SIDEBAR: Military chaplains who died in the line of duty

World War II:

The “Four Chaplains”: Lt. George L. Fox (Methodist); Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish); Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic); and Lt. Clark V. Poling (Reformed Church in America) gave up their life jackets on the deck of the sinking USS Dorchester in the North Atlantic in 1943.

Army Chaplain Lawrence Lynch (Roman Catholic): A member of New York’s “Fighting ‘69th,” Lynch was killed while serving Communion under fire to a fatally wounded soldier on Okinawa in 1945, earning a posthumous Silver Star.


Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun (Roman Catholic) died in a POW camp in 1951 after ministering to fellow inmates. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and is a candidate for sainthood.


Army Maj. Charles Watters (Roman Catholic) was fatally wounded while ministering to fallen comrades under intense fire near Dak To in 1967, actions which earned him the Medal of Honor.

Army Capt. Phillip Nichols was killed by a concealed explosive in 1970.


Army Chaplain Maj. Henry Timothy Vakoc (Roman Catholic) was severely injured in an roadside bomb attack while returning from celebrating Mass with troops in 2004, and died from his wounds in 2009. He was awarded the Purple Heart.


Army Chaplain Capt. Dale Goetz (Baptist), killed en route to visit troops when his convoy came under attack in 2010, becoming the first chaplain to die in combat since 1970.

Army Chaplain’s Assistant Staff Sgt. Christopher Stout was killed in an insurgent attack on his unit in 2010.

About the author

Mark I. Pinsky


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  • A total of 16 Navy Chaplains have been Killed in Action. 1 during the Civil War, 13 in World War II, and 2 in Vietnam.

    CAPT Tierian “Randy” Cash, CHC, USN Retired
    Navy Chaplain Corps Historian

  • I am one of the sons of Phillip Arthur Nichols, KIA 13 October 1970. I know my dad received two purple hearts, one for being wounded, and the other for giving the ultimate sacrifice. I also have a 3rd purple heart that came back with his belongings, which must have been given to him by someone else. Thank you for posting this important information. The general public lacks sufficient knowledge to appreciate the service our chaplains provide. I have heard many stories from men whose lives my father touched, and who say they would not be alive today if it weren’t for him.

  • I was at the 91st evac hospital the night of Oct 13 1970 it was a ruff night one of the worst of my tour in Viet Nam I know your DAD died bring confort to the of the Americal Division….. I still remember that day as if it was yesterday BB

  • We are working to update Protestant Chaplains Monument at Arlington National Cemetery. Need any info on Navy/Marine/USAF Protestant Chaplains who have died in service since WWII. Army has 18 lost in service. We worked to add the Jewish Chaplains Monument in 2011.

  • Capt. Cash, we are working on an update to Chaplains Hill at Arlington for the Protestant Chaplains Monument. Were either of the two Navy Chaplains you mentioned Protestant? Any help appreciated. Ken

  • We are trying to update a chaplains monument for Arlington National Cemetery. What denomination was your Dad? Thank You Ken Kraetzer Sons of American Legion.