BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Donald Hill, November 7, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Donald Hill, November 7, 2007
November 7, 2007
Interview with retired military chaplain Donald Hill.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hill, Donald Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  11/7/2007 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. The videotape is part of the Military Chaplains Oral History Project. Today is the 7th of November in the year 2007, and our interviewee is retired military Chaplain Donald Hill. Good afternoon, sir.

Hill: Good afternoon to you.

Zarbock: My first question, a question that I've asked all of the chaplains, what individual or series of individuals or event or series of events led you into the ministry?

Hill: Well, there were a series of events and people involved in those events. And growing up in a small town in East Tennessee, three institutions, the family, the local school and the church, my life revolved around those three, growing up in the church and always at the church to do everything.

Zarbock: This is the Methodist church?

Hill: Methodist church, uh-huh, a little neighborhood church, Virginia Avenue Methodist. And that had an effect on my life. It gave me a foundation and a way to understand who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. And I took an active part as a youth being a member and later a president of our youth organization. And some of the congregation tried to plant it on my mind that what I wanted is college and seminary and be a pastor.

Zarbock: What was your father's employment?

Hill: He was-- that's an interesting story. He was a hero of mine. Let me say that, right at the beginning. He was a coal miner in Southwest Virginia and West Virginia who, when he had five boys and a girl and my parents. And were living-- when I was born, I was born in a coal mine over in Southwest Virginia, or a coal mining town, excuse me. And he saw that that was no place to raise children, so he moved us-- and that was during the '30s, you know, and all the labor trouble organizing the union mines. So he moved us out of there to Bristol, and he continued to work in the mines for a number of years and then he went with Tennessee Eastman in Kingsport. But that was probably one of the strategic moves in my life, when you're three years old moving into a completely new environment where you had a lot of different opportunities. So I often thought, you know, what would my life be like had my parents, in the high, in the depth of depression, make this move, and they made it.

Zarbock: What courage, really, what courage.

Hill: Yeah, yeah, and the only way that happened, they could afford to buy a home. He being a miner and having five boys, holy mackerel, not much money to go around. But he was in World War I in the First Division and saw a tremendous amount of combat. And it probably had-- it had a lasting effect on his life. But Roosevelt finally gave the World War I veterans the bonus.

Zarbock: The bonus!

Hill: And they used the bonus to buy their home in Bristol.

Zarbock: Sure.

Hill: And had that not happened, we wouldn't have moved.

Zarbock: I would envision moving from a mining town--

Hill: Town.

Zarbock: --where life is homogenous, people worked in the mine or were associated with it--

Hill: Yeah.

Zarbock: --to Bristol, Tennessee which, I mean, is not a sprawling urban center but nevertheless was more heterogeneous. So you've got a different mix of people.

Hill: Oh, yes, and Tennessee life was entirely different. Mining is a tough job. The miners work hard during the week, and many of them celebrate on the weekends. And it's just a different world, and my father continued to work in the mines up until World War II and then he would come home-- he could only come home every other week. So there my mom was, raising five children. But he was a-- yeah, it was a humble beginning, but it was a rich beginning. I guess even in that time I think I probably felt-- I felt secure. I didn't know what-- I didn't know the world was as tough as it is; you know, we didn't have much. But you knew you belonged, and that stayed with me all through life. I mean, I think my life built on that, on just those beginnings. My father, he was in the 16th Infantry, the First Division, a machine gunner, in the machine gun company. And he went into the Battle of the Argon Forest with a full strength company, and there were 17 of them survived, living. That's counted the wounded at the end of the battle, and he was one of--

Zarbock: And a company has approximately 200 people.

Hill: Oh yeah, it was heavy, yeah. And he was one of the living, and during that time, during that terrible time of death and destruction, he had made one of these foxhole conversions, and saying, "Oh Lord, if you get me through this, I'll give my life." And he did. That was the identifying time in his life, and he lived by it the rest of his life. So every once in awhile he'd tell a story about the Army, and you know, like I say he was a hero of mine.

Zarbock: By the way, your mother must have been a very strong woman too.

Hill: She had to be, with five boys. I was the youngest of five. I had four older brothers, all of whom are dead now. And two of them served in World War II, and she was alone for-- well, she practically raised us herself, because our father was gone. And she always said about the older boys, she spent more time in school than they did, trying to get them out of trouble. But yeah, she was as strong person, and yet my mother and father were-- you know, they were typical Appalachian hillbillies who had sixth and seventh grade educations. But my father was an avid reader, taught himself to type and loved life.

Zarbock: Musician?

Hill: And they just knew how to give you love.

Zarbock: Musician? Did he play any--

Hill: No. He was quite an athlete, but he wasn't a musician. And he always wanted-- he always wanted one of his five boys to be either a professional baseball player, one, a professional baseball player, or if you couldn't do that, be a minister. Well, a grandson became the professional ball player, and I became the minister, so he got his wish. [Laughing]

Zarbock: So the church, the Methodist church, when you moved into Bristol--

Hill: Uh-huh.

Zarbock: As I remember, Bristol is part in Virginia and part in Tennessee.

Hill: Yes. It's interesting that the state line goes down through-- the state line of Virginia and Tennessee is in the center of the main street called State Street. And it's two towns, and you'll have two fire departments a mile apart, two different fire departments, two different police departments, two post offices, two sets of schools. And they were just two cities that had no business being two cities. I got a-- when I was in Vietnam as a chaplain-- and a chaplain in '65, I received a post card, a picture post card from the VFW in Bristol. And it showed-- there was a big sign there on State Street on the-- which is the border between Tennessee and Virginia saying, "Bristol Tennessee/Virginia, a good place to live." And that was in the background, but in the foreground there was an old mountaineer with his gun and mule, and it said, "Greetings from Bristol, Tennessee" from a mountaineer with his-- him being in Tennessee and his ass in Virginia, and (laughing) and it said-- and then the writing said, "We want you to know we're behind you, 10,000 miles behind you." I remember that, yeah.

Zarbock: Well, where did you go to college?

Hill: Emory and Henry in Virginia, a Methodist school. And--

Zarbock: A liberal arts college.

Hill: Liberal arts, yes, a very good school.

Zarbock: How did you afford it?

Hill: Ah, that's a good question. Well, how I afforded it. After college-- or not after college, but after I graduated from high school, I got-- my high school sweetheart and I were married within six months after high school, still are-- and we still are married. And I went off to the Army and volunteered for the draft. And--

Zarbock: The year is what?

