Academic journal article Military Review

Sky Pilots: The Yankee Division Chaplains in World War I

Academic journal article Military Review

Sky Pilots: The Yankee Division Chaplains in World War I

Article excerpt

SKY PILOTS: The Yankee Division Chaplains in World War I

Michael E. Shay, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, 2014, 240 pages

An old adage holds there are no atheists in foxholes. While the accuracy of the statement is debatable, the presence of military chaplains on the battlefield is a certainty. Chaplains fill a unique and vital role in war that is frequently overlooked in the study of military history. Author Michael E. Shay's latest work, Sky Pilots: The Yankee Division in World War I, is a detailed examination of that famed unit's chaplains in the Great War. These men, bereft of earthly weapons, served at the front throughout the 26th Yankee Division's brief but bloody deployment on the Western Front during World War I. Not content to remain in rear areas, the chaplains saw their duties as ministering to the front-line soldiers, facing the same hardships and even accompanying the infantrymen during combat operations. Their bravery came at a cost as several Yankee Division chaplains were wounded, and two were killed during the war.

Sky Pilots opens with a terse overview of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps; just two paragraphs are dedicated to covering the history of American military chaplains from 1775 to 1917. While focused specifically upon the Yankee Division's chaplains, Shay also provides some detail on the Army's larger efforts to recruit and train ministers for the entire American Expeditionary Forces. Shay's story generally follows the Yankee Division's campaign across France, to the armistice, and the men's eventual return home to America. The penultimate chapter details the chaplains' post-war lives as civilian or military pastors. …

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