Pistol-Packing Padres

Rethinking Regulations Prohibiting Armed Military Chaplains


Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Joseph Friedman, Colorado Air National Guard


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California Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Donald Dow, a chaplain’s assistant with the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, fires his M-16A2 at a rifle qualification range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait, 5 April 2016. One of the duties of the chaplain’s assistant is to protect the chaplain during combat because chaplains are prohibited by regulation from carrying weapons

From biblical times until the mid-nineteenth century, military chaplains went into battle as combatants. That began to change in the 1860s with the development of modern national and international laws of warfare, at which time chaplains assumed the legally significant status of “non-combatants.”1

While the Geneva Conventions do not explicitly forbid chaplains from carrying weapons, particularly in a defensive or nonhostile posture, they form the basis of later-promulgated Department of Defense (DOD) regulations prohibiting chaplains from carrying weapons, even defensively. Interestingly, medical personnel—also categorized by the Geneva Conventions as noncombatants—are explicitly allowed by both the conventions and the DOD to carry defensive side arms. The reason is clearly articulated; the Geneva Conventions state that medical personnel cannot be asked to sacrifice themselves without resistance when their unit is attacked.2 Yet, inexplicably, chaplains are not afforded that same self-preserving opportunity.

Military chaplains, particularly those embedded in combat units, face the same existential threat as any other member of the armed services. Yet, as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, the United States requires its military chaplains to preserve their noncombatant status, even at risk to their very life. Such a proposition might even be considered reasonable if everyone played by the same rules. However, as will be shown, for the last seventy-five years, and probably for the foreseeable future, the enemies of the United States are likely to be either nonstate actors, nonsignatory states to the Geneva Conventions, or combatants from cultures who cannot be depended on to abide by internationally accepted laws of armed conflict. From the Korean War through the most recent actions against the Taliban and the Islamic State, U.S. enemies ignored the noncombatant status of both medics and chaplains. Yet, the chaplains alone were required to remain unarmed.

The DOD’s insistence on unarmed chaplains does not make sense, and as will be shown, may have never made sense. As chaplains and medical personnel are noncombatants, they should be treated equally. Just as medical personnel are authorized to carry defensive weapons, so should chaplains.

Chaplains and the Geneva Conventions

The Geneva Conventions, signed on 22 August 1864 and ratified by almost all the signatory countries the following year, stated its overarching principle: wounded and sick soldiers must be taken in and cared for without distinction of nationality.3 In addition to laying out how enemy combatants should be treated, the Conventions also recognized the noncombatant status of both chaplains and medical personnel. Article 2 of the agreement declared that “hospital and ambulance personnel, including the quarter-master’s staff, the medical, administrative and transport services, and the chaplains, shall have the benefit of the same neutrality when on duty, and while there remain any wounded to be brought in or assisted.”4 They were afforded this special treatment since both medical personnel and chaplains “are often called upon to give help of a more material nature to the wounded on the battlefield,” and therefore chaplains and medical personnel in the battlefield shall be “respected and protected in all circumstances,” including when captured by the enemy.5 In sum, the noncombatant status of chaplains and medical personnel affords them a special immunity with special privileges during combat as well as if they are captured. However, this special status and its privileges are conditional; it is predicated on them always maintaining their noncombatant posture. In the case of chaplains, the commentaries to the Geneva Conventions note that “to be entitled to immunity, [chaplains] must be employed exclusively on specific … religious duties … must obviously abstain from all hostile acts.”6 However, as noted earlier, nothing is stated regarding chaplains carrying weapons defensively.

Regarding medical personnel, the Geneva Conventions are clear: “Medical personnel, working in fixed establishments, with mobile medical units, or aboard hospital ships, are legally protected against attack, and this protection is not forfeited if they are armed for the purpose of defending themselves and their patients” (emphasis added).7 The commentaries to the Conventions explain the rationale behind this exception:

If, despite the warnings given, it became apparent that the enemy was making a deliberate attack on the hospital ship or medical unit, in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions, then the medical personnel would have no option but to surrender and hoist the white flag. If the adversary were to announce his criminal intent of destroying the establishment and killing its occupants, the medical personnel could obviously use their weapons. One cannot expect men to allow themselves to be slaughtered like sheep. … In no case, however, may the fact that a member of the medical personnel defends himself or the wounded in his charge against an illicit attack be considered as an “act harmful to the enemy” depriving him of his right to protection (emphasis added).8

