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Interview with Emmet Floyd, June 5, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Emmet Floyd, June 5, 2003
June 5, 2003
Interview with retired Rear Admiral and Navy Chaplain Emmet Floyd.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Floyd, Emmett Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  6/5/2003 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  90 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s library. This is part of the military chaplain’s project. Today’s date is the 5th of June in the year 2003. We’re videotaping in Little River, South Carolina and our interviewee today is Emmett Floyd, Rear Admiral retired and Navy chaplain.

Zarbock: Good morning, sir.

Floyd: Good morning.

Zarbock: How are you this morning?

Floyd: I’m doing fine, hope you are.

Zarbock: Thank you for making the time. Nobody has the time, you make the time. Thank you for making the time of being with me. Sir, what event or what series of events or what individuals led you into the ministry?

Floyd: I suppose a variety of influences in my life. My home pastor for one, the formative years of my life from about the 6th grade through high school, was Reverend Walter Combs was a Andover Seminary Graduate which was a little unusual for a Southerner in a small town in Georgia.

Zarbock: What was the name of the town by the way?

Floyd: Covington, Georgia. Reverend Walter Combs was a good influence on me. He spoke ______ which wasn’t very customary in that part of the country in those years. Then when I entered Emory Academy, a Junior College, to get my senior year in summer session so I could start college early…

Zarbock: Now what year was that, sir?

Floyd: That was 1946, I was 16 then when I finished that course in the summer and was able to begin my college work in the fall of ’46 at Emory at Oxford. I completed two years there in Junior College and then transferred to Mercer University in Macon, Georgia for the rest of my college career. I graduated from there in 1948 with a major in Law because I had a program where three years in Arts School and your freshman year in Law School counted as your major subject so I actually have an B.A. with a Major in Law which does you no good in any direction.

Zarbock: But for the record, you said Emory, but I thought Emory University was in Atlanta?

Floyd: Emory University is in Atlanta. It started though in Oxford, Georgia and was later when the Cameron family offered Emory a great deal of money to transfer to Atlanta, they did so and left the school there in Oxford as a Junior College.

Zarbock: So you received a B.A?

Floyd: Yes.

Zarbock: And what year was that?

Floyd: That was 1948.

Zarbock: And you’re ready to enter the real world?

Floyd: I was planning at that point to go to Law School, but I got married that summer and I’m sure my wife was some influence. We talked about our future life together and I told her that I had been wrestling with the thought of going into the ministry for several years and she encouraged me to think more about that. We did have some devotional time together when we even prayed about it and decided to go to seminary so I entered the seminary that fall then.

Zarbock: This is on your own dollar?

Floyd: Yes, we had a little family help, but Katherine had three years at Mercer so while I was in seminary, she finished by going to school in the evening her B.S. in Education and she was teaching school on a provisional certificate during the time until she got her degree and then had a regular Teaching Certificate.

Zarbock: The life may have been gracious, but it was not abundant, am I correct?

Floyd: Well we managed. I also accepted a small role in a church which paid the magnificent sum of $15 a week, but in that day and time, $15 was $15 so that helped.

Zarbock: And what denomination was that sir?

Floyd: Well that was a Baptist Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Zarbock: This is a three year curriculum?

Floyd: A three year curriculum, correct. The Degree that’s now granted is called a Bachelor of Divinity. In that day and time, my original Degree was Bachelor of Divinity.

Zarbock: So you have now graduated from seminary and again you’re going to enter the real world.

Floyd: Right, I had gone to Cincinnati and had been interviewed by ______ procurement a good friend of mine had. One of the professors there was a Dr. T. C. Smith who had been a Navy chaplain in the Second World War. I talked to him a few times about it and he encouraged me very strongly to look at the Naval Academy. He thought I would probably enjoy it and be an effective chaplain.

Zarbock: So he really was a motivator.

Floyd: He really was toward the Navy. I was thinking about the Chaplaincy. I guess I always felt that I had missed serving in the Second World War because of my age and therefore maybe I owed a little service. But T. C. certainly was the one who motivated me strongly toward the Navy.

Zarbock: Isn’t that interesting? That was really the kind of emotional spirit at the time, when people felt that they had a responsibility.

Floyd: I think that’s true.

Zarbock: Well so you ended up in Cincinnati did you say?

Floyd: Well that was where I was interviewed by the Navy. When I graduated in 1951, the Navy said at that point they did not need my services. The Ensign Probationary Program was going through some flux so I really never was an Ensign Probationary. They washed that program out so I started all over again. When I got my Commission in May of 1952 serving in a parish back in Georgia, that meant I entered as a Lieutenant junior grade.

Zarbock: You’ve taken some interesting turns in your life. You’re hurdling along here trying to get it done with quickly. So what happened then?

Floyd: At the time I was Commissioned in May of ’52, I was the youngest chaplain in the Navy. They called me to duty then. The Korean War of course had started in the summer of 1950. I was able to complete a year in my parish there and reported to Chaplain School in July of 1952, had two months there. Then I reported to Parris Island.

Zarbock: Now Chaplain School for you was where?

Floyd: At Newport, Rhode Island.

Zarbock: And again, refresh my memory. This is what month, what year?

Floyd: This was July of 1952 when I reported to Chaplain School.

Zarbock: And it was a two month education?

Floyd: A two month course, right.

Zarbock: And what was the nature of the curriculum?

Floyd: The nature of the curriculum was the faculty was composed of Navy Chaplains along with a Marine Master Sergeant who was our Drill Instructor. So we lived in the barracks where the young officers lived. I had a roommate, Guy Leonard, who later had a very fine career as a naval chaplain. We had the drills by the Marine Sergeant and then the classes were dealing with naval procedures and Marine Corps and Coast Guard since Navy chaplains served all three of those services.

We had courses on dealing with other ecumenical groups that one encountered in the Service. We had twice during the two months a retreat at a Catholic convent that was nearby which included a day of absolute silence which was a new experience for a young Protestant out of Georgia. I’ve never had that kind of exposure to that sort of spiritual discipline so that was an education in itself.

