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Interview with Owen Hardage, January 17, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Owen Hardage, January 17, 2008
January 17, 2008
Interview with Chaplain Owen Hardage. Chaplain Hardage died January 27, 2010, and was buried February 1st at Beaufort National Cemetery with military honors.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hardage, Owen Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  1/17/2008 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  50 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person, staff member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Randall Library. This interview is part of the Military Chaplains Oral History Project, and today is the 17th of January in the year 2008. We're doing the interview in Charleston, South Carolina and our interviewee is Chaplain Owen Hardage. Good afternoon, sir.

Hardage: Good afternoon.

Zarbock: And, how are you?

Hardage: Fine.

Zarbock: Chaplain, what individual or series of individuals, or event or series of events led you into selecting the clergy as your occupational category?

Hardage: It was, perhaps, my pastor. His name was Ralph Coburn. He led me to go to a Christian college, and at that college I began to see young people working in the present ministry and felt I had to do it too.

Zarbock: What college was that, sir?

Hardage: Westmont College.

Zarbock: Located where?

Hardage: Santa Barbara, California. As a result, I did change schools over a few years and began to be interested in the radio ministry. I almost became a member of the radio ministry by applying for John Brown University in Arkansas. However, events changed it. I believe it was God's will. Events changed my plans, and I went to, instead, to a Baptist College and began to work toward the pastoral ministry.

Zarbock: This year was what, sir?

Hardage: This year was 1948. I graduated from the college and went to the seminary, which is now known as American Baptist Seminary of the West, and--

Zarbock: Located where, sir?

Hardage: At the time, this branch was located in Covina, California. Now, the seminary today is located in Berkley. Over the years there I made theology my main work, with Christian Ed the second, and at the time, I also began to work as youth director in various churches. After graduation, I still worked as a youth director, although I found that I could not support my family on the pay that youth directors were getting in those days, which was usually about $20 dollar a week.

Zarbock: And you were married at the time?

Hardage: Yes.

Zarbock: Children?

Hardage: By-- yes, the first one was born in 1950, and by the time I graduated, in 1953, there were two, so there were four of us.

Zarbock: Well, how did you earn your bread and butter in order to survive in seminary?

Hardage: I worked part time. My wife worked, so that between us we managed to make ends meet.

Zarbock: What kind of work did you do, Chaplain?

Hardage: Gas station. I worked 8 PM to midnight every night, or really, 4 PM to midnight, a full shift every night for six days a week.

Zarbock: And went to school full time?

Hardage: Oh, yes. The seminary only went four days a week, of course. It was Tuesday through Friday. No Monday classes.

Zarbock: Well, you received your degree from the Theological Seminary. That's a three year curriculum, isn't it?

Hardage: Yes.

Zarbock: Well, there you are. You've graduated and you've got a piece of paper that says that you are learned among many areas. What did you do?

Hardage: I investigated the chaplaincy. I'm from a Navy family. My father was a career Navy man and I was raised on Naval stations. So I investigated the chaplaincy, and I thought, "Well, I'll go down and apply," so I did. And then they gave me a physical, had an examination and finally sent me down for an interview at San Diego with the District Chaplain. It turned out that the District Chaplain was my first chaplain at Goat Island in San Francisco in 1932.

Zarbock: What do you mean, your first chaplain?

Hardage: That was my first Sunday school that I attended. We lived on the station and I would go down to church and Sunday school down there. And he was my first chaplain, and then he was the one who interviewed me for the chaplaincy.

Zarbock: As a marginal question, was your father an officer or enlisted?

Hardage: Well, he retired as a Chief Warrant Officer. He was enlisted when he first went in, in 1916. And I was first enlisted, too, when I went in, in 1943, and served until '46.

Zarbock: You served a three year hitch as an enlisted man.

Hardage: Yes.

Zarbock: What was your duty assignment there, by the way?

Hardage: I was a fire control man on a destroyer.

Zarbock: It doesn't seem-- it seems to be most marginal to your degree work in theology. It doesn't seem to really have a very tight fit there.

Hardage: Well, it gave me an immediate entrance into the ministry without serving a time as assistant to everyone. And I've told this to young women in the ministry before. They complain that they cannot get ministerial openings upon graduation, and I've spoken to the graduate people there and say, "I've got a plan for you to where you can begin preaching the first Sunday." "What is it?" "Well, you join the Navy Chaplaincy." "Oh." And they-- the young women who were at the American Baptist Seminary were not very eager to become chaplains, it seemed like, just a few. I've interviewed two or three for the chaplaincy, of course.

