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Interview with Richard G. Hutcheson, April 25, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Richard G. Hutcheson, April 25, 2003
April 25, 2003
Interview with retired U.S. Navy Chaplain Richard G. Hutcheson.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hutcheson, Richard G. Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  4/25/2003 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  55 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s library. We’re in McLean, Virginia and today’s date is the 25th of April in the year 2003. This is the military chaplain’s project at the university. Our interviewee today is Richard G. Hutcheson, Jr., retired from the U.S. Navy.

Zarbock: Sir, good afternoon and thank you for making the time. Your faith group is of the Presbyterian church, is that correct?

Hutcheson: Yes.

Zarbock: Would you tell me please sir, what were the series of events if there were a series of events that led you into the ministry?

Hutcheson: I’d have to begin with the fact that my father was a Presbyterian minister and that presumably inclined me that way because there were four sons in the family and all four of them became Presbyterian ministers. I was the oldest and I made my decision to enter the ministry when I was in college.

In the fall of my junior year in college, we got a new professor of religion who was also the campus chaplain, a recent Ph.D. from Yale Divinity School who had a great deal of influence on me. That fall of my junior year in college, we had a religious emphasis week and I had what was to me a profoundly religious experience during that religious emphasis week.

I guess I would have to say it was a combination of my background, my father being a minister, this professor who had a profound influence on me and my experience during that religious emphasis week that led me to decide to become a ministerial student.

Zarbock: What college were you attending?

Hutcheson: Emory and Henry College in southwest Virginia. A Methodist college incidentally.

Zarbock: Know it well, yes.

Hutcheson: I became a ministerial student at that time and began exploring seminary prospects and applied to and was accepted by Yale Divinity School.

Zarbock: And what year were you accepted, do you remember?

Hutcheson: That would have been 1941.

Zarbock: And how old were you in those days?

Hutcheson: Well I would have been 18 or 19. I was born in 1921.

Zarbock: You would have been 20 in ’41.

Hutcheson: Yeah.

Zarbock: Had you graduated from Emory and Henry?

Hutcheson: No, and actually my becoming a Navy chaplain was pretty much tied up with that decision to enter the ministry. Pearl Harbor came in December of my senior year. That would have been December 1941, and it would have been in the spring of ’41 that I was exploring the ministry. The coming of World War II changed everything. I was exploring all through the rest of that academic year my senior year what I ought to do, whether I should continue on my course to become a minister or whether I should enter the service.

That spring I decided I’d enter the service. The Navy instituted a program for “90-day wonders” that they turned into ensigns and there was a provision if you were a senior in college that you could be accepted by that program, finish college and go on active duty right after college. So I decided to do that. I called my father and got him very upset, but he understood that I felt that was what I had to do.

So I set out to go to Kingsport, Tennessee and I was hitchhiking. That was my way of traveling in that period.

Zarbock: And this is before interstate highways.

Hutcheson: Much before, yes. The president of my college heard what I was doing and he got in his car and drove out to the highway where I was walking on my way out to hitchhike and asked me to get in the car and he took me back to his office and we talked. I decided as a result of that conversation with him not to go ahead and enter the Navy as a line officer, instead to complete my college and seminary and try to enter as a chaplain in the Navy. So that was what I ended up doing.

Zarbock: What a remarkable event.

Hutcheson: It was, it was really a turning point.

Zarbock: What was his name, do you remember?

Hutcheson: I can’t even think of it at the moment. He hadn’t been there very long. He was a new president of the college, but I’m sorry his name escapes me right now.

Zarbock: So you finished your academic work in southwestern Virginia.

Hutcheson: And I went to Yale Divinity School the following fall. In my middle year at seminary, the Navy started a program for training theological students to become chaplains. It was called V-12. V-12 at that time prepared a number of officers in different fields, but they instituted a program in seminaries and so in the middle of my middle year in January 1944, that would have been wouldn’t it, I entered this Navy program and for my final year in seminary, I was in uniform as a sailor, as an apprentice seaman.

I remained right in my same room with my same civilian roommate, didn't actually wear a uniform except on rare occasions. Finished my seminary on an accelerated scale and in January 1945, I was commissioned a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Chaplain Corps and entered active duty as a chaplain.

Zarbock: So you went from basic seaman to an officer by the stroke of a pen.

Hutcheson: The stroke of a pen and as it happened I and one other seminary student were the first two to enter the Navy from this V-12 program. So we were sort of pioneers. His name was Ronald Sleeth. I don’t know whether you ever heard of him or not. He later became President of West Virginia Wesleyan University. He was a seminary professor down in Southern Methodist I believe. He and I entered the Chaplain Corps together as the first two products of the Navy V-12 program.

As a result of the fact that I was young to start. I graduated from high school at 16 and had an accelerated last year in seminary. I was 23 when I went on active duty as a chaplain. I was the youngest chaplain in the Navy at that time.

Zarbock: I forgot to ask you, where was your family living, your family of origin living in Virginia?

Hutcheson: They were living in South Carolina at that time.

Zarbock: On the seacoast?

Hutcheson: Mullins, South Carolina about 50 miles in from the seacoast.

Zarbock: Well there’s not much ocean there, is there?

Hutcheson: No, but I had grown up in eastern Virginia and had frequently been to Norfolk and the Navy was something that appealed to me from a very early stage of my life.

Zarbock: The reason for that is I interviewed a gentleman who had never been on a boat or a ship larger than a rowboat until he was commissioned and ended up being placed on a good sized ship in Chesapeake Bay and he said, “Gee, these things are big” (laughter). So there was some experience and knowledge of seafaring activities, ocean related.

Hutcheson: Well just as a visitor to ships in Norfolk, just that kind of thing. I had no real immersion in anything related to the Navy or seagoing, but I had always had an interest in it. Never had to ponder do I want to go into the Air Force, the Army or the Navy. It was automatically the Navy for me.

Zarbock: Well who taught you to be a Navy officer?

Hutcheson: Chaplain school.

Zarbock: Where was that and when was that?

Hutcheson: That was in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the time, at the College of William and Mary. This was the last year of the Second World War. I came on active duty as a chaplain in January of 1945. Went to the Chaplains School at Williamsburg and they really did a fine job, I thought, of taking preachers and turning them into sailors of sorts.

Zarbock: What was the curriculum? Was it focused on an orientation to Navy manners and methods?

Hutcheson: Yes, almost exclusively. The Navy took the attitude that your training as a minister was the responsibility of your church and it didn't try…my seminary curriculum didn't change one iota that last year I was in the Navy. It was exactly the same. What the Navy tried to do was teach me how to do it in a Navy setting.

Zarbock: Did you find it difficult?

Hutcheson: No, I enjoyed chaplain school thoroughly. It was a boot camp kind of thing in a sense. We did lots of drilling and being taught to make our beds so you could bounce a quarter from them and that sort of thing and I enjoyed it all.

Zarbock: Were there any weapons training?

Hutcheson: Not at that time.

Zarbock: Has that changed by the way?

Hutcheson: I don’t think it has. I’m sure there’s no weapons training in the chaplains school. The only weapons training I ever had was before I went to duty with the 1st Marine division during the Korean War. I had some weapons training even though chaplains are not allowed to carry weapons, to bear arms, I did have some familiarization training at that time.

Zarbock: Well okay, you’re now in chaplain school. The war is just about at an end isn’t it?

Hutcheson: It ended in August of that year so I had from January to August during the Second World War.

Zarbock: Where did you serve or what was your first duty assignment after you completed your…

Hutcheson: I was sent to my first duty assignment at the naval base in Norfolk, but after just two or three months there, I got orders for my first ship. My first ship was a troop transport called the Admiral Benson, USS Admiral W. S. Benson, a wonderful first assignment. It carried 5000 troops. The Navy complement of the ship was relatively small, maybe 500 people as my permanent parish, but our job was carrying troops and we almost always had troops aboard, 5000 of them.

Zarbock: From where to where would you carry the troops?