This is a limited exception; it does not grant medical personnel license to engage offensively in battle. However, they may “resort to arms for purely defensive purposes” when it is “obviously necessary,” and they must “refrain from all aggressive action.”9 Yet, this opportunity for self-defense and defense of the defenseless is not afforded chaplains. It appears “one cannot expect men to allow themselves to be slaughtered like sheep” unless they are chaplains.10

This inequity is unabashedly articulated within U.S. military regulations. The 1992 Fleet Marine Field Manual 3-61, Ministry in Combat, states,

Although the Geneva Convention allows non-combatants the right to self-defense, as well as the prerogative to protect the wounded, Marine Corps regulations limit those actions by chaplains. They make it clear that chaplains are not to bear arms under any circumstances. The simple act of bearing a weapon could identify the chaplain as a combatant. Thus, the Marine Corps manual on chaplains states that chaplains “shall bear no arms and shall perform no duties relating to combat except those prescribed for chaplains.”11

If both chaplains and medical personnel are granted noncombatant status under the same articles of the Geneva Conventions, based on the same rationale (both chaplains and medics provide noncombatant support to the wounded on the battlefield as well as when captured), then why are medical personnel allowed to carry defensive sidearms, while chaplains cannot? Why is it that medical personnel cannot be expected “to allow themselves to be slaughtered like sheep,” while chaplains are asked to do just that? By what rationale did the paths of these two exempted classes of noncombatants diverge, both in the Conventions as well as current military regulations?

Chaplains and Military Regulations

It took 175 years for the DOD to address the issue of armed chaplains. Chaplain Robert Nay notes that as recently as 1926, the Army chaplain field manual failed to explicitly prohibit chaplains from carrying defensive weapons and did not even forbid chaplains from joining in an attack.12 The manual instructs “the duty of the chaplain lies with the men of his command who are in the fighting line. This does not mean that the chaplain should take part in every assault and go over the top with the men and become a ‘fighting parson.’”13 This instruction reinforces the purpose of the chaplain in combat—to minister to the troops—and while that may not require the chaplain to “go over the top” every time, it certainly contemplates the possibility of doing so when and if the spiritual needs of the soldiers require it.

The 1944 Technical Manual 16-205, The Chaplain, contained the first reference to chaplains not bearing arms:

Paragraph 76, AR [Army Regulation] 600-30, makes this distinction clear and directs that chaplains shall not bear arms. Immunities are forfeited by those who commit acts injurious to the enemy. To benefit by a protected status, recognized and respected by the enemy, then to take part in acts which deliberately injure would seem a breach of faith a little short of treachery and would be punishable under the law of nations and the military law of the United States.14

However, by couching the prohibition in terms of “acts injurious to the enemy” and “acts … a little short of treachery,” it clearly referred to offensive actions and still did not implicate carrying weapons defensively.15

The Army chief of chaplains, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) William R. Arnold, issued Circular #277 on 1 October 1943, in which he warned (not prohibited) chaplains from carrying weapons for fear they would lose their Geneva Conventions protections.16 A year later, he issued Circular #286, which included a nonbinding opinion from a judge advocate general who concurred with Arnold’s earlier warning.17 However, neither the judge advocate general’s opinion nor the circular itself forbade chaplains from carrying weapons. In fact, a chaplain recounted that, while serving in Southern France during the winter of 1944–45, he was ordered to carry a weapon when away from his unit, for fear the Germans would capture him for his uniform so they could infiltrate U.S. lines.18

The next manual, released in 1944, provided examples of proper and improper ways a chaplain can impact a battle:

Many proper services performed by the chaplains are an indirect injury to the enemy. If he raises the morale of the men, he makes them better fighters. If he bandages a wound, he may save the life of a soldier who will fight again at a later time. If he distributes chocolate bars in fox holes, he may make the soldiers more energetic physically and more resolute of mind. These, however, are proper functions, and he would do the same for enemy wounded or prisoners. If he were to observe the enemy position and tell the artillery where to fire, or were to carry ammunition to the firing line, or convey information or orders about combat operations, it would be direct participation in hostilities.19

Photo courtesy of the Online Chaplain History Museum

Note there was still no explicit directive not to carry a defensive weapon, only a proscription from being involved in offensive hostilities, even indirectly. Equally noteworthy is that in the 1952 manual—published during the Korean conflict—not only was that entire paragraph absent, but so is any reference to the noncombatant status of chaplains and the need to protect that status.20 This omission may be based on an event that took place during that conflict.