Zarbock: Well, let me take you back to your interview. How did that go?

Hardage: Oh, it went fine. We got along very pleasantly. He had become an admiral, of course, by this time. That was Thornton Miller. He was the Second Admiral, I guess, in the Chaplain Corps.

Zarbock: Well, and you were-- what is the word I'm looking for? You were-- you then entered the Navy Chaplain Corps.

Hardage: Yes. Yes, I began at the-- January 1940, 1954 and then served at various duty stations. My first duty station was with the Marines after chaplain school, and I served with Marine divisions, Third and--

Zarbock: Where?

Hardage: Third Marine Division in Japan and then the First Marine Division in Camp Pendleton.

Zarbock: What was it like, to be a Navy Chaplain with the Marines?

Hardage: It's different, but it's rewarding.

Zarbock: Well, first let's explore: different from what and in what way?

Hardage: Well, it's different from serving in ships or stations. The Marines have a different outlook on things, and you find that you wear a Marine uniform and become part of their unit, and you begin to speak in Marine terms and fashion.

Zarbock: How is that different from being shipboard with what I would think to be traditional Navy personnel?

Hardage: Well, it is a little different, because they have a totally different mission and their mission is to be the landing force, the shock troops. The Marines, at that time, would-- all slept with their rifles hung on their bunks, even though it was far away from the battlefront. This was the training method. And they knew that their duty station would be changed in six months to go to Korea at this time.

Zarbock: How did the Marines receive a Navy person who was a chaplain? Did you have to go through some sort of rite of passage?

Hardage: No, I don't believe so. It just-- it's an on-the-job training. It's such that you arrive and work your way in, and you learn fast.

Zarbock: How do you work your way in?

Hardage: Well, you become part of the organization by going around and finding out what everyone does and learning from them, asking questions, and watching them in action, showing up for Marine activities.

Zarbock: In other interviews, Navy chaplains who had served with the Marines, I was told, if the Marines did it, the chaplain was expected to do it, with the exception of carrying a weapon.

Hardage: That's right. We never carried weapons.

Zarbock: But if it was a 20 mile hike, guess who went with them?

Hardage: Oh, yes. I made landing with them and we camped out, I guess you would say, and ate those C-rations, and did everything that a Marine would do. Although your duty station often was with the medical people at-- on a real life basis.

Zarbock: Did you like it?

Hardage: Yes, I did.

Zarbock: And you said you served two tours.

Hardage: Yes, two and a half years, total.

Zarbock: And different experiences, both, I mean, different locations?

Hardage: Yes, different locations, but after the first year, it became the normal way to do things.

Zarbock: Off camera, Chaplain, I said one of the things I was going to ask of you is to reminisce a little bit and tell me, as many as you wish to tell me, incidences about a humorous nature, the funny things that happened that you observed or that you created yourself.

Hardage: Well, I don't believe I created a great many humorous incidents, although I observed some. This good friend of mine arrived in the camp and checked in, and went out to the motor pool and they said, "Come on down some time, Chaplain, and we'll give you a tank ride." So it was very quiet, and a week or two later, he went down and said, "I'm ready for that tank ride." So they told the corporal to take him out for a tank ride, so he did and away they went. And he, it was very quiet because entire battalion was out on maneuvers. So the corporal asked him where he wanted to go, and he said, "Go up the road here." And so they went up the road and the next thing you know, they were running right across the middle of the maneuver field where the com lines were laid out. And the colonel was exasperated and he said, "Whose tank is that?" And the call came back to him, "That's the chaplain's tank, sir." And he said, "The chaplain is not to ride in a tank again."

Later, this chaplain was told by the colonel to get a haircut, but he decided not to cut his hair for weeks after that. He was very popular with the troops, but he wasn't very popular with the commanding officer.

When I was with the Marines, I found that I-- part of my job was to create recreational opportunities. We threw-- our unit wanted to throw a picnic, and I found a good place along the river that we could all go up and have a nice picnic and games up there, and they were very appreciative of that.

Zarbock: Where were you stationed when this--

Hardage: In Gifu, Japan, at that time. And we had this big party along the Kiso River.

