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Interview with James Pfannenstiel, April 3, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with James Pfannenstiel, April 3, 2004
April 3, 2004
Interview with Chaplain James Pfannenstiel.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Pfannenstiel, James Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  4/3/2004 Series:  Military Length  58 minutes

Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Randall Library. Today is the third of April and we are in Wilmington, North Carolina. Our interviewee today is Pastor Stein…

Pfannenstiel: Jim Pfannenstiel.

Zarbock: …Pfannensteil, who is visiting in the Wilmington area in route back to his home base of Wisconsin. Good morning pastor.

Pfannenstiel: Good morning Paul.

Zarbock: How are you sir?

Pfannenstiel: I’m fine.

Zarbock: Let’s start off…telling me a little bit…who are you and…and how did you get started. Then I’m going to ask you, how did you get in the ministry. Give me a little early background.

Pfannenstiel: First of all, I want to thank you for what your library is doing because I think you’re…you’re preserving some great stories of military chaplains and I’m very grateful for a chance to talk about myself.

Zarbock: It’s a privilege.

Pfannenstiel: Paul, I came from a little town in Wisconsin. I was born in nineteen thirty-five.

Zarbock: What was the name of the town?

Pfannenstiel: Brookfield. I was born in Milwaukee, I grew up in Brookfield, which was a tiny little farm town in the nineteen forties. My mother and father divorced when I was a baby. They both remarried other people. In nineteen forty-two my mother married my stepfather. My stepfather was born in 1901. In the fall of nineteen forty-two, with a wife, and he had a son a year younger than me, so I had a stepbrother…in the fall of nineteen forty-two my stepfather was drafted into the Navy as a senior recruit. Went to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, spent two years on active duty, became an aviation radio man, third class, and in nineteen forty-four the tide of the war had turned and we were winning the war…the Navy released the older men, discharged them. And I guess what I would say the outset is, if I’m going to talk about the Navy and the chaplaincy…when my stepfather was forty three years old, he was a seaman, he was a third class petty officer. When I was forty three years old I was a captain. It was a different…it was a different world. I think my respect for the Navy, my respect for my stepfather…this was long before the days when people shot a toe off, or went to Canada, or became conscientious objectors or…they went…they went to war and they saved the world. So when I run into the World War II guys, I have enormous…enormous respect. So anyway, my step dad was a big influence on me. I also had a very close relationship with my father. I had…I had very strong male role models growing up. I had two grandfathers, I had a stepfather, I had a father, I had an uncle that…very strong role models…male role models. And we grew up in…in Brookfield, went to a three room school, ninety kids in three rooms in Brookfield State Graded School number four, district number four. We…we literally bled Methodist blood. We were Methodist to the core. Little Methodist church about a half a mile from where I lived is where we went to church. It was the…what we would call the outpoint of a two point circuit. The pastor lived in Sussex. The parsonage was…he did services in Sussex and he came over the Brookfield and did services in Brookfield. So we grew up very…very close to the church. Graduated from…left…when I finished grade school, there was no high school in Brookfield. It was either a matter of going to Waukesha, a rural high school, or to Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb. My folks opted for us to go to Wauwatosa. So I went to Wauwatosa High School, graduated in nineteen fifty-three.

Zarbock: There’s a school bus that carried you over?

Pfannenstiel: There was no school bus in those days…well, in my senior year, we got a school bus, but it was a high school jock and there was a…a commuter train that left Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Elm Grove, Brookfield, and then on west. So two trains came through…well, the first train came through at five o’clock, and I knew that I could and take my shower from the football field and catch the second train home. So for twenty three cents a night, rode home after football practice.

Zarbock: What about in the morning?

Pfannenstiel: In the morning was a school bus my senior year, but up to my jun…through the junior year we had different parents…my step dad went in early some mornings and a couple other parents drove us to school. It was before the days…

Zarbock: It was kind of carpooling among…

Pfannenstiel: Carpooling, very…

Zarbock: …friends and neighbors.

Pfannenstiel: Brookfield was really rural. We were surrounded by farms, but of course, after World War II, it became rambling suburbia and now there’s not a trace of a farm, in fact, I’ve…it’s hard to even find a landmark that I can remember. Our old home is still there. But, graduated from high school, and my parents were intent that their was sons were going to go to Methodist colleges. So, in the fall of fifty three, off I went to DePauw University…not DePaul…DePauw, at Greencastle Indiana, which was a solid Methodist school. I was the first in my family to go to college.

Zarbock: How do you spell DePauw?

Pfannenstiel: D E capital P A U W, “DePauw”. Strong Methodist tradition.

Zarbock: And a very good school too.

Pfannenstiel: Excellent. Excellent school. My folks knew nothing about university or college life, but DePauw, in fall of fifty three had about twelve hundred students. DePauw had fourteen national fraternities and ten national sororities. It was the most organized Greek letter campus in America. We didn’t…we didn’t know about fraternities. My folks didn’t. So I…I got…

Zarbock: But who paid…who paid your way?

Pfannenstiel: My folks paid my way.

Zarbock: Okay.

Pfannenstiel: They saved. They knew their kids wanted to go to college. When my step dad got out of the Navy, my folks bought a four family apartment building in Milwaukee, and my mother used to say, “one apartment paid the taxes, one paid the mortgage, one put Bob through college, and one put me through college”. So, off I go to DePauw, and I was a C student in high school…really a marginal student. So I get a letter from the dean welcoming me to DePauw saying “we strongly advise that you don’t participate in any extra curricular activities”. So the first guy who lined up for football suit was me and I was fortunate enough to play freshman football and I made the varsity as a freshman. Never played in a game, but I suited up. I remained an independent. I was invited by every fraternity…they’re looking for jocks. They want jocks and they want scholars. So I remained independent and I got pressured the whole freshman year to join a fraternity. Spring came…I had made a C average…spring came and I went out for baseball…and I made the varsity as a freshman in baseball. I was a third string catcher. In a weak moment, at the end of my freshman year, I pledged a fraternity. Went back in the fall for my sophomore year, and proceeded to have the worst single year of my life. Lived in the fraternity house and hated it. I was the worst…probably the worst pledge that Lambda Chi Alpha ever pledged. I’m sure they only initiated me because they would be embarrassed not to. I went home after my sophomore year and I had got football injury and I didn’t play baseball, it was horrible. I went home, and I said to my folks, “maybe it’s time for me to go in the Army”. HEEEEE! My wife…my mother had a fit. She said, “we want you to get an education”. So she…I was working construction for the summer and she rummaged around and she found some college catalogues that we had from the time I was a senior in high school. Meanwhile, my brother is at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington Illinois, another solid Methodist school. So we find…we go through these catalogues and I come upon Grinnel College in Grinnel Iowa, and I didn’t even remember getting that catalog, but I looked at Grinnel and it was away from home, it was small, it was coed, it had an athletic program, and it didn’t have fraternities. So I applied to Grinnel, went to Grinnel…lost some credits in transfer…went to Grinnel in the fall of nineteen fifty-five and it was one of the best decisions I’d ever made in my life. I went out for football, I played…had to play freshman football, because transfer students couldn’t play varsity their first year, and was doing okay. I had to take a course in religion…I took a course in New Testament and I was a…a history major. I was taking history of Christian thought. So some things are going on in my head and in January of fifty six, I think it was, I went…went to church for the first time in a long time. Went down to the Methodist church in Grinnel. And I was going out of church and the minister was just a great man, and you talk about role models and influences, he said…he was probably fifty at the time…and he said to me, “why don’t you come down some time and tell me what’s going on, on the campus”. So the next week I was going uptown for a haircut and I saw his car outside the church office…and I went in, and sat down, and I spent two hours talking to this minister. And he said to me, “did you ever do anything in church?” I said, “back home in our little church, my brother and I passed the plate sometimes”. And he said, “why don’t you come down and read the scripture for me next Sunday morning?” So I went down, they put me in a robe, and I read the scripture. He said, “you want to do it next Sunday?” Well, the thing just kind of grew. By June, I went home, and I said to my folks, “I’m think I’m going to go to seminary after I finish college”. Well I had…had a lot of college to finish. So I went back to college the fall of fifty six and played varsity football. And the Methodist church…the official board…the governing body of the church…voted to pay me a hundred dollars a month to come down and chaperone a junior high Methodist youth fellowship group and to help out on Sunday mornings. And, you know, you…a persons says, “you’re looking for some signs”, and this was totally unsolicited. Well, I played football and did the thing in the church, helped out every Sunday morning as the liturgist. In the spring of fifty seven…Grinnel stopped playing baseball in nineteen seventeen, during World War I…didn’t reinstitute…institute varsity baseball until the spring of fifty seven…and, of course, this is the first baseball team Grinnel has put on the field in fifty…forty years. And I played baseball, and I was an MVP on the first Grinnel baseball team. Summer fifty seven…

Zarbock: I’m sorry, you were what?

