On the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I would like to draw attention to a martyr of charity who perished aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma.
Fr. Aloysius Schmitt was serving his first tour of sea duty on board the U.S.S. Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It was three days after his 32nd birthday. He had just finished morning Mass on board ship when the Japanese attack began. Fr. Schmitt went to sick bay to minister to the wounded and dying. CatholicMil.org gives the following moving account of what happened next:
When the Oklahoma was struck and water poured into her hold, the ship began to list and roll over. Many men were trapped. Schmitt found his way -- with other crew members -- to a compartment where only a small porthole provided enough space to escape.
Chaplain Schmitt helped other men, one by one, to crawl to safety. When it became his turn, the chaplain tried to get through the small opening. As he struggled to exit through the porthole, he became aware that others had come into the compartment from which he was trying to escape. As he realized that the water was rising rapidly and that escape would soon be impossible, he insisted on being pushed back through the hole so that he could help others who could get through the opening more easily. Accounts from eyewitnesses that have been published in the Arizona Memorial newsletter relate that the men protested, saying that he would never get out alive, but he insisted, "Please let go of me, and may God bless you all."
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." John 10:11