Zarbock: How many Christmases did you spend in a foreign country or on shipboard?

Hardage: I lost count at about eight.

Zarbock: Do you remember any Christmas specifically as-- to reminisce about?

Hardage: Oh, yes. I can remember Christmas 1954. We were at Camp Fuji, and our chapel was right down near the fence. Across the fence, just about 50 yards away, were a whole line of bars and clubs. And on Christmas Eve, they were playing their outdoor speakers with songs like "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful." And I thought, "How ironic." Here we were-- of course we had a good crowd Christmas Eve, full house there in the chapel-- but the people across the fence were playing these Christmas songs.

Zarbock: I think that's called a paradox.

Hardage: Yes. I spent two Christmases in San Juan Puerto Rico, in both one year after the other. We were-- our ship at that time, I was with the U.S.S. Guam and we were the Ready Squadron down there.

Zarbock: What is a Ready Squadron?

Hardage: This was a squadron ready to take care of any problems that would occur down there. In fact, it was in support the first year of the Dominican Republic Revolution. You remember that? This was 1965, and we would cruise up and down with this battalion of Marines aboard and these other ships, four of us, and wait in case they had to be sent ashore. They didn't, of course, but it a was ready to put out the fire. It was called the Ready Squadron. And for a number of years that was-- it operated out of Roosevelt Roads Base in Puerto Rico. They did make a lot of nice ports to visit in the Caribbean, almost like cruise ships.

Zarbock: What was, what were your duties and obligations in a situation like that when you're with this Ready Squadron?

Hardage: Well, you're really the ship's chaplain. You do at work visitation, you might say, all day long. And then you conduct services at various times, including special teachings at various times, like Bible studies. And you conduct your Sunday services. And then you go off and go to other ships to help, that do not have a chaplain. From an LPH which the Guam was--

Zarbock: What?

Hardage: A helicopter carrier. You travel by helicopter, usually over to another ship. Although in port sometimes you traveled by boat. But the LST or the LSD in the squadron did not have chaplains aboard usually.

Zarbock: So you would do some circuit riding.

Hardage: Yes, you do a little circuit riding. I did more circuit riding from my carrier than any other. I-- when the carrier was at sea, we had two plane guards with us, two destroyers, and I would go over every Sunday and serve them. My Catholic chaplain, he would go. We had a regular schedule. You see, your sermon had to be done in 40 minutes on a carrier on an active Sunday morning.

Zarbock: Why?

Hardage: Well, they're going to launch and you rigged on the fo'c'sle and they launched right over your head. You couldn't hear a thing up there once they started launching. And so you usually were singing the Navy Hymn when the first launch started. And that you went up to put on your-- I'd go up to put on my flight suit and my Mae West jacket and then go down. The helicopter would take me over right after the launch to the destroyer and lower me down by wire.

Zarbock: Does that take faith or bravery or both?

Hardage: Well, you trust in-- you trust in the men, the flyers. They haven't lost anybody that I know of, yet. And it is a dangerous occupation, but you don't get paid for it. Nothing extra, like flight pay or anything. You go over to the destroyers and they usually have something set up for you. And I carried a little tape recorder with hymns on it and would play the hymns so we could sing the hymns with a real music background. And then you would conduct a service with the usual liturgy and then a sermon.

Zarbock: How long would you stay on the cruiser before you went back to--

Hardage: You stayed until they came and got you.

Zarbock: Which would be how long, I mean, days or-- ?

Hardage: Oh, one day it was a couple of hours. They were going to have a firing exercise and said, "We can't get you until after the firing exercise is over, Chaplain." So I spent time with the ship up on the bridge watching the firing exercise. Sometimes I'd spend time down in the wardroom with the officers chatting about their duties.

Zarbock: And then the helicopter would hover?

Hardage: It did come hover and pick you up. There was another thing we did, too, from that. We would sometimes go up and take care of the two destroyers that were on duty up off Hanoi up there. There were two that went up and down about 12 miles out.

Zarbock: Just prowling back and forth?

Hardage: Well, partly. Also they were the search and rescue ships. They could pick up flyers out of the water or sometimes even send helicopters in over the land to get flyers that are down. And that involved about a 180 helicopter trip, mile helicopter trip up there.