Hutcheson: Well my first cruise was a really interesting one along that line. I joined the ship in Norfolk and we sailed for the Mediterranean, went to Marseilles and this was in the spring of 1945. The European war had just ended in April. We picked up 5000 Army troops in Marseilles, loaded them aboard and headed out, and they all thought they were going home.

Here they were veterans of the European war, although most of them hadn’t actually seen any combat. Instead we steamed straight for the Panama Canal and through the canal and they began to get worried, but they assumed that we were going around to a Pacific port to take them home so they weren’t too worried at that point. We went through the canal and headed straight across the Pacific 10 degrees north of Equator and that was when it was really something.

They were a sad bunch of troops headed for the war that was still going on in Japan. Ships in those days were not air-conditioned. 10 degrees north of the Equator, 5000 men jammed together on this ship. Oh what a trip. We went to Manila and unloaded them all there and had the war continued, they would have been part of the invasion force in Japan. But before we got to Manila, we were at Ulithe Atoll, the Pacific war ended. So they were saved by the bell.

Zarbock: How did you get that information that the war was over.

Hutcheson: Well it became public information by radio once it actually took place.

Zarbock: Were you on the ship with the troops?

Hutcheson: On the ship with the troops. The service of Thanksgiving was well attended. I still have a picture of that service. The whole topside of the ship just crowded with troops.

Zarbock: Were you the only chaplain?

Hutcheson: There was an Army chaplain with the troops. I was the only permanent chaplain on the ship. I was a Protestant chaplain and there was an Army Catholic chaplain along so there were two of us on that trip. Frequently there was one more chaplain with the troops that we carried. They were hoping we would turn around and take them back, but we didn't. We unloaded them in the Philippines, but at least they didn't have to fight that Pacific war.

Zarbock: Did you load anybody in the Philippines to come back?

Hutcheson: Yes, we did. That began the process of sending troops home on that return trip. Took them back…well we were supposed to take them to San Francisco and I was getting married. My fiancée was supposed to be on her way to San Francisco to meet me for us to get married and they diverted us to Seattle before we got in. So the captain of the ship, his wife was going to receive my wife when she got to San Francisco and they were more or less overseeing our wedding.

He got her on the phone and she said Helen was with her and that they were coming up to Seattle by train. So along with the captain and an armful of flowers I met the train and Helen wasn’t there. They had gotten their wires crossed and so she came west to Seattle about a week later all the way across the country on the train and we were married in Seattle in between those trips.

Zarbock: What was your rank in those days?

Hutcheson: Lieutenant Junior Grade. That’s the lowest rank a chaplain can hold.

Zarbock: You’re married and how soon did the Navy order you away from your bride?

Hutcheson: We were married in October and the following June the ship was decommissioned and she went east and I followed her east to a ship on the east coast.

Zarbock: Following your wedding and before the time of the ship’s decommissioning, were you on ship and did you go places? Were you hauling troops again?

Hutcheson: Yes. Shortly after the wedding, we headed west across the Pacific, headed for Okinawa carrying some Navy troops that time, some Navy passengers. We were taking sailors out to serve on ships that were already out in the Pacific to fill vacancies.

On our way there was a typhoon and we were headed for the Navy receiving station in Okinawa. The Navy receiving station in Okinawa which was a temporary facility was wiped out by the typhoon. So we ended up taking these sailors up to Japan and taking them from ship to ship to the new ships that they were to be assigned to.

Zarbock: You were peddling these sailors?

Hutcheson: We were peddling these sailors from ship to ship as replacements for people who were leaving and we once again came home with a load of troops that were headed, that were returning from the Pacific.

Zarbock: What is this 1945 or 1946?

Hutcheson: This is late ’45 and early ’46. It was ’46 I guess by the time we got back from the second trip. We went to Long Beach at that time and my wife who had stayed in Seattle came down to the Los Angeles area and the senior medical officer ( he wasn’t very senior either, he was a Lieutenant). He and I were good friends and we shared an apartment for a month, the two couples in Long Beach. Then the ship went to San Francisco and was decommissioned there.

Zarbock: Were you in the hurricane on that ship?

Hutcheson: We were on the fringes of it. It was really a terrible trip.

Zarbock: Well I live on Oak Island in North Carolina and the fringes of a hurricane are enough to make your heart go pitty-pat I’ll tell you.

Hutcheson: You’re right. I had some good experiences in that first tour duty.

Zarbock: What happened after that, sir?

Hutcheson: Well do you want to go through it one by one? My next assignment was probably the worst assignment I ever had in the Navy, not because it was intrinsically a bad assignment. I went to an attack transport called the Okaloosa, home ported in Norfolk, Virginia. I wanted to go to Norfolk of course. I was delighted about that.

An attack transport is a much smaller ship than the kind of transport I’d been on earlier. It’s job was to take landing forces from some conveniently located staging area to the actual invasion beach. It had a very small crew, 200 or 300. The war was over now and there were no invasions going on so there were seldom any troops aboard. I was only there about three months. The Navy had decided they would no longer put chaplains on attack transports. When the war is going on, you need them because you have several thousand troops that are being landed on an invasion beach and you really need religious ministries.

But once there are no landings going on, the occasional operations, training operations didn't put enough people aboard to need a chaplain so they stopped putting chaplains on attack transports. I had a very difficult experience during the three months I was aboard. Difficult for me, one of the most difficult things I had during my ministry as a chaplain. In those days, this was early 1946, and you’re old enough to recall probably at that time the Armed Forces were segregated. The only way Negro Navy men could serve aboard a ship was as steward mates serving the officers.

That was a very unhappy situation for them. The executive officer of the ship was a southerner who the Negro sailors aboard the ship felt was very unfair to them. They came to me as the chaplain with their problems and after talking with a number of them and observing them, I came to the conclusion that they were right. They were being treated unfairly.

Now the executive officer was my boss. It was very difficult for me to handle. I was very young. I was 24 or 25 by this time and inexperienced, but I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t sit quietly through this and I tried to see what I could do about it. The executive officer told me, “Just don’t worry about it Dick. I know how to handle this kind of thing. I’m from the south and I know how to do it. Leave it alone”. This was his attitude, it was none of my business.

I had some very helpful advice from my supervisory chaplain who was the district chaplain at that time in Norfolk, a great man named Stan Salsbury, later became Chief of Chaplains. He helped me a great deal advising me on how to try to deal with the executive officer, try to persuade him, try to get conditions improved and probably there was a little bit of improvement because chaplains do have their own chain of command so to speak, their own professional supervisors and there was some modest improvement, but not really significant.

It was very difficult for me the whole time I was there. In fact initially when I got sudden orders leaving, I was afraid they had ordered me off because I was stirring up trouble. It turned out that it wasn’t that. It was because they were no longer putting chaplains on APA’s, attack transports.

Zarbock: In the chaplains’ stories, this is a thing that appears frequently, the dual chain of command.

Hutcheson: Chain of command. I really shouldn’t have used that term. It’s a professional chain, not a command chain. Chain of command goes up through your line officers, but this is a professional chain.

Zarbock: But as a naval officer, you were also obliged to follow chain of command too.

Hutcheson: Yes and sometimes it gets you in a real bind.

Zarbock: This is a question I’ve asked other chaplains. I wonder if you’d comment please. In all of your career, all of the years in the Navy, were you ever ordered, were you ever strongly influenced or were you ever subtly seduced into doing something that you felt to be unethical or against your personal principles?

Hutcheson: I don’t think so. I can give you one minor incident of orders that gave me a little problem, but overall, I spent 30 years in the naval chaplaincy. Actually 29-1/2, six months were constructive, but I was never ordered to do anything against my conscience. I found that commanding officers generally speaking, almost universally in fact, were highly respectful of the importance of not getting into religious matters themselves. They regarded chaplains as their responsible people in the field of religion and so that never was a problem for me. I have known other chaplains where it did become a problem.

