Franciscan Love

For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1913, Herman G. Felhoelter was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1939.  He served as an Army chaplain during War II and was awarded a Bronze Star.

Reenlisting in the Army after the war, on July 16th 1950 he was a Captain serving as a chaplain with the 19th Infantry in Korea.  The 19th was in a tough spot that day.  The North Koreans had established a road block in the rear of the regiment near the village of Tunam, South Korea.  The regiment was in retreat, moving through mountains, trying to get around the roadblock, and slowed by the numerous wounded being carried due to the heavy fighting with the North Koreans during the battle for Taegu.  It was obvious by 9:00 PM on the evening of July 16th that 30 of the most seriously wounded could go no farther due to their stretcher bearers being exhausted.  Father Felhoelter and the chief medical officer Captain Linton J. Buttrey volunteered to stay with the wounded while the rest of the men escaped.  Father  Felhoelter was under no illusions of what would happen to the wounded and to him after the advancing North Koreans captured them, and swiftly gave them the Last Rites while he tended to them.

Soon Father Felhoelter  heard a North Korean patrol approaching.  He told Buttrey to escape, which Buttrey reluctantly did, being severely wounded in the process.  An American sergeant with binoculars watched in horror at what happened next.  Ignoring the approaching North Koreans, Father Felhoelter knelt and prayed over the wounded.  The North Koreans killed him by shooting him in the head and the back and then proceeded to murder the helpless wounded.

For his heroism that day  Father Felhoelter posthumously was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal for valor in the US Army after the Medal of Honor.  He was one day shy of his 37th birthday, and was the first US chaplain to die in the Korean War.  A few days before his death he wrote to his mother:   Don’t worry Mother. God’s will be done. I feel so good to know the power of your prayers accompanying me. I am not comfortable in Korea (that is impossible here) but I am happy in the thought that I can help some souls who need help. Keep your prayers going upward.

Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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  1. Thank you for this. I had never heard of him before.

    • Thank you MaxMarie. He was a credit to all Franciscans.

      • Contrary to popular belief, the Franciscans are a fighting order and as far from pacifism as any Catholic body. One of their original purposes was to convert the Saracens, and while that proved beyond reach, such Franciscans as St.Lawrence of Brindisi (a Doctor of the Church) and Blessed Mario of Aviano became legendary for being in the forefront of battles against the terrible Turk when the Turk was really terrible. St.Lawrence, one of the most learned men in Europe and one to whom kings and emperors listened, marched with the common soldiers against the Turks in the late 1500s and early 1600s, with no other weapon than a crucifix held high, comforting the living and giving the Sacraments to the dying; he was never once injured himself, and the Turks came to dread him as some sort of sorcerer, while the Christians felt certain that they had a living saint, among them, working miracles. At the battle of Szekesfehervar (1601), 15,000 Catholic soldiers, with Saint Lawrence literally at their head, met and routed 80,000 Turks; a victory such as would rarely be seen again. Blessed Mario stayed in Vienna in 1683, practically taking over command, when the Emperor himself had fled and the city seemed doomed – and we all know what happened then. We know of many brave men from many brave orders, but if I ever found myself where the bullets are flying – as I hope never to – I would want a Franciscan of the old breed beside me.

      • And of course Saint Louis the IX of France, the Crusader King, was a third order Franciscan.

  2. Whooops! All wrong. Marco, not Mario, d’Aviano. And he led the relieving army – which he had practically brought together by himself, thanks to being the Pope’s representative and a man of great personal charm – and offered a memorable Mass on the Kahlenberg on the morning of battle. For some reason I was certain that he had been inside the city. Still, he certainly had been a fighting friar: he had been inspired to become a Franciscan at the time of Venice’s long and desperate defence of Candia, in Crete – against the same enemy.

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