reach out to your window and touch the trailer next to you.

Zarbock: Excuse me, years from now when you and I are not around since we’re all mortal, somebody is going to hear “Peyton Place” and not understand – would you define that? We understand the definition, but for the record?

Chambers: Well it was a television program that the moral level was a little bit lower than the normal plateau. Everything happened out at this trailer park and when the men were away, the wives would play. I was to be the chaplain on Sunday and whenever else I could. So I went out evenings to work at this trailer.

We had three trailers that were side by side that the Marines had built and they had connected them and that was my chapel. It was beautiful and I was very happy with it. A nice altar up in front and the music and so forth. Out there, in addition to my daytime work with my units, we ran special programs. I always felt that maybe one of the programs that we had running there had had a lasting influence in the Marine Corps.

One of the complaints that the Marines had, was if they owned a trailer when they moved that trailer to a new Duty Station, they did not get housing. They did not get the expense that you would get for moving your household effects, you see. You’d get your transportation, but you didn't get moving expenses and they felt that this was unjust, and I think it was.

So we ran a program one night and I had the Major General, he may have been Lieutenant General, Lynn Scott. He was Commanding General of Camp Lejeune. He was the speaker to come and speak to our Marines in the chapel where we had the program and then to answer questions and this was the first question – “Why do we not get moving expenses?” It provoked great discussion between the General and the group.

Shortly after that, within about a year or so, the policy of the Marine Corps changed and they began to give recompense for moves when you owned your own trailer. Now I can’t say for certain that it had an effect, but I felt it did.

Zarbock: It certainly influenced. The timing alone would suggest that there was an influence.

Chambers: Yes, there was coincidence of time at least. I loved the duty at Camp Lejeune.

Zarbock: How long were you there?

Chambers: I was there for just one year. The day we came up for Base Housing, they called me from the Personnel Office and said, “Chaplain, you’re being transferred to Korea”. So I was being sent. I got orders in 10 days, to the 1st Marine Division during the War. The war was on.

Zarbock: What year is this now?

Chambers: We’re in 1953 now. It would have been March of ’53. I was sent to the 1st Marine Division in Korea. I was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, the 1st Marine Regiment which was right up on the MLR, the Main Line of Resistance on the 38th Parallel. I spent all of my time over there, which was a year, with the exception of a few months, with the 2nd Battalion 1st Marines. At the end of my time, I was moved up from Battalion Chaplain to become Regimental Chaplain of the 1st Marines, but was up there with the infantry.

Zarbock: What problems did you face? What obligations did you have to meet?

Chambers: Well you know what combat is like. It’s an experience. I was not supposed to, but when I first got there, I went out with the men on a patrol. I wanted to see what it was that they were experiencing. I went out with them, and I lived. You know, in my mind I was not supposed to have gone out because no chaplain is no good to a unit. So the rest of my time I was back at the Command Post, but I now knew what they were going through when they were walking the trails on the outpost probing, probing. Probing the enemy in front of our trench lines.

Zarbock: I’ve got to ask, were you armed?

Chambers: No, no, no. When I arrived in Korea, they issued me a carbine weapon and I said, “ I didn't want it.” They said, “ It was policy” and I should take it. So I took it. When I got to my Unit, I had a wonderful clerk, Paul Lundmark, Corporal Paul Lundmark from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He had been a school teacher, Reserve, and had been called up for duty with the Marines. So I gave him the carbine.

Later we traded it in and got him a pistol instead. He was my right hand man in everything, in everything. He had a beautiful tenor voice. The services we would hold. We would get in a jeep, drive up to the trench lines, park the jeep, put the altar on the nose of the jeep with the hymn books we had. The men would gather around us and I would have a brief service and he would always sing. He always would sing a-capella because he had just a marvelous voice.

Zarbock: We’re going to pick up again. We found you in Korea and you were reporting attractively by the way, your front line ministry and services. Did you have a Catholic counterpart, colleague and if so was the process the same for him?