Pfannenstiel: Most valuable player. I was a catcher. So summer of fifty seven I went to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and did a summer of European history, transferred it back, went back to Grinnel in the fall of fifty seven, took some courses that I had to make up and had pre-enrolled at the Methodist Seminary at Northwestern. It was called Garrett Biblical Institute at that time. It’s since…since the merger with Evangelical United Brethren Church, it became Garrett Evangelical United Methodist Seminary, or something like that. But, you will remember, Paul, that during those years, kids my age were subject to the draft and if you didn’t have a deferment, a student deferment, you were eligible to go into the military. And I remember when I was a sophomore in college, going over to the draft board in Waukesha with my brother, and this sergeant, or whoever it was, at the draft board looked at me and he said, “if you don’t make your grades and carry a full academic load, you’re going to carry a rifle in Korea”. And he looked at my brother and said, “and you’re next”. So that was kind of motivation to stay…to stay in school. So I had a student deferment through college and then pre-enrolled in seminary and got a four D deferment as a theological student. So in the fall…in the spring of nineteen fifty-eight I enrolled in seminary. Summer of fifty eight I played baseball in…back at home in Wisconsin, and then in the fall of…in the fall of fifty eight, I took a job as a youth minister at a Methodist church on the northwest side of Chicago. And about a year…well maybe six months later…I began to think about what I was going to do after I graduated, and I really wasn’t coiffed to be a parish minister. But I knew I wanted to be ordained. And I guess maybe the influence of my step dad being in the Navy in World War II and having gone…I went to Europe…to Edinburgh by ship…sailed from Quebec to Plymouth England. It’s the first time I’d ever seen an ocean, first time I’d ever been on a ship, and a lot of things, maybe were working on me. And I thought maybe it’d be a good idea to be a military chaplain, which I knew nothing about. But the senior minister at this…at the church where I was a youth minister had been an Army chaplain in World War II, and Reverend Jones talked to me about…about the chaplaincy. So one day I called…in those days there was a naval air station at Glenview, outside of Chicago…so I called…I was about twenty two years old or twenty three…and I called the chaplain at Glenview and asked if I could come out to talk to him. So I went out to Glenview and got…his name was Bill Taylor…he was a Baptist. And this guy spent about two hours with me talking about his career and what he did as a chaplain, and he said, “you should talk to some other people”. He said, “why don’t you go up to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, where there’s a staff of chaplains?” So he called and opened the door for me. I went up to Great Lakes and spent a day hosted by about eight chaplains at Great Lakes and I came away after that day, and I said, “this is for me…I gotta do it”. So I still had a year and a half of seminary to complete. I went on to Chicago to a Navy recruiting office and I found out what you had to do to apply for a commission in the chaplain corps. A couple of months later I took a pre-commissioning physical to make sure I could pass the physical. And then, in the Methodist church, to be ordained, you first have to go on trial, become an on-trial person in…in a Methodist conference. Then you become a local preacher. And then you become a deacon. And then you’re finally ordained as an elder. So you gotta go through some wickets.

Zarbock: How long would that process usually take?

Pfannenstiel: Three years. So I became a local preacher and then after a year of seminary, I was ordained as a deacon. But then, in order to be endorsed for the chaplaincy, the church has to put its stamp of approval on you, so there…in those days we had a…a…an office called the commission on chaplains…that over…was an overseeing body for all Methodist chaplains, Army, Navy, Air Force. So I made contact with them and there were three retired military chaplains who comprised that committee, and one of them was a man named Fred Heather, who was a retired Army chaplain. And I’m very young, and Fred really took me under his wing and sheparded me while, lo and behold, I’m completing…finishing seminary. In the fall of nineteen sixty one, the Berlin crisis occurred. The Navy made an immediate call for about a dozen protestant chaplains for immediate active duty. I was in the pipeline and Fred Heather called me and said, “when will you finish seminary?” and I said, “I’ll finish in December, sixty one”. He said, “could you go on active duty in early sixty two?” I said, “yea, I can…I could!” So, they flew me to Washington for a meeting with the august body of Methodist…I don’t know who these people were…

Zarbock: Military or not?

Pfannenstiel: No, these are church officials. This was the…this was the body of the church that had to put its stamp of approval on you for going in as a Methodist chaplain. I had never done a wedding. I had never done a funeral. I had preached about once a month for a couple years at this little Methodist church. I had worked with the kids. I’d never paid a hospital call.

Zarbock: Let alone a baptism.

Pfannenstiel: I did…I did a baptism. I did a baptism. And lo and behold this commission…this committee endorsed me for active duty. Methodist church normally requires three years in a parish subsequent to ordination before they’ll even look at you for the chaplaincy. But the Navy needed some chaplains and the Methodist church had a chance to ship one of its own onto active duty. And Fred Heather called me and said, “you…the commit…the committee endorsed you”. Now I gotta get ordained. I’m not even finished seminary. So, I finished seminary in December sixty one. Fred Heather contacted the bishop in Chicago, and the bishop said, “I’m not gonna ordain him until the Navy commissions him”. And Fred said, “the Navy’s not gonna commission him until you ordain him, that’s his only reason for being in the Navy”. So reluctantly…then the bishop said to me…called me in for a meeting…and he said, “young man, if I had any idea that you were becoming a military chaplain I would have done anything in the world to discourage you”. I got no support for the chaplaincy in seminary or…it was just…I don’t know why. They didn’t see this as a viable ministry evidently. So anyway, the bishop then said, “you’re asking me for a favor, I’m gonna ask you for a favor”. So he sent me out to a church…Aurora or Elgin…that needed a director of religious education who was ordained…who could do some ministerial functions. And I go out there, and the senior minister shows me this nice…I’m a bachelor…shows me this nice parsonage and a salary three times what I would ever make as a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, and all these benefits. And I went back to the bishop and I said, “bishop, my heart is set on being a Navy chaplain…this is nice”. So he agreed to ordain me in a special ceremony. So I was ordained on the fourth of February, nineteen sixty-two. A week later, I raised my right hand and was sworn in, and a week later I was in Newport Rhode Island as a brand new lieutenant junior grade in the Navy chaplain corps. Totally inexperienced…totally inexperienced. I was the youngest of sixteen in my class and the next guy…

Zarbock: You’re how old at that time?

Pfannenstiel: Twenty six. I have only met three or four chaplains in my whole career that were younger than twenty six. I mean, I was dreadfully inexperienced. I got to chaplain school and I remember we had to greet port in uniform. Service dress blue. And there I am in my lieutenant JC suit surrounded by fifteen other guys, many of whom had previous military, and some had been reserve chaplains, now come on active duty. And indelible at eight o’clock we were called to attention and the director of the chaplain school walked in, he was probably forty five years old, a Roman Catholic captain, four big gold stripes, three rows of ribbons, gray hair, and I took one look, and I said, “that’s what a Navy chaplain oughta look like”. Nineteen years later, I walked in to a class of brand new chaplains with four stripes, with ribbons, with the gray hair, as the director of the chaplain school. I mean it was…its incredible…incredible story. But anyway, he was Roman Catholic and I think he looked at a very young, green, inexperienced guy and kinda took me under his wing. We didn’t have orders for our first duty station. That…they came after we were in the school…at the school. So we were having to fill out a preference card for where we wanted to go for duty.