Hill: 1953, April of 1953, I went into the Army and a draftee for two years as an enlisted person. And I was drafted into the Army and was in the Signal Corps, a radio operator. And from that then I received the GI Bill. And I used the GI Bill to go to college.

Zarbock: $75 a month, wasn't it, or something like that?

Hill: No, it was a little more than that, yeah. Yeah, I'm not-- and then I was a couple of years older than the incoming freshmen, about three years older. And I had received-- then I knew I wanted to be a minister, and I felt the call to the ministry after coming out of the Army the first time, and getting under the influence of a pastor up there in our hometown. He just helped me look at all the noise in my life and-- but in that noise there was a call to be a servant to the church.

Zarbock: Did you serve, when you were in the Army, did you serve overseas?

Hill: No, not then. I served in the States, and most of it-- well, let's see, Fort Benning and Camp Rucker, Alabama and was a radio operator, a CW International Morse Code operator. And when we would go to the field, and we stayed in the field quite a bit, but when we'd go to the field, I'd always set my radio up at division headquarters in the plot. In the organization of the headquarters, the plot was so that the division chaplain has his tent right beside my radio. And there he was in the big tent, and I had to sleep in the front seat of a truck. And I thought, "Oh well, this guy's got it pretty good." So when I was thinking about ministry, "Yeah, I remember that guy. He's got a big tent. That might not be a bad life."

Zarbock: That's a comfortable life.

Hill: [Laughing] Yeah, that was all I wanted. I saw him in the field quite a bit, and then when we were in Garrison, I would go to worship service. So I had seen the chaplain's work a little bit. But it's amazing how-- chance, I don't know. Providence, yes, I'd like to think. And I can just see that developing in my life that one thing leads to another. Someone has said, "You know, God opens doors for you, but you've got to go through them." And my door opened; I'd go through it.

Zarbock: While you were at Emory and Henry College-- has that become a university, now?

Hill: No. It's still a college.

Zarbock: Well, when you were there, you were active in church and church-related activity?

Hill: Oh gosh, I was a pastor. I was a 23-year-old pastor. When I decided to go into the ministry, one of the officials in the church, ___________________, he said, "I'm short of ministers to serve these small local churches." So he gave me-- I read a few books, and he gave me a certificate saying you're ready to go to the wolves. So when I was in-- I was a six-month-- no, I was, gosh, two months into my freshmen year, knew nothing about being a minister, other than I knew that I thought that God had called me. Married, and we had a, I think, a two-year-old daughter, or a one-year-old daughter. And he said, "I've got a little-- four little country churches I want you to take forward to the end of the year until we get somebody in there." Well, I went to school full-time, traveling-- commuting 35 miles one-way, six days a week, and serving four churches for four years.

Zarbock: Were you paid?

Hill: Yes, yeah, I was paid. And the title was student pastor. Well, you didn't have enough time to be a good student, and you didn't know enough to be a pastor. You know, it was-- but it was a good experience, but I think academically it hurt me. I just did not have the time to study that I should have had. I did the best I could, but it didn't keep me from going onto seminary at Emory.

Zarbock: During this time when you were a circuit rider, were your duties-- did your duties include but not limited to, marrying and burying and other sacraments?

Hill: Yes, I had gone and done work during the summertime at Duke, at what they called a pastor school to get qualified, where I could serve the sacraments of the church, of baptism and the Lord's Supper and I also then do the marriages and those things.

Zarbock: So were you preaching four sermons a Sunday?

Hill: Two.

Zarbock: Oh, you'd alternate--

Hill: Uh-huh, alternate Sundays, yeah, yeah, and drive 70 miles six days a week to and from school. (laughing) I don't know how I did it. And I look back on it, you know, when you're young then, you don't know any better. But you look back on it and you think, "This is crazy. This is crazy, doesn't make sense," yeah, but lots of good stories.

Zarbock: Well, I must admit it's rather unusual.

Hill: It is. It is an unusual life.

Zarbock: The tremendous energy that was required on your part.

Hill: But you know, when you think this is what I'm to do with my life, you do it. You do it. You don't know any other--

Zarbock: Your wife must have been a great help.

Hill: Oh, she was. And bless her heart, I've told her so many times, I don't see how anyone else would have done what they did. She wouldn't have stayed with it.

Zarbock: Did she work?

Hill: Well, where we lived over in the rural part of Southwest Virginia in the small county seat of town, there wasn't any work to do, until one of the church members who became the treasurer or-- I think it was the treasurer of the county gave her a part-time job at the courthouse. And that really helped, yeah.

Zarbock: Well, let's trudge ahead and say you have known-- that you're on the Alumni Association of Emory and Henry.

Hill: Uh-huh.

Zarbock: Where are you off to now?

Hill: To Emory University, Candler School of Theology. And that would be 19-- let's see, I started at Emory in-- entered into Emory in 1960.

Zarbock: You don't make little leaps in your life, do you?

Hill: No. [Laughing.] Oh, no, I mean, we could spend a couple of days talking about my life. When I graduated from college I knew not how I would make it in seminary. I didn't have any money. Didn't know anybody in Atlanta. But again, there was a former parishioner in Bristol who was a head of a freight line. And when I graduated-- or in my summer between graduation from college and going to seminary, he said, "I might have a job for you. I'll let you be a freight salesman and just go around and check on accounts." So I did that in that area for Tennessee-- or Virginia, Southwest Virginia and had a little success at it, or anyway, he liked what I was doing. So when I got ready to go to Atlanta, he said, "Don, we've got an opening for you in Atlanta."

Zarbock: What year was that?

Hill: 1960-- wait a minute, I said I went to college beginning in '56, graduated in '60. So it would have been '60 through '63. So I had a job waiting on me when I got to Atlanta. It's unbelievable the doors that people have opened for me.

Zarbock: But you've gone from a small liberal arts college snuggled in the hills of the Appalachian Mountains, from there to a-- and living in this relatively small town.

Hill: Uh-huh.

Zarbock: From there, catapulting into a metropolitan center at a larger university--

Hill: Yes, very much.

Zarbock: --and trying at that time, as well, to continue but to increase in prestige. They wanted to get away from previous reputations of being somewhat of a dilettante.

Hill: Yeah.

Zarbock: So you really stepped off the gang plank there, didn't you?

