Destroyer Named After Chaplain Hero at Pearl Harbor

Did you know that one of the U.S. Navy destroyers was named in honor of a Catholic priest? Yes, the USS Schmitt, which served our country from 1943-1967, was named for Navy chaplain, Lieutenant Aloysius Schmitt. In 1942 the chaplain received a medal from the Navy and Marine Corp for outstanding courage.  He received the awards posthumously because he had died in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.Aloysius Schmitt was born in Iowa in 1909 on December 4.  After completing his studies for the priesthood in Rome, he was ordained on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1935. He received permission to join the Navy and was commissioned to the USS Oklahoma as Lieutenant j.g., in 1939. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor that December morning in 1941 the Oklahoma was docked at the naval port. Almost as soon as the alarms went off she was hit hard by nine torpedoes and began to go down.  Father Schmitt was in a section of the ship that was the last part to sink.  There was a porthole there through which the survivors could climb through to safety.  One by one Father Schmitt helped push the men through until no one was left but him. As he was being pulled through, however, he heard more men coming into the compartment.  They were frantic as by this time the water was gushing in.  Schmitt told the men who were already through to let go of him that he had to go back and help these others.  They tried to talk him out of it, saying he would die, but he pulled rank as an officer and a priest and ordered them to let him go. Once back inside the chaplain began helping the others by pushing them through the porthole.  He saved twelve lives before losing his own beneath the water. Father Schmitt was the first American chaplain to die in World War II. (Thanks to Donald R. McClarey of The American Catholic for the facts of this story.)