Of the many atrocities documented during the Korean conflict, a particularly shocking event became known as the “Chaplain-Medic Massacre.” On 17 July 1950, the North Korean communists surprised and slaughtered approximately twenty seriously wounded American soldiers. The regimental surgeon who wore the identifiable red cross armband administered aid to soldiers and an Army chaplain wore a Christian cross, and neither of them was armed. The chaplain was killed, while the wounded surgeon, Capt. Linton J. Buttrey, managed to survive and escape; he was the sole survivor. Another example is the tragic, albeit inspiring story of Chaplain Emil Kapaun, the most decorated military chaplain in U.S. history and posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor. When he was captured by Communist forces, the enemy did not accord him noncombatant status in accordance with Geneva Conventions, but rather treated him like all the other prisoners of war (POW)—and in some cases, even worse—and as a result, he died of malnutrition and pneumonia.21

As word of these atrocities spread among the troops, particularly among noncombatants, the Geneva Conventions assurances of immunity seemed farcical. A Senate subcommittee for the Committee on Government Operations heard testimony on the massacre and concluded in its report: “Virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of war prisoners was purposely violated or ignored by the North Korean and Chinese forces.”22 Perhaps this contributed to the 1952 Army chaplain manual’s complete silence on the question of chaplains carrying weapons and the need to protect their noncombatant status.

The concerns by noncombatants in Korea resurfaced fifteen years later in Vietnam for both medics and chaplains alike. During the Vietnam War, medics, for the first time, were routinely armed.23 Even the very symbol of noncombatant immunity—the red cross on a helmet and on an armband—was no longer worn; it became a target at which the North Vietnamese Army and its allies deliberately aimed.24 During the Vietnam War, air ambulances that displayed the red cross suffered a loss rate to hostile fire that was 3.3 times that of all other forms of helicopter missions in the Vietnam War and 1.5 times higher than nonmedical helicopters flying direct combat missions.25

The most famous and most highly decorated chaplain of the Vietnam War era was Army Chaplain Jerry Autry.26 Autry was wounded twice and received nine awards for valor along with two Purple Hearts, which may explain why he traveled everywhere with an M-16 assault rifle. A Time magazine reporter who witnessed Autry’s bravery during an ambush by Vietnamese troops—he personally led several men to safety—dubbed him “the gun-toting chaplain” and the name stuck. When Autry was asked why he carried a weapon, he said, “The soldiers there were very protective of me. I realized I could have these guys looking after me, but that’s not their job; they really needed to look after themselves. So, I started carrying my own weapon. I almost never took it off my shoulder, I never fired at anybody and nobody ever asked me why I did it.”27 Another Vietnam-era chaplain known for carrying weapons was Chaplain Curtis Bowers, assigned to the 101st Airborne Brigade. When accompanying his battalion in battle, he would carry a .45 caliber pistol and fragmentation grenades. In an interview, he explained, “I don’t want to be a drag when the going is hot and heavy. I ought to be able to earn my own keep with these men. But I would only use these things in self-defense—my job is to save souls and not to take lives.”28 Sixteen chaplains were killed during the Vietnam War, of which five were killed by small-arms fire while providing either care or last rites to the wounded.29

When asked about chaplains carrying weapons, Autry said, “Later on, it became a hassle in the chaplaincy. They changed the regulations, which used to say that a chaplain is ‘not required’ to carry a weapon. Now it says that a chaplain ‘will not’ carry a weapon.”30 Autry was referring to the explicit change in directive that took place a decade after the Vietnam War. In 1989, for the first time, Field Manual 16-01, Religious Support Doctrine: The Chaplain and Chaplain Assistant, stated unequivocally, “Chaplains are non-combatant. They will not bear arms.”31 No reason was given; no rationale was provided.