Zarbock: What did that experience mean to you?

Floyd: Well it gave me an insight into that aspect of Christian devotion which was foreign to my experience prior to that. So while I never was particularly captivated by it, I did come to a deeper understanding of it and how it was meaningful in the lives of many Christians, that contemplative side which has never been a part of my own experience. That did broaden me in the sense that I was able to appreciate what that contributed to people’s lives.

Zarbock: Other chaplains have mentioned what a broadening, intellectual broadening, experience it was to be with other faith groups.

Floyd: Very much so. My whole exposure up until that point had been with Southern Protestants so the exposure both to the Catholic tradition and to the Jewish tradition…a rabbi was a member of the class. He was a young rabbi who was also at Parris Island with me. His wife and my wife and I, we became very good friends. Both wives were pregnant at that time and both delivered their first child at the Naval Hospital there in Buford, South Carolina so we share a very common experience there.

Zarbock: I’m sorry for the interruption. Well moving right along?

Floyd: Alright. I was there for six months. I had been scheduled to report to the USS Vulcan which was a repair ship home port in Newport, Rhode Island. Never left port because the ships would come in and would be serviced by the crew there on the repair ship. So my wife was very pleased with that. That we would be able to be together since even though it was called sea duty, it was actually shore duty.

But Chaplain Glen Jones who was the senior chaplain at Parris Island, an American Baptist who was one of the most highly decorated chaplains out of his experience with the Marines in the South Pacific, he had come to the Senior Chaplain job at Parris Island from having been the Detailer in the Chief of Chaplains office in Washington.

Zarbock: I’m sorry, for the purpose of the videotape, what is a Detailer?

Floyd: The Detailer is the one who makes the chaplains’ assignments on behalf of the Navy. He has a joint responsibility with both the Chief of Chaplains and the Chief of Naval Personnel since that is the organization in the Navy that actually issues the orders, but the take the direction from the Chaplain Corps itself as to the best distribution of chaplains.

So Glen Jones showed me where I was to be detached, had gone up to Washington. This was in March of 1953. He got back late one night. We were renting an apartment in the town of Buford, South Carolina. We were awakened by rocks being thrown on the window. Little rocks that awakened us. It was about 2:00 in the morning. So when I opened the window to see what it was, there was Glen Jones standing outside our apartment window yelling, “Emmett, I’ve got great news! You don’t have to go to the Vulcan! You get to go to Korea!!”.

If my wife had had a gun, she probably would have shot him. At any rate, that was my change of orders so a few days later, I was on my way to Korea. As a chaplain, I was flying with independent orders so I had a commercial flight all the way to Japan and then I got Marine logistic flight going into Korea. It so happened that the day we were flying in, it was terrible weather and the landing was to be at Kimpo Airfield near Seoul which is surrounded by mountains.

The plane has to come in right over the mountain tops and then drop down to the airfield. I had gone up to the cockpit and was talking with the pilot and the copilot. The pilot said to me, “Chaplain, this is awful weather. I hope you will offer up a prayer that we can land safely”. I said, “Captain, what do you think I’ve been doing the whole way” (laughter).

At any rate, we made a safe landing and I reported into Division Headquarters cause my assignment, my orders said simply report to the Division Chaplain who made the assignments out from there.

Zarbock: Now how old are you at this time?

Floyd: I’m 24 years old.

Zarbock: And what year is this?

Floyd: This is 1953. I beg your pardon! I had just turned 25.

Zarbock: Again for the sake of the video, you were wearing the Navy Officer’s uniform?

Floyd: No, I’m wearing a Marine uniform.

Zarbock: Where did you get that?

Floyd: Well I had been wearing a Marine uniform since reporting to Parris Island. So in that day and time it varied by Command, but in that day chaplains or doctors or corpsmen, any Navy personnel serving the Marines were encouraged to wear the Marine uniform.

Zarbock: Either the greens or khakis, but not the dress uniform.

Floyd: Not the dress uniform, that’s correct. Only Marines can wear the dress uniform, but the working uniform, the uniform of the day, the chaplains wore. At any rate, when I reported into Chaplain Lonnie Meechum who was the Division Chaplain, he assigned me to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines to relieve a Chaplain Tom Newman whose tour of duty was up in Korea.

He sent his jeep and his driver to take me up to where the 2nd Battalion Headquarters were. I reported in there, met Chaplain Newman, was introduced to the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Geeno, who welcomed me very warmly. He was very complimentary towards the service that Chaplain Tom Newman had done.

He had put him in for a Silver Star for his work in leading rescue parties to outpost positions because as chaplain, one visits the outposts. So at night, he knew the way to go. Several rescue parties were led by him and he was put in for the Silver Star and later received it. So I followed a chaplain who was extremely well thought of.

Zarbock: Those are big shoes.

Floyd: Yes, big shoes, but also I’ve always said I rather follow a good chaplain or a good pastor than a sorry one because then they have good expectations for you. At any rate, Chaplain Newman was certainly a very highly respected chaplain. I had a few days with him and then he was on the way home so, I started in my duties.

The day that I reported, activity was going on. The Chinese are very good mortar fighters. So on the way up to the CP, the road was exposed…

Zarbock: CP stands for Command Post?

Floyd: Command Post, where I would report to my Commanding Officer. So on the way up, we came under mortar fire and we decided the safest thing was to get out of the jeep and we just lay in the ditch until the mortar barrage ceased. So the very first day I was there I got a little baptism. Later on when I was going around with various units, the Colonel had assigned a gunnery sergeant to take me around to introduce me to the various platoons scattered up and down the Main Line of Resistance as it was called. We refer to it as the MLR.

I had put a white adhesive cross on my helmet so that men could know immediately that I was a chaplain. We were drawing sniper fire and I finally said to the gunney,” why are they shooting at us?” And he said, “Well Chaplain, you’ve got that white insignia on your helmet which means they think you’re probably somebody important”. So I said, “ I thought I would take it off (laughter).” The Gunney said, “He thought that would be a good idea.” So I did and I just relied from there on to the black cross on my collar to identify myself as a chaplain.

