In October 1943, twenty-seven-year-old combat infantry chaplain Israel Yost arrived in Italy with the 100th Battalion, a little-known National Guard unit of mostly Japanese Americans from Hawai‘i. Yost was apprehensive when he learned of his assignment to this unusual unit composed of soldiers with whom he felt he had little in common and who were mostly Buddhists. But this would soon change.
For the next nineteen months at the front—from Salerno to Monte Cassino to Anzio to Bruyeres—Yost assisted medics, retrieved bodies from the battlefield, buried enemy soldiers, struggled to bolster morale as the number of casualties rose higher and higher, and wrote countless letters of condolence, all in addition to fulfilling his ministerial duties, which included preaching in the foxholes. Although his sermons won few converts, Yost’s tireless energy and concern for others earned him admiration from his fellow soldiers, who often turned to him as a trusted friend and spiritual advisor.
Forty years after the war had ended, with the help of his field diaries and the letters he had written almost daily to his wife, Yost wrote of his wartime experiences in the hopes that they might one day be published as a record of the remarkable character and accomplishments of the 100th. Combat Chaplain presents this heartfelt memoir intact. with the addition of photographs and subsequent letters and speeches by Yost and other veterans.