The one minor incident that I told you I would tell you about was one time when my executive officer had a yeoman working for him. This was when I was stationed in Japan. Great tour of duty incidentally. But this particular executive officer had a yeoman that he was very fond of. His yeoman was getting married to a Japanese who was a Buddhist. When the young man came to me and asked me to perform the marriage, I said I couldn’t do it. I was a Christian chaplain and I couldn’t marry, take part in a ceremony that had a Buddhist member. I would be glad to help him find someone else who would help him with it.

But he went back to his boss and his boss called me and he said, “What do you mean you won’t marry my man”. So I had to do some tall talking to explain to him that this wasn’t my decision to make, that according to the orders that I was operating under as a Presbyterian minister…

Zarbock: But did the couple get married by the way?

Hutcheson: They got married, yes, sure. This was not when I was stationed in Japan, it was when I was on the ship in Japan. I was stationed at Japan at another time.

Zarbock: Again just in conversation between you and I, the only time I’ve heard in all of the interviews a chaplain say I was strongly influenced, it had to do with a situation, he was not Navy by the way, had to do with a situation of a very large military base and his wife was involved in teaching Sunday School and the base commander’s wife was involved in teaching Sunday School.

A rather unpleasant clash of personalities took place and the base commander did call the chaplain and tiptoed around the issue. The subtleness was there, advanced subtleness, but it was never a desk thumping, by George, this is the way it’s going to be. That’s the only time I’ve ever heard of somebody from a higher command causing…

Hutcheson: I certainly have known of instances in which chaplains had real difficulties of that kind, but I never did myself. I felt that overall command was very respectful.

Zarbock: Again characteristically the remarks I’ve heard from other chaplains have been either the commanding officers, be it base, Army outfit, ship, whatever, but the commanding officers were either very appreciative and positive or mildly indifferent.

Hutcheson: I would agree with that.

Zarbock: Sort of I don’t go to church, but chaplain do what you want to do. Well I’m sorry, I’m enjoying the beauty of my own words here. Tell me more. You got off the attack transport.

Hutcheson: Went aboard a destroyer tender, a ship that’s job is to…destroyers are fairly small ships and they don’t have a lot of expertise in certain areas. A destroyer tender. A destroyer comes alongside and gets its problems fixed up with its engines or with whatever. This was a destroyer tender. The Everglades I believe was the name or maybe it was the Grand Canyon. I was aboard two destroyer tenders at different times.

We went to Naples still fairly soon after the second world war. This would have been late ’46 I guess. We were to become the flagship for the Navy commander in the Mediterranean and did, but once we got there the Navy commander in the Mediterranean for which the destroyer tender became the flagship, he had his own chaplain on his staff who was also a Protestant chaplain. So he brought him to the ship and this left me out once again and I was sent to Port Lyauty, Morocco.

It was a naval air station that had been a French air station during the second world war. It was then French Morocco. It’s no longer French Morocco and the name of the place now is Kenitra, Morocco. But then it was Port L Lyauty, French Morocco. I was there for a relatively short time. I don’t remember exactly how long. By the time I finished my tour of duty there and went back to the States, I decided that I wanted to get out. I had been separated from my wife for quite a long time and I did.

I was separated from active duty and remained in the reserves of course. I went back to school. I went to Duke in a Ph.D. program. I was thinking of entering the field of teaching religion and stayed one year at Duke in that program. I served as Presbyterian student chaplain in that year also. During that year, I began to miss the Navy almost immediately and my wife decided she had liked the Navy also and I began negotiations to come back in. So at the end of that one year, I went back on active duty and was commissioned in the Regular Navy.

Zarbock: You had been a reservist.

Hutcheson: Yes.

Zarbock: You went back regular. What was your rank?

Hutcheson: Lieutenant JG again. So I was back on active duty after one year.

Zarbock: But that also put you on the bottom of the pile, didn't it, as JG?

Hutcheson: It did, had to start over from the bottom, but that was later corrected, a correction that the Navy did for a lot of people who had done that at that period. So I was given back the credit for the time I had served on active duty earlier.

Zarbock: Had life changed from Reserves to regular?

Hutcheson: No, not really. The difference was very slight. They’re still both Reserves and regulars on active duty and as far as your service is concerned, it doesn’t matter. It does matter as far as retirement provisions and things like that and the sense of permanence. And I never regretted going into the regular Navy. I loved it, enjoyed it the rest of my career.

I went first to a very small station in Orange, Texas. It was a Reserve fleet facility at that time. After the second world war a lot of ships were mothballed and this was a facility to take care of them. Didn't last long there either.

Zarbock: What were your duties there sir?

Hutcheson: I was chaplain of the station. It had a chapel.

Zarbock: So you had preaching?

Hutcheson: Preaching.

Zarbock: Counseling.

Hutcheson: Counseling, Sunday school, all the normal things that you do on a shore station. It’s just a relatively small one. But after once again a relatively short time. I couldn’t seem to hold a job in those days; I kept getting orders after a relatively short time. I was sent to Puerto Rico, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, delightful, very delightful.

Zarbock: Could you bring your family with you?

Hutcheson: Yes, my wife went with me there. In fact, she flew with me on my way down when I reported for duty there. Had a delightful tour of duty there of about two years and came back to the States to Yorktown, Virginia, what was then the Navy Mine Depot. The name was changed later to the Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown. Just an idyllic little spot. I loved it. Delightful place. They had a chapel there and regular preaching, Sunday school, counseling, kinds of things that preachers like to do.

Zarbock: What kind of counseling…what sort of problems would be presented in the counseling sessions?

Hutcheson: Well they’re human problems, the same problems that civilian ministers do with the counseling they do basically, but with the added twist of being in a military command situation which meant that often there were problems related to the command relationships. The chaplain is in a unique situation to be able to help in those situations because a chaplain is related to both. The chaplain is the religious leader, the minister of the chapel so to speak, but at the same time is on the staff of the commanding officer and has an entrée to the executive officer, the commanding officer, the division officer who you need to see to try and help the man or woman straighten out the problem.

The other difference I would say between counseling of chaplains and that of civilian ministers is that chaplains do more of it. I think there is a tradition in the military services if you have a problem, see the chaplain that helps along that line. The Navy also, all the Armed Forces, the Navy, the Army and Air Force, the Marine Corps, their command structures are accustomed to having chaplains as persons to deal with personal problems and so they encourage men and women to go to the chaplain when they have need for counseling.

So I think for reasons like that military chaplains probably do more counseling than ministers do in civilian life by in large. And comparing, after I retired from the chaplaincy, I was pastor of a church, and comparing my two kinds of experience, I think we confirmed that.

Zarbock: You probably didn't have a mental health clinic staffed with social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists on a ship. It was you.

Hutcheson: But you had medical officers who could help. In shore bases, you have lots of facilities that are resources for you.

Zarbock: But you really are a front line responder.

Hutcheson: Yes, particularly on ship.

Zarbock: I’m sorry I interrupted.

Hutcheson: Well what did you interrupt. I was saying that I had come to Yorktown, had a very fine tour of duty there. Fine chapel, a community, lots of quarters for military personnel or the base so I enjoyed that a great deal. Got orders from there after about 18 months, a little bit early. I was supposed to have two years. I was a little upset by that initially, but I was ordered to a new ship that was being commissioned in Camden, New Jersey, right across the river from Philadelphia.

I reported and the ship was just being built and within the first week after I reported, the commissioning date was postponed by a matter of six months or so. There was really no need for a chaplain that early. So I contacted the Chief of Chaplains, went to Washington and instead I was sent to Korea to serve with the 1st Marine Division for my next tour of duty.

Zarbock: What year is this, sir?

Hutcheson: That would have been 1949 I guess, early 50’s, ’51 or ’52.

Zarbock: The war started in June 1950, the Korean conflict.

Hutcheson: Well I was there the last year of the war. So this would have been ’51 or ’52.

Zarbock: Now your family is not accompanying you?

Hutcheson: No, of course not.

Zarbock: Where were they domiciled?

Hutcheson: Well we got an apartment for my wife in Norfolk hoping that I would be able to get home ported in the Norfolk area or back there when I came back and as a matter of fact, I did.