Zarbock: Now, when you say school, how long was the school, and what was the nature of the curriculum?

Pfannenstiel: Eight or nine weeks. It was…it was designed to prepare us for ministry in the military. It was in no way a school to teach us how to be ministers. They assumed that we knew how to do that. This was to acquaint us with military organization, shipboard organization, mili…uniform court of military justice, the JAG system, Navy relief Red Cross, how ships were organized, how commands were organized. Who you salute, how to wear the uniform, it was indoctrination to get you ready for active duty. So, at that time I was interested in a girl in Chicago whose dad was a retired Navy captain, whose uncle was a retired Navy captain, whose other uncle was a retired Navy commander. So I said to Chaplain Slattery, the director of the school, I said, “you know, if is could get to go to Great Lakes, there might be a relationship with this young lady”. And he said to me, “I think you’d be a better chaplain married than you would single”. So I got ordered to Great Lakes and I’m thinking I’m a hard charging young twenty six years old…they send me to the Naval hospital as the junior of five chaplains at the Naval hospital. I had never paid a hospital call in my life and I’m thinking, “put me out there with the Marines”. Hospital chaplain! So one day I went over to the Naval hospital in Newport to talk to the chaplain just to see what a hospital chaplain does and I followed him around. But anyway, I go to Great Lakes as the junior chaplain and with the thought that before the end of the year I would get orders to sea duty. So I got married in August of sixty two and got home from the honeymoon and I had orders to sea duty to happen in December. So I had seven months at Great Lakes Naval Hospital, which was a tremendous learning experience. And I gotta tell you, this is embarrassing, but, sometimes you learn things in a hard way. I’m a twenty six year old hospital chaplain and I get a call from the Emergency Room that a retired officer has just suddenly died in the Emergency Room, and the doctor calls for a chaplain to come down and talk to the widow whose, you know. So a twenty six year old chaplain goes down and says to the widow, “I understand”. And she…she looks at me and she says, “how could you?”. That happened forty two years ago and I am very careful, very careful whenever I say “I understand”. That lady taught me more in a minute. So, anyway, we get back from the honeymoon, I’ve got orders…I’ve got orders to sea duty. So where do I get sent? I get sent to military sea transportation service. Nobody’s ever heard of it. In the fifties, sixties, early seventies, the Army sent all of their personnel to Europe by ship. Personnel…Independence. Out of Brooklyn we had six or seven huge transports that carried up to fifteen hundred troops and four hundred dependents from Brooklyn to Bremerhaven. Pick up a load in Bremerhaven and bring ‘em back. These were military sea transportation service ships. They were not commissioned USS vessels. They were run by civilian crew with a small military detachment on board. Our responsibility was the people, not the running of the ship. Oh, I mean, twenty four crossings of the Atlantic in one year and four swings through the Caribbean, I was deployed three hundred and thirty out of three hundred and sixty five days. That’s my first year of marriage. Got back from a trip after eleven months and got a call from the staff chaplain who was Jim Apple as well as Sam Sobel. Jim mentioned him this morning. Sam Sobel…


Pfannenstiel: S O B E L. Sam called me and said…I was home for a day or two…and he said, “I want you to go down to the Brooklyn Navy yard and look at a ship. And I said, “Sam, what are you saying to me?” He says, well I have a set of orders here for you that says that you’ll make one more trip to Europe and then you’re being assigned to a brand new amphibious attack ship being built at the Brooklyn Navy yard. My God, it’s the real Navy! The real Navy is out there. So I made one more trip to…to Europe and came back, and then reported to USS LaSalle and was part of the commissioning…commissioning crew of LaSalle in nineteen sixty four. By that time I was…I was just convinced that I really wanted…wanted to say in the Navy.

Zarbock: Meanwhile, when you’re…you’re crossing the Atlantic back and forth, where…where was your wife? Where was she located?

Pfannenstiel: She was in Brooklyn. We had never been to Brooklyn. Jan needed a year to finish school. She was going the Blackburn College in Illinois, so she went to Long Island University in Brooklyn and picked up enough credits to get her thing. Then I did the…the year…a year on the MSTS, a year on LaSalle, then the Tonkin Gulf episode occurred in sixty four. I’m finishing two years of sea duty and I’m due for shore duty. Well the Tonkin Gulf thing came up and I said, “I oughta go where there’s some action”. So I wrote to the chief of cha…young and dumb…I wrote to the chief of chaplains and I volunteered to wave my upcoming shore duty if they would send me to a ship or a Marine unit in Southeast Asia. So I got a letter back, thanking me for volunteering, saying they’ll keep that on record, but they’re gonna send me to Portsmouth New Hampshire to a Naval hospital. Brand new assignment at the Naval hospital. So we went to Portsmouth. And I spent two years at Portsmouth New Hampshire which was a delight…absolutely delightful place to serve.

Zarbock: Jim.

Male voice: It’s okay.

Zarbock: Thirty minutes.

Male voice: I’m…I’m all set, all I have to do is just put stuff on the table.

Zarbock: Okay.

Pfannenstiel: Did you turn this off?

Zarbock: No.

Pfannenstiel: Oh! Am I still on?

Zarbock: You’re still…

Pfannenstiel: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Well, I’m…I’ve only started. I gotta say that early on I met some Catholic chaplains who really befriended me. The director of the school I mentioned, Ed Slattery was very kind and very understanding of a brand new…brand new chap…wet behind the ears chaplain. I went to Great Lakes, the Naval hospital and the senior chaplain was Mike McGinnis who was a Franciscan. And Mike…Mike was extremely…extremely kind to me. And I think this was the first time, you know, for a young kid, coming from Brookfield Wisconsin as a Methodist…never had any experience with other denominations…and you go to the chaplain school, and suddenly there’s one other Methodist, there’s a couple of Southern Baptists, couple of Episcopalians, couple Lutherans, couple Catholics and you had no interfacing in…in your…your whole life with other denominations. It was really an eye opener for me because I was…I was so young, and so inexperienced, had a lot of energy, a lot of zeal, but low on…low on experience. Spent two years in Portsmouth New Hampshire which was a…was a wonderful…wonderful thing. First child came along when we were there. And made regular Navy which is an important thing if you want to make it a career to augment from reserve status to regular Navy. I became regular Navy, I was a lieutenant. And then got orders to the third force service regiment, to Fleet Marine Force Pacific. Now that’s Marine Corp, and this is the fall…this is nineteen sixty six. So Vietnam is just beginning to beef up and I wanted to go to Vietnam. So I…I didn’t…I didn’t know what 3rd FSR was, so I went over to the Marine barracks and I talked to the colonel and I said “what is this?”. He said, “well, it’s a support…logistics support command on Okinawa. It supports all Marine action in Vietnam”. And I said, “does this look like Vietnam at all?” He says, “I don’t know, maybe you can get out there and negotiate your way to Vietnam”. So I said goodbye to wife and baby daughter about the fifteenth of December, sixty six. Got on the airplane and flew to Okinawa. I was to be the junior of three chaplains at third force service regiment. I arrived twenty five hours later, whatever it is…and they picked me up…I go to the check in…and the first shock comes when the duty officer assigns me to BOQ in the field grade officers. Now that’s major, lieutenant commander, and up. And I’m only the equivalent of a Marine captain. And I said, “no, I said, I shouldn’t be in that”, he said, “the colonel wants you in the field grade BOQ. So, unpacked, put on a fresh uniform, and I had walked through the BOQ and I had seen a chaplains room. So I put on a fresh uniform and I walked back and I knocked on this guys door. And he… “come on in”. And he was drunk…drunk as a skunk. And he starts cussing… “you…I went looking for you to be here a couple of…”. And I said, “gee”. He says, “now I can get the hell out of here”. So, I go down to the ward room to eat dinner and I sit down with about four or five Marine officers and introduce myself around, and a guy says, “ja meet chaplain so-and-so?”. I said, “yea, he seems a little under the weather”, the guy says, “he’s a goddamn drunk!” He was in hack from the BOQ to the chapel…colonel put him in hack. All he could do was go to BOQ. This guy was an alcoholic.