Hill: Well, when I was a boy in Bristol, I used to sneak away and go down to the train station and watch trains come in and go out. And I said, "One of these days I'm going to get on one of those trains and see the wide world." So when they gave me the opportunity, I was ready to go, yeah. And we went to Atlanta, I had to go back to Emory for something. I can't remember what it was. I was going to be gone for awhile, a month or so. And I left my wife without a car and a small girl. We had housing on the campus, and told her to get a job. And she did, and she'd leave our daughter with-- you know, we lived in married housing there on campus. She'd leave our daughter with a neighbor.

Zarbock: Sure.

Hill: And again, it's crazy as you look back on it. These things shouldn't happen, but they did. And that's the way we got started.

Zarbock: What did you enjoy about-- in seminary, what was your-- what were your best moments?

Hill: I enjoyed probably meeting different students from different walks of life, and just listening to the give and take in our discussions, and also some of the faculty. It was just amazing what good teachers they were. And for me, not just the classroom, but here in college, I had lived 35 miles away from school. And in seminary, I lived on campus, and I was able to enjoy the campus, and that was a real blessing for me. We really wanted that, tremendously. I just missed that in college. I had a chance to play basketball in college, but they don't offer any scholarship to amount to anything, a little school like that, and I couldn't do that.

Zarbock: So in addition to education, you're now getting a culturalization.

Hill: Oh, yes, yes.

Zarbock: You're getting to be a big city boy.

Hill: [Laughing.] And again, you know, I would just go fit right in. I didn't know anything else to do. I think I was fitting in. I guess I did. But I found that, you know, we were comfortable with the things that were new and excited about life. And we knew that this was a time of preparation for us and there was a rainbow out there that had that pot. I don't think it turned out to be gold, but there was a pot. You know, it was good.

Zarbock: When did you graduate from seminary?

Hill: '63.

Zarbock: And what is required in your denomination upon graduation?

Hill: Well, let's see. I think we had to have 36-- was it 36 semester hours? Wait a minute. Let's see, 12 times-- oh yeah, no. Oh gosh, I'm having trouble. It's three years. Three years, and I forget the number of semester hours. So you had to-- it's a master's degree now. So there I am with a BA from college in Sociology and Psychology and then a master's degree in Theology. And then I went on-- later on, the Army sent me to graduate school again to get a master's in Psychology.

Zarbock: But when you graduated from Emory, you have not been ordained. Is that correct?

Hill: No. I was ord-- well, at that time in the Methodist church, I was ordained a deacon, which is a step toward full ordination after my first year in seminary. And then I was ordained within a couple of weeks as an elder, which is the highest ordination we have in the Methodist church for pastors, just a few days after I graduated from seminary.

Zarbock: Who does the ordination?

Hill: A bishop. A bishop has to ordain you. Bishop, keep it short. But it's interesting, while I was in college, while I was in seminary, I became interested in the military chaplaincy.

Zarbock: How? Why?

Hill: Well, you remember Luther, Martin Luther would nail this thesis to the Wittenberg office door?

Zarbock: Sure.

Hill: And we had a professor who would get letters that were of interest and some of them from former students who were out in the big world being pastors. And he would nail them to the door so you could read what was going on. And there was one there from Earl Andrews who was an Army chaplain, and one of the first to be sent to Vietnam. And this was in the spring of 1962, and I read his letter, and it was like a light went off: "That's for me." So the next day, I was down beginning to process, to secure my church's endorsement. And at the time, to be a chaplain, and at the same time go through the Army hoops to get a commission. And little would I know that-- let's see, that was in '62. A little over three years later, I would be in Vietnam, the chaplain of the unit that Earl Andrews had served. It's an-- [laughing] it's amazing about how these things were. And many of the men whom I served with, and this was a signal unit, a large-- we had of our communications in Vietnam. Many of the men whom I served with earlier in the '50s were in this unit that I went to.

Zarbock: When you were an enlisted man.

Hill: Uh-huh, yeah. I had not been in Vietnam. I got in Vietnam, routed to Vietnam in February of '65. Been there only a just a few days and the commander said, "There's a problem up north." One of our senior NCOs had gotten a Dear John letter from his wife and was pretty upset. So they flew me up there, and I got-- as I walked off the plane, here was this NCO who had received the letter. He was my team-- he was my radio team leader when I was a corporal. He was my NCO, and he said, "My God, did you go to OCS and become a chaplain?" But it's amazing how these things come together.

Zarbock: Let me take you back to-- so you have decided to be a military chaplain, and you want to be an Army military chaplain.

Hill: Yes, yes.

Zarbock: So you begin, what? You went down to the recruitment office, and--

Hill: Well, there was a large reserve head-- Army Reserve headquarters there in Atlanta that had a chaplain assigned to it. And he had come out to the seminary from time to time and would talk to students about the Army chaplaincy. I went down to see him and talked to him and got started. And that was in '62, and so I did all the paperwork and went-- later on, went and entered in what we called the seminarian program that you could go and do your-- in the summertime, the Army, if you got your commission and was approved by your church to enter into the program, that you could go ahead and do your basic chaplain's training between your second and third year of seminary. Then if you could get your denomination's approval, when you came out of seminary you could go on active duty. And I did all of that, and so I came on duty-- I graduated in June of 1963, and I came on active duty on July of '63.

Zarbock: But it was during those summer months that somebody taught you this is your left foot, and this is your right foot. This is how you wear a uniform.

Hill: Yeah, a beautiful time too. The school was in an old Army fort out in Long Island Sound right off of Westchester County, a beautiful little-- out in Long Island Sound, and you spent the summer there learning to be a chaplain. That was one of the best assignments I ever had. It was good.

Zarbock: But of course, you had-- well, it sounds like you're following in your father's footsteps a little bit, Army and--

Hill: Yeah, of course, I never saw what-- I never experienced what he had seen, no. But he had a role in it, I'm sure. He was one that I always respected, and I think about it. And I have said this; I should have said that in the beginning. There was only one thing my father wanted for his children and that was that they would have a better chance than he had. And I think-- and that was his goal in life.

Zarbock: Well, let's put you in the-- you're now commissioned-- when you entered the chaplain corps, the Army, what would be your rank?

Hill: Commissioned active duty rank was first lieutenant. While I was in seminary, in the seminarian program, my last year of seminary, I was a second lieutenant.

Zarbock: Well, where were you assigned when you--

Hill: Again, going back to my previous assignment as an enlisted person during the '50s, I was in the Signal Corps. So when I received my first assignment, I was assigned to a signal battalion. And again, in the beginning, there were people with whom I had served eight or nine years ago.

Zarbock: Chaplain, you're like Br'er Rabbit, you keep getting tossed in your briar patch.