Zarbock: Would you clarify an issue again for the tape and for me. In the event that you’re at sea duty or stationed someplace, your dependents cannot go with you. Can your dependents stay on base in military housing?

Hutcheson: It depends on the situation. Most instances if you’re on shipboard, probably not. It’s the people who are stationed at the shore base who have quarters on the base, but there are military quarters available for shipboard personnel in some places, a number of places.

Zarbock: But not universally.

Hutcheson: Not universally, no.

Zarbock: So it’s root _____

Hutcheson: Well there’s lots of housing available in home ports. There’s lots of help with finding places to live from the military services so it’s not quite ______, but we did find a civilian apartment for my wife during that period. For a Navy chaplain, Marine Corps duty is sea duty. As you know, Navy chaplains serve the Marines. They have no chaplaincy of their own, just like doctors and nurses. That was one of my really finest tours of duty, that tour with the 1st Marine Division. I served with an artillery battalion, part of the 11th Marines and it was really great.

Zarbock: Chaplain, I have not ever interviewed a Navy chaplain who had served with the Marines who did not say that was one of the outstanding experiences of my life. What is this mystique? What made it so good?

Hutcheson: Well Marines really take care of their chaplains.

Zarbock: Isn’t that funny? That phrase has been used time after time. What does that mean?

Hutcheson: Well it means that you know they want to do everything they could to make sure that I was comfortable in my bunker or my tent whatever I was living in. They did everything they could to help me in my ministry, to provide a driver for the jeep I traveled in who was my assistant and who protected me when we were traveling around from battery to battery conducting services for the different artillery batteries.

Zarbock: Didn't you say that at this point in your career, you were at least exposed if not trained in some sort of weapon familiarization?

Hutcheson: This was before I went to Korea. The Navy sent chaplains through what was called a field medical school at that time which was designed for doctors, but also chaplains were sent through it too. This was at Camp Pendleton, California. There was just familiarization. They were not teaching me to fire a rifle. They were just teaching what a rifle was like so I would know when I was dealing with Marines, I never carried a weapon when I was on active duty, never.

Zarbock: Have you ever heard of a chaplain who did?

Hutcheson: Yes, I have and there are some chaplains who chose to. I chose not to. It wasn’t even issued to me. But I did have familiarization training, lots of stomping and Marine type training. It was probably about a month that I was there before I went out. But you know it was fun.

Zarbock: But the rapport between the Navy chaplains and the Marines seems to be such a solid connection.

Hutcheson: I think it really is and I really enjoyed that tour of duty. Part of it is that when there’s combat going on, when things are really down to earth, chaplains are needed then more than almost any other time, needed and appreciated. I felt very much needed and very much appreciated during that tour of duty and that has a lot to do with it I think.

Zarbock: Was this actual combat experience for you?

Hutcheson: Yes, the war was still going on. Now artillery is behind the infantry so it was probably safer for me. It was undoubtedly safer for me than it was for chaplains who were serving with the infantry, but we had forward observers who were up with the infantry with whom I visited and we had lots of incoming artillery in the areas we were in.

Zarbock: I was going to say, they’re shooting back at you too.

Hutcheson: Oh yes, they’re shooting back at you all the time so it was definitely combat experience. It’s that kind of experience in which chaplains are most needed I think. I guess that’s the bottom line for which they have chaplains.

Zarbock: So you left the Land of the Morning Calm.

Hutcheson: Yes, I came back from Korea. My year out there had served as one half of a tour of sea duty. So when I came back, I went to another destroyer tender for one more year. I had a two year tour of sea duty to finish. This was a destroyer tender based at Norfolk and in port almost all the time. Tenders just went out occasionally for exercises and a couple of trips down to the Caribbean area, but mostly we just sat alongside the dock with piled up coffee grounds around us.

Zarbock: And nurtured the destroyers who needed destroyers.

Hutcheson: This was my second time on a destroyer tender, but the first one had been very brief. It was a good ship. I enjoyed that tour of duty.

Zarbock: Somehow this sounds like some sort of huge machine shop gas station grocery store.

Hutcheson: Exactly, well not grocery store, gas station. There are other types of ships that do that. But a huge machine shop, repair shop. In fact, it is a repair ship, that’s what it’s designed for. Chaplains who serve on tenders are sort of a gathering point for chaplains who serve on the destroyers when they come in so you have a lot of contact with destroyer chaplains. It was an excellent tour of duty.

I never really had a bad tour of duty. I told you earlier that the one I liked least was at APA, but I never had a bad tour of duty. Navy men are awfully good to their chaplains too as well as Marines.

Zarbock: That’s been mentioned frequently too.

Hutcheson: From there I went to the Navy station at Norfolk. My wife and I bought a home and we had one son by that time. We bought a home in the Norfolk area so we were able to continue to live in the same home and I went to shore duty at the Naval station Norfolk. That was a good learning experience for me. I was a junior chaplain in a fairly large staff of chaplains on shore base. Had an excellent senior chaplain who made it a point to provide training for you to help you learn your way around so it was a very good tour of duty for a young chaplain. I liked it and enjoyed it.

Zarbock: Are you still a JG?

Hutcheson: No, by this time I would have been a lieutenant at least, probably a lieutenant. From there I went to graduate school. The Navy has a very fine program of graduate training for its chaplains. You have to apply for it, get selected for it. Not everyone gets to go, but I had particular interests I guess in getting advanced training. So I went to Union Theological Seminary in New York for a year for graduate work.

Zarbock: Did you earn a degree?

Hutcheson: I did, Master of Sacred Theology. Enjoyed that a great deal, had some of the real greats in theology. That’s when Reinhold Neibuhr was there. Bennett was there, well anyway there were some tremendous people there at that time. No, Reinhold was there, Richard was at Yale. Anyway there was one other Navy chaplain there with me so we had each other for company and enjoyed it a great deal.

Zarbock: But it was going to school.

Hutcheson: It was going to school full time.

Zarbock: You were writing papers and taking part in seminary…

Hutcheson: I was a seminary student. Of course the study had to be approved by the chaplaincy, but I was allowed to study what I wanted to, but I integrated my professional stuff with the study as much as I could. My thesis for my Master’s thesis was done on the Navy’s character education program under the religion education department there.

Union New York, as you know, works with Columbia University in the Columbia Education Department so that worked very well for me I thought.

Zarbock: You know, getting class work done and writing a thesis in one year, that’s a lot of hours.

Hutcheson: It is, it’s hard work, but that’s what you’re there for. As a matter of fact, this is jumping ahead a little bit in my Navy experience, but I had a later year of graduate study too. After this year at Union, I moved gradually in the direction of specializing in continuing education for chaplains and later I was sent back to the graduate school for another year.

I went to American University this time and by getting credit at American for some of my coursework at Union, I was able to get a Ph.D. from American University, not in the one year, but I had a whole calendar year and with that second calendar year I got all of my coursework out of the way and I wrote a dissertation later.

Zarbock: What department granted the degree?

Hutcheson: It was Adult Education, that’s what my degree was in.

Zarbock: I should mention for the record that according to information available to us, you either authored or co-authored at least 15 books.

Hutcheson: I think eight is the actual number.

Zarbock: I have a list here, but anyway your reputation is one of developing scholarly work.

Hutcheson: Well it was a great interest of mine. I wrote articles for magazines and things like that, professional journals from the time I entered the chaplaincy probably, but the latter part of my career as a chaplain, I wrote more and more on professional subjects and then my first book was called The Churches and the Chaplaincy which is the first book in its field really as a sort of analysis of the nature of the chaplain’s ministry. Then I wrote more books after I left the chaplaincy.

Zarbock: It’s not unusual for an author to present his works to the public whereupon there’s an outcry from anywhere to a small or large population who say, well this is a snare and illusion. Did you ever receive criticism from chaplains? What was the nature of the bad news that you got after you presented your published works?

Hutcheson: In the Navy?

Zarbock: Yes.