Zarbock: What do you mean by hack?

Pfannenstiel: Confinement. All he could do was go from his room in the BOQ to the chapel office and back. He was not allowed anywhere else. Then I find out that I’m going to be alone. The senior chaplain is off somewhere and the…and I’m alone in a regiment of three thousand Marines and I got a chapel program. So they shipped…the next morning was…it was during advent…so this is, you know, a Saturday night and I’m looking at this guy, I said, “this man will never be able to hold the service tomorrow morning”. So I dug through my stuff. I was prepared. Fourteen Marines showed up for service the next morning and two days later this guy was on an airplane for home, and I’m alone. Then, I discover that the chaplains responsibility at 3rd FSR is not just to take care of the pastoral needs in the regiment, but its to provide all the logistics support for chaplains in Vietnam. Everything from hymn books, to organs, to wine, to grape juice, to chalices, to crosses, whatever, comes through the chapel office at 3rd FSR. It’s ordered, it’s stocked, it’s shipped to Vietnam. And that becomes my responsibility. So, I got a more abundant chapel program, I got three corporals running the supply program, and I…it’s…it’s a mess. It’s an absolute mess. So I took the sharpest of the three Marines and I said you will learn this system inside and out and you will coach me through it. Meanwhile, I’m trying to beat the bushes to get a chapel program going. And I went to the colonel and I said, “Colonel can I expect to see you in chapel?”, and I’m only a lieutenant, and this is a Marine colonel with thirty years in the corps. And he says, “ah, I’m not a very good church goer and I’m pretty mad at your predecessor”, and all that, and he said, “but it’s not fair for me to take that out on you”. So he came to chapel ,and we gradually…I hired an organist, I hired a soloist, and we began to build…build a worshiping congregation. Meanwhile I’m trying to learn this supply system and we’re getting these orders…we’ve got a hundred chaplains in Vietnam. And all of their…all their supplies come from…from us. And I discovered that the biggest need in Vietnam among the chaplains, is for wine. Anything labeled for a chaplain in the supply system was pilfered. Because along the way they…they think their gonna find wine in this shipment of stuff. So they break it open and if there’s no wine, they just trash the rest of it. So I went to the colonel, and I said, “Colonel, the Catholic chaplains are not getting any wine”. So I became…a T-totaling Methodist…becomes a wine runner. So I talked to the colonel, and I said, “the only way we’re going to get wine down to Vietnam is for me to take it…hand carry it”. So he said, “get yourself orders”, he said, “check out a weapon, I don’t want you down…”, and I said “hgggggt…wait a minute, wait a minute”, and he says, “you’re not gonna go into Vietnam unless you’re armed”. I said, “I can’t carry…I’m not supposed to carry a weapon”. And he says, “I don’t want you to…” Anyway, I said, “would you consider this?”, I said, “a Marine will go with me…my clerk will go with me”, I said, “how about if I go to the range and get checked out, so I know how to shoot a forty five and I know how to shoot the M-whatever weapon”. So he agreed to that. So I went to the range for two days and got checked out with the weapons and my young clerk and I got orders down to Vietnam to hand carry this wine. And he carried the weapons and the ammunition, flack jacket, helmet, down to Vietnam, and…and delivered…delivered wine around. I managed to get the force chaplain in Vietnam to cancel my return orders to Okinawa, cause I had the chapel program pretty well on tract and I had the navigators…the…the…the…bunch of evangelical young guys who could cover services. So I stayed down in Vietnam cause I wanted…I wanted to do something in country. First thing I did…was told to do…was go to the first Marine division brig to do a service. Now these are incarcerated young Marines. So it’s Sunday morning and I’m beginning to think about that nice church in Aurora where I could have been…flack jacket, helmet, three Marines, armed to the teeth, the jeep is sandbagged in the event you hit a mine, you know, to cushion it. And we ride out into no man’s land, and I’m thinking, “we could get shot from any direction”. We go out to this compound which was something right out of World War II. Where there were about twenty five young Marines incarcerated and there was an old Marine major in command of this thing. I get out there, and I say, “what are these kids in here for?” They were in there awaiting shipment back to the states for general court martial for crimes committed against each other and against Vietnamese civilians. I thought to myself, “six months ago, these kids were riding around Wilmington North Carolina chasing the girls and now their facing…”. It was…it was pretty grim. I…I have no idea what I preached about that morning. There was an old pump field organ and we had some music and…I stayed and counseled with some of those kids. And then went up and began delivering wine and did some services in the field where there was…where chaplains had not gone. And then went back to the…back to Okinawa and continued…by then…I still have no help. I’m alone in a three chaplain regiment and I get a nice letter from the Fleet Marine Force, force chaplain, telling me that I’m doing a wonderful job and if there was any…any possibility of a spot promotion to lieutenant commander they would spot promote on the…you know,…so. It was interesting also, nobody in that regiment at Okinawa got a personal decoration except a young Marine that worked for me. I got a letter…a letter of appreciation from the…General Cushman, who was in command of all the Marines…I have a letter of appreciation that reads as good as a bronze star, but nobody got…nobody got any metals for that. You know, today I think we throw metals around with…but…made another trip back to Vietnam in June of sixty seven…and then we had adopted our first child when we were in Maine and…from a Catholic institution, and I wrote to the sister and I said, “would you…would it be possible to place another child?” And she wrote back and she said they would be pleased to do that, but it would be most helpful if I was assigned to a duty station in New England. So I sent that letter to the chief of chaplains, and I got ordered to the Boston Naval Shipyard. So I came back in six…December sixty seven and we went to Boston in January sixty eight…I went to the Naval ship…now you know what was going on in nineteen sixty eight. It may be one of the worst years of the century. Boston was the east coast hotbed of anti war protesting. I didn’t wear my uniform a lot of times from home to the shipyard, you just wouldn’t want to be in the streets of Boston. But as a collateral duty in Boston, I was tasked with delivering casualty messages to next of kin. Killed in action, wounded in action, missing in action…so you go out at (knocking sound) nine o’clock at night and you knock on the door and you tell ‘em their kid’s dead. I did about twenty of those in a year and a half. They would send…and we had to go…we would get the message and we had to deliver that within six hours, lest the family would see it on television. So the first…the first message I delivered was in February of sixty eight…cold night…and they sent a young ensign with me as the casualty assistance calls officer. He’s a pimply faced twenty two year old and I had just made lieutenant commander. So we go out to a place called Dorchester…knock at the door, and this lady comes down in her housecoat about nine o’clock at night, and she takes one look, and she said, “my son, isn’t it?”, I said, “yes ma’am, can we come in?” . We go upstairs and she tosses a letter at me, and she said, I got a letter from him today. Kid was a Marine corpsman…a corp…a Navy corpsman with the Marines. And the letter says, “mom, don’t worry about me cause there’s a Marine in front of me and a Marine behind me all the time”. So this lady really held herself together. And I said, “is your husband around?” and she said, “well, he’s down around the corner at the VFW with a neighbor having a few beers”. And I said to the young ensign, “you go down and you talk to the neighbor, and you have him bring the dad home”. So the lady went in the kitchen and made a pot of coffee and I was talking to her in the kitchen…and about ten minutes later, I hear them come up the stairs and the father is going berserk and he’s screaming, “they send a blankety-blank chaplain to tell me my kid is dead”. So he comes in the kitchen and he grabs a butcher knife and he comes at me…and the neighbor was a big as you are…and the neighbor grabbed him. And the man broke down and cried like a baby in my arms. These people were so angry they refused every military benefit. They refused the casket. They refused the flag. I did…I did too many of those. But I never went without an escort again, either I called the Boston police or I took the shore patrol with me. Funniest one…if there is any humor in here…got a message one night, it said, “Bosunsmate first class Robert Smith, who’s in the Riverine Force, killed…next of kin, Mary Smith”. I don’t know whether Mary Smith is mother, grandmother, wife, sister, daughter. So we got out to Cambridge, dingy place…and nobody home. So we go back to the shipyard, drank a cup of coffee, go back out again, knock at the door, and this woman opens…and she’s got the chain…and she looks out…and I go through my thing, you know, “I regret…” and she says, “who gets the insurance money, me or that slut?” This was her son!…who had run away, sixteen years earlier, joined the Navy, and all this woman was worried about was insurance. But, then, after that, I was selected to go to graduate school. Navy…

Zarbock: Let me back…

Pfannenstiel: Please.