Zarbock: You know that emblems, symbols, are very important in the military, and after all of those hours in the air, were you ever given some recognition of your weightlessness?

Hardage: Well, no. All I have is my flight suit and my Mae West. I still have them. Some of the men still have their--

Zarbock: I'm sorry, for the purpose of this record, what do mean, "Mae West"? I know what you're saying, but--

Hardage: It's an inflatable life preserver. It goes on like a jacket, and it's the kind they use in airplanes nowadays when they tell you to put this on and pull the knobs it inflates it. But this is what we traveled with, always, in those days.

Zarbock: And the name really comes from a now-deceased movie actress who was, in the old fashioned phrase, amply endowed.

Hardage: Yes. It came from World War II and it began then. And they still use the term.

Zarbock: It's still referred to as a Mae West?

Hardage: I think so.

Zarbock: Yeah. Well, why throw away a good word?

Hardage: I still have it hanging up in my closet. My third daughter would wear it when she would take sailing lessons in San Francisco Bay. But the-- as I said, some of the men kept their helmets. I didn't, I turned it in. But depending, if you had a very distinctive helmet it was often good to keep.

Zarbock: I'm interested-- I'd like to probe a little bit when you say that you would have Bible studies.

Hardage: Yes.

Zarbock: How populated or how popular were Bible studies?

Hardage: The-- on the carrier, the Bible studies, we would have a Sunday night service. And this would vary. Sometimes we would have a Sunday night communion. Other times we would have-- show Sunday night movies. Other times we'd have studies. And then we'd have studies during the week, too. And when we were in port in the Philippines we organized a retreat and went to Baguio for a weekend.

Zarbock: Who could go?

Hardage: Any man that could get away that wanted to go. We had about a couple of dozen and we managed to get this bus and take the men up. And we had delightful studies up there. Of course the-- everybody bunked together there in the-- at the camp. And then we held outdoor studies out in the open air garden. They had gardens, beautiful flowers and everything, and we'd have a little place that we could all sit around and study. And it made a nice weekend, of course. We didn't study all weekend, but we had sessions. We'd have a morning session and an afternoon session. And this was very popular.

Zarbock: Hmm.

Hardage: I had-- one of my leading men was one of the Chief Petty Officers from the Attack Squadron 51 VF-51 Fighter Squadron, and he was very able to organize the men to go, and a real leader, and they hung on his every word so that it was pleasant. I have, from reunions from that ship, I have one of the men that was on the ship remembers this, and he still comes to the reunion, too, from the Bon Homme Richard.

Zarbock: Life anywhere is not one fun-filled and enthusiastic experience after another. There are some downs with the ups. Most of us have the experience, and as a chaplain, I'm sure you had to process and deal with many of the downs that took place in the men to who you were entrusted, whose care you were entrusted. Can you-- would you reminisce, and could you recall any little verbal cameos about the heartbreaks that people would bring you?

Hardage: Well, there were the usual number of "Dear John" letters that were received.

Zarbock: Excuse me. Again, could you define? What do you mean by a "Dear John"?

Hardage: Well, they would say, "I feel that you're away all the time and I've just got to file for divorce," or something like this. And the-- and then there were others who-- I can recall this one young man who was-- we were way down in the Caribbean at the time, and he gets the letter that this young lady is suing him for paternity. And we corresponded with the lady in charge in the District Attorney's Department. Well, it turned out we got a letter from her saying, "We're dropping this case because she had the baby after only five months from the date she claimed that he got her pregnant." So sometimes, things turned out very happily, and then sometimes, I've been to court with some of our men in San Diego.

Zarbock: Why was the chaplain called to court?

Hardage: Oh, the men would ask you to come instead of-- they weren't-- we weren't called to court; we were asked to come by the person themselves.

Zarbock: And what was your role, there?

Hardage: Well, the role was just to observe and to be a friend to him. And he was hoping he wouldn't be charged with bad things. In this one case, this young man and young woman were charged with illegal cohabitation, and they did get married a short time later, but after getting married, they dropped the case. But he asked me to come to court with him.

Zarbock: So you really were or could be a character witness for the accused?

Hardage: Well, if-- the judge could ask me some questions like that. I did testify in a court martial once, but it's unsworn testimony for a chaplain.

Zarbock: What does that mean?