Chambers: Yes. The way the Marines arranged their chaplainry was a chaplain per battalion. The Catholic chaplain had the 3rd battalion. So aside from counseling where we could pretty well work our own battalion, for services we would switch on Sunday. I would hold my service and then go to his. He would hold his service and then come to mine. We worked it pretty well that way on Sundays. But of course we had a close relationship with any problems that any of the men might be having that was distinctly religious problems and not just Marine Corps problems.

On Sundays incidentally, I had six services because I held services also at a helicopter unit and other units and also up on the line. Every day was Sunday we used to say because every day we were holding a service somewhere on the line with the men. Sometimes large groups, sometimes small groups, but we tried to always have a service on the line.

Zarbock: How long would a service last?

Chambers: About 30 minutes. Paul Lundmark would sing and we would have hymns and I would give a brief message of 10 minutes of encouragement and take any questions the men had about their families and whatnot. Then I had a box that I put on my back with ropes over it. As I walked the trench lines, I discovered that the men wanted many things that they could not easily obtain, books, magazines, even toothpaste. So I filled this box with things of that sort and I would go from one bunker to another and trade.

I was the traveling book master and magazine person. They would shift out what they wanted and take it and then put the stuff in they didn't want. I had this box all the time as I walked the trench lines and I walked the trench lines every day. At night I would sit in the Command Post Center with the Colonel and he incidentally was the Colonel who was on Iwo Jima for the assault on Mount Suribachi. He had the Battalion that came around the side, not over the top where they mounted the flag. But he had the Battalion that came around the side.

He was also the Marine Corps Liaison for the motion picture film, The Halls of Montezuma. He was a real gung-ho Marine and any of us would have gone anywhere with him. He was that kind of a leader. He didn't push the noodle, he drew the noodle. He was at the head , always. I would sit with him in the Command Post until one of our platoons had been assaulted or had a fire fight or there were casualties. Then I immediately went to the sick bay to the aide station. That’s where my position would be.

I marvel at the Marines. I marvel at the Army fellows, they’re the same way. I remember we lost 10 men out in the field on a patrol. They lay there. The Marine motto is,” You always bring your marine back,” but these fellows were out there. We saw them day after day after day lying. They were gone in the sun. Finally the Colonel said, “Who will volunteer to go out and get them?”.

I remember Lieutenant Clifford. He had been an FBI Reservist. He was a Marine Corps Reservist with the FBI who had been called to active duty. He volunteered. He was Catholic. He volunteered with one other officer to go out. No weapon, nothing! Just walk out there. We feared that the men were booby trapped, that was the problem. He went out and brought every one of them back to the Unit. I really had tremendous regard and respect for all of these fellows in their activity in their war combat.

Zarbock: Did any of the Marines ever, in a contemplative frame of mind, ask “Why are we here?” and, “Why are we doing this?”

Chambers: Oh yes. Yes!

Zarbock: What was your response? You’re muddy, it’s cold, it’s nasty, people are trying to kill you, the food is bad, you’re getting this magnificent pay and they say ‘Why are we here?” What was your response?

Chambers: Well first of all, of course, you’re serving your Country. You’re serving the Marine Corps. You’re serving what you believe to be right. Right is right even if nobody does it and wrong is wrong and even if everybody does it, but you’re doing what you think is right. We had a good group. We had a very motivated Battalion.

Our last engagement was known as Boulder City. The Marines named their engagements after cities, you know, Reno, Carson, Vegas, Berlin, East Berlin. Army named theirs after hills, Heartbreak Ridge, Hamburger Hamlet, Hill 286. Our last one was called Boulder City. I remember, it was up on a hill. I was on the hill at the time.

The enemy started to lob in their mortar fire and they would box us in. They would send in one here, and then one there, and then one here, and then a mortar here, and then they would begin to break the pattern. So it wasn’t always in the form of a box, but they would move it around. Then they would multiply it so you didn't know where it was going. Then they would close the box.

Well I was up here on the hill when it began. As soon as the first mortar shell fell, I ran down the trench line and into what was called a bunny hole. The Marine had scooped out a hole, you know, where he could go in so that if shrapnel hit, you were safe. I’ll never forget, I went into this bunny hole. Two seconds later, another Marine came in. He looked at me and said, “That’s alright Chaplain, I’m on the outside!” (laughter).