Zarbock: Back up a minute. That…day after day, the same type of announcement, the same type of anguish…no not the same type of anguish, but tremendous anguished…who pastored you during that time?

Pfannenstiel: Paul, when I ran the advanced course where Jim Apple attended, that was a question we posed to the senior chaplains… “who’s the pastor to the pastor?” Often times we don’t have close friends…we don’t have a close friend. Our wife…you know, a lot of people would say, “oh yea, sure, that’s…”, that almost goes with the territory. I really didn’t in Boston. I really didn’t. I had some friends…that’s before I met Jim Apple…we didn’t know each other. I had a close friend, Don Alexander, who I’m gonna go and visit on the way home now. Don and I were close with letters and phone calls, but geographically we were thousand of miles apart. I guess I learned, as I got older, that we really need the support of friends. And I think what I learned, when I ran that post graduate program when…the course that Jim went to…was that a lot of chaplains don’t have a support system. We had a professor come and do some instructing in that post graduate course, and he did a little drill one day with the chaplains, and he said, “take out a piece of paper and list fifty names of people that you know well”. Ah, so we thought you know, your uncle, your brother-in-law, your sister-in-law, your friends, your cousins. Then he said, “now scratch off all the people who are relatives. Now scratch off all the people who are more than a hundred miles away from you right now, and what do ya got left?” Some had no one. And so, yea, that’s a…that’s a…that’s a real…that’s a real thing. Anyway, I was selected to go to graduate school. The Navy sends ten chaplains a year for a year of post graduate training at a civilian university. So I had been doing some extra course work at Andover Newton Seminary because it was right near where we lived…it’s right near Boston, and got selected for graduate school which is a real…a real feather in your hat, and decided to do my year of post graduate work at Andover Newton in pastoral counseling. So I get that all set up. I get a phone call from Washington and they say, “would you be willing to change directions and go to a…some university…and get a degree in journalism and public relations in preparation for a job in Washington on the chief of chaplain staff?” I know nothing about Washington. I know nothing other than it’s way off…and so I called a senior chaplain that I knew and I said, “what should I do?”, and he said, “I think…I think you oughta do it”. Well, doing it, was going to the University of Indiana and getting a degree in journalism and public relations in preparation to become the head of public relations and ecclesiastical affairs for the chaplain corps. So I went to Indiana…went to Indiana for a year…we did adopt another child, so I had a boy and a girl…went to Indiana in six…sixty nine…seventy. Took the uniform off. Navy paid all my tuition, books, salary, _____…it was a wonderful thing. Got the degree in journalism. Then went to Washington for three years in the chief of chaplain staff and worked for chief of chaplains, Frank Derek, who was a Methodist. And I became very close to him, and had a great three year tour of duty in Washington. And it was time…time to get orders in nineteen seventy three…and by then, I’d had enough of the bureaucracy, I mean, you can only put up with the…with bologna sausage for so long. So, in the spring of seventy three, the chief of chaplains came…came, and he said, “you’ve got to think about your next duty”, and I said, “okay”, and he said, “you can go anywhere you wanna go…if you’ve served three years in purgatory here…” And I said, “I want to go to USS Newport News, which was heavy cruiser”, and he said, “I can’t do that”, because we were top heavy with commanders and captains and he was sending those senior guys to ships that should have had lieutenant commander. And he said, “I can’t do that”. He had six cruisers and all six had either captains or senior commanders as a chaplain, I’m just a lieutenant commander. So he came back about a week later and he said, “have you thought more about it?” , and I said, “yes sir, I have”, I said, “I wanna go to Newport News”. He said, “Jim, they’ll eat me alive if I do that!”, and I said, “chief, you know that a thirty three year old lieutenant commander is gonna be better out there than a forty five year old captain”. So anyway, I got ordered to Newport News, which was probably the best sea billet for a chaplain at the time…it was a heavy cruiser…biggest cruiser ever built. And if you wanted to be a Navy chaplain, there’s where you wanna be…on a cruiser like that. We had eleven hundred men in a crew and one chaplain and it was…it was great. I made commander while I was onboard Newport News…spent two years…ship went out of commission in the spring of seventy five. So you’re looking at the last chaplain who ever served aboard a capitol ship. Capital ship being a gun ship…a gun ship. So went to…finished the tour on Newport News…and then got a call from chaplain Garrett. And he said, “Jim, I’d like you to go to Beaufort South Carolina, the Marine Corps Air Station”. And I said, “chief, what’s a Beaufort?” And he said, “well, it’s an air station near Paris Island and our protestant program is in shambles”. So I asked him…I had the presence of mind to say, “who’s the Catholic chaplain?”, and he said, “it’s Jeff Gaughan”. And I had known Jeff. Jeff is senior to me.

Zarbock: How do you spell the last name?

Pfannenstiel: G A U G H A N. A Benedictine…one of the closest friends I ever made. Jeff was at Beaufort, and I said to the chief, if Jeff Gaughan is at Beaufort, I’ll go”. So we went to Beaufort, and I was a brand new commander and inherited an absolutely shambled program from three protestant chaplains who were dead in the water. Two of them had been senior to me at one time and had been…reached their terminal rank of lieutenant commander…and I passed them by. It was a…it was a tough scene. I managed to get two of them transferred so we could finally get some work done. My first Sunday in Beaufort we had thirty five people in a five hundred seat chapel…three protestant chap…and a booming Catholic program. Jeff had a marvelo…he did two masses. He had me preach at his masses the first Sunday I was there. He’s got two hundred and fifty people and they clapped…he said, “let’s give Jim Phannenstiel…”. Then I go to our service and I preach to thirty five people. And then I go back and preach at Jeff’s other mass…where he sat another two hundred. I had left my wife and kids in Virginia Beach to sell a house and I went to the BOQ that afternoon, and I said “this is…this is awful”. I said, “I gotta take charge of this, we gotta do something”. So in the military we say, we kick ass and take names. And I had to…I had to…first time I had to wear my three stripes…first time I had…I said, “if their gonna make me a senior chaplain, I’ve gotta…”, I had never been senior, I’d been junior in Portsmouth New Hampshire, and junior at Great Lakes, and here I am, wearing the three stripes, with the scrambled eggs, and Beaufort proved to be…I was there forty nine months. We built it into a model…model program. Absolutely model. You could have taken that and overlaid it anywhere in the Navy and in the Marine Corps. We had…within six months…we had two hundred people worshiping, we had a hundred and fifty kids in Sunday school. We had the Catholic congregation and the protestant congregation. We did everything we could do together. We had a chaplain newsletter, we did chapel picnics, we did potlucks. When Jeff confirmed kids, I robed up and participated in his confirmation. Jeff preached in my chapel. We had a wonderful…Jeff then, was plucked up by newly selected John O’Connor, okay O’Connor…a lot of people don’t know that O’Connor was a Navy chaplain for twenty five…he became a Cardinal. O’Connor became chief of chaplains and he plucked Jeff up to go to Washington as his administrative assistant, and Jeff made his four stripes…which left me, as a senior guy at Beaufort. And I was senior there for three years. And just had a…had a marvelous tour duty. I was there forty nine months, was selected for captain…well I was a captain…selected me right after I left…I left Beaufort. Was interesting…we were at a chaplain corps anniversary celebration in the fall of seventy eight and I was six months away from the zone for captain and John O’Connor came up to me and he said, “how would you like to go to Newport?”, I said, “yea”, he said, “well I think I want to send you to Newport, can you hang on to Beaufort for another six months?”. I said, “certainly”, I said, “what job am I gonna do in Newport?” He said, “well, I want you to be the officer in charge of the post graduate course”. And I said, “that’s a captain’s billet”, and he said, “you have no…you have no worries”. So I knew, six months before the board, that I was gonna make captain. But Beaufort…Beaufort was a…was a marvelous tour of duty. Duty with Marines is very special. They are a special breed of people. Jim Apple can tell you that they are the most…most can do people in the world. I never had a Marine or his wife ever say no when I asked them to do anything in the chapel, whether it was to make coffee or pay a call, or usher, or count the money, or sing in the choir. And we just…we just had a marvelous time and we had a very integrated chapel. We had…I had a black organist and choir director, a husband and wife team, and our choir numbered forty…and we just…we had a marvelous…just had a marvelous ministry. I thought that if…if ever a Navy chaplain wanted as close to parish ministry, Beaufort was the place…place to go. Beaufort had had twenty five chaplains in the history of the air station, and none of them had ever made a promotion except Jeff was the first one who ever made captain, and I made captain, and the four chaplains that worked for me in Beaufort, all made captain.