Hutcheson: Actually I didn't get much bad news. Most people were very nice about responding to what I had done. The Churches and the Chaplaincy sort of occupied a niche that hadn’t been filled before. There were books about the chaplaincy, but they were either reminiscences and I later wrote my own reminiscence type book, or during the Vietnamese war period, there were a lot of books that were highly critical of the chaplaincy.

There was no attempt at a more or less unbiased analysis of the chaplaincy as a field of ministry. There was no book that tried to do that.

Zarbock: I would like to pick up on a point that I feel is extremely important for the purpose of this video tape. Back to the Vietnam War, why were chaplains criticized?

Hutcheson: Well the whole atmosphere during that period and particularly in the mainline liberal churches, there was a lot of opposition to the Vietnamese war. There was an organization that you may recall hearing of called Clergy and Laity against, anyway there was a lot of opposition to the war in mainline churches particularly. The chaplaincy was not highly regarded in that period. We were regarded by many of our civilian colleagues as sell-outs to the military.

Zarbock: The military was evil…

Hutcheson: Yeah, the military was not popular in those days. You probably remember reading about military folks who came home from Vietnam being yelled at and spit on and things like that. It was a very difficult time for the military services. The books that were written at that period about the chaplaincy were almost exclusively anti-chaplaincy and I was trying in a sense to counteract that in the period after the war which was my first book.

By in large, my writings were well received, not largely received (laughter), but well received. Do you want me to go back and pick up chronologically?

Zarbock: Yes please.

Hutcheson: Let’s see, I was at Union Theological Seminary. From there I went back to the Norfolk area. I think that was when I went to an amphibious squadron, a squadron of amphibious ships. Amphibious ships being those that take the troops to the landings in invasion type situations. My old APA, attack transport that I told you about earlier would have been part…there were a couple of them in the squadron that I later served.

There were landing ships for tanks, landing ships for troops, all kinds of landing ships that formed an amphibious squadron. I served on the staff of the squadron commander and I was what was known as a circuit rider, riding from ship to ship, going aboard one ship for a couple of months, going aboard another ship that was taking a cruise somewhere. I was trying to serve a squadron of about eight ships.

Zarbock: Now again for the record, when you say you went from ship to ship, if you’re out in the ocean going from ship to ship, it doesn’t mean they’re going to pull along each other like a couple of automobiles in a parking lot.

Hutcheson: As a matter of fact, not like automobiles in a parking lot , automobiles riding alongside each other. In those days, the way you went from ship to ship at sea is by what was called high-line. That would be lines going from one ship to the other and you would be in boswain’s chair and would be pulled from one ship to the other in this boswain’s chair to conduct services on the second ship.

Now for a good many years, that’s been done by helicopter exclusively rather than high-line, but in those days that was how it was done.

Zarbock: Isn’t the line sort of like a musical bow, isn’t this getting tight and loose?

Hutcheson: Yes, and the ships have to be handled very carefully or you go “boing”. But it was the way of getting back and forth from ship to ship in those days.

Zarbock: Well it certainly tested your faith, didn't it?

Hutcheson: (Laughter) But you know you knew your people and you trusted them. They were good people and the knew what they were doing. I was disappointed when I got those orders because I was by this time something like a lieutenant commander. I was getting close anyway. Had a little more experience. That’s hard duty going from ship to ship. You don’t have any permanent home except on the flagship and you can’t stay on the flagship because you wouldn’t be serving your other ships if you did. I was disappointed when I got the orders, but actually it turned out to be a very fine tour of duty and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Zarbock: How long were you doing this?

Hutcheson: Two years.

Zarbock: Again your family during this time is located where?

Hutcheson: At the home port which is Norfolk and by this time I should have mentioned that when I was in seminary, my second son was born so I had two children at this point and they lived in Norfolk. We had our own home that we had bought in Norfolk. I was in home port a lot. Maybe half the time I would be in the home port. So it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. My wife liked the Navy. This is my first wife. She died of cancer a little later and I’m remarried now.

My first wife who was in the Navy with me liked the Navy and she didn't like my being at sea, but she made her peace with that. She liked other aspects of it. From there I became a bureaucrat for the first time. I was ordered to the Office of the Chief of Chaplains here in Washington and my job was procurement for the chaplains. I also assisted the chaplain who handled the personnel desk who assigns chaplains to duty.

So I was working in those general fields, did a lot of visiting of seminaries during that period recruiting chaplains, processing of the applications of chaplains, clergymen who wanted to come on active duty – I say clergymen, that was just the tail end of clergy men because not too long after this, the first woman chaplain came in, but it was all male right now.

Zarbock: Let’s interrupt right now and go to tape #2. Please sir, we left at a point in which you began to comment about the presence of women in the military chaplaincy. That occurred during your career, didn't it?

Hutcheson: As a matter of fact it was just about the time I retired from active duty that the first woman chaplain came on. I was saying a little earlier that it was shortly after this that it happened, not too long after. My first tour of duty on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains would have been in the early 60’s. That was what we were talking about. At the time I was procuring new chaplains, they were all male. We were still not quite ready.

Zarbock: Was it the law or was it tradition?

Hutcheson: I really don’t remember, probably tradition. I think when it did come which was a little later and I observed it after I retired, it came relatively smoothly. I served three years on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains, had a very fine tour of duty. The chief at that time was George Rosso, a Roman Catholic chaplain who was a great gentleman and a very fine person to work for and I had a really good tour of duty.

I went from there to Yokosuka, Japan and that was probably the best tour of duty I ever had. You asked me in your preliminary questions if I could identify the best. It’s hard to identify the best because I mentioned the tour with the 1st Marine Division as certainly one of the best and some of my later experiences in training situations particularly at the chaplain school were great. But I guess if I had to pick the one best one it was Japan.

Zarbock: What made it so good?

Hutcheson: A number of things. It was a large chapel situation which…this was my first time to be a senior chaplain in a relatively large chapel situation. I made commander just about the time I went to Japan. Had a nice chapel, a little small, but that was alright. We had two morning services. They were both filled every Sunday. The Catholic congregation also had two morning services. It was a busy chapel.

It had an extraordinarily fine staff of chaplains, usually about two other Protestant chaplains, one or two Catholic chaplains and one Jewish chaplain a good bit of the time. We had a really fine staff of chaplains that worked together beautifully. It was an ideal situation for one who considers himself basically a pastor preaching, a large number of quarters on the base in Japan which gave you a very large American community there from which the chaplains drew.

Zarbock: What year was that?

Hutcheson: That would have been the early 60’s. ’61 to ’64 probably. I was there three years. Very fine command situation and at one point while I was still there, the billet for a chaplain on the staff of the commander of the naval forces in Japan was cut and I was given additional duty on the staff of the commander which was a good learning experience for me, my first time on a flag officer’s staff.

I learned a lot from that. I guess one of the most exciting things about it was the relationships with the Japanese people. The chapel in Yokosuka was known as the Chapel of Hope, that was its name. It had a good record of having good relationships with Japanese Christians, orphanages, helping to building churches and that sort of thing.

My chapel while I was there had a partnership relationship with a Protestant church in a nearby town whose pastor had been a captain in the Japanese Navy during the second world war and my congregation helped them to build a church, to buy the property and actually build the building. People from my congregation went out weekend after weekend with their hammers and nails and helped build the church.

Another thing that was exciting was opportunities to get American sailors acquainted with Japanese people, in particular Japanese Christians working with a number of Christian churches in the Yokosuka area. We began what was called the Japan Christian Hospitality Center. What we tried to do was greet a large number of American ships home ported in Yokosuka. That’s the home port of what was then the 7th Fleet. It’s probably still the 7th Fleet of the American Navy.

So a great number of seagoing people who came there for a liberty port and a lot of people who were stationed there and we opened up this center to give them an opportunity to become acquainted with Christianity in Japan. Many of the Japanese Christian churches helped, inviting sailors into their homes, taking them on sightseeing tours, taking them to their churches, doing everything they could to help them become acquainted with Japan and with Japanese Christianity, a very exciting project.