Since then, all branches of the U.S. military have unequivocally reiterated the same position:

  • Army Regulation 165-1, Army Chaplain Corps Activities, states, “Chaplains will not bear arms in combat or in unit combat skills training.”32
  • Air Force Instruction 52-101, Planning and Organizing, states, “Chaplains will not perform duties incompatible with their endorsing organizations or professional role and will remain in a non-combatant status.”33
  • Air Force Instruction 52-104, Chaplain Corps (HC) Readiness, states, “Chaplains will not bear or transport arms or ammunition.”34
  • Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1730.7E, Religious Ministry within the Department of the Navy, states, “Chaplains are non-combatants. They cannot bear arms or seek weapons training in connection with their military duties nor will they seek weapons or warfare qualifications.”35
  • Marine Corps Tactical Publication 3-30D, Religious Ministry in the United States Marine Corps, states, “Chaplains are noncombatants and will not bear arms.”36

Yet, none of the branches apply the same prohibition to the other noncombatants—medical personnel. For example, the Army training manual for combat medics (Army Techniques Publication 4-02.4, Medical Platoon) states, “In recognition of the necessity of self-defense, however, medical personnel may be armed for their own defense or for the protection of the wounded and sick under their charge.”37 The Air Force (Air Force Doctrine Publication 4-02, Health Services) instructs: “Medical forces may carry only light individual arms for their own defense and the defense of the sick and wounded in their charge … if the enemy is attacking and ignoring the marked medical status of the personnel or facility, personnel may consider using force (though the dangers of being viewed as a combatant should be self-evident).”38

One could speculate the reason the branches are adamant that chaplains remain unarmed is rooted in concerns that, should they be captured by the enemy, they would retain their noncombatant status. Accordingly, they would not be held as POWs and could minister freely to the prisoners. In fact, many if not most chaplains, when asked, would say the regulations prohibiting armed chaplains are specifically grounded in the issue of remaining noncombatants per the Geneva Conventions. However, as previously noted, nothing in the conventions explicitly indicate a chaplain carrying a defensive weapon would lose their immunity. More importantly, the purported immunity granted by the conventions has not been exhibited by U.S. enemies in over seventy-five years.

The issues previously documented which chaplains faced in Korea and Vietnam resurfaced during the Global War on Terrorism. Chaplain Steve Dundas, who is not a proponent of arming chaplains, wrote in 2011, “Chaplains are already a high priority target for Al Qaeda as our capture would be of great propaganda value. I had a number of Iraqi officers express their admiration for my service and care for American and Iraqi soldiers and the fact that they recognized that I was in constant danger and was unarmed.”39 In 2012, British Royal Navy Chaplain Stuart Hallam, while serving in Afghanistan, said, “For the first time in any theatre of war we are seen as a legitimate target by the enemy.”40 If the enemies of the United States are going to target chaplains as they do medical personnel, then chaplains should have the opportunity and the choice to defend themselves the same way as medical personnel. So why do so many chaplains oppose carrying defensive weapons?

The Argument against Arming Chaplains

In 2009, Chaplain Steven Schaick (later to become the Air Force’s nineteenth chief of chaplains) wrote a research report for his Air War College requirements, addressing the nature of chaplains as noncombatants.41 In it, Schaick provides anecdotal, historical, theological, and legal arguments supporting the contention that chaplains must remain unarmed. He cites, for example, the Council of Ratisbon in 742 CE, at which Christian clergy were authorized to participate in and with military units, though they were strictly prohibited from either carrying or using a weapon. “We prohibit the servant of God in every way from bearing arms or fighting in the army or going against the enemy.”42 However, Schaick neglects to mention how that directive was often ignored. Archbishop Turpin (d. 800 CE), immortalized in the eleventh-century French poem “The Song of Roland,” is a notable example of the warrior priest.43 The famous Bayeux Tapestry depicts Bishop Odo, the younger half-brother of William the Conqueror, fighting at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 with a heavy blunt mace.44 In 1095, Pope Urban II assigned Bishop Adhémar of Le Puy to be his personal representative in the First Crusade. Even though in 1175, the Synod of Westminster (England) prohibited the clergy to “take up arms nor to go about in armor,” until the fourteenth century this was generally not heeded.45

Schaick cites many examples of chaplains who made incredible impressions on their troops specifically because they were not armed, as well as the incredible story of Chaplain Robert Preston Taylor, who endured the Bataan Death March and served as a beacon of hope and faith to all who encountered him, precisely because he faced such horrors armed only with his faith. I have no doubt there are countless service members inspired by their chaplain marching forth, protected by nothing but their faith. However, while the argument makes for a good sermon, it is not dispositive. It is predicated on the logical fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc (with this, therefore because of this), more commonly referred to as “correlation does not imply causation.” Because many are inspired by unarmed chaplains does not establish others would not be inspired by armed chaplains, prepared to defend both themselves, as well as those serving alongside them. The absence of armed chaplains (with few exceptions already cited) precludes providing evidence to the contrary.