Zarbock: Pastor, one of the things I’ve told other people is, you will never be a day older than you are today as a result of this technology. Now I…I sometimes think of pre…ex-president Kennedy as being forty years of age, but he’d be eighty by now, if alive, so you’re always gonna be this age. My final question is: what would you like to tell your children, grandchildren, and other people who are gonna view this, what did…what’s…what have you learned from life? What did you learn from your life?

Pfannenstiel: I think serving a person’s country is a high calling and I am very proud to have served my country for twenty three years. I’m very proud to have served my church and the name of the United Methodist Church. Church put its credential…put its mandate upon me to go and do ministry and let me do it for twenty three years. I think the chaplaincy is a noble, noble calling. And I think that there are gospel background for this. I think when Jesus went out to that boat, when those disciples were sinking, he wasn’t out there for a pleasure walk. He was out there because there was a boatload of men who were in trouble and I like to think that our church would send us out, would send me out, to be with a boatload of sailors to represent God Almighty in their presence, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Zarbock: It’s a privilege to know you sir.

(Tape 2)

Pfannenstiel: Pastor, do I look okay?

Male voice: You look fine.

Pfannenstiel: …sitting behind the desk.

Male voice: Listen…

Zarbock: Tape number two, three April 2004, Pastor Pfannenstiel. Take it away sir!

Pfannenstiel: Paul, I appreciate the chance to talk a little bit more. You… in our conversations this morning, several times you…you talked about World War II. World War II, I think to anyone, of my age anyway…I was born in 1935…so in the early forties I’m a very formative young kid who sees ships, and airplanes, and uniforms repeatedly with a stepfather in the Navy and a beloved uncle in the Army. And World War II really…really left an impact on me and I think that that probably went to know…someday you want to wear a uniform and all that. But, I don’t want to…want to ever underestimate the impact of World War II people…when I say those are the guys and women that saved the world, I really…I really believe that. I was very fortunate, when in went in the Navy, you know, I went in in 1962, so many of the World War II people were finishing up twenty year careers, so I came under the influence of a lot of men who had gone to war in World War II. I was aboard USS LaSalle which was a brand new amphibious attack transport built in the Brooklyn Navy yard. There was a warrant officer, Blahnik, aboard…who was in the Navy before I was born.

Zarbock: How do you spell Blahnik?

