An Urgent Need for Chaplains
The Wartime Service of Lt. Commander Bertrand R. Crist, ChC, USNR
by Timothy J. Crist
The United States expanded its armed forces with extraordinary urgency during World War II. The Navy, which had some 250,000 men in uniform at the time of Pearl Harbor, grew to a force of nearly 4,000,000 by 1945. Only 192 chaplains were on duty at the time of Pearl Harbor. With the goal of one chaplain for every 1,250 naval personnel, the Navy had a great need for clergymen to serve as Chaplains in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
One man who responded was the Rev. Bertrand R. Crist, a Congregational minister, who served as Chaplain on the USS Henry T. Allen and at the Navy prison on Terminal Island. This is Crist's story, but to some extent it is also the story of the 2,623 other clergy (including 113 other Congregationalists) who served as chaplains in the USNR during World War II.
A 1973 graduate of Yale University, Timothy Crist earned his PhD in History from Cambridge University in England. He is a trustee of the Newark (NJ) Public Library and President of the Newark History Society. He based this account on his father's wartime papers.
Telling Our Story Published December 13, 2012