Zarbock: What were living conditions like?

Floyd: Pretty crude, but not really all that bad. We had insulated sleeping bags. We had cots so that back around the CP area where I set up my tent between the Officers’ Country and Enlisted Country. I wanted to be available both ways and I didn't want to be identified primarily as an officer. I wanted to be seen as a chaplain even though I was just a Lieutenant Junior Grade. We also had a large squad tent which we used as a worship center. So that was really my church.

So I had my little tent next to the large tent which served as a chapel. I had an assistant assigned. The Marines at that time would sort of let the chaplains pick out any Marine that he thought would be suitable. The young fellow who had served as Chaplain Newman’s assistant was perfectly satisfactory to me, a very fine young man from Oregon.

Later he was transferred home, I procured another Marine who had a little musical talent. We had a little field organ and he could play that somewhat, but it was certainly far better than active duty so he was my assistant. That meant that he drove my jeep. Only three officers in the Battalion had a jeep of their own, the Commanding Officer, the Executive Officer and the Chaplain. So even though I was a junior in terms of rank, the CO considered important that I be able to get around so I had my own jeep.

Zarbock: Were you armed?

Floyd: No, we did have a couple of chaplains that wore side arms which is really a violation of the Geneva Convention. My Colonel asked me how I felt about that and I said, “Colonel, I feel that I rather not wear any side arms”. I said that, “ If I got into a tight situation where I needed a weapon, there would be enough dead Marines around me that I would use their weapon.” I had qualified when I was at Parris Island on the rifle range, not as a expert marksman, but at least I was qualified to fire an M1.

Zarbock: And again this is such a low level question, but in a few years many memories will have disappeared and technology will have changed, what was the chow like?

Floyd: The chow was actually fairly good under the circumstances. The Battalion tried if at all possible to have at least one hot meal a day. The majority of your meals were C-rations.

Zarbock: Would you talk a little bit about C-rations?

Floyd: Alright. C-rations was shorthand for combat rations. They had crackers, peanut butter, a candy bar, that was about it, I guess. I remember eating the candy bars and crackers.

Zarbock: Cigarettes?

Floyd: Right and a pack of cigarettes. I didn't smoke so I always handed that to one of the Marines.

Zarbock: Where was the cheese, was that in K-rations?

Floyd: That’s right, I guess cheese was in the C-rations too.

Zarbock: But it really was not gourmet?

Floyd: Not gourmet food, but it was nourishing.

Zarbock: I’m sorry again for the interruption, but these reminiscences are going to be so powerful when you and I are no longer doing this type of activity. Well what would be a normal day’s activity for you as chaplain.

Floyd: Alright. A normal day activity, I would get up probably around 6:00, reveille came then. I would go down if a hot breakfast was available which was sometimes true with powdered eggs, toast and bacon, I’d go down to the mess tent and have breakfast and start the day. My tent in which I lived was also my office so I had a sort of folding desk which had a workable typewriter. I was able to do at least the bare essentials of typing out letters.

One of the responsibilities of chaplain I felt was letters of condolence to families of Marines…I tried to do the ones that were seriously wounded and of course those who were killed in action. I tried to interview the people who had been with the Marine at the time so that I could give as much personal detail as was permissible because families always wanted to know how did it happen and how did he die. I tried to be as helpful there without violating…

Zarbock: Wasn’t that a tremendous struggle of a conscience nature…how much shall I tell?

Floyd: It really was. I’m sure sometimes I probably stretched the truth a little when I would say that he died quickly, or he died without suffering which maybe wasn’t quite the truth. You felt you wanted to do what little you could to make it as easy on the families as possible.

Zarbock: That’s grim duty.

Floyd: Yes, it is.

Zarbock: Along that line, these are serious, stressful times for you. How did you relieve the stress that you were under? Who ministered unto you, the minister?

Floyd: Right, that’s a good question. I suppose I’ve always tended to be a person who was not too self-reflective. I just sort of did what needed to be done and didn't think a whole lot about it I suppose. The most support I got, one of the junior officers and I became good friends. He was just the type person that he and I sort of resonated. That was helpful. The division chaplain was helpful. He would have periodic chaplain conferences where we would get together and share our experiences and share anything that might be helpful to another chaplain as to handling situations. That was helpful.

Once during my tour there, there was a retreat that the 8th Army chaplains sponsored and had a Methodist Bishop Martin from Texas I believe who led the retreat for the Protestant chaplains, both Army and Marines for a couple of days. That was certainly a very meaningful experience. You were relieved from ordinary responsibilities with fellow chaplains. But other than that, there was really not a whole lot.

The regimental chaplain, the senior chaplain of the 7th Marines was a Lutheran pastor who was a lieutenant. The other chaplain was a lieutenant junior grade, a Catholic priest who was with the 3rd battalion. We all became good friends and consoled one another occasionally. Usually the priest and I would have Sunday lunch together, whatever the lunch was, either C-rations or if it was a hot meal because he would come over to my battalion for Catholic mass and I would go to his battalion for a Protestant service.

Zarbock: That raises another question. Characteristically was a worship service held every Sunday? I mean you can’t stop a war.

Floyd: Yes, I don’t think I ever missed having a service on Sunday although sometimes it was quite hectic. Usually I had six or seven services on Sunday because the battalion was scattered up and down. We also had a four deuces mortar company that was assigned to our battalion whose own chaplain was far removed from where they were. So these various units I would assemble.

One thing, as long as the shooting was going on, you didn't want to have a large group of people together because it was too convenient a target. So many times you would have maybe a couple dozen men gathered together in a certain area. It was not a long service with a whole lot of ritual I can tell you. It was a very simple service. We had little field hymnals that the assistant would help me carry.