Pfannenstiel: I think it was B…B L A H N I K. Blahnik. But he…he was in the Navy in nineteen thirty four…he’s finishing thirty years. So I went to sea with…with people like that. I wanted to…it’s important I think, for the record, I wanted to name a couple of names. The captain of USS LaSalle was Edward H. Winslow. W I N S L O W. Captain Winslow was class of forty one at the Naval Academy. In 1964 when he took command of this brand new ship, the epitome of his career, he’s been in the Navy twenty…twenty three years, he’s a four striper, he’s got all the ribbons from World War II, and he’s the skipper of the ship. And I re…report aboard…the ship is not yet commissioned…it’s sitting next to the pier and we’re operating out of makeshift offices and a warehouse next to the pier. The ship’s about a month from commissioning. And it’s being finished off by the yard workers, and I report in…been in the Navy now, two years?…I’m twenty eight years old…and the scene is something like this: brand new, wet behind the ears, inexperienced chaplain, is taken to meet the brand new commanding officer. Okay? And there is Captain Winslow in his dress blues, with his big four stripes and his ribbons…very distinguished man. He had never laid eyes on me and I had never met him. And this man says to me, “chaplain, I am at your disposal twenty four hours a day in port or at sea for anything you think should come to my attention. You have an open gangway to see me at any time you think that I should know something”. He said, “I will make every effort to attend every service you conduct”. He said, “I’m a Southern Baptist”. He says, “I’m a man of prayer. I believe in God”. And I thought to myself years later, I did nothing to earn that man’s respect other than I was a Navy chaplain. And this guy had respect for Navy chaplains. I was the beneficiary of a whole career of him respecting, and appreciating, and trusting Navy chaplains. That was…that was a gift to me. And I thought “wow!”. When I retired twenty some years later, I used that story in my retirement speech because about twenty five chaplains were present at the retirement ceremony. And I said, “we have a rich legacy. Sometimes we think we do it all and we’re so great, we preach great sermons, we do…no, we don’t do well, unless we get support from people like a Captain Winslow”. And I just didn’t want to let this opportunity go by to say that our success in many instances is predicated on the kind of command support that we get for our programs. I know chaplains and Jim Apple knows chaplains that have muddied up every stream they ever walked into. I know chaplains that have been court marshaled, I know chaplains who have alienated the affections of other men’s wives, I know chaplains who have played fast and loose with chaplain funds, misappropriated things, they’re not…they’re just not good models. There are other chaplains who have gone above and beyond. I mean, I have the privilege to talk to you, but I could name some people you really…some people you ought to be talking to also. Chaplains who I have big respect for. I worked for chief of chaplains, Frank Garrett. G A R R E T T. Frank Garrett went in the Navy in nineteen forty four as a very young chaplain…became chief of chaplains. No chief of chaplains is free of being criticized. Okay, that goes with the territory! There are people that thought that Frank Garrett did an ineffective job. I thought he made chaplains feel important, and he went to visit commands and he emphasized the need for supporting the chaplain…because the chaplains were old. And I spent a lot of…a lot of time with…with Frank Garrett, and I really appreciated him. I mentioned this morning that I had…(throat clearing) excuse me…served with some senior Catholic chaplains that impressed me. Ed Slattery, the director of the school, was an impressive man. Mike McGinnis. These men were finishing up their twenty year careers. They had gone to World War II. I was very fortunate to go in when I did and come under the influence of some of these people who modeled…ah…kind of smaltzy to say this, but…I’d like to be like them some day. I want to tell you about another…another person. When…when I went aboard USS Newport News as chaplain aboard this heavy cruiser, the executive officer was a commander named Bob Briner. B R I N E R. Bob Briner is a fifty four graduate of the Naval Academy. And if ever there was a spit and polish, no nonsense, officer, it was Bob Briner. So I go aboard the USS Newport News as a…as a lieutenant commander, relieving a commander, and we carried…second fleet staff came aboard when we carried and admiral…and a lot of senior officers wanted good staterooms. Well the chaplain I was relieving had a very nice stateroom…well, he’s a full commander…and when I came aboard as a lieutenant commander, Bob Briner calls me and he says, “chaplain, I’m gonna have to move ya outta this stateroom because the second field come aboard and they…”, and I said “wait a minute”, I said, “you know, I’m a department head, all the other department heads, engineering, operations, navigation, weapons, they’ve all got a stateroom and an office”, and I said, “I think this…”, and he said, “well I’m gonna locate ya up on…near the mess decks”. And I thought, “that’s just what the young sailors want. They want to be on public display when they go to see the chaplain”, I said, “that’s inappropriate”. So, I go back to the stateroom I thought was gonna be mine, and I wrote a memo to internal risk. I wrote a memo from me to the chief of chaplains. I had just come from the chief of chaplains office and I had heard Frank Garrett say repeatedly to commanding officers, “you gotta give your chaplains support”. So I drafted a memo and I said I think moving me is a direct reflection of this command’s unwillingness to support a viable religious program. I typed it off, made myself a carbon, and I fed it into commander Briner’s office. And then I waited. About ten minutes later, I get a knock on the door, from the young Marine orderly and he says, “chaplain the XO wants to see you right away!” So I…I went up, and he’s got this memo sitting on his desk, and the first thing he says to me is, “did you send this?” And I said “no sir”. And he said, “can you do something like this?” And I said, “I think that there’s a chaplain corps chain of command”, and I said, “I think that…that you’re not willing to give me the support…”, he says, “I never saw a chaplain do anything like this before”. And I said, “commander you never met me before”. So we had a little talk about that, and finally he said, “well I’ve never…I’ve never been impressed with chaplains”. He said, “I always thought that they were out doing their own thing, they had their own agenda, they were never supporting the command”. And I said…and he said…I said to him, “I think before our tours of duty are over I’m gonna be the best friend you have on this ship”. So we talked a little more and he took the thing and threw it in the wastebasket, and he said, “you got your stateroom”. Well, to back up a little bit, Bob Briner was nine years old in nineteen forty one at Pearl Harbor. Bob Briner’s father was Harmon Briner, who was the engineering officer aboard USS Pennsylvania, battleship in a dry dock at Pearl Harbor when the bombs dropped. When the bombs dropped, Bob Briner and his younger brother and their mother were living in Navy housing in Pearl Harbor. The base chaplains rounded up all the families and got ‘em up into the cane fields. Bob Briner can remember the jet planes flying over. His dad was engineering officer on Pennsylvania…Pennsylvania took some severe damage that day. He didn’t know for two days whether his dad was alive or not. About three weeks later they sent all the dependents back home. Well, a few years after…now this…back to World War II…a few years later, I left the ship and I went to the Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort South Carolina, and I had an elderly aunt living in Milwaukee who was remarrying…she was about seventy five…and she called and asked if I would, along with her fiancée’s pastor, do the wedding. So I took my…one of my younger daughters with me. We flew to Milwaukee, and the day before the wedding, I went to pay a call on Pastor Anderson, my fiancee’s…my…my aunt’s fiancee’s pastor. And he…we were visiting…and he said to me, he said, “I was in…I was in the Navy when I was a young guy”. I said, “really?”, I said, “when did you go in?” He said, “I went in nineteen forty”. I said to him, “where were you when the bombs dropped?” And he said, “I was aboard the USS Pennsylvania”. And I said, “what did you do on the Pennsylvania?” He said, “well I was an enlisted man in the engine room”. And I said to him, “well you must have been working for lieutenant commander Harmon Briner”. And he said to me “how in the world would you know that?” And I said, “because Harmon Briner’s son, Bob, was my commanding officer just a couple of years ago”. Well, I then did my tour of duty at Beaufort, I went to the chaplain school for three years, I went to the submarine force for two years, and I wind up as senior chaplain at Pearl Harbor. Now at Pearl Harbor, there’s an aura at Pearl Harbor, as you…as you well know. I get a letter from Pastor Anderson, that he and his wife are going to come to Pearl Harbor for a visit. He has not been back since the war. Now this is nineteen eighty four. So this man comes back to Pearl Harbor…oh!…and he told me in the initial visit, he said, “I joined…when I joined the Navy, I joined with two high school buddies”. He said, “one of ‘em was lost at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the other one was lost on the Arizona”. The kid who was lost on the Arizona…name was Hanson. So Anderson and his wife come to visit Pearl Harbor, and we hosted them. And I took him out to the Arizona memorial. And here’s a man in his seventies now, standing in front of the memorial wall, looking at the name Hanson, his high school buddy. You talk about a…a flow of emotion. I took him around the base, and I took him in…the Navy built a gorgeous chapel in the seventies at Pearl Harbor…and I took him into…into the chapel, you know, and here’s this man who did his time in the Navy in World War II, went to college, went to seminary, was ordained, was a pastor at a church…he stood in that chapel and he said, “what a country that would build something like this so it’s young men and women in the military would not forget the spiritual”. So, I was very fortunate to rub elbows with…with…with World War II influences. When I was at Boston, the executive officer of the naval shipyard was a man named John Powell. John Powell was an enlisted man in nineteen forty three aboard the cruiser Astoria, which was torpedoed and sunk. He survived, was rehabilitated, after the war, got a commission, and he was a very senior commander at the shipyard in Boston. One day…one day a dingbat Navy chaplain shows up in my office, and he says…an old carrier, the USS Randolph had been brought to Boston for decommissioning…this is nineteen sixty eight. The Randolph was in South Boston and when the ship’s going through decommissioning, the crew is getting dispersed…so this guy comes into my office and he says, “I don’t think you’d mind covering my ship, so I can be detached and on my way”. And I said, “what are you talking about?” He says, “well, I’m on the Randolph and we’ve only got three, four hundred sailors, and I got my orders, and…” I said, “wait a minute, I have heard nothing about doing anything on the Randolph” So I said, “let’s just talk to my executive officer”. So I called commander Powell, and I trot this chaplain down to commander Powell, and Powell says…he’s a no nonsense man…and he says to this chaplain, “what the hell you doing to our chaplain?” And he said, “well, I didn’t…” He said, “we got nothing in orders that Chaplain Pfannenstiel is doing anything on your ship, get our ass back to your ship and do your job”. Powell’s a World War II guy, you know, he’s outside…inside of a very spirit…is…is a really big heart. So, years later, I’m the director of the chaplain school, and I go into the library…the base library…to check out a book…and…and there…he had very beautiful hand writing…and there on the library card, is John Powell! And I said to the librarian, “who…”, she said, “well, he’s a retired commander”. So I looked him up, and he was probably seventy some years old then, and I had lunch with him, and he said, “I’m getting married”. He said, “would you come? Would you say a prayer at our reception dinner?” you know, and I thought, those…those men…those men went to sea in nineteen forty two, forty three, forty four, and they won the war…they won the war. And I was very, very, fortunate to rub elbows with some of those people. And a lot of it rubbed off. And it’s…it’s…it’s a love…it’s a love of country, it’s a love of doing what you think you have to do in the name of the Almighty in that environment. I went to, ah…went to Pearl Harbor for my twilight tour, and it was…I swear my career sometimes is picking up the pieces of…of junk, but I’m…Jim Apple knows who I relieved in Pearl Harbor, and it was…it was not a pretty scene. The guy that I relieved muddied up a lot of streams that he walked into and he was being short toured, in fact. I was…I got dispatch orders from the submarine force to go to Pearl Harbor, would get there before Christmas to straighten things out at the Protestant program. So we went, you know, our stuff was packed up and in three weeks we had been out of Virginia Beach and on to Pearl Harbor. And, we had to make some changes in the…in the worship service, we had to pump some life into it, we had to…so, about the second Sunday that I’m there, a very distinguished older man and his wife in civilian clothes, come out of the chapel. And he introduces himself as four star Admiral William Crowell, who became…left Pearl Harbor, became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then retired. And Clinton appointed him as the Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. Okay, so you know who Admiral Crowell is. Well, here I’ve got Crowell and his wife in the chapel. Well, we did some things, and about the fourth or fifth week I was there, I get a personal letter, hand written, from Admiral Crowell. And he says, “some fine things have happened in the chapel in the last few weeks, I’m very impressed. Keep up the good work. If there’s anything that I can do, you please let me know”. So, he was…he was loyal in the chapel and we…we…we had a very nice thing. But one Friday morning, I got a call from Admiral Crowell’s aide. And the aide said, “chaplain can you come up to the Admiral’s office, he’d like to see you right away”. So I trot up to…to Crowell’s office. And went in…he closed the door, the coffee was poured, it’s a Friday morning, and he said, “Jim, I want to give you a heads up”. He said, “President Regan is going to be in Pearl Harbor this weekend for high level far eastern conference”, and he said, “the President will worship Sunday morning, either at Pearl Harbor, or at the Air Force base at Hickam”, he says, “I don’t know where”. He said, “but this is a heads up to you”. He said, “if he comes to Pearl Harbor, he will show up at five minutes to eleven, with his entourage, and come to church”. He said, “I just want you to have a heads up. You cannot tell anybody. Don’t change your service. Don’t tell your choir. Don’t tell your wife”. And so, I said, “Admiral, he’s gonna get the same sermon that you’re gonna get Sunday morning. I change nothing”. So there’s the little butterflies going on and he eventually went to Hickam, but at five minutes to eleven, you know, we got the choir forming up, ready to go in…I thought, “wouldn’t it be something if the President of the United States rode up in the next minute and came…came to church”. But, Crowell, along with…by the way, to back up to Bob Briner…the exec on Newport News…and I said to him, we may be the best of friends…six months after I was on board, Bob Briner lost his little boy, eight years old, in open heart surgery. And if you said to me, Paul, what’s…what’s the toughest thing you’ve ever done in ministry, I would tell you it was the burial of little Bobby Briner. Little guy needed heart surgery, without it he had no chance, with it he had a fifty-fifty chance. But he went to Bethesda and they lost him. And Bob called me from Bethesda and asked me to tell the captain and inform the ship. And I did…I did the funeral. In the aftermath, he had to go right back to sea…I mean, you know, their not gonna stop the…the Navy with this, so…this guy showed me more character, carrying that burden of grief and sorrow that he did…he held his head high and he used me in the most positive use of the word use…his friend and his chaplain, but, I think that we…we were very blessed with so many opportunities to serve. So much need there. Somebody once said…I think…I don’t know whether it was John O’Connor or not…talked about ministry of presence. You are present, you don’t have to talk a lot, you don’t have to…you’re…you’re present. But I want to tell you…you know who John O’Connor was?…John O’Connor was, you know, Roman Catholic, became chief of chaplains, retired from the Navy, and then became Cardinal O’Connor…