Then we heard “casualty!!” and so I was out and up to where the casualty was. We picked him up and we got him into the jeep and we got two or three others down to the Sick Bay to the Aide Station. That’s where I belonged, not up on that hill. That was one of our most difficult engagements. Boulder City! It was the last one of the conflict over there with the Korean War.

A couple of weeks later, they had the Cease Fire. We were right close to Pyongyang. The Marines were located here, the highway here and we had this sector here with the Korean Marine Corps on our left flank and I think it was the Army, or the Turkish Brigade on our right. We moved off the line back into reserve and built a large chapel. We called it our memorial chapel to the memory of all the Marines we had lost. The S-4 gave me a truck, a huge 6x6 truck.

We went up to the line. We had to get these huge beams, 12” x 12” x 16’ long, in 48 hours. We had to get them out of the bunkers onto the truck and down to our Command Post. I took them to a sawmill, a Korean sawmill, and for a couple of cartons of cigarettes, he cut all of these huge beams into 2x4’s.

Zarbock: How did you get the beams onto the truck?

Chambers: We had a fork, we had a lift, got them up there. I got a bulldozer from the Army, from the engineers, and they had flattened out the top of a hill right above our command post and the hill was right up here, the most strategic location for the command post. We built the scaffolding, my Marines did it, the scaffolding for a chapel. Then we went to a civilian and got a lot of thatch, hay. Traded that for I think it was a carton of soap.

We brought the hay back and we had some Korean workers. They were the ammunition carriers during the campaign and they created thatch for us. We put chicken wire all around the chapel. They put the thatch on, mud and thatch and thatch on the roof. We erected a belfry. Our S-3 Officer went somewhere and he found a bell for it. I don’t know where he got it, but we had a bell and we erected a huge cross in front of the chapel.

It sat up on a hill overlooking the whole compound. It was most strategically located, I could describe other pieces of furniture in it, but I won’t take the time. It was a marvelous place. One day when I was by my tent which was just beside the chapel, an MP on our gate, a guard, on our entrance, came to me and said, “Chaplain, there’s a Korean woman here that would like to talk to you”. I said okay, bring her over.

So he brought this Korean woman and her story was that about two years earlier, her neighbor woman had her little baby out at the side of the road. The child was about one years of age or so. She wandered out onto the road and was struck by an Army truck. The Army drivers immediately picked her up. It was the last she ever saw of her. Now that was two years prior to then.

She said, “ I told this to many, many persons hoping someone could find where this little child is and bring her back.” Well I didn't make any promises, but I talked to the Colonel and he said, I should see what I could do. So we started to work to try to reconfigure what would be the situation back then. If a child had been injured, where would the child have been taken? Well probably to a MASH Unit and then probably to a Forward Aide Station.

Zarbock: Excuse me. You better define what MASH is.

Chambers: Well I think of it in terms of the television program. That’s a bad way to think of it.

Zarbock: But it’s a mobile facility.

Chambers: It’s a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, but frankly in all honesty, does not resemble anything that the television program did. But that’s where the child would have gone to first. And then, to one of the Forward Aide Stations and then perhaps, who knows, to a hospital somewhere? We set to work to try to reconstruct this as well as we could two years prior.

Finally it was recommended that we go to a hospital ship off of Inchon. There was a great possibility that in all of this movement, of course the Army had gone up and down, the Marines had gone up and down the Peninsula twice in this period of time, the child would have moved to a hospital ship at Inchon. But the hospital ship that would have been there, then had moved. It had gone back to the States.

I went out to the hospital and they said, “ No. It had gone back to the States and another hospital ship had replaced it.” “Well,” I said, “What happened to any of the children on board?” “Well, they would have been placed in one of the orphanages in Inchon.” “How many orphanages are there?” “There are 27”. Well my clerk and I, Paul Lundmark, started, and we could only do this periodically. It was an hour and an hour and a half trip to Seoul and then again to Inchon.

We would go down there and we went around to different orphanages inquiring, telling the story of a little child, one and a quarter, probably a head injury, into the Army circuit, over to the Navy ship. They said the place to go was the Star of the Sea Orphanage. It’s the largest orphanage in Inchon up on the hill overlooking the port.