Some theologians argue there is an inherent incompatibility between a soldier’s duty and a minister’s duty. According to Darrell Cole, an assistant professor of religion, Thomas Aquinas reasoned that

bishops and clerics cannot be soldiers because these occupations cannot “be fittingly exercised at the same time.” Aquinas offers two reasons why. First, warlike pursuits keep clergy from their proper duties. In other words, their participation is unlawful, not because war is evil, but because warlike pursuits prevent them from doing their jobs. Second, it is “unbecoming” for those who give the Eucharist to shed blood, even if they do so without sin (i.e., in a just war).46

This argument, as well as much of Schaick’s arguments, are predicated on a Christian point of view. However, there are many different faith traditions reflected in the United States chaplaincy, some of which take a very different position on the issue. For example, the Bible instructs, “Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.”47 The Shulchan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law), the most authoritative legal code of traditional Judaism, states: “One who sees his friend drowning in the sea, or that robbers are attacking him, or a wild animal is coming upon him and (the observer) has the ability to save him … and does not save him … transgresses the obligation ‘neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.’”48 Why is the DOD demanding a Jewish chaplain violate his or her religious code by not defending the life of a colleague, let alone self-defense?

What of the danger in which an unarmed chaplain places other service members? Infantry doctrine is generally based upon the infantry squad, composed of two four-man fire teams and a squad leader. The squad “can establish a base of fire, providing security for another element, or conducting fire and movement with one team providing a base of fire, while the other team moves to the next position of advantage or onto an objective.”49 Every member of a squad has a specific job to ensure the protection of all the squad members. When a chaplain finds himself in a combat situation—for example, his convoy comes under fire or his base is overrun—he becomes a tremendous liability to the combatants around him. Rather than serving as part of a carefully coordinated unit, squad members must ensure the safety of the unarmed chaplain. On 29 March 2012, an Air Force chaplain recounted to me an incident in which, while deployed to Iraq, an improvised explosive device hit the convoy in which he was traveling, forcing them all to enter a local village on foot. The squad suddenly found themselves serving as bodyguards for a defenseless officer rather than operating as a highly choreographed fire team. The chaplain put all five of them in a more vulnerable position than they would have been in had he not been present, or had he been qualified and able to defend himself.50

Finally, it should be noted the idea of defensively armed chaplains is not novel. Denmark is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, and its military chaplains are permitted to carry defensive sidearms. The Church of Denmark’s website reads, “The field chaplain has the right to carry handguns, which may be used in self-defense.”51 Israel is a signatory as well; Israel Defense Force chaplains are not only required to carry offensive weapons but must be field-qualified to serve in combat with the unit to which they are attached.52 Finally, while British chaplains are prohibited from carrying defensive weapons, they have been actively advocating for the right to do so since 2007.53


The Geneva Conventions do not prohibit chaplains from carrying weapons; they only suspend their battlefield and POW immunity if they engage in hostilities. Since 1950, the point has been irrelevant, as the adversaries the United States has faced have not extended those immunities in any event. It is not proposed here that all chaplains be required to carry defensive weapons; that would be as much a burden on many chaplains as the prohibition is for others. Rather, it should be a chaplain’s choice. And just as it should be a chaplain’s choice to carry or not, it should be a commander’s choice which chaplains to send into a hostile environment where chaplains may have to defend themselves or those to whom they are ministering.

The reality of the existential threat chaplains face in combat situations, coupled with the inequity of regulations that allow some noncombatants (medical personnel) to carry defensive weapons while others (chaplains) cannot, suggests revisiting the current policy regarding defenseless chaplains, and instead giving them the choice and ability to protect themselves and those they faithfully serve.

Editor’s note: Nine chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Read their stories here.