As a matter of fact during that tour of duty that I had in Japan there at the Chapel of Hope, that chapel, the Chapel of Hope was selected as Guidepost’s magazine as church of the year for that year, the first time and as far as I know the only time they chose an overseas military chapel as their chapel of the year, based mainly on the just marvelous relationships that the American people were able to have with Japanese Christians, the way they were able to help. It was an extraordinarily fine situation.

From a personal standpoint, my family was there, living in quarters on the base, fine school for my boys. My third child, my daughter was born just before I went to Japan and so she was an infant during the period that we were there. But it was a nice time to have your family with the boys in elementary school in a country like Japan. Beautiful country, wonderful country.

So having my family there with me on the base was a very decided plus. Just about an ideal kind of assignment. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Zarbock: How would you characterize the percentage of effort administrative versus pasturing?

Hutcheson: Well, mostly pastoral. My administrative responsibilities, both on my own commanding officer’s staff and on the staff of the commander when I inherited that job were a relatively small percentage of what I did. Administrative in the sense that I was the senior chaplain and I coordinated the religious program for the command working with all the other chaplains who were assigned. That’s administrative too, but that’s pastoral administration of the same kind that you have in any pastorate. I had a fine group of chaplains that worked together beautifully. It was just really a superb tour of duty.

Zarbock: And how long did it last?

Hutcheson: Three years. The fact that there were so many ships there was nice too because if you’re a Navy chaplain, you like working with sailors. Navy men were my basic parishiioners and there were a lot of men on ships who came ashore both to the chaplain for counseling, a large amount of counseling there, both from the ships and shore based personnel.

Zarbock: What was the nature of the problems? Could you categorize it?

Hutcheson: Well similar to what we talked about earlier, mostly human problems. You always start with that I think and then you add to that the Navy dimension or Marine dimension, the military dimension which sometimes there are problems with. Beyond that, the location in Japan so far from home, a number of families that were that far from home and had problems being separated that much from their families back home.

So you add that third dimension to being in a foreign country a long, long way from America. If you were in Puerto Rico, it’s not too hard to fly up for a weekend with a family emergency, but if you were in Japan, you can’t do that.

Zarbock: Were drugs and alcohol a difficulty? Did drugs and alcohol present a difficulty?

Hutcheson: Yes, yes. Drugs were not at that point as big a problem as they became a little later during the later 60’s and early 70’s. Drugs became an enormous problem in the military late 60’s and early 70’s. This was before that, but there were certainly problems with drugs and I encountered problems with drugs during the tour of duty that I had there.

Alcohol always. Military people get into patterns of drunkenness while ashore, sobering up back on the ship that kind of thing. So lots of problems with alcohol there. I guess you have it everywhere, don’t you.

Zarbock: Yes, and I concur with you that the problems in the era that we’re talking about, drugs are beginning to make an impact, but the impact is pigmy compared to the years that followed.

Hutcheson: That’s right. This was the beginning of that whole phase, but not nearly as big as it later became.

Zarbock: Well did they send you back to the States on a ship or did you fly?

Hutcheson: We flew back. My wife and children flew back a little earlier than I did. They came back at the beginning of the summer and I was detached a couple of months later. But we all flew. On the way out, we had gone by ship and that was nice.

Zarbock: A military ship?

Hutcheson: A military transport that carried dependents as well as military personnel. Very nice trip.

Zarbock: Not the 5000 troops and a hurricane event?

Hutcheson: No. Well I got another terrific assignment right after that. I was sent to the Navy Chaplain’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, from Japan. That was another one of my really greatest tours of duty.

Zarbock: As a faculty member or as a student?

Hutcheson: Yes, I was the assistant officer in charge. At that time, it was a fairly small school and all it did was an orientation course for newcomers to the chaplain corps, for civilian ministers who were entering the chaplaincy. The officer in charge and myself were the only two chaplains on the staff and we had one line officer. So the three of us did all the teaching. But it wasn’t that big a deal.

We had fairly small classes and only one class there at a time. You would have 15 or 20 new chaplains would be there for two months for orientation prior to their first assignments.

Zarbock: So these are still only men, is that correct?

Hutcheson: Still only men.

Zarbock: These are men that have just graduated perhaps from theological seminaries?

Hutcheson: No, not many of them. Most churches require a certain amount of pastoral experience before they would endorse ministers…they’re relatively young and they’re brand new to the Navy.

Zarbock: So this is your right foot and this is your left foot type thing?

Hutcheson: That’s right, drilling, absolutely drilling. We had a Marine sergeant who did the drilling.

Zarbock: I’m sorry, there’s something so paradoxical, a drill sergeant marching around a bunch of chaplains (laughter).

Hutcheson: Preachers (laughter). Well they thought that was funny too. They thought that was ironic. Not all of them were happy with it. Not all of the new chaplains were happy with the military training.

Zarbock: But there was no attempt on the part of the sergeant to turn them into the honor guard or anything.

Hutcheson: No, oh no, they were carefully selected and did a fine job of training the chaplains. We chaplains did most of the teaching. While I was there, the school expanded significantly because the Vietnamese war was becoming a significant factor. That was I think probably from 1964, I was there 3-1/2 to 4 years, ’64 to ’68 and that was a period…by ’64 probably there were relatively few American troops in Vietnam as advisors. Four years later, there were vastly larger numbers of troops there.

Of course Navy chaplain served Marines so it was Marine division, the Marine contingent there that our chaplains were serving. But of course all chaplains who were coming into the Navy were coming through the chaplain school. As time went on, increasingly Vietnam became a major focus of what was being done at the chaplain school.

This is was also the period when young adults, you mentioned a few minutes ago the drug problems that were developing that period, this was a period when the young adults, the Beatles were becoming a strong influence and the youth culture, the young adult culture was being recognized as something that had to be looked at significantly. The chaplain school during that period sort of took the lead in asking chaplains to focus on what young adults were like.

Navy people for the most part were young adults. What were they doing, what were they thinking, what were their tastes, what was their music like, what was their music saying, what were they trying to say to the older generation? This was the period of the generation gap. So the chaplain school was very much involved in what the Navy chaplaincy was trying to do in that period in understanding this particular generation.

Zarbock: And responded to these seed changes which were taking place.

Hutcheson: We were trying to respond to that. As a matter of fact, we set up sessions for the chaplains in the chaplain school in which we invited young sailors to come in and talk about what their lifestyle was like, what they were…we tried to make it possible to talk about drugs and things like that. We tried to give them a protected environment in which they could open up to these chaplains as to what their world was, what their world was like.

We used a lot of music, young adult music. We used Beatles albums in training our chaplains – what are these songs trying to say. So the whole Navy was doing a lot of trying to understand in that period. I know, what’s the street in San Francisco that was the center of the drug culture?

Zarbock: Haight…

Hutcheson: Haight Ashbury. I was sent by the Navy on official duty out there for some exploration of what was going on out there (laughter).

Zarbock: In uniform?

Hutcheson: No, I didn't wear a uniform when I was out there. There was a Methodist church out there that was doing a lot of work with the Haight-Ashbury people. I was with the staff of the church there to do some training.

Zarbock: You were detached and assigned?

Hutcheson: I was assigned on orders from the Navy. I wasn’t detached. It was temporary additional duty, but I was on orders from the Navy to go out.

Zarbock: How long did you pull that duty?

Hutcheson: It was a relatively short time, a week or two, I don’t remember exactly how long it was. You know, the young adult generation was something in that period and that was the generation that was coming into the Navy, being drafted into it or enlisting to avoid the draft. The draft itself of course was very unpopular with that generation so there was a lot we needed to learn.

The chaplaincy was trying to learn what we needed to learn in order to minister to this generation. The chaplain school tried to take a lead in that. Toward the end of my tour there, well one thing I did when I was there, I headed up a revision of the curriculum in the chaplains school for the orientation course. It was the one course we were giving at that time.