If conditions were such that we could drive the jeep, we had the little field organ that he could play. But many times, I had no hymnals. I would just rely on a few familiar hymns, scripture, prayer and a short sermon. That was what constituted the worship service. I found that all the Marines who were religious in nature at all would come no matter what the heck denomination.

In fact, we were going to lunch one Sunday with the Catholic priest and one of the Catholic lads walked up to the priest and said, “Hey Father, I couldn’t get to mass today, but I went to Father Floyd’s service” (laughter). In service, you take what you can get.

Zarbock: Did you also celebrate communion?

Floyd: Yes, I did, not every Sunday, but I tried to do it at least once a month for the more liturgical groups.

Zarbock: Again, this sounds like a trivial question, but I’d like it for the record. There are those denominations that would not permit communion wine so would you offer grape juice and wine?

Floyd: I had no wine. The Catholic priest had wine. I simply used grape juice. It was too complicated. I could have gotten permission to get wine and so forth, but I didn't consider it that critical so I just used grape juice which was much easier to obtain.

Zarbock: You were saying that you relieved the previous chaplain who would go out to outposts. Was that also part of your experience?

Floyd: Yes, the situation by the time I got there was not quite as rough as it had been when Chaplain Newman was there. We had two bad months while I was there, both April and July, the final month of the war when the Chinese made a push to try to get as far south as they could before the line was established.

Zarbock: Establish the date.

Floyd: Well this was April of 1953. Most of May we were in division reserve which gave us a chance to recoup some because we had had pretty heavy casualties. The Marines suffered over 200 killed in April. We were in division reserve for May and the first part of June. We went back on the MLR to relieve the Turkish brigade and were there until the truce was signed on the 24th of July I believe of 1953. Again there were more casualties the last month of the war than there had been in April because the Chinese were trying so desperately to get further south.

Zarbock: Pick up as much territory as possible.

Floyd: So part of it was visiting outposts. Colonel ____ had been relieved. The new commanding officer whose name I believe was Joiner, felt that he wanted me to visit in the daytime because he felt the nighttime was more dangerous. Did not have quite the situation where they needed relief partners because the outposts were closer to the MLR than had been the case when Chaplain Newman was there.

So most of the day I would spend in visiting various units around. When we were in the reserve of course you didn't have the same problem because everyone was in the same area and of course you had much bigger worship services and all the rest because you were not under danger of fire. So we had more regular activity.

I was also the battalion education officer which meant that I administered the USAFI, United States Air Force Institute education courses sponsored by the University of Maryland so I enlisted both senior enlisted people and officers to teach courses. It was basically a correspondence kind of course. I also administered the GED tests for those who were not high school graduates.

That was sort of an enjoyable duty. Some chaplains didn't do it, but I thought it was a morale and a personnel kind of activity that I felt appropriate for a chaplain. It was a little of a headache. I had some tests that had been given that I was to forward to the University of Maryland for grading and what-not. The day after we had the test, we went back up on the line and some of the equipment that I had had been hit by mortar including some of those tests.

So as a responsible officer, I had signed for them. So I went to my commanding officer and asked what was I going to do. He said, “Well Chaplain, we’ve got an out that says anything can be classified combat lost”. So those USAFI tests were combat lost (laughter). Those poor guys had to do it all over again at some later point.

Zarbock: But this gives a new dimension to the cliché, the dog ate my paper (laughter). Again for the purpose of the record, as I remember mortars come in silently. You don’t hear that screaming whine.

Floyd: Right, it’s not like an artillery shell which has a high pitched sound, correct. That’s sort of an unexpected reading card you get on it.

Zarbock: It’s only the explosion that tells you it’s there.

Floyd: One funny experience I had one night, we were in CP and we were under rather heavy mortar barrage from the Chinese and we’d had a number of wounded because the Chinese were pressing so hard. This was I guess that last month of the war. There’d been a break in the wounded Marines coming in. I tried to help out with CP at night when that happened because they were always so short-handed, not enough corpsmen and all of that.

One of the jobs I had was to administer morphine shots. Fortunately the combat kits had a little spring trigger so I didn’t have to punch the needle in. I would just release the trigger. But that had quieted down and the Catholic priest and I were sitting outside the sick bay bunker there catching some fresh air because it was summertime and hot and wearing the flak vest and all, it was pretty uncomfortable at times.

A mortar round came in unexpectedly and when we picked ourselves up, it had landed pretty close to us. The priest picked a little piece of shrapnel out of his knee and he got a purple heart for that. If I had been sitting a foot over, I would have gotten a purple heart, but I’m just as glad that that’s one decoration I never received (laughter).

Zarbock: What was the nature of troops that came to you for personal problems and in need of counseling? What percentage of your time was invested in that?

Floyd: I would say probably about 25% of the time would be a rough guess. Most of it had to do with problems with wives or with girlfriends. A Marine would sometime come wagging in with a letter in his hand and I knew it was one of those Dear John letters, a girlfriend was tired of waiting for him to get back home and she had found somebody else. That was devastating to a lot of young Marines.

Zarbock: How was that handled?

Floyd: Not as well as it should have been, I’m sure. I just did the best I could.

Zarbock: It’s an impossible situation.

Floyd: That’s right. They’re too far from home to really be able to do anything about it and I just tried to encourage them to think about, you’re young and you’ve got your whole future in front of you and there’s a girl somewhere else that in the long run will be better. If she were not loyal enough to hang in there, it probably meant the marriage would not have been very good either so try to look forward and wait for a better day.

Zarbock: It’s kind of cold soup, but it’s about the best you’ve got.

Floyd: That’s right, there wasn’t much else you could do.

Zarbock: You can’t put them on American Airlines and send them back to the States.

Floyd: It wasn’t worth an emergency leave or anything of that nature.

Zarbock: But that’s an issue that’s not been broached in other interviews, emergency leaves.

Floyd: That occasionally would happen and the chaplain was usually involved.

Zarbock: Tell me about that.