Hardage: That means you may speak, but you may speak in behalf of the person, but they do not-- they do not give you a sworn testimony. In other words, you're not testifying for-- as to the truth or falsity. You're testifying that you think this person is a good sailor. He's-- a light sentence may give him a chance to redeem himself and do a good job.

Zarbock: In the court martial proceedings were you required to be sworn in?

Hardage: No.

Zarbock: Could you tell me a little, without being too--

Hardage: Well, the legal officer usually says, "We're going to have the chaplain speaking; his testimony will be unsworn testimony," which is possible under the laws.

Zarbock: What was the offense that young man was accused of?

Hardage: If I recall right, he was missing from duty.

Zarbock: Okay, so it wasn't some brutal act.

Hardage: No, no, no. It was a question of whether he would be restored to duty. So they finally gave him so many hours extra duty and probation.

Zarbock: So it was the issue of dependability.

Hardage: Yes.

Zarbock: And meeting his military obligations, rather than some gruesome murder or larcenies.

Hardage: No, there was nothing. I never, I never saw anything, although I did visit a-- I recall visiting a wife in the San Diego jail once, and I can't recall exactly her circumstances.

Zarbock: You're the first chaplain I've spoken-- with whom I've spoken, who has mentioned being a witness at a court martial, and I thank you, because from now on, I'm going to include that. I frankly had not thought. I've interviewed some chaplains who were the brig chaplains. Thank you. I'll keep that in mind.

Hardage: Well, our commanding officer that was on this carrier always had us at his Mast, Captain's Mast. He would have one of-- there were two chaplains aboard. He would have one of us at the Mast at all times, at all Masts. And this was also true of the Naval Air Station at North Island in San Diego.

Zarbock: And your opinion was enlisted?

Hardage: Well, no. It was sometimes a reference type. The captain would say, "I'm going to hold this off, and I want you to see the chaplain here about this problem."

Zarbock: Okay.

Hardage: And so it was a-- he liked to have somebody there ready to take charge right away instead of-- and hear, you could hear the problem, of course, at that time, and then you'd go get further information.

Zarbock: When you enlisted, I'm sorry, when you first entered as a Navy Chaplain, in the Navy, I'm sure that there was alcohol involved, but did drugs come in later or had they started when you became a--

Hardage: I don't remember drugs at all, to speak of, except there were stimulant drugs that were very popular in Japan. I recall some young Marines coming in, in the morning and the guards at the gate put them under arrest because there were under the influence of a drug like filipin, which is some kind of an upper drug, and it was very easy to get, apparently, in Japan. This was the only one that I saw. There were a number of cases in Japan of men getting under the influence of these stimulant drugs.

Zarbock: Other chaplains who had served, for example, in Vietnam, and now currently in Iraq.

Hardage: Well, I never served in Vietnam in country. I served with the ship. We had no access to any drugs at all on the ship. And I never saw significant drug usage from ship personnel.

Zarbock: But, you know, taking the long view, it's curious to see how insults, biological insults to the body, have a sort of a history of their own. This was popular and then it begins to recede followed by this, which begins to recede, followed by this, and other chaplains have indicated that, and in Europe, that drugs were a significant problem. Well, I'm glad that your associates were not captive of that, those devils.

What about in your years of Navy service, do you remember an incident or incidences of-- I don't want to use the word "incompetency." That's not the word. A huge, huge, huge organization like the military bound-- is bound-- to get its wires crossed from time to time. I interviewed a Navy chaplain who had been ordered to Newport Rhode Island to the chaplain school. He got there, and they said, "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in San Diego." So, without even unpacking his worldly goods, and his wife and children and the pet, they drove trans-nationally and got to San Diego where they were greeted by a duty officer that said, "Isn't this funny? Two of you guys with the same name and you're both chaplains." You know, it was a clerical error that dispatched the man from Newport, who was supposed to be in Newport, trans-nationally to San Diego, and it was found out that we've got one more of you than we need, and by George if they didn't tell him to go back to Newport. And he got to Newport, but by this time, the class work had cycled in, so he was just essentially put into limbo until-- well, so these things happen. To be accusatory is a fool's errand. It just happens, but have you had an experience?

Hardage: No; I haven't had any experience like that, although my orders were changed en route once.

Zarbock: Tell me about that.

Hardage: I was due to go from the ship in Long Beach to the Naval Training Station Great Lakes, and when I got there-- I actually arrived and visited with a friend the day before, and he said, "Well, you've been taken off the duty list." And so the next morning, I put on the uniform and went in to see the Head Chaplain and he says, "Oh." He reached for the file and he says, "Your orders have been changed. You're going to Glenview, which is 15 miles away." And I said, "Oh, okay. Thank you." And so I went down to Glenview. It was very much better. I was there by myself instead of up there with that big bunch at Great Lakes. And also, I-- it turned out the reason why I was sent to Glenview, was the admiral wanted a chaplain on his staff who would fly around with him to the various Reserve Air Stations and the previous chaplain wouldn't fly. And so I got there and got a second job in no time.

Zarbock: This is the height of facetiousness, but he really wanted a chaplain with wings in the air, capability of--

Hardage: Well, it was-- the previous one had heart trouble and he didn't want to fly at all. And of course, he died two years later, from a heart attack. But I found it very pleasant to travel around with the party when they visited and visit the other chaplains.

Zarbock: What was your duty when you would go to station X?

Hardage: Well, I'd go visit the chaplain and ask about the problems and what have you, and see if there's anything. In one case, we were having a real problem with-- he was kind of a rebel and he wanted to do things his way. He didn't want to get with the Navy program, as it were.

Zarbock: That probably did not make an awful lot of friends.

Hardage: Well, it didn't there, and it-- in the long run he didn't-- he spent only two or three more years and then went out.

Zarbock: Commanding officers, line officers, I'm referring to. What-- as you look back, scan over the years of service, did you have-- what kind of experiences did you have with line officers? Some chaplains have reported that the line officers said, "I want you as close to me as possible, I use you in a variety of roles." Other chaplains said from time to time, the line officer would say, "Just shut up and go do what you're supposed to do, and don't bother me." So apparently, line officers come in all shades and stripes and spots.

Hardage: I must have been fortunate, because I had the first type.

Zarbock: Really?

Hardage: Including-- well, on one of my early duty stations, the admiral came to church every Sunday. That was Admiral Pride. He got his fourth star on his day of retirement. That was in the old days, when they did that, and-- but he was-- he and Mrs. Pride came every Sunday and delighted in their chaplains, and we delighted in having them there, and they were a testimony, I guess you would say, their beliefs. And I found most places I went, that the commanding officers were really helpful in nearly all of our program, so that--

Zarbock: So they understood and appreciated the capabilities of the chaplain.

Hardage: I believe so.

Zarbock: Because if you didn't have that mindset that you understood and appreciated--

Hardage: I've heard of it.

Zarbock: And you'd like.

Hardage: Yes, I've heard of it, but I had no such experience with it. I said I was fortunate.

Zarbock: Yeah. What sort of experiences had you been told about? That's a clumsy sentence, but you got it.

Hardage: Well, this-- the, the in some cases, like I've heard of the case of the commanding officer who was great for big drinking parties and such, and that he expected even as that-- there was no such thing as a person sent off to alcoholic rehab from his unit, because nobody could drink more than the commanding officer. But it was-- he was no problem. He was no problem to our program.

And I've heard of this, but the-- sometimes, as a senior chaplain you had to settle the problems among the chaplains. Chief of Chaplains called me once. That is the-- O'Conner, John O'Conner, and said, "Hey, we've got a problem down there at so-and-so base in your area." And I'm going, "What's going on?" And so I told him frankly, I says, "Well, John, you sent a Jesuit priest to replace a charismatic priest, and the people were not used to it, and they are accusing him of heresy." However, he has run his sermons by the bishop of Guam, and everything will be all right. And so this was a case where they didn't really understand that this charismatic priest had organized Bible studies and charismatic services and was very popular. But the Jesuit guy, I know, gave these careful Jesuit sermons, and they didn't like it. And they, of course, we were unable to remove from his job, but he--

Zarbock: So he was doing his job, but doing it in a different way.

Hardage: Yes, he was doing his job and the-- but the thing was, he wasn't fitting their expectations.

Zarbock: How was the matter resolved?

Hardage: I believe he toned down some of his sermons and changed them a bit, but he-- they just struggled on with him until he was due to be transferred.

Zarbock: There's a phrase that says, "What cannot be cured must be endured."

Hardage: Well, there's a friend of mine, when we were speaking about problems at Coronado, the thing is, someone wanted to do something about them and he advised this, and I've learned from it. "Let's don't take any action. Let's see how things develop."

(tape change)

Zarbock: Tape number two, Military Chaplain's Oral History. Seventeen, January, 2008. Chaplain Hardage. Take it away, sir. We were talking off-camera about a military chaplain by the name of Jensen. Is it J-e-n-s--

Hardage: -s-e-n.

Zarbock: -s-e-n. Now, he has become a very interesting case in the history of military chaplaincy. Would you tell me about him? You knew him, you said.

Hardage: Yes. I was in the senior course with him at Newport.

Zarbock: Newport. That's the chaplain school.

Hardage: Yes.

Zarbock: Navy Chaplain School.

Hardage: He is the same denomination as myself, and he was, as he called himself, square Andy. He was straight laced, fairly conservative and did not look well upon the drinking, boozing community. And he fell into this problem, there, with the command, that apparently was looking for a scapegoat or something and he--

Zarbock: The command at the school?

Hardage: No, this happened-- we went from the school to this command, and I went to a ship. The end result was, of course, was that he was courts marshaled for the various charges that they later made a movie about.

Zarbock: And what were the charges?

Hardage: The charges were-- I can't remember the exact details. They were something like improper in their duties because it was like someone mistreating a person in their charge. And so the...

Zarbock: And was the hint sexual in nature?

Hardage: Yes, it was sexual.

Zarbock: Okay, so the chaplain is charged with this, and a courts martial took place.

Hardage: Yes.

Zarbock: But he was not found guilty, if I am correct.

Hardage: No. He was acquitted.

Zarbock: What happened to his career?

Hardage: He was-- the Chief of Chaplains gave him a choice of what he wanted to do, and so he asked the Chief of Chaplains, I believe, for a postgraduate study and he was ordered to it. I believe he did postgraduate study up at Princeton, but I'm not sure.

Zarbock: When was that, Chaplain; what year?

Hardage: Pardon?

Zarbock: When was that?

Hardage: This was in the early '70s.

Zarbock: It was a bombshell of a case, wasn't it?

Hardage: Yes, it was. It received national attention. And of course, everyone was involved in it, it seemed like, and the senior chaplains all the way up to the chief, and they were all trying to get it settled.

Zarbock: But the accuser or accusers were not, did not carry the day.

Hardage: No. The main accuser was the commanding officer who called for this courts martial. And they didn't like straight Andy, there, apparently, either square Andy or straight Andy, as he was known. And so they-- when these details came out from-- Andy said one of the ladies that he had actually turned down, that she got together with this other woman, and they brought out all these stories. The other woman, of course, had a very poor reputation.

Zarbock: And she had a history of this type of accusation.

Hardage: Yes, she had. And it turned out that the evidence showed that the person she was involved with was not the chaplain at all. So the-- and so many facts that were shown to be contradictory to the charges, that finally the court just decided this was false all the way, and they exonerated him. And then he was finally promoted, eventually, because they had removed all of these records from his file.

Zarbock: All of the accusatory information.

Hardage: Yes, all of that.

Zarbock: Which was found to be false.

Hardage: All of that was all removed by-- and in other words there was a note made, "Removed by the Secretary of the Navy," and then Andy, on the basis of his previous files, was promoted.

Zarbock: And he eventually retired from the Chaplain Corps.

Hardage: Naval Chaplains, yes. I don't know where he's at, now. I've lost track of him altogether.

Zarbock: Well, Chaplain, off-camera we got into this type-- this line of conversation when I said I was going to ask you, have you ever been ordered, have you ever been suggested or as low as a wink and a nudge and a nod, to do something that was in violation of your personal belief and ethic?

Hardage: No, I have not. The-- I've had commanding officers that wanted the general feeling of the crew, wanted the general feeling of how things were going, but not any specific person. I've never been asked to give information. In one case, I remember a Lieutenant Commander confessed to me that he'd climbed into bed with Boy Scouts that he was sponsoring. And he later, just within a few weeks, resigned, for the benefit of the service. And some of our church ladies, when I told this story, wondered why I didn't report him to the authorities, and I said, "You can't do that. You can't report confidences." And they thought, "Oh, this was a horrible thing," but a pastor's worthless if he can't keep confidences.