Hill: [Laughing] And it just-- it's so-- I don't know. It's exciting, I think, to tell the story. Back in what we call the old Brown Shoe Army, when you're an enlisted person, life wasn't meant to be enjoyable for you, but you-- it was tough duty. And of course, being in the Signal Company, where you had so much rank, senior radio operators and technicians, they did not pull duties like kitchen police and guard and all of that. So we underlings were doing KP duty and guard duty about once every week, one of the two. And kitchen police, then, was not as much as a duty as much as it was a punishment. I mean, you went to work in the kitchen, a coal stove, a coal-fired stove, you know, cooking in South Alabama. You can imagine what that was like with the heat. But anyway, you went to work about 4:00 in the morning, and you got off about 8:00 that evening. And the last thing you did was to scrub down the mess hall with water-- pails of water. And it was late at night, and we had just scrubbed down the mess hall and in came this NCO and mess sergeant, and they had been out drinking. And they took the water hose and just sprayed everything and then they had us to do it again. And I'm-- it came close to someone getting murdered that night, because we were tired and then had to go back over and do it, you know.

Zarbock: Maybe "exhausted" is the right word.

Hill: Yeah. Then seven or eight years later, in June or July of '63, or July of '63, when I came back on active duty into the Signal Corps, there was that NCO again. I'll never forget his name. The name was Ford, and I never did tell him, you know. I told him I knew him before, but I never told him-- but I never could respect the person. And I'd see him; I'd try and stay away from him. I just-- for what he did. He had humiliated us, you know, and just treated us as--

Zarbock: For the pleasure.

Hill: Yeah, yeah. What goes around comes around.

Zarbock: Yeah. Well, where did you locate your family? You're now a genuine first lieutenant.

Hill: Yes. And we were stationed at Fort Gordon, which again is the home of the Army Signal Corps. And we lived in Martinez, or as they say, Martinez, but in Georgia, you say Martinez. And we bought our home, and I think we paid $18,000 for a new home. And I had been there less than three years; we had our third child in the fall of '64. Two weeks after he was born, I got alerted for orders to Vietnam. So I left my wife with our 11-year-old daughter, a two-year-old son, and a--

Zarbock: Infant.

Hill: And an infant, that's right, less than a month old, and I got to leave.

Zarbock: How did you get to Vietnam?

Hill: We flew from there to San Francisco, and then out of San Francisco, flew to Vietnam to Southern...

Zarbock: So you did not go as a unit.

Hill: No, no, I was an individual replacement. The unit was already there, and it was that unit that I was going to that the chaplain who wrote the letter, that was the unit that I was going to, yeah.

Zarbock: It was the signal unit.

Hill: Signal unit, yeah, 39th Signal Battalion. And I was with the 40th here in the States. And the 39th left Gordon and went to Vietnam. It was the first battalion-sized Army unit in the country. And so, I felt privileged in some way to be a part of that.

Zarbock: So when you flew over, it was a military aircraft, probably with--

Hill: All of us were replacements coming-- those are-- you know, the build-up, or not the build-up, but the advisory stage of Vietnam had been going on for 10 years or more. And they were about-- I think they were telling or the number they were using, there were about 18,000 Americans, the military in Vietnam at that time, so it was just beginning.

Zarbock: All right, so you land in Vietnam. The engines stop. They open the door.

Hill: Oh, Lord, [laughing] was it hot, and it was right before monsoon, you know, the seasonal rains, humid and hot. I thought I was going to croak. But here I am, a lieutenant, been in the Army less than three years, and I met colonels and lieutenant colonels and all of this had come out to meet me. I was the only chaplain on the way. Oh wow, I'm somebody [laughing], you know, and before I left, well, people were streaming in there by the thousands, you know, but there were just so few of us at that time. They would come out and greet a green first lieutenant. [Laughing] It was interesting; the senior chaplain over there, another fellow by Dean, he didn't want-- he tried to get my orders diverted, because he didn't think I had enough experience to be there. And later on, they were sending them in like cannon fodder, you know. Experience didn't mean anything; get over there. So it was a real change in life. Of course, I must say I was excited about going. Fearful for my-- I guess I was fearful, in some ways, for my family. But again, they were in a community where there were several of us that would be leaving, and the Army wives stayed together. And it was-- I cannot tell you, I was excited about it.

Zarbock: Paint me a picture of life as you-- there it is, steamy hot. You've got this welcoming committee.

Hill: Yeah.

Zarbock: You must be tired from the flight.

Hill: Oh, yeah.

Zarbock: Where did they put you?

Hill: Well, we had-- we lived-- the officers at that time in the unit lived down in Saigon in a former French girls' private school on Pasteur Street. I remember that, nice place. And life was good, because the build-up hadn't started yet. Oh, there were some bombings going off and things like that, but it was good. And the first night there, me being a young lieutenant and been flying on a plane, I ain't, the trip altogether, from San Francisco was about like 14 or 16 hours, with the layovers. And a couple officers wanted to take me downtown and celebrate. [Laughing.] Well, I'll never forget it, and they introduced me to French coffee. It's real thick and strong, oh gosh. But anyway, and I'd lie down and try to go to sleep for several nights, and I'd always be flying. It took awhile to get acclimated to that and to the heat. It was just-- again, it was getting very humid and hot. And it took me awhile to get acclimated to it.

Zarbock: What duties were assigned to you, and who did the assigning?

Hill: Well, I was assigned to that unit by the Chief of Chaplain's Office in Washington, D.C. Then, once you get to the unit, you belong to the unit, and the commander is your commander. And he can, you know, some of them, they don't have much to do with you. They don't know what do to with you. But you have regulations that you know about that you're responsible for, and some of them will leave you alone, and you do your duties of being out with the troops, holding-- conducting services. And then again, I did not have much experience. I was less than three years, and there I was in this foreign country with-- I think our unit was over 27 different sites throughout the country. We had to fly everywhere to go to, and I think I-- in flying to those different units, in one year I accumulated, I think, it was about 130 flying hours. So I did a lot of flying.

Zarbock: This was helicopter or--

Hill: Helicopters and fixed wing, small fixed wing, and so I saw a lot of-- I've seen a lot more of Vietnam than I have seen in the United States. I think I've seen all of Vietnam from the air. But you would do a lot of visitation to the men that were out in the boondocks, so to speak, as we called it. And a lot of times it would be just be visiting. And I being a former Signal Corps personnel, I could go into a radio set and talk their language and take some cod with them or whatever they were doing, and that was helpful.

Zarbock: You fit.