Floyd: Alright, I can remember one young Marine who came in whose mother had been diagnosed with a very rapidly developing cancer and he was so afraid that he might die before he was able to get home. So I instituted a Red Cross investigation back home. As I recall, it was somewhere in Kentucky. The Red Cross did investigate, sent a report back that indeed the mother was in quite critical shape, that it was the very rapidly developing kind and the doctor had said she maybe had no more than a month to live.

So I took that to the commanding officer and we instituted emergency leave procedures and he did go home. He did get there to see his mother. I think they gave him only 10 days as I recall. That was about the usual emergency leave.

Zarbock: Did that include travel?

Floyd: That included travel time so that was pretty rough. But because of it being an emergency, he could fly all the way there and back. I could be mistaken. It could have been 10 days at home, I just cannot recall for sure about that. It wasn’t very long.

Zarbock: But he had to return to his unit?

Floyd: He had to return, right.

Zarbock: So it’s not go home and stay there.

Floyd: Right. Now the military did have a provision called humanitarian transfer. There were a few occasions where…but that was not in a war combat situation. This would be like on board a ship. If a sailor had a problem that really needed his attention for a long period for maybe a wife who was an invalid and they had children. He could get a humanitarian transfer to a shore station so that he could be home in the evenings to care for the family situation. But that’s pretty tough to get. It really had to be a very critical sort of situation before a humanitarian transfer could come. But I did have a few occasions when I was involved in that.

Zarbock: In other interviews, chaplains have indicated what a tremendously strong bond existed and exists between the Navy chaplains and the Marines.

Floyd: Yes, that’s my experience. I had some Navy duties as well as Marine duty and I have to say that I really enjoyed my Marine duty more. The Marines really appreciate their chaplains and doctors and corpsmen because they know they are not Marines and they don’t have to be there in that sense. They support them and serve them.

As I say, like being a very junior officer, but having my own jeep. It was because the Marines considered the chaplain’s role that important. I would make runs down into Seoul to the PX and take orders from the Marines about things they needed that wouldn’t be available up on the front and have a trailer on my jeep and just load it down (laughter). Then I’d come back and pass out the goodies.

Zarbock: What about religiously ceremonial days, Christmas for example, Easter, significant and pivotal times in the church calendar. How would you approach these days?

Floyd: Well again depending on the circumstances. Easter came in Korea under combat conditions so I’m afraid we really didn't pay much attention. Of course I had the scripture and I had the sermons and reminded them that it was Easter. I don’t mean that we ignored it, but we didn't really have anything special because of the circumstances.

When I was there over Christmas in ’53, we were able to have some very special kinds of programs. For one we had a Christmas party for Korean children who were in the area. I had been the…the division chaplain had the rule that after six months on the line battalion, you would be transferred to one of the back units. My final six months I was the 1st engineer battalion.

Of course being engineers, they tended to live pretty well. So we had hot showers and the whole works with the engineer battalion.

Zarbock: If we’re going to build it, we’re going to use it.

Floyd: That’s exactly right. You know you had expert carpenters who were assigned to the engineers. They had built a very nice altar which I had not had in Korea before. So we had a very nice Christmas service, well attended. We had the Christmas party on Christmas eve for the children. A lot of Marines had written back to their home churches and so we had a lot of gifts that had come from churches back in the States that we could have.

We had pretty scrubby looking Christmas trees, didn't have any ornaments, but I was able to get popcorn and the cooks had some dye that they were able to use so we had colored popcorn balls hanging on the tree. The kids thought it was great because they had so little. There was an orphanage not too far and those children came as well as refugee children who were in the area.

It was really great to see those big tough Marines who were so concerned to do something for the children there. Then the worship service as I say, we had some of the Marines who had some musical talents and worked on some special music so it was really quite nice. We had communion. You were able when the circumstances were right to be able to have some special services.

Also that Christmas Billy Graham had come. I’m not sure whether that was the first year in Korea or not, I don’t believe it was. But at any rate, he was able to be with the Marines for a couple of days. He must have been in Korea a total of 10 days or two weeks. He spent the night with our battalion. Some of the Marines who were either ill or wounded who were not critical where they had to be evacuated to Japan or something, we had what was called Easy Medical Company.

They had sort of a field hospital, a little like MASH except we didn't have any nurses (laughter). The Navy never went in for that. There were nurses for the hospital ships at Inchon. At any rate, Graham went with me to visit our sick and wounded Marines who were there and that was quite an experience too, to be with him for that day. We had a big service that the whole 7th Marines were involved with. I guess that was the biggest service I attended in Korea cause everybody came out to see Billy Graham.

Zarbock: Was he attended by staff people who opened doors…

Floyd: No, not really. He had a few people with him. It was mainly military escorts who took care of him. I don’t think he had but two or three of his own people with him. Probably they didn't want to risk having something happen to too many civilians. He did have a military escort of course.

Zarbock: What an exciting experience.

Floyd: Yes it was.

Zarbock: And scary too.

Floyd: Yes, that’s right. It’s one of those, as the old saying goes, you wouldn’t give a million dollars, but you’d wouldn’t give a nickel to do it again kind of thing. I really felt very blessed to have this chance.

Zarbock: So you were in Korea at the time that the stand down…

Floyd: And then on the prisoner of war exchange which was also a very interesting experience.

Zarbock: Tell me about that.

Floyd: Alright, the Marine division was close to Pyongyang so the Marine chaplains were assigned to be there for the exchange of prisoners each day. So we rotated. There were about four of us on duty each day.

Zarbock: And what was your obligation?

Floyd: No real obligation except to do whatever the men coming back wanted. Some just wanted a little prayer with them, some wanted communion so we did whatever. We didn't set up any formal services as such because it was the sort of thing where probably a couple of dozen or so each day were coming back. It was more a matter of dealing with them personally and some of them were so grateful. Others were still in a state of shock where they were hardly responsive at all.

One of the interesting things was that each day the two sides would swap manifests of the prisoners who were to be released the next day. Each day the Chinese would have on the list Brigadier General Dean who was an Army general who had been captured, the highest rank. The highest ranking Chinese we had was a lieutenant colonel. So this lieutenant colonel’s name would be on the list every day and General Dean’s name would be on the list every day.