Zarbock: Yes.

Pfannenstiel: …in New York. Well, every year the chaplain, of course, celebrates the Chaplain Corps anniversary and it’s a time when you commemorate the X number of years of the Navy Chaplain Corps, which began in seventeen seventy five or something. So, every year, traditionally, we would go to the Officer’s Club, we’d put on our best dress uniforms, and we would sit down at the linen table cloths, and we would have a great meal with our ladies, and we would…we would celebrate how great we are. And we would track in speakers, and we would…we’d say we were such wonderful, wonderful, saintly people. Well I was at Beaufort…I was the senior chaplain at Beaufort Air Station, and O’Connor challenged the chaplain corps and he said, “why don’t we do something sacrificial this year, to celebrate our anniversary?” And he didn’t say any more than that. And that word went out through the chaplain corps. I got to thinking…what could we do that would be sacrificial rather than lauding and praising ourselves? So we usually did this anniversary in conjunction with the chaplains in Paris Island. It was our turn to host it at the air station, so I called the senior chaplain of Paris Island and we got a committee together, and I said, “you know, we gotta think of a way to do something that takes the attention off of us and we do something that reaches out”. So I came up with a brainstorm and I said, “why don’t we…” when we would…we…traditionally we would invite the commanding officers, and the sergeant majors, and the top enlisted people and their wives, so, we looked at about a hundred and fifty people coming to this thing…so I said, “why don’t we do this…”, we had a big chapel that sat a lot of people, and in the back we had taken out a bunch of pews so we could have a reception fellowship area, so what we did…we assessed every chaplain what it would have cost to go to the Officer’s Club…thirty, forty bucks a piece. I called in the Marine air base squadron that serves the mess hall meal. And so what we did, we had an ecumenical service and I had the mess people set up the mess line in the back of the chapel with trays. All the guests picked up a tray, they went through the mess line, and the marines in their fatigues served the meal. The ladies in the chapel decorated the tables. And I was able to prepare a check for five hundred dollars payable on behalf of the Navy Chaplain Corps to the Christian Children’s Fund to feed hungry kids. So, we finished the meal, and it’s time for me to introduce John O’Connor as the speaker…and O’Connor…Jim Apple knows…O’Connor could bore you to death. He was super bright, I mean, he could talk, and talk, and talk. I’ve heard him several times, but anyway, introduced Chaplain O’Connor and I said, “you challenged us to do something sacrificial this year”. I said, “the chaplains at Paris Island and Beaufort want to give you this check to send to the Christian Children’s Fund to feed hungry kids”. O’Connor took his prepared speech, put it in his pocket, and he talked about sacrifice. We had Marine aviators there, and we had Marine infantry people there. This is about nineteen seventy seven, seventy eight, and O’Connor said…I wish I had it in my memory…O’Connor said, “there’s not enough money in the world to pay a man to fly an F4 into combat. There is not enough money in the world to pay a waiting wife with four kids while her husband leads an infantry platoon into action. You do this for reasons beyond yourself. You do this for love of country. I’m telling you it was…O’Connor has made a million speeches, he never was more eloquent than he was that night. And I thought, every now and then, we tend to do something that’s right, you know, the chaplain corps does a lot of things that are wrong, but there were some times that we…we rose to the occasion. But it was people like…at Beaufort, the commanding officer was an Episcopalian, his name was Paul Sigmund, believe it or not, this guy spent thirty years in the Marine Corps, flew in two wars, and was killed on an interstate. But Paul Sigmund was so supportive of us. He was my leading usher, his wife sang in the choir and she hosted choir parties. We got money to fund our program because we were providing more service to the air base than anybody else. But I could not talk about the chaplaincy and say that we are all so great. We are great. We did great things because we had great people supporting us. When I retired, Admiral Crowell said to me…it was time to retire…and he said to me, “I think you should do your retirement ceremony out on Arizona Memorial, _________. So I was…I was at a Marine function one night, a Marine mess night…which is all men…a dining in includes the ladies, but a mess night is…is men only…and I was sitting at the head table with the commanding officer of the Marine barracks. His name was Mack Dubee, a legend in the Marine Corps. And we were talking, and I said…I said, “Mack I’m going to retire in July”, and he says, “well, I’m thinking about doing that too”, he said, “what are your plans?” And I said, “well Admiral Crowell suggested that I have the ceremony out on the Arizona”. Colonel said, “you don’t want to do that”, he said, “because that’s being run by the National Parks Service, and their not gonna hold up all the tourists for…”, he said, “why don’t you let us do it on the Marine drill field?” So the Marines took hold of that retirement ceremony…there is no Admiral who ever retired with more pomp than I did! So at…at the retirement, I wanted to take some of the focus off myself, and so I got five honorary chaplain certificates, I got them beautifully framed, and I said, “the chaplain corps doesn’t award medals to anybody, but we do have a way of recognizing special people”. And I had an honorary chaplain certificate for Admiral Crowell and his wife, for the commanding officer, Mike Ferguson, at the air station who was really supportive of us, I had one for my secretary, for the leader of a bible study group, and for my organist. And I said, “these people have made our program a success”. And I think Jim…Jim Apple would agree…that you were effective in many, many ways, because people supported what we were doing. There were people like the Captain Winslows who just trusted the Navy chaplains were effective. And, I don’t know, I just…I couldn’t…I had…I had to get…I had to get that in, because, number one, the World War II people are very, very special. And those of us who had a chance to be impacted by them or influenced by them or see them as models were very blessed. And also the fact that so many good men and women appreciated what chaplains could do and gave them the support to let them do it. And that’s probably what I should retire on right now. But I salute…I salute the University of North Carolina of Wilmington, and you, for…for what…wherever this project goes, I think…I think you’re doing a good thing, and I think we’re very blessed to have people taking interest in us, because I think, it’s a very noble…very noble profession. And it wasn’t the profession for everybody. A lot of…lot of chaplains…I…I…Jim was fortunate…and Sandy…I was fortunate to be married to Jan for all the years that I was in the Navy and got the kind of support at home that enabled us to do some things. I know chaplains who could not be ordered to high visibility duty stations because they didn’t model well, or they had family stuff going on. I was very fortunate to be able to be assigned to places that were of heavy responsibility or visibility. And it was good…it was good…just a…just a good career. As I said, when you and I were dialoguing with Jim this morning that…gosh I’d do it again! Real soon! Thank you.

Zarbock: It’s a privilege to have met you, truly.

Pfannenstiel: Privilege! My…it’s my privilege. Thanks, Paul.

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