Hill: I fit in, and I think that was part of it of assigning me to that unit.

Zarbock: Now, when you got to a unit, was this-- describe and define this. This is not a large military unit.

Hill: No. This was a battalion-size unit, and that's about oh, 750 personnel. But we were a large augmented unit, and so we probably had over 1,000.

Zarbock: But these were scattered?

Hill: Oh yeah, they were scattered, as I said, in 27 different installations, from the tip-- southern tip of Vietnam all the way up to the northern.

Zarbock: So the unit may contain 50, 60 people or less?

Hill: Yeah, yeah. They would have several radio stations or installations at a certain strategic point, and they would provide communications for it. They called us-- they called that unit the ATT of Vietnam. They maintained the communication.

Zarbock: Would the unit know that you were coming before you got there?

Hill: Yes, yes, yeah. It's interesting; up to that time, and even it was after I left, that all chaplains assigned to that unit were United Methodists, because you were the only chaplain. And we are the middle-of-the-roaders in Protestantism, and we can-- we don't have any restrictions as to what we can do with the-- well, we have restrictions, but it's open, and we can minister to a wide variety of faith groups.

Zarbock: When you came in, I'm going to-- a little more picture here. So you get on this fixed wing aircraft, and off you go, and you land in this tiny little field in a unit of-- I'll make it up and say 40 people, okay. How were you received? What was the emotion connected with your visit? And what about the commanding officer of the facility? And that probably--

Hill: No. You were on your own. The military expects you to take care of yourself, and you've got to know what you're supposed to do. And particularly with the chaplain, you've got to-- you've got to offer your ministry, whatever that ministry is. You don't get any hindrance to it, but a lot of times I would show up unannounced. If there was plane going somewhere, I'd get on it and go. And the men are working at the various-- a lot of times, you weren't able to hold services, because the demands of the mission wouldn't allow it. They had to be doing what they were doing. So you would visit, and unfortunately and a lot of times, you would go because, again, someone else had received a letter from home that was very disturbing. And I always tried to take some type of literature with me or something, a devotional book, a daily devotion book or something that I could leave with the men.

Zarbock: Chaplain, I'm amazed. How would the word get passed back that sergeant Joe Smith's wife wrote him a Dear John? How did that information get passed back?

Hill: Usually, the commander of the individual concerned would get involved because they've got-- one of the things a commander's got to do is make sure he takes care of the welfare of that individual. And certainly it impacts the welfare with something like that. And then immediately they would call, most of the time, they would call the chaplain.

Zarbock: And ask that assistance be brought.

Hill: Uh-huh. And then the chaplain would say-- would recommend that this person needs to go home because of the severity of the problem. At that time, they would allow that to happen. They would get him back on emergency-- 30-day emergency leave, or if it were real bad and they followed up back in the States when he got here, they would just transfer him back to the States.

Zarbock: Permanent.

Hill: Uh-huh.

Zarbock: Chaplain, what would you say when you walked up to Sergeant Joe Jones, and he's just disassembled and what do you say? How do you handle this anguish?

Hill: Well, there's a concept we call the Ministry of Presence. And that was one of the duties of the chaplain, of being a chaplain is being present for people who are in crisis situations. You don't have an answer, but you're present, and you're there, and you listen. And you know-- if you can build up the rapport in a unit with the commanders where they respect you and you make a recommendation, and if it's within their power, they'll follow it.

Zarbock: I said facetiously off-camera that I was-- one of the offerings I've made you is electronic immortality--

Hill: Uh-huh.

Zarbock: That you'll never be a day older. I, for example, keep thinking of ex-President Kennedy as being, oh in his 40s. Well, for heaven's sakes, he'd be in his 80s, if alive right now. So you'll never be a day older than you are. However, people who will see this videotape and read the transcription may be years and years and years from now, and that puts you-- and I talk about, I think, knowledgeably, when it comes to history and the events that have taken place, but maybe bewildered. So you're given that. Your position with Sergeant Joe Jones is simply to listen and what?

Hill: To listen, and knowing what is available, what are the alternatives here? Can the Army, within its regulations and restraints and needs, can it make an exception to this person? And again, all you can do is make recommendations. But the chaplaincy, in many units, and again this depends on the commander and the way he perceives the chaplain, will listen to or not listen to what the chaplain has recommended.

Zarbock: And this is the point I'm going to ask you a question I've asked all of the chaplains. Chaplain, at any time during-- how long were you in the military?

Hill: Altogether, about 22 years active.

Zarbock: And that counts the whole-- could you stretch that a little bit?

Hill: From the previous times, yeah. Two years enlisted and 20 years as a chaplain.

Zarbock: Okay, not during your enlisted period, but as a chaplain--

Hill: Uh-huh.

Zarbock: Was there ever an event in your professional life when you were ordered or broadly hinted or with a nudge and a wink, asked or told to do something, that was in violation of your personal belief, ethic, sense of morality?

Hill: Yeah, and yes, that happened once. Flash forward to, I'm out of Vietnam now, and I'm assigned to Fort Huachuca, Arizona. And then I--

Zarbock: By the way, how do you spell Huachuca?

Hill: H-u-a-c-h-u-c-a. Why did you ask me for that? You just see if I can-- I'm willing to spell it. [Laughing] I hope I can spell it. I hope that, H-u-a-c-h-u-c-a. Huachuca.

Zarbock: That's for the benefit of the transcriber.

Hill: Good luck. I hope that's right. And I had-- they were building up-- Huachuca was building up. It was going to be a training center for getting people ready to go to Vietnam, one of the training centers. So it was a training center atmosphere. And I had a commander, who was an old colonel, and he came up-- again, he came up through the ranks and a good man, a good man. And he loved the Army and its ways. He was in chapel every Sunday, and he wanted to sit on the front pew on the right-- I believe it's the right side, the first seat, the first pew on the right side. And he also wanted to be the first to receive Holy Communion.

Zarbock: RHIP.

Hill: Yeah, and he gave me that order, and I said, "No, sir. I can't do that." And so he had me transferred, which was his prerogative to do that. But then when he came to evaluate--

Zarbock: Transferred--

Hill: He transferred me out--

Zarbock: Off base?

Hill: No, no, he transferred me out of that chapel and moved me over to another chapel where he would not be. But then when he came to evaluate me, he wrote about integrity. He wrote me up for being-- for my integrity of standing by what I believe and what the church taught. I think that's the only time I really had pressure to do something that went against what I believed.