No General Dean so the Chinese colonel would be taken back to the compound every night. So this went on until next to the last day of the exchange program, General Dean was then finally released. Of course a lot of press were there and whatnot. I was on the edge of the crowd watching his press interview when he made the statement that he would never go into combat again without a suicide pill. It was a very emotional kind of thing to hear. Even as a general he felt the experience had been so terrible and he would not want to do it again.

Zarbock: Again, a time of considerable stress for you, men coming out of military captivity.

Floyd: It must have been incomprehensible to us that hadn’t had that kind of experience to be a prisoner of war. I’ve always been amazed at the kind of courage and endurance that those people had. Well I’m reading some of McCain’s book about his experience, it’s just an incredible experience I’m sure.

There were some light moments though. One day when I was there, a young Marine came up, grinning all over the place, said, “Do you remember me, Chaplain?” He had been captured two days before the truce was signed so he had only been a prisoner a couple of weeks, but because he had been a prisoner, he was on his way home (laughter). So he was very happy about his experience. That was one out of a whole lot of others who were not so happy.

Zarbock: In those days, you were really a very young man.

Floyd: Yes, I was 25.

Zarbock: And without any attempt to diminish your skills, you were relatively inexperienced in the life of being a pastor.

Floyd: Very inexperienced.

Zarbock: Well how did you sift all of those experiences and incorporate them?

Floyd: That’s a very good question. I don’t know as I’ve ever thought about how I did it. I guess I just did it day by day, doing what had to be done as best I could knowing that there were so many ways I couldn’t be of any real help other than trying to be a friend and a sympathetic ear, remind people of the resources of the faith, that we did serve a God that was able to help us get through these times.

Zarbock: How had it changed you if it had changed you?

Floyd: I think it made me aware that there is evil and tremendous hardship in the world that I had not encountered up until then. I had really led a very blessed life I think, growing up in a small town, loving family, friends and supporters all around in school and in church. I had never really had to endure any tough experiences. We weren’t wealthy or anything, but certainly looking back, it was a comfortable, very happy childhood that I had.

I guess maybe that gave me kind of a foundation that I could then appreciate what others had to endure and be thankful for my own good fortune and therefore maybe I owed a little something to try to help others.

Zarbock: Well you flew from the east coast to the west coast of the United States and from there to Japan and then from to Korea. Well let’s get you out of Korea. How did you exit?

Floyd: Well I left Korea right after April of ’54. It was the Wednesday after Easter Sunday. I was relieved by one of only two Christian Science chaplains in the Navy at that time. The Commanding Officer of the Engineer Battalion that I’d been serving with for six months was an Episcopalian from Virginia, a very dignified, a very fine church man really.

He was a little concerned with what was he going to do with a Christian Science chaplain. I said, "well, he’s been through chaplain school. He’s had an assignment at Great Lakes so he’s gotten exposed to a variety of other religions and all and we would hope that the Navy would not have taken him unless he was qualified so we just had to trust that the Commanding Officer could guide him".

Zarbock: Is this not another illustration of the Lord moving in mysterious ways.

Floyd: That’s exactly true. Unfortunately my words of encouragement to the colonel didn't work out too well. He later left after just a few months and left the service so he was just not able to adjust to that kind of military setting I guess.

Zarbock: Well how did you get back to the States?

Floyd: Well again I was flying on independent orders. I had a little amusing experience there. I had a military flight. We landed at Quojaling for a refueling stop. As were taking off, Quojaling has the famous goony birds, these big geese like birds. They flew into one of the propellers so we had to land. We had to wait about a day and a half to get a new propeller to be flown out from Hawaii before the plane could take off. So we finally got out of there and landed at Travis Air Force Base out from San Francisco.

It was in the middle of the night so I took my orders to the military liaison desk there to get them signed. They said, “I’m sorry Chaplain, I don’t have the authority to sign these orders. You’ll have to wait until 8:00 in the morning and report to Marine District Headquarters in downtown San Francisco. They have to endorse these orders”.

So I thanked him and I took the orders in hand, went over to the desk, got a flight out to Atlanta where my wife was living with my parents actually. They had a little house that they had. My wife and my daughter who was born at Paris Island were living there. At any rate, I got a flight out so I got into Atlanta early the next morning without my orders endorsed.

I was to report to Camp LeJeune. So after my days of leave, I reported to Camp LeJeune and here I come with these orders not endorsed just having arrived in the States. So the officer at Camp LeJeune was very unhappy about this. I went in and he wanted to know how this happened, orders had to be endorsed in San Francisco when you landed. I told him there wasn’t anyone to sign the orders and I had a flight that I could get on home and I wasn’t going to wait around and waste a day before getting home. So he laughed and said okay and he endorsed them.

Zarbock: Chaplain, you got back to the United States and you were at Camp LeJeune and your rank is?

Floyd: I’m still a Lieutenant Junior Grade. I report to the 2nd Marine division. The senior chaplain is a Chaplain Eric Arendt who is shortly to retire. So he makes me Lieutenant Junior Grade the Assistant Division Chaplain. I don’t know why he chose to do that, but he had me hanging around the office to take care of detailing.

The first week there I had a little experience because one of the jobs of provision chaplain was to make the Sunday assignments for the various chaplains who were part of the command there. So he says, “You make the Sunday schedule. I’m taking off on leave” after I’d been there about a day or two. So he takes off on leave who was a UCC. At any rate, he takes off. So I go down the list of chaplains and make the assignments.

So the assignments are sent out by mail distribution and a couple of days later I get a call from the 4th Troops chaplain who is a Chaplain Roy Parker, a Commander, who is the author of a well known book that Navy chaplains use called Prayers at Sea. Well Chaplain Parker calls up and when I answer the phone, he says, “Is this Lieutenant junior grade Floyd”. I knew then I was in some kind of trouble.