  1. Jean S. Pictet, ed., Commentary on the First Geneva Convention: Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field (Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC], 1952), 218, accessed 18 May 2023, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/ihl-treaties/gci-1949/article-24/commentary/1952.
  2. Ibid., 203.
  3. Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field of August 12, 1949, 21 October 1950, 75 U.N.T.S. 31, accessed 17 May 2023, https://www.icrc.org/en/document/geneva-conventions-1949-additional-protocols [hereinafter Geneva Convention (I)].
  4. Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, 22 August 1864, 22 Stat. 940, T.S. No. 377, accessed 18 May 2023, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/ihl-treaties/gc-1864.
  5. Pictet, Commentary on Convention (I), 220.
  6. Ibid., 220–21.
  7. Geneva Convention (I), art. 22.
  8. Jean S. Pictet, ed., Commentary on the First Geneva Convention: Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea (Geneva, ICRC, 1960), art. 35, accessed 18 May 2023, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/ihl-treaties/gcii-1949/article-35/commentary/1960.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Fleet Marine Force Manual 3-61, Ministry in Combat (Quantico, VA: U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, 22 June 1992), § 1004(f).
  12. Robert Nay, “The Operational, Social, and Religious Influences Upon the Army Chaplain Field Manual, 1926–1952” (master’s thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 13 June 2008), 36.
  13. Technical Manual (TM) 2270-5, The Chaplain: His Place and Duties (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1926), 51.
  14. TM 16-205, The Chaplain (Washington, DC: War Department, 1944), quoted in Nay, “The Operational, Social, and Religious Influences,” 36.
  15. Ibid. There are a few things troubling about this paragraph, not the least of which is the threat that chaplains engaging in hostilities “would be punishable under the law of nations.” That is false. The chaplain would lose his or her noncombatant status, but the Geneva Conventions do not contemplate punishment, let alone criminality, for such behavior.
  16. Nay, “Army Chaplain Field Manual,” 38
  17. Ibid.
  18. Israel A. S. Yost, Combat Chaplain: The Personal Story of the WWII Chaplain of the Japanese American 100th Battalion, ed. Monica E. Yost and Michael Markrich (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006), 214–15. Out of fear for losing his noncombatant status, Chaplain Yost complied with the order by having his assistant store a rifle in the jeep’s door and a pistol on the seat beside him—but he never actually carried a weapon.
  19. TM 16-205, The Chaplain, 67.
  20. Field Manual (FM) 16-5, The Chaplain (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 31 January 1952). This manual replaced the previous TM 16-205.
  21. Father Kapaun Guild, “The Story of Father Emil J. Kapaun” (Wichita, KS: Catholic Diocese of Wichita, n.d.), 13–14, 16, accessed 11 July 2023, https://catholicdioceseofwichita.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Father-Kapaun-booklet_singlepage_2016.pdf.
  22. Committee on Government Operations, Korean War Atrocities Report of the Committee on Government Operations Made through Its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations by Its Subcommittee on Korean War Atrocities, Pursuant to S. Res. 40 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1954), 15, accessed 18 May 2023, https://www.loc.gov/item/2011525375/.
  23. Marc Levy, “From Vietnam to Afghanistan: The Bling They Curse and Carry,” Vietnam Veterans against the War, 4 September 2009, accessed 17 May 2023, http://www.vvaw.org/commentary/?id=1271; Philip Katcher, Armies of the Vietnam War 1962–75 (Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1980), 18.
  24. Rolf von Uslar and Florian van Schewick, “The Red Cross as a Target?,” Military-Medicine, 12 January 2010, accessed 17 May 2023, https://military-medicine.com/article/3047-the-red-cross-as-a-target.html.
  25. Peter Dorland and James Nanney, Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008), 117, accessed 17 May 2023, https://history.army.mil/html/books/090/90-28-1/CMH_Pub_90-28-1.pdf.
  26. David Ian Miller, “Finding My Religion: Jerry Autry, the ‘Gun-Toting Chaplain,’ Reflects on an Army Career,” SFGate, 29 May 2006, accessed 17 May 2023, https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/FINDING-MY-RELIGION-Jerry-Autry-the-3300407.php.
  27. Ibid.
  28. “Profiles in Courage: Curtis ‘Curt’ Bowers,” Warhawk Air Museum, 25 April 2020, accessed 17 May 2023, https://warhawkairmuseum.org/blog/profiles-in-courage-curtis-curt-bowers/.
  29. “The 16 Chaplains on the Vietnam Memorial Wall Who Put Themselves in Harm’s Way,” Veterans Site by GreaterGood, accessed 17 May 2023, https://blog.theveteranssite.greatergood.com/chaplains-vietnam/.
