Chaplains of the
36th Infantry Division
Chaplain (Colonel) Herbert E. MacCombie
Christmas At Strassbourg
On December 6th we moved to a
new C.P. at Ribeauville. Here we again had the use of the local church
building. On December 8th a new chaplain reported for duty. He was
Chaplain Louis B. Parks. He was assigned to the Division Artillery. He
stayed with us less than a month. He was transferred by Seventh Army
Headquarters to an Engineer regiment.
On December 21st we moved to a
new location near Strassbourg. Here we had a beautiful Protestant
church. On Sunday, December 24th, we worshipped in the local church.
Christmas Eve we held a Christmas Carol Service. At 0830 on Christmas Day
we held a communion service in the local church.
Some of the men wanted to do
something for the local children for Christmas. One of the leaders was
Master Sergeant Downing O. Smith. The men collected candy and toys that
they had received in their Christmas packages. We had about 400 chocolate
bars and lots of hard candy. There were four baskets full of candy.
There were about 200 children present.
The pastor said to me, “Sie
haben viel Freude heute gegeben” (You have given much joy today).
Most of the children had not
had any candy for over four years. Several of our men helped pass out the
candy. The children sang for us. I particularly enjoyed “Stille Nacht”
and “O Holy Night.”
Within a week after the party
Master Sergeant Smith was killed in action. On January 1, 1945 a group of
about twenty men from Division Headquarters accompanied me to the cemetery
at Epinal for his funeral.
In arranging for the children’s
party I received a lot of information concerning their way of life. His
oldest boy had been an engineer. He was drafted by the French army. He
rose to be a sergeant. Then he was recommended for appointment to the
officer candidate school. When he arrived at Epinal, he was rejected,
because the French would not accept a man whose father was of German
When the Germans conquered
France, he was drafted into the German army. He rose to be a Feld Webel.
Again he was recommended for officer candidate. When he arrived at
Strassbourg, he was again rejected. The Germans would not accept as an
officer a man whose mother was of French extraction.
He still had to serve in the
German army. They did not know where he was. He could write to them.
They could not write to him. While I was talking to the family in German
(which I admit was not too fluent), the younger son started to laugh.
The father sternly admonished
him, “If you tried to talk English, your accent would be worse than his”.
I gave the children some small
gifts that my family had sent to me. A small mirror, some small note
books, a box of cocoa, a tooth brush and some tooth paste. At the time
they were real treasures for a family that had been living under German
restrictions for so long.
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by Mary MacCombie Fietsam
Printed by Permission