6-Dec-2017 - Seventy-six years after he died at Pearl Harbor, a Navy chaplain who helped sailors escape from a sinking battleship is scheduled to be honored with the Silver Star medal Thursday in a ceremony at his alma mater in Iowa.
Lt. j.g. Aloysius H. Schmitt, a Catholic priest from St. Lucas, Iowa, will posthumously receive the third-highest decoration for valor in combat during a ceremony at Loras College, in Dubuque.
The Navy’s chief of chaplains, Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, will present the medal to family members during a ceremony on the campus.
Schmitt was buried in a special crypt there after his remains were identified last year by experts with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
He had been aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was torpedoed and capsized during the attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
Father Schmitt, 32, had just celebrated Mass that Sunday morning when the Oklahoma was hit by at least nine Japanese torpedoes.
The battleship, with its complement of 1,300, quickly rolled over in 50 feet of water, trapping hundreds of men below decks.
A few managed to escape through portholes — saved by brave comrades such as Schmitt, who is said to have helped as many as 12 sailors get out of a small compartment.
In 1942, he was honored with the noncombat Navy and Marine Corps Medal. But after recent appeals by supporters and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the Navy conducted a review and in October upgraded the medal to the combat award.
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