Dubuque honors chaplain killed on December 7, 1941 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque honors chaplain killed on December 7, 1941

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Father. Aloysius "Al" Schmitt was the first US Catholic Chaplain to die in WWII Father. Aloysius "Al" Schmitt was the first US Catholic Chaplain to die in WWII
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

On the day that lives in infamy, a priest from Eastern Iowa was the first US Catholic Chaplain to die in World War II.

On Wednesday, the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, more than 100 people gathered at Christ the King Chapel on the Loras College campus to remember Father Aloysius "'Al" Schmitt.

Family members, including Schmitt's grandnephew Steve Sloan, were at the event.

"He was born in St. Lucas," Sloan said of Schmitt, "but he went to Loras College, and his roots to Loras College was something he was very proud of."

Schmitt was a Lieutenant in the Chaplain Corps of the US Navy.

He was serving on the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked it 70 years ago in Pearl Harbor.

Rose Foley is Schmitt's niece and was 11 her family heard the news.

"We were in the living room, eating popcorn, and it came across, and my mother, she just panicked," Foley said. "She said, 'Father Al, Father Al. I know it's Father Al,' and how right she was."

Before dying that day, Schmitt helped 12 of his shipmates escape through a porthole. He, however, went down with the ship.

"He gave his life for his country," Foley said.

The service took place in Christ the King Chapel, which was built in 1946 and dedicated to the memory of Chaplain Schmitt.

"I think it's pretty powerful, what we're seeing here today, 70 years later, after someone passes," Sloan said.

However, Schmitt's impact on Dubuque extends beyond the Loras College campus.

Chaplain Schmitt island in Dubuque is home to not only a memorial to Schmitt, but also Veterans Memorial Plaza, Mystique Casino, Mystique Community Ice Center, McAleece Park and Recreation Complex, a campground and more.

"You know, it speaks volumes when you give your life for others, and that's not just Father Al," Sloan said. "There's service people, men and women, all over the world doing that for our country, and we mustn't just focus on Father Al. I think we must focus on all the service people across the country."

Sloan said that, years ago, he and other family members got to meet some of the sailors Schmitt saved. The priest was just 32 years old when he died.

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