Toward the end of my tour of duty, we were just getting ready to open up an advanced course for chaplains, later stages in their careers. I had something to do with preparation for that, but I actually left the chaplain school before that course actually started. But I did become the officer in charge of the chaplain school before I left. The former officer in charge was detached and I moved up.

The staff got larger. The school expanded and the latter part of my tour of duty there was related to some of the expansion the school was going through as the corps was being expanded during the Vietnamese war. But I became very, very much interested in continuing education for chaplains during that period and so when I left the chaplains school, I was ordered back to the staff of the Chief of Chaplains at the training desk to head up chaplaincy education and training. So I got increasingly into that field.

They sort of melded together because I went from the chaplain school to continuing my desk at the Chief of Chaplains office which was responsible for the chaplain school as far as the Chief of Chaplains was concerned. So I visited the chaplain school very often after I was detached. Went back frequently to speak to classes of chaplains there. I think my memory is right that it was after I left the chaplain school and was on the staff of the Chief of Chaplains that the first woman chaplain came through the school, but it was after I left it.

Zarbock: And after you left school, where did you go?

Hutcheson: That was when I was on the Chief of Chaplains staff again. After I left there, I was in Washington. At the end of my tour of duty there at that time I was sent back to school a second time. This was the period when the chaplains school was expanding significantly as I suggested to you earlier.

The chaplain corps decided - the Chief of Navy Operations decided, actually, that the chaplains school needed some advanced degrees involving the chaplains school. So that was when I was sent back to school for a second time. The intention then was that I was to go back to the chaplain school to become an officer in charge again of the significantly larger school that was being conducted, I was to get a Ph.D. for that.

That was when I was selected for rear admiral, while I was in graduate school. As a rear admiral, I couldn’t go back to the chaplain school because the chaplain school officer in charge had to be a captain. If I were a rear admiral, I would have been senior to the captain who was in charge of the chaplain school. So instead I was sent from there to…I went back for a while as Head of a Chaplain Corps Planning Group until I actually became a rear admiral.

Then I went from there to the Atlantic fleet and became Atlantic fleet chaplain. I’m rushing through a lot of history very rapidly here.

Zarbock: I haven’t asked this of other people. Again as a function of my naivety, did you know you were going to be promoted to rear admiral and how did you know if you knew and why didn't you know if you didn't know?

Hutcheson: Didn't have the slightest idea until I was selected. Selection boards are used by the Navy to select persons for advancement to the next higher rank and this is true at every rank. A selection board comes together and examines the records of all the people who are eligible for promotion and selects the number that they’re allowed to select from this whole field and those people are then…once the selection board is completed and it has been approved by all the higher echelons up to and including the Chief of Naval Operations, then it’s made public and announced and you know.

You don’t have the slightest idea until the word comes out that you’ve been selected for that.

Zarbock: Who informed you? What a momentous event in your life.

Hutcheson: Well it comes out…the Navy sends it out to the entire Navy.

Zarbock: Does somebody knock on the door and say congratulations, you’ve just been promoted to admiral?

Hutcheson: Yes, that’s what happens essentially.

Zarbock: There were no trumpets?

Hutcheson: Well as a matter of fact in my case, I was in the hospital when it happened. I had a disc problem in my back and had a laminectomy and I was in the Bethesda Naval Hospital with a laminectomy and I knew that the officer, that the chaplain flag board was meeting, but I didn't think I had the remotest chance because I had been somewhat controversial at times during my career.

I did a lot of innovative things from time to time and they were not always welcomed. So it was really a surprise to me when I was selected for admiral, but you thank God for the blessings that come your way.

What I started to tell you a minute ago was that I learned later that the selection board had called my doctor to ask if I was going to be able to serve following the surgery and fortunately the doctor had told them yes. Doctor didn't tell me of course. That was a deep dark secret that they had inquired of him and of course they didn't tell him they were going to select me. They just inquired as to whether I would be able to serve in that rank.

Let’s see if I can wrap this up. During that period, after I got out of graduate school and after I was selected for rear admiral, it’s usually quite a while between the time you’re selected and the time you’re actually promoted. It’s called making your number. The Navy has billets, jobs for two rear admirals and that’s all.

Zarbock: The Navy Chaplain Corps?

Hutcheson: Yes, rear admirals in the chaplain corps. You can’t become an admiral until there’s a vacancy and the selection takes place well in advance of that so for a long time you’re a selectee until one of the occupants of one of those two billets retires and then you make your number and are actually promoted.

So during that period before I made my number, I was out of school and I couldn’t go back to the chaplain school. So they made me the head of what was then called the Chaplain Corps Planning Group. It was literally a planning group. It had different assignments. The assignments that it had at the time I was there was to write a Chaplain’s Manual.

So along with two other chaplains who were assigned to the board, two other very fine chaplains who had carefully been selected for it, we wrote the Chaplain’s Manual during that year. So that was a very interesting assignment.

Zarbock: But you are not officially an admiral until…

Hutcheson: I was not officially an admiral until the previous admiral retired. He had been fleet chaplain for the Pacific fleet and they put the billet for me in the Atlantic fleet. When I made admiral, I went to Atlantic fleet as the fleet chaplain. That was an excellent tour of duty for me. I had lots of contact with all the chaplains of the Atlantic fleet and I was on the staff of the fleet commander.

Well one controversial thing I did during that period was to start a new pattern of ministry for circuit riders. I told you earlier about my tour of duty as a circuit rider with the amphibious forces. At that period other officer corps like the medical corps for instance, was doing a lot of pulling doctors together into medical centers from which they served larger numbers of people.

This project that I initiated in the Atlantic fleet, it was eventually approved by the Atlantic fleet commander and eventually by the Chief of Chaplains and the Chief of Naval Operations. Let’s see, it was called Fleet…I can’t even remember the exact name of it now. What we did is set up a chaplain center in Norfolk to which chaplains were assigned who served ships that were too small to have chaplains of their own.

They were pulled in from the squadrons so that you no longer had a chaplain serving eight ships, a destroyer squadron or an amphibious squadron. You had chaplains in the “Fleet Religious Support Activities” fleet chaplain center, I believe it was called, something like that, and they were assigned. When a ship was going to the Mediterranean for instance for a tour of duty, a chaplain was assigned to go along.

Chaplains were assigned to a broader number of ships, wider range of opportunities for different kinds of experience, but they were not assigned to individual squadrons. Instead they went on temporary duty to particular ships. These ships would have maybe 200 or 300 crewmen on them, much too small to have a full time chaplain, but this was the way services were provided to the chaplains of the smaller ships of the Atlantic fleet.

It never spread to the Pacific fleet and it eventually was discontinued in the Atlantic fleet. In that sense I think you might say that it was one of my failures, but I felt then and still feel that it was the best way to serve, to provide that kind of service to the smaller ships. It was much better I thought as a way of training the chaplains because the fleet chaplain activity was headed by a chaplain. The chaplains who came were usually in their first tours of duty and they got good training I thought and they provided good services for the ships on a broader basis than they could from the squadron basis. Other chaplains didn't like it and it was eventually discontinued.

Zarbock: If my reading of history is reasonably accurate, I would suggest that within 20 years the idea will be reinvented again and lauded as a marvelous, marvelous step forward.

Hutcheson: (Laughter) Well it was a temporary thing then, but I thought it was a worthwhile experiment. I thought it was a useful service to the corps.

Zarbock: Is that how you ended your professional career in the Navy?

Hutcheson: Yes, I told you a little earlier that my first wife got cancer while we were in Japan. She had breast cancer. There was a period of about 10 years before she had a recurrence of the cancer, but during that year after I was selected for admiral and when we went to Norfolk, she got cancer again and this time it was terminal.

I was slated to become Chief of Chaplains. As a matter of fact unofficially I had begun selecting my staff. About that time, my wife’s condition became worse and the doctors thought she had maybe a year of a reasonably comfortable life left. So I decided to put in my request for retirement and I did and came back to Norfolk where NIH had been an important part of her treatment here and Bethesda had the finest facilities the Navy offered.