I said, "yes sir". He said, “I am Commander Parker. I am the 4th troops chaplain. By what authority are you assigning my chaplains without my permission”. I told him I was very sorry, Chaplain Arendt told me to do this and he’s gone and I did not realize that I needed to check with him first. So after we talked a few minutes, well the second remark he made was, “You made me feel like an admiral on a damn submarine with my men being ordered around without my permission”. So I apologized.

But as he talked, he calmed down and we got to be good friends later. It’s funny sometimes the situations you run into particularly as a junior grade officer.

Zarbock: And very early on the base too.

Floyd: Very early on the base, right.

Zarbock: That’s a reputation you don’t want.

Floyd: Exactly, but that was an enjoyable experience. Chaplain Arendt was quite a character so I enjoyed hearing his stories. He had had a lot of assignments during the Second World War and then Korea, looking forward to retiring to a lodge in upper New York State as I recall.

I did remain in the chaplain’s office there, the division chaplain’s office because I was scheduled to be released from active duty in just a couple of months which did occur.

Zarbock: There seems to be a pattern in your life. You arrive in Korea and you get in the early days mortared. You arrive at Camp LeJeune and you get verbally mortared (laughter).

Floyd: Good way of putting it (laughter).

Zarbock: Is this a consistent pattern in your life? (laughter).

Floyd: Perhaps so, I don’t know when to duck.

Zarbock: Did you remain primarily in an administrative position?

Floyd: Yes at LeJeune for about four months while I was there. Then I was released from active duty. I had been in contact with churches about accepting a parish and I decided I would accept a call to begin a new church in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. So that’s what I did when I was released.

Zarbock: You’ve been in the military twice.

Floyd: I stayed active in the Reserve. While I was in Atlanta serving this parish, I was the reserve chaplain for the naval air station in Atlanta which was a pay billet and there were relatively few pay billets for the reserves so I felt fortunate to do that. Later when, I was rotated out of that billet because one can’t keep a paid billet forever, I then joined a Navy reserve chaplain’s company there in Atlanta which had about 12 members as I recall of various denominations who were in the Atlanta area or Georgia area.

That was one way they organized reserve chaplains during those years. You were in chaplain companies.

Zarbock: What were your duties as a reserve chaplain?

Floyd: Well we would meet for drill to get in our time and would have various programs. Sometimes we would have, if an active duty chaplain was available, we might do that. Or occasionally we would take a trip like down to Charleston and be aboard a ship for a day to refresh ourselves about chaplain duties. We would make prior arrangements of course. Generally we would spend a night in the VOQ and do some chaplain activity with active duty chaplains and that was counted as a drill for us.

Zarbock: But you were recalled to active duty, is that correct?

Floyd: Yes, in 1961 when the Berlin Wall went up, President Kennedy activated about 80,000 Navy reservists. Among that number as I recall, there were about six of us who were chaplains. The chaplain corps never liked to call people involuntarily. So I received a call from the Chief of Chaplains office before I received the orders asking me if I would be willing to accept and I said yes, I would.

I was already in contact with another parish in Memphis, Tennessee about taking another call. I’d been at this church for eight years. It was a new church start. We had built the first unit of a building. Membership had grown to over 600, but I really felt maybe it was time for someone else so I told the Chief’s office, yes, I would accept orders.

So they said, "well you’ve had Marine duty, you’ve had air duty at the naval air station. We’re going to start putting chaplains with Marine air groups" so they wanted to send me to New River, North Carolina to Marine Air Group 26 which was the largest Marine air group in the Marine Corps at that time because it was a training group for helicopter pilots who were transitioning from jets to helicopters.

So that’s where I reported for duty then. I did ask…the orders really read to report in 30 days, but the Chief of Chaplains office and I agreed that that was pretty short notice for the parish. So they allowed me three months so I reported in March.

Zarbock: Tell me, were you welcomed at the Marine place with the usual…

Floyd: Yes, always glad to see chaplains.

Zarbock: But there wasn’t a calamitous situation?

Floyd: No, even though it was a new venture for the group, they were used to having chaplains at the wing level. The wing chaplain then would disperse, I think they had about six chaplains assigned to a wing, so they would sort of disperse the chaplains out among the air groups. So they were used to having chaplains around. It was just that they had never had a chaplain assigned to a specific air group.

Wing headquarters was at Havelock, North Carolina where the Marine Air Wing was. So I was under really the wing chaplain who was Hank Austin who was again a colorful chaplain in the Chaplain Corps. At any rate, I really had independent duty there at New River because MAG-26 was separated from the rest of the wing. We had a Lieutenant Colonel who was the Commanding Officer.

Zarbock: What was the nature of your counseling load at that station?

Floyd: Mostly marital problems. They deployed a lot, generally short deployments, but they were gone an awful lot because whenever there was a Marine exercise from Camp LeJeune with the infantry division, they always needed air support. So New River always had this constant rotation of pilots and crews having to go aboard ship to support Marine exercises.

So it was a rather stressful way to live for many of the Marine families. I had an awful lot…it was a big housing area there. The chapel was right across from the housing area. I had more than one Catholic wife to come to talk to me who said that she was coming to me because I was married and the priest was not married and they felt…

Zarbock: There was a rapport there.

Floyd: Right, that they would get better understanding from a married chaplain than from an unmarried chaplain.

Zarbock: And I assume the problems ran the full gamut of human fraility.

Floyd: Exactly.

Zarbock: From infidelity to…

Floyd: Yes, an awful lot of bad…mainly though it was just the stress of the periodic separations and Marines tend to think they’re tough, you know. They come in as having been deployed for several weeks, come right back into the family and want the children to have immediate obedience and not questioning any that father says. The children have been used to only listening to the mother because father hadn’t been around. So you get an awful lot of tension in those kinds of situations.

Zarbock: What was the role of alcohol as a problem in those days?

Floyd: It was a problem and was a contributing factor in many, many cases particularly with abuse. A guy would get drunk and beat his wife and children up where ordinarily he wouldn’t do that so it was a contributing factor. I used to tell the command that in a way the service is a pusher about alcohol, you know, throwing beer bashes and all of that.

