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Change and Conflict in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps since 1945

Anne C. Loveland

Publication Year: 2014

Army chaplains have long played an integral part in America’s armed forces. In addition
to conducting chapel activities on military installations and providing moral and spiritual
support on the battlefield, they conduct memorial services for fallen soldiers, minister
to survivors, offer counsel on everything from troubled marriages to military bureaucracy,
and serve as families’ points of contact for wounded or deceased soldiers—all while
risking the dangers of combat alongside their troops. In this thoughtful study, Anne C.
Loveland examines the role of the army chaplain since World War II, revealing how the
corps has evolved in the wake of cultural and religious upheaval in American society and
momentous changes in U.S. strategic relations, warfare, and weaponry.

From 1945 to the present, Loveland shows, army chaplains faced several crises that
reshaped their roles over time. She chronicles the chaplains’ initiation of the Character
Guidance program as a remedy for the soaring rate of venereal disease among soldiers in
occupied Europe and Japan after World War II, as well as chaplains’ response to the challenge
of increasing secularism and religious pluralism during the “culture wars” of the
Vietnam Era.“Religious accommodation,” evangelism and proselytizing, public prayer,
and “spiritual fitness”provoked heated controversy among chaplains as well as civilians in
the ensuing decades. Then, early in the twenty-first century, chaplains themselves experienced
two crisis situations: one the result of the Vietnam-era antichaplain critique, the
other a consequence of increasing religious pluralism, secularization, and sectarianism
within the Chaplain Corps, as well as in the army and the civilian religious community.

By focusing on army chaplains’ evolving, sometimes conflict-ridden relations with
military leaders and soldiers on the one hand and the civilian religious community on the
other, Loveland reveals how religious trends over the past six decades have impacted the
corps and, in turn, helped shape American military culture.

Anne C. Loveland is T. Harry Williams Professor Emerita at Louisiana State University.
She is the author of Southern Evangelicals and the Social Order, 1800–1860 and American
Evangelicals and the U. S. Military, 1942–1993.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press


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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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G. Kurt Piehler

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pp. xi-xii

Historians writing accounts of British North America and the early years of the American republic see religion as a major political, cultural, and intellectual influence. There is a burgeoning interest in considering the religious life of the Civil War soldier. But historians who write about the twentieth century often ignore the role of religion in American life and imply modernization produced growing...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Writing a book can be a lonely, even isolating, experience. I was fortunate to have a loving husband and dear friends who showed an interest in my work. Thank you, Otis, and Gresdna Doty and Jim Traynham, Katie P. Howard, Ann Sumner Holmes, Virginia Cronin, Rosi McGowan, and Cathy Steles.
I began working on the general topic of religion in the military in the 1980s. Along the...

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Introduction: Army Chaplains in Cultural Transition

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pp. xv-xviii

During the sixty-seven years following World War II, U.S. Army chaplains and the Army Chaplain Corps confronted many challenges and great change. Their “cultural transition” involved three intersecting cultures: the civilian religious community, the military, and the chaplaincy. Change in one culture produced change in the others; thus the chaplains’ cultural transition was a two-way...

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1. Teaching the Religion of Democracy

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pp. 1-16

In 1946, the U.S. Army faced an unprecedented breakdown of discipline and morality among American soldiers in occupied Europe and Japan. The main problem was widespread sexual immorality and a “staggering” rate of venereal disease among the troops, which received considerable coverage in U.S. newspapers. The civilian community became alarmed, and the Veterans of Foreign...

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2. The Sixties Watershed

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pp. 17-34

The decade of the 1960s was a watershed in the history of the Army Chaplain Corps, just as it was for American society and culture.1 The American people became more religiously diversified, and their government, society, and culture became more secularized. The consensus forged by the religion of democracy broke up, and two new, competing strategies claimed the culture-shaping role it...

