PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS THE AMMUNITION

France

Late 1944

The Sunday Protestant Bulletin

The Sunday Protestant Bulletin

Attending church during the war was–at best–a mixed bag. When I was with the British army in England for nearly a year, to attend services I had to find a local church or nearby American unit, which had a chaplain. The result was I rarely attended Sunday services.

While in Cherbourg, France, soldiers had a very unusual church, and it was often nearby. (Often nearby?) Yes. The church was mobile. It was a converted French boxcar with an entry on one side. There was seating, an altar and even a portable organ.

The GIs who did the conversion did an excellent job of repairing the boxcar, painting the exterior (green), installing lighting, and finishing the inside with wood.

I was curious about the project, but I didn’t see the place until it was completed. The chapel was the brainchild of a chaplain with the 728th Railroad Operating Battalion, and it served a very large area.

When the chapel was “at home” in Cherbourg and not “on the road,” it parked at the local railroad station at one end of the tracks, adjacent to the station platform. This was very handy. I worked at the station and lived nearby.

I attended services there as often as possible. We had hymnals and sang, but offerings were not expected. Most Sundays, various chaplains conducted separate Protestant, Catholic and Hebrew services.

The chapel was often attached to the end of American military supply trains. It traveled as far towards the front as trains were allowed, and conducted services along the way.

Sometimes I stood and looked at the green chapel and thought about the conflicting association of war materials and religious beliefs. Some of the other guys may have had the same thoughts, but we never discussed it.

One day, I was on the phone with another member of my unit station in Caretan. We were discussing an upcoming move of a unit when I heard a loud noise from his end of the line. He shouted, “There’s been a

terrible explosion nearby! I’ll have to get back to you.”

The following day, he called back. “Remember that explosion yesterday? Two amo trains collided and exploded!”

The little green chapel was at the back of the train that hit the rear of the ammunition train.

Le (Feb. ‘14) says, “Sometime later, I saw the site of the collision. It was a very large area of devastation.”

Inside the bulletin.

Inside the bulletin.

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