I didn't get very far with it, but I used to argue with them that we need to be careful, not appearing to approve excessive drinking. Now I will take a drink myself. I like to have wine with dinner and that sort of thing. So it’s not a matter of my having a teetotaler position. It’s just that I think the service leadership needs to be very careful.

Zarbock: Well there’s drinking and drunkenness. Spousal abuse, that puts you in a very unenviable position. It is a legal matter and a civil matter and yet you’re supposed to what…maintain a distance and be of support.

Floyd: It is a very critical role. The legalities of it weren’t quite as specific as they are today so you didn't have quite the legal aspect although that was present. What I always tried to do if there was a case of abuse and the wife reported it to me, I would first talk to the Marine himself involved. If he appeared totally unwilling to change any of his behavior or some are unwilling to even talk about it and would get angry at their wife for talking to the chaplain, if it continued that way, then I would go to his commanding officer which would get his attention.

Zarbock: It could be a court-martial offense.

Floyd: Yes, it could be.

Zarbock: Behavior…

Floyd: If the behavior didn't change. The other chaplain who was a station chaplain and I did set up a program about abuse and we had some civilians who had some expertise in the area to come in to sort of relieve it from being a strictly military kind of thing. It was simply to talk about how do you handle aggression and that sort of thing which we hope helped some.

The difficulty was getting the people who really needed it the most to participate in the program. But some of the younger couples who were more open to looking at their marriage relationship and all did get involved with it. So we felt like it did do a little good.

Zarbock: And your population included not only enlisted people, but officers too, is that right?

Floyd: Yes, although officers again are more difficult to deal with because it becomes a matter of pride and a matter of a threat to their career. It really was more difficult. And officers’ wives were much more hesitant to bring forward any problems for that reason, for career reasons I think.

Zarbock: At the time of this taping, it’s the year 2003 and drugs and drug abuse receives wide publicity. But in those days, I assume there were drugs available, but the publicity and the availability was not as abundant, am I correct?

Floyd: I think that’s very true. I was really never aware of drugs as such being a terrible problem. You did run into it occasionally, but I don’t think it was near the level that would be true today. Thank goodness because I did not know how to handle that very well. The drug of choice was alcohol.

Zarbock: And again, that could be a court-martial offense. Behavior prejudicial to the service.

Floyd: The service got very intolerant of drugs and rightly so, it can be a terrible problem. I really was not that aware of it.

Zarbock: I’ve got a couple of questions that I’ve asked other chaplains. During all of your military experience, was there ever an event or events that took place in your ministry in the military in which you were ordered or suggested or hinted at doing something that was a violation of your personal ethic and religious beliefs?

Floyd: No, I really can say that I never had it personally. I did have some chaplain friends who did encounter some experiences that violated their conscience, but I was never ordered or even hinted at doing something that would have been a violation of my moral or religious beliefs. Maybe I was just fortunate to have good commanding officers.

Zarbock: In general without identifying anyone, but in general how would chaplains as you indicated were influenced in a way that they thought to be prejudicial, how did they handle that?

Floyd: Well the most outstanding case I can think of was a friend in Korea after the troops. He was a lieutenant commander. His battalion had been given a Quonset hut for a chapel which would be a semi-permanent kind of very nice building. His commanding officer called him in and said, “Chaplain, I want this to be the officers’ club”. The chaplain said, “Sir, I have signed for this for the chaplain and I cannot do that”.

The colonel said, “You will do that or you will receive a bad fitness report from me”. He held his ground. The commanding officer did write a very negative fitness report on him. It was so bad that he was able to reply to it and it was later overturned and the Colonel was reprimanded. But that took some courage on his part and I admire that chaplain for standing up for the principle.

But I was also glad that the Marine Corps did the right thing in reprimanding the Commanding Officer instead of the Lieutenant.

Zarbock: That’s the end of the career for that colonel.

Floyd: Yes, that’s right, very right. That’s the most dramatic case I can think of a violation of a principle.

Zarbock: How many children do you have?

Floyd: Five which is one reason why I didn't stay in the Navy I think. I felt it was unfair for Katherine to have five children at home while I’m going around somewhere. Our last pregnancy was twins so it upped our count in a hurry.

Zarbock: How many grandchildren?

Floyd: We have 10 grandchildren.

Zarbock: I’m going to ask you to do what I’ve asked all other interviews, to look into the camera. I may have told you off camera that one of the things that’s happening to you right now, is you’ll never be a day older because the videotape will capture you and keep you there. So years from now, your great-grandchildren are going to see you as you are today, intelligent, capable and robust.

Now the question, if you wouldn’t mind, look directly into the camera and address yourself to your grandchildren and tell them all the terrifying and tremendously unattractive events that you have seen in Korea and heard and experienced in the military, what did it all mean? What has all of this experience meant to you? What have you learned?

Floyd: I would hope that you children can appreciate the fact of the lives of all of those who have gone before you and have done what they could to make a contribution to the betterment of society and the betterment of our nation. You will want to take your own stand in whatever ways are appropriate for you in what you are doing.

Some of the experiences I had I feel very fortunate that they did not leave me scarred. But I did see people who suffered great hardship, people who died under very terrible circumstances. War is always an awful experience for all who are involved and even innocent civilians around. I saw so many refugees in Korea who were in no way responsible for what had gone on and yet they were the victims of what had transpired.

I would hope that you would want to build a world where there is such a level of justice and liberty for all peoples that there will be no necessity for war and people can see that there are ways of resolving conflict short of taking up arms against one another or doing violence to others to accomplish your will.

So while history is full of many terrible experiences, it’s also filled with many experiences of people who have exercised courage, who have exercised dedication and who have made it possible for us to live in a better world and I hope that you will be willing to do your share to improve the human life and make us all become more of what God intends us to be, children who live together in peace.

Zarbock: Thank you chaplain, may the Lord be with you.

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