So I retired rather suddenly and came back and my wife as it turned out, she didn't have another year. We came up on a trip to Washington getting ready for our move and she had an attack of what turned out to be cancer that was affecting her brain at this point. She went into the hospital and never got out of the hospital. She was not able to come to my retirement ceremony in Norfolk.

But you know, God is good, I was left with a 14 year old mentally retarded daughter who was devastated by her mother’s death and that was where I needed to be at that time. So I had no regrets about it.

Zarbock: By the way we started off in the interview, you said that you were one of four boys who entered the ministry. Have any of your sons entered the ministry?

Hutcheson: No, neither of them. One of my sons is an optometrist and the other has a real estate business out in California.

Zarbock: I’d like to nudge around one more topic before we conclude with my thanks. Earlier in the interview, and with mentioned this casually off camera, you were talking about a situation with African Americans and the fact that all of the military branches were segregated in those days. Characteristically menial jobs or service related jobs…

Hutcheson: Yes, particularly in the Navy they were all steward’s mates, almost all were steward mates. I think there were some stevedore type organizations, they were also all African American.

Zarbock: But in your sweep of experience, what reflections would you have about the integration of the military, strengths and weaknesses.

Hutcheson: They’re mostly strengths. I think the Navy did a fine job of integrating and one of the earliest structures of American society that did so. The fact that the military organizations helped make that true because it was done by command. President Truman issued the order and the services did it. But it met a lot of resistance, a lot of unofficial resistance, personal resistance, that kind of thing.

Black sailors had a tough time for a good many years after integration officially took place. But if you compare with other parts of the American society, I think the military probably did a better job than anybody else. It’s now no longer really an issue, although it is sometimes in civilian life. Very quickly African American sailors began to be able to go into other career fields, career patterns and it became possible to integrate living facilities on shipboard, all facilities for military personnel.

Now I think that it is still true that the military offers one of the best ways for African American men or women to find a place where they’re accepted on equal terms and are given equal opportunities for advancement.

Zarbock: And equal rewards.

Hutcheson: Equal rewards, exactly. So I personally have been very proud of the record of the military services in this regard.

Zarbock: I am too, yes, despite the fact that I’m sure there were isolated incidences born of stupidity, well… Admiral would you do it again?

Hutcheson: Yes, without hesitation. It was a fine life. I was richly blessed by God with the ministry that I had in the Navy. I would love to be young enough to start over and do it again.

Zarbock: There’s been some distant rumbling on the horizon about outsourcing chaplains in the military. Could you tell me again for the record what are we talking about with outsourcing and what is your opinion of that?

Hutcheson: Outsourcing would mean getting services from civilians, bring civilian ministers in to provide religious services to military, military chapels and that kind of thing. There is a sense in which it could work because you know there are places now where the chaplain is only a Protestant chaplain serving a particular military base and he finds civilian Catholic priests who will come in and say mass aboard the base for service personnel.

That has always happened and that can happen. To try to provide all religious ministry on that basis, it seems to me would be quite impossible. One reason would be the necessity for clergy persons who are serving a unique population to understand and live with and serve that population as an insider. My book, The Churches and the Chaplaincy, spends a lot of time talking about the importance of being part of the society, part of the institution, understanding the institution as an insider.

In my view, there’s a world of difference between the kind of ministry that can be offered on that basis and the kind that can be offered by outsourcing. Outsourcing would be cheaper, but the result would be cheaper too. The result would not provide the kind of ministry that chaplains have been proving for the military ever since we’ve had a nation.

I think that that would not only be the opinion of chaplains, I think that would be the opinion of the line command in the Navy and the Army and the Air Force, the commanders who watch the ministry, observe the ministry that is being provided. I think they would very strongly feel that it needed to be done by chaplains who are in the military rather than by outsiders coming in.

Zarbock: I interviewed a Navy chaplain again who was assigned to the Marines who said that he would go out on outposts and always took along small things, candy bars, pocketbook reading materials, such as that. I can’t and these are people under fire, I cannot in my wildest imagination think if you ran an ad in the Washington Post and said we’re looking for somebody with 6 to 8 years of college education to abandon what they’re doing, reduce their income, leave their family and go live in a situation in which you could get killed. I don’t thing the population response would be particularly high and furthermore, I’d worry about the population of response.

Hutcheson: Yes, for instance in Iraq, if you were doing civilian outsourcing, where would you get them, who would they be. If you wanted a corps, if you wanted to do outsourcing in the United States, but if you wanted a corps of chaplains that you could fight your wars with, what are they going to do about their families. You can’t have them just in Iraq, just in overseas areas. You can’t have them just in hardship places. You’ve got to them a life, you’ve got to give their families a life. So I think it would be highly impractical.

Zarbock: What comments would you care to make, again for historical purposes, the development of now Muslim chaplains in the military, what would be your thoughts and other chaplain groups.

Hutcheson: To the best of my knowledge the only non Judeo-Christians now are the Muslims. There are several Islamic chaplains both in the Navy and the Army and probably in the Air Corps too. I think it’s widely expected that there eventually will be a Buddhist chaplain, but I don’t think there are any yet. I’m not certain about that. That is given the kind of society America is, that was inevitable and necessary.

I think we need to have representations from the Islamic population. I think it would be helpful when we eventually have a representative or two from the Buddhist population or other religions. It’s difficult because the problem is that the numbers are so small that it’s hard to get a large enough group of them together in the military to justify assigning a chaplain for them.

Zarbock: And you cannot assign military people on the basis of their religious beliefs in order to put everybody of x denomination in company Y.

Hutcheson: No, you can’t do that. So it’s very hard to have a situation in which there can be an adequate ministry for a Muslim or Buddhist chaplain.

Zarbock: But that could be an outsource arrangement.

Hutcheson: Yes and is. What they do of course is put them in places where there are very large concentrations of people. Norfolk for instance is a place where there’s an enormous concentration of Navy and Marine Corps people, the general Norfolk area. There or a place like Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, a huge base, large Air Force bases, large Army bases, where you still have a relatively large number, but enough so that you would be able to provide a congregation for a chaplain.

Zarbock: And to be hoped a base irrespective of the arm of service near some urban center where the probability of religious leaders in non-Christian traditions could be found.

Hutcheson: Even though I think it’s hard on them to find the kind of ministry that would be helpful to them, a large enough number of people, we are a pluralistic society religiously. We have significant numbers of these religions in the United States and if they want to have chaplaincy, I think they’re entitled to representation.

Zarbock: Well I’m going to make one last private comment. We live in Brunswick County, North Carolina and live on an island called Oak Island. Brunswick County demographically resembles a donut. The center of the county is a huge swamp called the Green Swamp. I thought because of the color, it turns out that the man who owned the land originally, his name was Green.

Anyway in this traditionalistic rural and retiree community, there is a large Buddhist temple. Well populated with attendees and I thought well, I’m pleased. There might have been a time that wherever that was, somebody may have burned a cross in front of it, not necessarily just south of Ohio. It could have been in Minnesota or Wyoming as well as anyplace else. Yeah, we are a pluralistic society and I’m pleased we are.

Chaplain, again off camera I did say that one of the attributes of this type of technology is you will never get a day older. You are now this fly in an amber, you will be the age of this video tape as long as this video tape exists and as long as there are people who like I am interested in hearing your words. I wonder on a personal note if you would mind looking directly into the camera. Assume for the purpose of our discussion, you are now talking to your grandchildren or great grandchildren. Tell them the years that you’ve lived and the experiences that you’ve had, what’s it all mean?

Hutcheson: Well I’ve felt that I was called by God into the chaplaincy and into the ministry and I have felt that it has been important as a minister that I try to make God understandable, meaningful, relevant to people who desperately need God. I would hope that my years as a chaplain have served some people along that line. I hope my years as a minister since I retired from the chaplaincy have brought some others to see God in this sense and I hope my life has been a life of attempted service to God along these lines.

Zarbock: It’s been a real privilege knowing you sir. Thank you for the interview.

Hutcheson: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. It’s been a privilege for me.

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