Zarbock: One of the extraordinarily complex and interesting aspects of these interviews is when it combines that Sword of Damocles that hangs over your head, the evaluation.

Hill: Oh, yeah.

Zarbock: And the subtle order or overt demands placed upon you. And sometimes, in other interviews, there have been a tremendous, tremendous explosion of values.

Hill: That was always a very anxious time when you were evaluated, because that was your bread and butter. And you could do a tremendous job as a chaplain and be faithful to your calling, but if your commander didn't want to write that up or didn't see it that way, boy, you were cooked.

Zarbock: Yeah, and whom among us could say, "I thank the God that I'm not like lesser men who would buckle"?

Hill: [Laughter] Yeah, it was-- and then at that time-- oh, later on, when you were drawing down in size and people were being eliminated, and if you had a bad OER, boom, you were gone.

Zarbock: OER is?

Hill: Oh, Officer Efficiency Report, which was the evaluation, and of course, those things accumulated, you know. You got one or two or maybe three a year, and that determined whether you were going to be promoted or not.

Zarbock: So that there is always the temptation-- and this is not a personal accusation, but theoretically and in the abstract, there's always, always, in any complex organization the feeling of to get along, you've got to go along. Now that doesn't identify the Chaplain Corps any more than it does any other organization.

Hill: But there is a big degree of that, just by the very nature of it. You have to know that the commander-- well, the regulations state the commander is responsible for everything his unit does or does not do. And he's God, and so you've got to figure out what kind of person is this, "Can I work with him?" Whatever. And by and large, I think a pretty good rapport with commanders. Well, some of them would probably just leave you alone, but I knew one commander who I not-- not only was I his chaplain, but I think I was his pastor, and there is a difference. He would always call me, and he'd say-- if he said, "Chaplain, come over. I want see you." I knew that was in the channels. But if he said, "Don, come over a few minutes and let's talk." I knew that was different. (tape change)

Zarbock: This is Tape Number 2, Military Chaplains Oral History Project, 7 November 2007; Tape Number Two of Chaplain Donald Hill.

Hill: One of the things I think anyone who's considering the military chaplaincy, as a ministry, has got to remember, that they're on loan from the church to the military, and that is-- that, they have to remember that, because we wear the uniform but we're representing our church, and we have our church's blessing, or endorsement, to represent the church in this institution. And sadly for me, I remember and see chaplains who, who they, don't they; when they retire, they don't continue to serve actively as a pastor. They continually, or they continue to want to do some type of, quote, "chaplain work"-- whatever that is-- instead of just coming out and being what you were trained to be, and that is to be a pastor of a local church. I have been surprised the number of retired chaplains who never go back and use those experiences and training to the...

Zarbock: To enrich, yes.

Hill: ...betterment and to enrich the local church. And they surely could do that. So I would encourage you to remember that.

Zarbock: Again, Chaplain-- I've asked other chaplains this-- I'd like you to make, please, language bookends. Bookend number one, funny things, a funny incident or incidents that you can remember in your career; the other bookend, sad things, those things that still appear on foggy nights; and in between those bookends the ridiculousness that may, that you observed. For example, when I enlisted in the Army-- as a, it was a private-- I was given a serial number of Fort Sheridan, Illinois. It was very late in the afternoon, and things were very crowded, and my serial number was 17228444. Well apparently that event shut down the entire army because the guy ahead of me was also 17228444.

Hill: That can't happen.

Zarbock: You can't have two people with the same serial number.

Hill: No.

Zarbock: So the military establishment came to a halt until about mid-morning the next day...

Hill: Wow, how did this happen?

Zarbock: ...when I became 17228445. Now the logic of that--.

Hill: Yeah, yeah.

Zarbock: So how about funny things, the humorous events? It's not all stark in the military.

Hill: No. No, well, I guess this is humorous. It wasn't humorous for the people that were going through it, but now you look back on it, and it has to be hilarious. It was back when I was stationed at Fort Bragg and I was with the Special Forces-- and this was in the early '70s. And I was at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Chapel, which is a very famous, a well-know chapel there at Bragg and throughout the army. And there were a lot of weddings that were scheduled for there-- a beautiful place. And so I was scheduled to do a wedding for one of our lieutenants, and when the time came for the wedding the chapel was being renovated, so we had to move, we had to move to another chapel to have a wedding, a formal military wedding, a Saturday afternoon, and the chapel that we were going to was about a half a mile up the road, at a little higher elevation than where John F. Kennedy Chapel was.

And I lived even further up the road, and when I was on top of the hill-- and it was a Saturday afternoon, and I was going to this new chapel to do the wedding-- I saw, coming up the hill, toward the chapel, a funeral procession. And I said, "This can't be." There's only one place they could be going, and that was the chapel where we were to have the wedding. There was a funeral scheduled for the same time we were to have the wedding, and it was left up to me to, how we're going to handle this.

And so I made the decision, right or wrong, that we would postpone the wedding, one hour. Here was the wedding, the bride there in the wedding dress and all that. And they had the funeral. And we, after it was-- after the funeral was over and we went to the-- went back into the chapel to start the wedding, the bride was so upset, and rightly so. The dream day had been ruined-- not anything that I had done, but that someone else in that chapel had done. Fainted three times, in the wedding, and we had to finish it with her sitting in a chair. I look back on that, the comedy of errors, just unbelievable things that happened. Okay, here, how many times do you see a funeral and a wedding, the beginning and the ending, scheduled for the same time? And that was probably the most embarrassing moment that I've ever had as a pastor, was to have to have-- but somebody-- somehow you got-- somebody's got to take hold and say, "We got to make a decision here." I was going to do it.

Zarbock: Let me pick up on that theme, because again this is one of the reoccurring themes in many of the interviews, that the chaplain would say, "I was there and somebody had to make a decision, and I made a decision."

Hill: Yes.

Zarbock: "It seemed to fall within my province. It wasn't fish or fowl, it was the chaplain's call."

Hill: And I think that they expect that, when it comes to decisions that have to do something with your work as a chaplain, with your role as a chaplain, and you've got to be able to make a decision. And that will serve you later very well. But that was not a good day but it was-- but now I look back on it and it's very funny, how we got through it.

Zarbock: What about sad events?