  30. Miller, “Finding My Religion.”
  31. FM 16-01, Religious Support Doctrine: The Chaplain and Chaplain Assistant (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, November 1989).
  32. Army Regulation 165-1, Army Chaplain Corps Activities (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office [GPO], 2015), 7.
  33. Air Force Instruction (AFI) 52-101, Planning and Organizing (Washington, DC: Department of the Air Force, 2019), 7.
  34. AFI 52-104, Chaplain Corps (HC) Readiness (Washington, DC: Department of the Air Force, 2019), 12.
  35. Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1730.7E, Religious Ministry within the Department of the Navy (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, 2019), 19.
  36. Marine Corps Tactical Publication 3-30D, Religious Ministry in the United States Marine Corps (Quantico, VA: U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, 2018), 1-4.
  37. Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 4-02.4, Medical Platoon (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 2021), G-1.
  38. Air Force Doctrine Publication 4-02, Health Services (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: LeMay Center for Doctrine, 2019), 41.
  39. Steve Dundas, “Changes of Plans: It’s What You Learn after You Know It All That Counts,” Inglorious Padre Steve’s World, 10 April 2011, accessed 17 May 2023, http://padresteve.com/2011/04/10/changes-of-plans-its-what-you-learn-after-you-know-it-all-that-counts/.
  40. “Army Chaplains Want Right to Carry Weapons to Protect Themselves against the Taliban,” Evening Standard (website), 13 April 2012, accessed 17 May 2023, https://www.standard.co.uk/hp/front/army-chaplains-want-right-to-carry-weapons-to-protect-themselves-against-the-taliban-7272167.html.
  41. Steven A. Schaick, Examining the Role of Chaplains as Non-Combatants While Involved in Religious Leader Engagement/Liaison (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air War College, 17 February 2009), accessed 17 May 2023, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA539854.pdf.
  42. Ibid., 2
  43. The Song of Roland, tran. Jessie Crosland (Cambridge, CAN: In Parentheses Publications, 1999), 26, 31, 33, 42, accessed 6 June 2023, https://www.yorku.ca/inpar/roland_crosland.pdf.
  44. Richard M. Koch, “Sacred Threads: The Bayeux Tapestry as a Religious Object,” Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture 2, no. 4 (2009): 163, accessed 11 July 2023, https://digital.kenyon.edu/perejournal/vol2/iss4/6.
  45. Murray Joseph Thompson, Shepherds of God in Wolves’ Clothing: Random Reflections of a Former Army Chaplain (Meadville, PA: Christian Faith Publishing, 2021), 6.
  46. Darrell Cole, “Good Wars,” First Things (October 2001), accessed 17 May 2023, https://www.firstthings.com/article/2001/10/good-wars.
  47. Leviticus 19:16 (JPS).
  48. Joseph Karo, “Shulchan Arukh, Choshen Mishpat (Code of Jewish Law, Fourth Section),” Sefaria, accessed 17 May 2023, https://www.sefaria.org/Shulchan_Arukh%2C_Choshen_Mishpat.426.1?lang=bi.
  49. ATP 3-21.8, Infantry Platoon and Squad (Washington, DC: U.S. GPO, 12 April 2016), 1-12, accessed 17 May 2023, https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/ARN13842-ATP_3-21.8-001-WEB-4.pdf.
  50. Anonymous (chaplain), in discussion with the author, 19 March 2012.
  51. “Military Chaplain” [in Danish], Folkekirken [Church of Denmark], accessed 18 May 2023, https://www.folkekirken.dk/folkekirken-arbejder/praester-med-saerlige-opgaver/feltpraest.
  52. The author has many friends who serve or served as chaplains in the Israel Defense Forces. The information was received firsthand from them.
  53. Adam Lusher, “The 10-Hour Battle for Curly, Larry and Moe,” The Telegraph (website), 13 April 2003, accessed 17 May 2023, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1427421/The-10-hour-battle-for-Curly-Larry-and-Moe.html; Matthew Hickley, “Navy Chaplains Want Right to Carry Weapons to Protect Themselves against the Taliban,” Daily Mail (website), 18 December 2007, accessed 17 May 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-495281/Navy-chaplains-want-right-carry-weapons-protect-Taliban.html.


Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Joseph Friedman, Colorado Air National Guard, is the 140th Wing chaplain at Buckley Space Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, and currently serves as interim wing chaplain for the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan. He holds a BA from Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Md.; an MDiv (equivalent) from Kollel Rivivos Ephraim, Tenn.; and a JD from Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis. He was the senior rabbi at congregations in Omaha, Nebraska; Norfolk, Virginia; and Denver.


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September-October 2023