Many Military Ceremonies Recall The Role of Chaplains
No words can bestow enough honor upon the men and women who served during World War II, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Future generations must never forget their bravery, sacrifice and service.
These ceremonies recall the words of General George C. Marshall, who said, “Military power wins battles, but spiritual power wins wars.” He was referring and paying tribute to the chaplains who served God and Country in military service.
One of those chaplains was Father Ignatius Maternowski. He was 32 years old, a Captain in the U.S. Army, and a member of the Franciscan Friars Conventual.
He was the only Catholic chaplain to die in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. Father Maternowski parachuted with the 82nd Airborne which met with fierce German resistance.
One of the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division described Father Maternowski as a tough, energetic Pole and that he was extremely liked by the men of the regiment.
According to Joseph Hamilton of Our Lady of the Angels Province of Franciscan Friars Conventual of Baltimore, Maryland, on the observance of the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, a special remembrance was held to honor Father Maternowski. Hamilton wrote …that Father Ignatius’ body lay in the roadway for three days as the German commander would not allow him to be removed. On June 9, when the 90th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army claimed the area, the Father’s body was recovered and buried near Utah Beach.
My cousin, S/Sgt. Stanley Lewandowski of Conshohocken, PA, was with the 90th Infantry Division, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. S/Sgt Lewandowski also participated in the invasion of Utah Beach.
Hamilton also wrote that in 1948 Father Maternowski’s body was returned to the United States and interred at the Franciscan Friar’s Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in Hadley, Massachusetts.
Presently there is a memorial in the village of Guetteville, near where Father Maternowski was killed. The Provincial Minister of Our Lady of the Angels Province of Franciscan Friars Conventual traveled to Guetteville, France to participate in the ceremony remembering the sacrifice of Captain Maternowski.
During World War II, General Marshall acknowledged the decisive role of chaplains in the U.S. Military history.
The Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Valley Forge, PA commemorates the sacrifice of four chaplains from the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish Faiths who during World War II, gave their life jackets to soldiers and sailors when their troopship was torpedoed. Praying together, the clergymen went down with the ship.
By Ed Dybicz
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ed Dybicz is an Army Veteran of World War II and a member of the Valley Forge Historical Society and the Montgomery County Historical Society, Pa. and a retired journalist.