So we went up there and it was run by a French nun, Sister Therese, and we told her our story. Well she said she had received some children from a hospital ship quite some time ago. She took us into a room and lined them up in a semicircle and she said well here they are. One that fits that description is this little one over here. I didn't know the name. At that point, I didn't have any name. In fact, the child wouldn't have known their name anyhow.

I said, “ Well I’ll come back and I’ll bring me with a lady that knew the child and we’ll test it out.” So a week or two weeks had to go by. I couldn't do this every day. We loaded up this woman, Paul Lundmark and myself, in the jeep and we made this rattling trip down to Inchon and up to the Star of the Sea Orphanage and she got about 35 children in this room in a semicircle, all sitting cross-legged you know. I’ll never forget the woman looked the whole group over.

She came back to that one that Sister Therese had thought. Well I said, “ I’m not going to take her. I won’t touch her now. I’ll come back with another…I’ll get the older sister of the little child.” So a couple of weeks later, I made the trip again with the older sister who was about 15 or 16. We back into the same room, lined up the children and she did the same thing and came back to the same little girl. Woo On Mei is the best I can figure.

Now whether Woo is a first name or a last name I’m not sure. On Mei Woo it may be, I’m not sure, but that was the name of the girl. We picked her up and took her going to her mother. Of course that’s the first she had seen her little child in two weeks. It was Christmas, not Christmas day, but right after Christmas. The best Christmas gift you could give.

I’d go back to the Marines anytime. A wonderful, wonderful group. And of course in combat the chaplain is their source of spiritual enrichment. They have no other place they can go. You asked the question should chaplains be in the military. Who’s going to minister in combat. Who’s going to minister to a ship of 1500 at sea or a thousand at sea? Who’s going to be the minister?

This is the free exercise clause of the Constitution of the First Amendment. We always talk about the separation of Church and State, which is the first half of that Amendment. Very seldom do we talk about the right of free exercise of religion. Every service person has the right for his own religious convictions and opportunity for worship and that’s the reason for our chaplainry.

Zarbock: So within this how was God revealed in the military?

Chambers: One of the slogans that the Army chaplains always used was “Bring a man to God and God to man”. That’s one of their Army chaplains’ slogans. Of course I always preached a very fervent message. I was what I would call an evangelical chaplain. I preached the sound Christian Theology that God is with us, and that we are redeemed through Christ.

I always used to marvel at certain things that happened in my ministry that could not have been coincidental. They were far more than coincidental. If I may jump ahead just for a moment now, I later had duty in Japan and Sunday evenings in Japan I used to run a film for a Sunday evening service. Upon occasion I would run a film. This one night I ran a film of how the Marines in Korea provided for the POW’s from up North that we were holding, and how we provided religious services for them and a missionary the Marines hired to hold that service.

I ran that film. At the end of the film, I stood up to announce the closing hymn and a man asked, “ Could I say a word?” “Yes.” He said, “I was that missionary!”. He had no idea I was going to run that movie. I had no idea who he was. He had been visiting a missionary in the next town and they had said, “ Let’s go the Navy chapel for services.”

Zarbock: Where were you in Japan at this time?

Chambers: I was at Yokosuka, Yokosuka, the Naval Base in Japan, a large naval base. He came over to the service and I ran the film. If I may jump ahead again, I was at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, which is right next to Fort Ord. One Lenten Service, I made reference to an Army Major. I wanted to say that you can live the Christian life in the military. And this Major in the Army had been that kind of a person. Marvelous, marvelous officer.

He had just recently died. On the way out of chapel, a woman shook hands and said, “I’m the widow of that officer.” I had no idea she was going to be there. She had been visiting some of our Navy people up in our housing area and they said, “ Let’s get down to the Lenten service at the chapel “, and I used that illustration. How could that happen?

So often this happened. I made reference to a person. Again I made reference to a Marine Corps Officer. His sister, that Sunday, the only time she came to chapel, just popped in, was present. Years later, after I had retired and left the Navy, I had worked incidentally, at one of my duty stations very strongly with women who were alcoholics. I got a call one day from this woman. Now I had been retired for over a year. She said, “I just was thinking about you and wanted to call you up and tell you how well I’m doing. I’ve been sober now for a year. Everything is going along well.” It was on my birthday!!!

