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Rev. Elmer Heindl, 96; WWII Army Chaplain Received Medals for Heroism

July 19, 2006|From the Associated Press

The Rev. Elmer Heindl, one of the most highly decorated chaplains in World War II, died Monday in Rochester, N.Y. He was 96.

Heindl, a Rochester native and Roman Catholic priest who enlisted in the Army as a chaplain in 1942, was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for ministering to war wounded while under Japanese fire in both the Philippines and the Solomon Islands.

He later received a Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest combat medal, for his "extraordinary heroism in action" under heavy machine-gun fire during street fighting in Manila in 1945.

According to newspaper accounts that year, Heindl entered a prison watchtower under Japanese fire to offer prayers for a dying soldier, then took the body out.

He returned to the tower to carry a wounded man to safety.

Two days later, Heindl crawled through enemy rocket and mortar fire to drag a wounded officer to an aid station and also carried other casualties to safety and administered last rites to the dying.

"I went down there to do my duty as a chaplain," Heindl said in 1987. "Whatever happened was none of my doing whatsoever.... I never carried a gun. I never felt the need for any kind of violence."

After the war, he served in several parishes in the Rochester area.

Heindl, who had been living in a nursing home, had been in a hospital burn unit since March, when he fell in a shower and suffered burns while lying in hot water for an unknown length of time.

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