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3. Chaplains under Fire

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pp. 35-56

Writing in the Christian Century in 1973, Navy Chaplain Richard G. Hutcheson wondered whether the military chaplaincy would turn out to be “one of the casualties of the Vietnam war.”1 Indeed it was. It did not receive a mortal blow, but during that conflict chaplains suffered criticism more serious than any they had ever encountered. Individuals and groups in the civilian religious community censured...

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4. Navigating the Quagmire

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pp. 57-84

While chaplains in the United States were embroiled in religious and ideological conflict with the antiwar critics, combat chaplains in Vietnam faced a very different challenge—ministering to soldiers involved in counterinsurgency warfare.1 It was similar to the challenge Chaplain Richard Hutcheson described in speaking of the “theology of involvement.” Ministering in a secular environment, “sharing...

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5. Ministering to the Military Institution

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pp. 85-102

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, while U.S. troops fought in the Vietnam quagmire and antiwar protest escalated in America, civilian and military commentators issued alarming reports of “an Army in anguish” struggling for “survival.”1 At no other time in its history had America’s military experienced “troubles . . . in such general magnitude, acuteness, or concentrated focus as today,” declared...

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6. “The Conscience of the Army”

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pp. 103-122

The third component of the crisis the U.S. Army faced in the late 1960s and early 1970s was the erosion of the professional military ethic, what Edward L. King, in The Death of the Army (1972), called “pervasive ethical laxness at all levels.”1 Its most powerful symbol was the My Lai massacre and cover-up. During those decades, noncommissioned officers and members of the officer corps, including...

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7. Ministering on the Battlefield

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pp. 123-146

In the latter part of the twentieth and the first decade of the twenty-first century, chaplains’ role as “the conscience of the Army” expanded beyond the teaching of ethics and moral leadership in the service schools to advising and assisting commanders in meeting the challenges and requirements of the combat environment. In the process, chaplains continued or expanded traditional roles and developed...

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8. Building Soldier Morale

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pp. 147-168

Building soldier morale has long been considered a military chaplain’s responsibility, and military thinkers and leaders, as well as chaplains, have generally recognized religion as a chief component of morale.1 During the six and a half decades following World War II, army leaders and chaplains adapted the chaplain’s morale role to a changing military and religious context. Doing so involved...

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9. Addressing Religious Pluralism

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pp. 169-188

In 1979, two Harvard Law School seniors, Joel Katcoff and Allen M. Wieder, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, and the secretary of the army. They sought a judgment that “the Chaplaincy program [of the army] constitutes an establishment of religion in violation of the establishment clause of the...

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10. The 2005–2006 Culture War

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pp. 189-203

The 2005–2006 culture war developed in the wake of a much publicized “scandal” at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) that revealed numerous instances of religious intolerance and evangelical proselytizing by administrators, faculty, staff, chaplains, and cadets.1 Liberal-pluralist and conservative-sectarian cultural strategists quickly mobilized their constituencies in the civilian...

Image Plates

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pp. 204-214

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11. Developing a Culture of Pluralism

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pp. 215-228

During the 2005–2006 culture war over religious expression in the military, the policies and practices of the navy and the air force, and their chaplains, were the main target. Occasionally, however, a newspaper reporter would ask about the army’s position in the debate. The summary response, usually from spokesperson Martha Rudd, was, “We do not tell our chaplains how to pray.” The...

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pp. 229-248

During some six and a half decades marked by great cultural, religious, political, and strategic-foreign policy shifts, Army chaplains wrestled with two fundamental issues: religious accommodation and morale building. Both tested chaplains’ ability and determination to address increasing religious and cultural diversity within the army and to comply with the free exercise and establishment clauses...


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pp. 249-324

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 325-336


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pp. 337-349

E-ISBN-13: 9781621900795
E-ISBN-10: 1621900797
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621900122
Print-ISBN-10: 1621900126

Page Count: 367
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: First edition.

OCLC Number: 883663704
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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army. -- Religious life.
  • United States. Army -- Chaplains -- History.
  • United States. Army. Chaplain Corps -- History -- 21st century.
  • United States. Army. Chaplain Corps -- History -- 20th century.
  • Soldiers -- Religious life -- United States.
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