How did she know that? She didn't know my birthday. Presbyterian Providence. God’s Providence, how God works in our lives. I tried to show the sailors when I was preaching, how God was always working, always working. He was aware of us. I had a friend, George Kreitz, who had been a chaplain with the Marines during the early part of World War II, with the Marine invasions of the islands.

When they were getting ready for the invasion of an island, he would get his Marines together for a service. He would hold up his finger and would say, “What’s on that finger”? A fingerprint! He couldn't have them get their wallets out because you can’t take your wallet into combat. You had to leave your wallet ashore. He’d ask, “What they had on their ID card A fingerprint. No other person in this unit has your fingerprint. You are the only person. God gave you that fingerprint and God knows you by that fingerprint.”

Get that across to a Marine. Get that across to a sailor, that he is distinctive in the eyes of God because God made him.

Zarbock: This message is brought to individuals who are trained to look alike, act alike, dress alike, eat alike, be alike, talk alike, sleep at the same time, get up at the same time and for you to point out their individuality.

Chambers: Yes.

Zarbock: That’s a hard sell.

Chambers: Well I left the Marines and my next duty was the Naval Training Center in San Diego. I was with the Service School. One thing happened at the Navy Training Center that in some respects determined the rest of my career, again providentially. The chaplain who was to preach the service on Easter Sunday in the Main Chapel at San Diego on Friday was taken to the hospital.

The Senior Chaplain, Harris Howe, called me up and said, “Dave, will you take his service”. Well the bulletins were already printed. The sermon topic was, ‘ Because Christ Arose.’ I said I would take the service. So I took the service. After the Sunday morning service, as a chaplain usually lingered, a gentleman also lingered and he came up and said, “You’re Chaplain Chambers? You’re Presbyterian? ”. I said, “Yes.”

He said, “How would you like to go to Japan for duty”. Well this again was not someplace they would normally send a Reserve. Japan, when I arrived at Japan, the Senior Chaplain said, “I hear you’re a reserve?”. It was a duty assignment that a regular should have. It was a great naval base. That’s a change, incidentally, that has happened more recently. That wouldn't be true today.

This gentleman was the Chief Chaplain, Stan Salsbury. I had not recognized him. Stan was noted for making promises he couldn't keep, but he sent me to Japan. That determined, I think, the remainder of my ministry as a pastoral preaching chaplain. I went from the North Chapel in San Diego to the Chapel at Yokosuka which was heavy counseling, but it was a pastoral assignment in the chapel for preaching.

I went from there, to the Navy Chapel of Washington, which was a pastoral preaching assignment. After shipboard, I went to the Naval Postgraduate School in California which was a pastoral preaching assignment and I think it all happened because of that Sunday at the Naval Training Center in San Diego.

Well we went to Japan and had two wonderful years there. I was deeply impressed with the Japanese people.

Zarbock: And again for the record, the year is what?

Chambers: The year would now be 1955, yes, 1955, because I came back from Japan in 1957 for the Navy Chapel in Washington. We had two wonderful, wonderful years. Very, very busy years at the Naval Base there with the services. We had two services in the morning, a service in the afternoon. We did another thing. Any American serviceman who found himself in trouble with the law in Japan was sentenced to Otsu Prison right on the outskirts of Yokosuka?. They were at the time receiving no attention I felt. A doctor would go out occasionally, but they really had no other attention.

Zarbock: This is a Japanese prison?

Chambers: It’s a Japanese, filled with all Japanese except for American soldiers and sailors, Marines that got themselves in trouble and were sentenced to prison. They went to Otsu Prison. Very little attention. So we decided to hold services there. We arranged that every Wednesday afternoon, I would go out for a service. The big thing was on Sunday afternoon, I would take an American film, motion picture film and I got all the Japanese together. They loved these American films!