Hill: Sad. Well one of the sad-- just thinking about it, quickly-- was in Vietnam, meeting my team leader, who had received a letter from his wife, whom I had known earlier, when I was an enlisted person. And what a strong marriage it appeared to me they'd had; they'd been married several years. And to be with him that day and to see how he was reacting to it and-- because I had known him as an NCO who was my superior, and now I saw him just breaking up because of what had happened to him. Being a young chaplain, that was sad. Let me get back to the fun-- this was a good one, you'll like this one. This is what I call my prostitute in a chapel story. This was at Fort Gordon, and it was before I went to Vietnam. In wintertime and at that-- they still had the old coal-fired furnaces- barracks, and they had used soldiers to go around at night to keep the fire stoked. And at that time in the Army-- and it's interesting to see how things have changed. When I went into the Army in '63, there was a regulation that said the chapel could never be locked. It had to be open for any time anybody wanted to come in, to meditate or pray or just sit there, they could do that. So one of the firemen would come in after he'd make his rounds and just sit there, in the evening, and of course there'd be-- the heat would be on and he would just rest. Well this one particular fireman was there one evening, and--

Zarbock: By fireman, you mean somebody who-- Fuel.

Hill: Who was charged with keeping the furnaces going, and it was a duty just like KP or any other duty. So he was sitting on the back pew of Chapel Number 6 at Fort Gordon, in the dead of winter, in the night, and he's looking toward the Chancel. And all at once he sees off the front pew a woman in a negligee rise up. And she starts walking back toward him, and she offers to share her wares, as I say-- I hope I'm not being too vulgar. And he's dumbfounded. Can you imagine? Now you're a young man and you're in the chapel, and you know what a chapel is-- a place of worship-- and this happens to you.

So anyway, I can't tell all the story, it's too long, but he comes in the next day and he says, "You know, my mother will never believe this, that I finally went to church, and look what happened to me." Well anyway, that story got all over post, and it was right at New Year's, and we had a New Year's reception at the General's house a couple of days after that. And I went through the line and he said, the General said, "Chaplain, are you the chaplain that has the chapel there were the lady was dressed out in a negligee?" And I said, "Yes, sir." Well, he just started laughing. But I remember him saying, "My mother will not believe-- I want to tell her I've been to church, but how can I tell her what happened to me?" That was funny, one of the funniest things-- I guess that takes the cake. The woman in Chapel 6, that story got around quite a bit, yes.

Now, sad, it would have to be-- not sad so much but it was traumatic, probably one of the most traumatic events; and I didn't know how traumatic at the time. In Vietnam, and it was a Sunday afternoon. The buildup had started, troops were coming in by the droves, and--.

Zarbock: I'm going to interrupt and ask you again, for the purpose of interpreting what you know historically, but in the future may be bewildering, what do you mean by 'the buildup'? What had happened prior to, and then--?

Hill: Oh, sorry, we had--. Oh, I apologize. We had moved from an advisory team, advisory status in Vietnam where we just advising the Vietnamese forces and supporting them logistically, until we were going to commit large scale combat units. So the divisions started coming in, brigades, all combat units, and they were just coming in by thousands. And so, this was a very hectic time. Well, as they were coming in and trying to get settled, one of the new units, a chopper, had gone down, and it so happened that I happened to be at the place where those who had survived or not, who were on the chopper, where they were being treated. Some of them were badly burned, some were dead, others were still alive, and they were working feverishly with the survivors. And I always remember I was holding a plasma of some sort, and they hadn't got the tubes inserted real firm. And anyway, I remember the liquid was flowing down my arm as I held it. And the person died. I never did get his name.

But anyway, I didn't think much about that anymore, and I came back to the States and resumed my normal duties as a chaplain. And I had a commander who, he wanted every Sunday for me and him, he wanted-- for me and him. That's right, I guess; being pronouns-- to go to the hospital to visit, and to visit the men of the unit that were there. And I remember I would go and I'd start getting anxious; sweat would break out, I'd want to run away. And throughout my ministry even-- not only as a chaplain, but later on even as a pastor-- I had trouble visiting, until my-- and this was in my retirement years-- our 16 or 17-year-old son at the time, was involved in a near-fatal accident just a couple of blocks from where we lived.

And I went to the hospital Emergency Room, and he was there and they were just beginning to work on him, and he was covered in blood and they had all these tubes running through him, and bingo, I was back in Vietnam. And I had suppressed that, all this time, until I saw my son. And that helped; then I could begin to handle my feelings, because I knew where they were springing from. But that affected me emotionally for a number of years. I remember going-- I would have to go to the hospital-- as a pastor now; this is later, when I've retired and serving churches-- and I would have to go make a hospital visit. And I would pray, oh Lord, let this person be asleep, or let them be discharged, just anything for me having to go there. It was a-- it took an emotional toll on me. You hear about people suppressing things, but that was certainly true for me. Probably the most traumatic thing that I think happened to me. That had ramifications for years to come.

Zarbock: Chaplain, you said you served with the Special Forces.

Hill: Mm-hmm.

Zarbock: What sort of rite of passage did you have to go through with the Special Forces?

Hill: Oh, there's some funny things there. I was 39 when I was assigned to the Special Forces-- 39 or 38, right at the upper margin of where you could go to jump school to get qualified to be a jumper.

Zarbock: Did you want to, or were you ordered?

Hill: I wanted to, I wanted to. And it's just like going to the training station or something. And so I went to jump school and passed and served three years with the Special Forces; and a very interesting three years and a lot of good experiences. I learned a lot. I remember the first time I went out to the field after I had joined the unit, and we were flying from Fort Bragg to Montana, to do some winter training, and we were jumping in. And we left Bragg early in the morning in a C-130, which was just a prop driven plane. And there were, I don't know, maybe 30 or 40 or 50 of us on this plane. And in flight they took some-- or before we left Bragg they took some lunches for us, box lunches. So I, being the new chaplain, I thought, "Well, this is a good way to get them in, I'll just pass out the chow, I'll pass out the boxes of chow." I passed them out and there was one short. So, I didn't have anything to eat. And one of the old guys, who knew his way around the Special Forces, he said, "Chaplain, you gotta learn to take care of yourself in this unit." So I went from early that morning to late that night without any food, jumping into a field that was covered in about three feet of snow, and you had to walk about a mile or so to get to the pickup point, and me starving and sweating and all of that. And I thought, "Well, okay, I'll learn to take care of myself." But that was-- I learned a lesson that day. And being with Special Forces was very exciting. We got to do some exciting things and go to exciting places. And it was just good being with the men.

Zarbock: One of the things I've learned from Navy chaplains, when they would serve with the Marines, and all of us, and I think-- well I wonder if it carries over to all the other Special Units. The Navy chaplain said if the Marine did it, you better do it. If it was a 25 mile hike, all night, you went on a--.