Zarbock: There have been very-- in my interviews, there have been only, oh, maybe two or three situations in which-- one was where the wife of the commanding base, the commanding officer of the base fell into what I thought to be a very childish argument with the chaplain, and said she was going to get him. And the base commander that afternoon called the chaplain and apologized for it, and said he was going to make sure if anybody that was going to be gotten, it was going to be his wife, and not to give it a thought beyond that. So, with the exception of the one incident that I described to you off-camera, I've never heard-- no chaplain has reported ever being asked or even influenced in a way. Yes, there have been times when the chaplain has been asked, I've been told, for a general commentary on the state of morale or the state of well being of the individuals under his command, but that seems to be, I think, a reasonable administrative request to make of people, a reasonable one. Chaplain, would you do it all over again?

Hardage: I'm afraid I would.

Zarbock: What was your favorite place, your favorite duty station, and I'm going to go the other way too, and which was the one that you hope you would be able to avoid, the best and the worst?

Hardage: The best. Well, it's hard. You have to divide them up between sea duty and shore duty. For sea duty, the best was the carrier CVA-31 Bon Homme Richard. The--

Zarbock: And why, sir?

Hardage: Because it was the best ship. It just had everything, and they were ready for you to serve there, and it was not something where you had to make your way, as they say. They were ready to go, and we had the largest group of devoted Christian men that I remember.

And the stations, it's hard to say. The Naval Station Guam was very fine and we had the good relationship with the civilian community and with the Catholic Bishop of Guam, too. He spoke at one of our Easter sunrise services that we held up on the mountain top. I spoke at the other one, at the second one. And our bell choir was out playing at that. Overall, our community there was generally a pleasant circumstance. We missed it and we still correspond with a few people from there.

Zarbock: Okay, what about the bottom of the pot, ther?.

Hardage: The bottom of the pot, the worst place.

Zarbock: Difficult duty station, difficult ship.

Hardage: Well, the most difficult ship was, oh, actually, my ships were good. It's hard to say, "This was a difficult ship." The Delta repair ship was probably the least of all of them, and the-- the poorest that I remember was ashore at the-- at Camp Pendleton with the Marines was probably-- it was early on in my career, and was not as satisfying as some of the later experiences.

Zarbock: What reduced the satisfaction?

Hardage: The lack of facilities, probably, and the lack of attendance in a significant number. We did have a fair attendance on Sunday morning, 35 people or so. And we had some very good sergeants that taught in the school there, and were part of our corps. They were very helpful. When you can get a senior enlisted person involved, they help you a great deal.

Zarbock: Or conversely.

Hardage: And when they're not involved, they don't, so.

Zarbock: Chaplain, a final question on my part, and then it's free for you. Final question on my part, with all your military experience, with all your educational experiences, your family background, your existing family, what sort of credo have you put together for you? If you were to write it in bronze, what would it say? Your belief.

Hardage: Well, I would have to tell you what one of my parishioners did once. He was in the hospital, ready to undergo an operation, a very serious operation, and I came-- I saw him just before he was taken away, and maybe these were the last words he said. He said to me, "Keep the faith." He died on the operating table, and I had his funeral. And I have to say, that had always stuck with me, "Keep the faith." In fact, the saddest things I've had, have been to notify people of the death of their loved ones overseas. When I was at San Diego, I would often be sent to Imperial Beach, where a lot of the UDT people lived, the Seals. And they were happening to experience a very high casualty rate at that time in Vietnam. And when you drive with that black sedan down the street, they'd start running. And this was one of the hardest things to do.

Zarbock: What would you do, Chaplain? How would you break the news?

Hardage: How would I what?

Zarbock: How would you break the news?

Hardage: Well, you just pull up to the house and get out and go knock on the door. They knew what you were there for.

Zarbock: How long would you stay with the bereaved?

Hardage: It depended. You'd stay until you got their pastor in or their friends, family usually and then you'd offer-- you'd give your number and offer to answer any questions they might have.

Zarbock: Well, it's your turn now. Is there anything you'd like to say? I've been doing all of the questioning here.

Hardage: No, I found that the ministry does not end with the end of the service. It's still ongoing. And I'm significantly involved in this time in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. And the-- I've made many friends here in South Carolina and find that the service is rewarding.

Zarbock: Thank you for making the time.

Hardage: Thank you.

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