They said, “ Nothing too risqué, but a good American film.” Because of that, we were able to institute regular medical inspections. We established a whole recreational program and I had my freedom with the worship services and so forth. So every Sunday I had two services in the morning, out to Otsu Prison on the afternoon, an evening service at night at the chapel which when it was over, we went over the parish hall and we sang informally from 8:00 to 10:00-10:30. That was a wonderful Sunday. It was just a great, great time.

Our chapel did a lot of humanitarian work. Every month we gave away our chapel funds to the Japanese school in Yokosuka. We gave them a donation. We gave Yokohama School a donation, to the Ministerial Society in the area, a donation. The Navy had built the big Japanese Protestant Church. The fellows from the Fleet had contributed and built that church. We contributed to that supporting the ministers.

The Kinegasa Hospital was a Japanese Hospital that had been built to take care of the Japanese sailors, and so forth, during the War. We gave that its first coat of paint. It became the showplace of Kinegasa. A huge, huge building now beautifully painted in yellow paint. We established a Japanese worship service in the base every Tuesday afternoon. We had 14,000 Japanese workers on the base. Now they were all Japanese. Most of them were Buddhist and Shinto.

We had a lot of maids working in the houses, and so forth. So we set up this Japanese service. I brought in a Japanese preacher every Tuesday to deliver the service. We created a Japanese choir led by a Japanese woman to sing and these people would gather together. That was the way of the ministry, you know. You not only had your own little chapel, but you had all these other things that you could do.

When there was a famine up on Hokkaido, we filled two boxcars, railroad boxcars, with rice. Two boxcars with rice!! We sent it up there because of the famine. Well, from Japan, we came back to the Navy Chapel on Nebraska Avenue, which is a prize chapel of the Navy. It used to be a part of the Mount Vernon School for Girls. But in 1941 I think it was at the beginning of the war, probably happened in 1942, the Navy confiscated the school, took it, and made it into the Communications Station for the Navy.

The girls went home for Christmas vacation. When they came back, no school. It was now Navy. They had to go down to American University. It became the center for worship for many Navy people here in the Washington area. We had some marvelous services there.

From there I went to the Navy carrier, the USS Entidem. When I went to the carrier, I did not realize that I was to be brought back to work in the Chief of Chaplain’s office after my sea duty. They had not told me that. So I did not move the family to Pensacola, Florida, where this ship was. I was on the carrier for only 10 months because the chaplain on the desk where I was to go to went home for lunch and had a heart attack and died.

So I was brought back very short on that tour of duty to become the chaplain in the Chief of Chaplain’s office in charge of all of our naval reserve chaplains which was a different level. It was working now with professional clergy in the reserve program all over the country. We had I think it was 700 or 800 that we worked with. After that tour of duty, I had four years with that, after that I was sent to again what I consider to be one of the best tours of duty that you can have in the Navy, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

Back in those days, George Rosso wanted me to go to the academy, but a naval reserve could not go to the academy back in those days because a reservist chaplain was not to be the minister to the regular Navy. It broke down later. Morrie Roberts later was sent as the first reserve chaplain at the naval academy.

Instead they decided to send me to the school in Monterey. I had five wonderful years there. We had a Sunday school on Sunday morning of over 600 kids in attendance. We had a bible school every summer of over 1000 children. I had 115 teachers in the bible school, 75 every Sunday in the school, two services on Sunday morning, a Sunday evening service over the neighboring naval air station.

Who could ask for anything better. Counseling was heavy. The counseling was very, very heavy.

Zarbock: What was the nature of the counseling?

Chambers: Family problems. The Naval Postgraduate School as its name implies, was postgraduate education. Fifteen hundred officers, they all arrived with a degree, Bachelor or something or a Master of something. But they were at this school. There’s no other like it in the military in the United States. There’s one in England and that’s what this was patterned after.

They came to the school for an additional advanced degree, another Bachelors, more likely a Master’s or a Ph.D. Their time there would be two to four years. Foreign students, and we brought, we had students from all of the NATO countries, would come for up to six years and spend their time at the school. Now there’s an Army college at Carlisle, not comparable, very different. Naval Postgraduate School has a full civilian faculty, high caliber civilian faculty.

As I say they had about 1500-1600 students and families. Now these officers

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