Hill: Yeah.

Zarbock: And if you didn't, you'd soon be called out.

Hill: No, in the Army-- and this is one of the things that appealed to me-- the chaplain was assigned to the unit. In the Marines, I think they're attached, because they're Navy, and they're attached to the Marines. And I think there's a little stronger bond when you're part of the unit. You wear the same clothing they wear, you wear the same emblems, insignias, and there is a camaraderie there. And I liked that about the Army, and that's one of the reasons why I chose the Army over the branches, was because of that identity with the unit; that where the unit went you went with them, because you were part of that unit.

Zarbock: And the chaplain and the people in the unit shared a common military history.

Hill: Yes, yes.

Zarbock: If you're in the Navy there's a Navy history.

Hill: Yes.

Zarbock: And if you're attached to the Marines you're attached to the Marines, but the Marines have their own history.

Hill: Yes, and see, the Marines and the Navy, you go in and out. You're not always with the Marines. You'll go back to shipboard, which is entirely different than being in the field with the Marines. And your duties are quite different. For example-- maybe I shouldn't say this-- but in the Navy, you can be a recreational officer. They can assign you do it. You can't do that in the Army. You can't assign a minister to do any other thing than being the spiritual leader of the unit, being a chaplain right there. So that appealed to me.

Zarbock: What other field experience had you with Special Forces, in addition to jumping into snowy Montana?

Hill: Well, we-- the one unit I was assigned to, Special Forces was tasked-- and this was when just the all-volunteer army was beginning, and the end, the Draft was coming to an end. And the type of personnel we were seeing was beginning to be different, because the Draft was coming to an end, plus, you had all of this drug going on outside, and that culture was coming into the military. And the Army was trying to find a way: "How are we going to deal with these problem soldiers who are hooked on drugs?" So they tasked the Special Forces to come up with a type of an adventure training where we would take these people who weren't bad folks, but they just, they were hooked on drugs and living that kind of life of just not being soldier material. So we would take, we were tasked with taking maybe 12 or 15 recalcitrant soldiers out into the woods somewhere. We'd go to Arizona, Montana, up in North Carolina and Tennessee, and we would live-- we'd take a special, about three or four Special Forces, trained leaders who could teach leadership and skills and the out of doors, and we would live for 30 days with these 15 individuals, doing all kinds of exciting things, challenging things, giving them a chance to be a leader.

Zarbock: What sort of challenging?

Hill: Well, for example, rapelling off of cliffs; hiking 25, 30 miles a day; going down rivers of rapids, learning to survive in that; working as a team.

Zarbock: Were you required to do that, too?

Hill: Yes, and one of the key elements of the staff was the chaplain, and the evaluations and the input to the chaplain. So I was selected to be part of that. And so I spent about a year and a half of going out and living in the wilderness with these men. And the Army finally decided, "Hey, we're not supposed to do this, get rid of them." So all that we did had come to naught. But it was a good time. I was surprised. I remember one time we were in Montana, a beautiful setting, pastoral, back country setting, and it was late in the afternoon and this-- One of our students was from Washington, DC, and had come up through not a very good environment. And we were sort of spread out around a campfire, and there was a little field mouse right in front of him, and he had a knife, and he went k---eh, and killed a little mouse. And a young lieutenant just jumped all over him that he didn't appreciate nature and why didn't he take care of that; why did he have to kill that mouse? And I remember what this fellow said-- a black solder-- he said, "Sir, where I come from, those mice bite babies." Wow. We live in different worlds.

Zarbock: Yes.

Hill: And so I did that for about a year and a half, living in the woods with a group of guys that didn't want to be there necessarily.

Zarbock: We're just about out of tape here, but I wanted to give you some time to reflect on that final question. Looking over your shoulder at your early childhood and coming of age and development, your educational experience, family, military experience, post-military experience, what sort of credo have you put together for you?

Hill: Well I think, in my life, the church has certainly been an integral part of it. Who I am today, I owe to the church. The church showed great faith in me and gave me a unique opportunity to represent it in what we called in the Methodist Church, the ministry beyond the local church, beyond the spiritual front, on the spiritual frontiers, in unusual settings. It was a challenging, exciting time, but it also had its dangers; not physical dangers, but spiritual dangers. And any time you're out beyond, you're on the frontier, and things are not always cut and dry, there, and there are many dangers, and many challenges. And I'm grateful that I had, that I was part of that.

I had, I think because of my previous experience as an enlisted person, I've had a real affinity for the soldier. I love the soldier-- my life experiences, I still do. I did some research in retirement, reading a book about, written up in history, a chaplain from Korean War, written up in a well-documented historical work, as being an unknown wounded chaplain; and in the work he was not identified. And I identified him, and then got to tell his family-- and I located him. I'm no historian, but I wanted to tell this person's story. And I was able to do that, when I located some of the units that he, or some of the survivors of units that he was with. He was killed. He's still missing in action, in Korea, and I got to tell his family what happened to him. They didn't know. This was 50 years later, and I got to meet his family and tell them; the last days of his life, the last hours of his life.

Zarbock: How did you locate that information?

Hill: Well, again, I'm no historian. I've never done anything like this before, but it was just those words-- an unknown wounded chaplain. I said "God, here you are, written up in history as an unknown." Who is this person? And so, searching-- I was searching chaplain records-- I was able to identify him for sure. But then I was able to find survivors of his unit who had formed a reunion group, and I wrote about 100 of them, and they wrote me back. Well, so I was able to identify that, and then he was, I found out that he was an Episcopal priest, and then I found his service record, and then I had everything. And I located his family, and they did not know what had happened to him. He's still missing in action. Well, he was missing, he's never been- his body's never been recovered, and I was able to tell the family what happened, or his daughters, what happened. And we honored him, and-- here I'm tooting my horn a little bit-- he was awarded the Silver Star 50 years after the fact, because of my research.

Zarbock: Well done, Chaplain.

Hill: Yes, it's been the biggest joy in my life.

Zarbock: Well done.

Hill: And again I think it was meant to happen. I think that somebody had to tell that story. And they got to meet, the daughters got to meet the man that was with him when he died, and they didn't, no one had ever told them what had happened; well, they didn't know what had happened. It was during the Korean War when the Chinese came in across, you know that big debacle, and yes.

Zarbock: Chaplain, thank you for making the time to be with me.

Hill: Well thank you for inviting me, it's been a--.

Zarbock: I appreciate it, Chaplain.

Hill: I just love to tell stories, so.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign