Dear Mr. Patterson: I have just come across your beautiful website on Arlington National Cemetery. This was my old “stomping grounds” when I lived with my parents at Fort Myer, Virginia (connected to the cemetery) during the 1960s when my father, Chaplain (Colonel) James A. Connett, United States Army was Post Chaplain there for 6 years (one of the longest tours for any chaplain there).
It was during this time he was directly involved with many high level burials, including President John F Kennedy (I was also present during the burial service, directly facing the many dignitaries), Meadger Evers (see the attached photo inside the Life Magazine (my father is at the left standing at attention in front of the coffin). Jet Magazine also had his photo of him handing the flag to Mrs. Evers, but I have yet to get a copy of that. This was also at the time of the Houston astronaut fire, killing 4, among them Roger Chaffee & Gus Grissom, as well as other high profile personalities.
My father had quite a colorful career, in WWII. He went in at the Battle of the Bulge, was with the troops liberating Dachau Prison, and into Berlin where the Russian troops (our “supposed allies at the time”) captured him and his driver when they got lost in the bombed out Russian quadrant and was held 3 days.
Back in civilian life, he was nominated (from Illinois) to take a world tour on the QEII with other ministers each representing their state.
The Korean War broke out at that time and he went back into active service over there and completed his 26 years of service which included Arlington Cemetery and Fort Myer.
Dad died at age 58 of a brain anurism just a few hours after performing a wedding in Jerseyville, Illinois.
He is buried on Chaplain's Hill in Arlington Cemetery.
My mother, Marie, is still living in Flora, Illinois, and is still driving and quite active at age 92.
I would like to see if his service information could be included in your website and perhaps some photos.
James Aaron Connett
Chaplain (Colonel) U.S.Army, Retired/Deceased
Born March 30, 1915 in Ridgeway, Illinois into a line of Methodist ministers.
Graduated from McKendree College, in Lebanon, Illinois
Married to Marie Lucille Block in February 5,1938
Three Children: Reynold Block Connett, Chaplain (Colonel) USA, Retired, Olympia, Washington, Janice Ann Connett, retired, Albuquerque, New Mexico, James Emmerson Connett, Program Director Classic 99 Radio, St. Louis, Missouri.
Volunteered for service when he learned of the shortage of Chaplains during World War II, and went to Chaplain’s School at Harvard University and was assigned immediately to the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division, 222 Regiment, that deployed overseas from Camp Gruber, Oklahoma in December 1944.
Major General Harry J. Collins, commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, led his troops onto land at the Battle of the Bulge in France. They were the liberators of Dachau Prison Camp on April 29, 1945. Going north to Berlin, the division swept through the city after the Russians had been allowed to enter first.
Returning to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, the Rainbow Division was deactivated in 1945, and Chaplain Connett returned to civilian ministry in Illinois where he continued his military service in the Illinois National Guard.
Reactivated to full time service in 1951, Chaplain Connett served briefly at Camp Cooke, California, as post chaplain before being sent overseas to Korea, where he served until 1953.
After completing his jump school training in Fort Benning, Georgia, Chaplain Connett was assigned to the 325th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was awarded his Senior Paratrooper wings. He always would volunteer to be “first in the door” to show the new and very petrified jumpers how it was done. One time, however, he had a “Mae West” where the parachute did not open properly and he had to pull is reserve. He walked off the DZ, grinning ear to ear holding the reserve handle in his somewhat shaking hand.
It was highly unusual for a Chaplain to be selected for the Command & General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, but Chaplain Connett was highly recommended and graduated from there in about 1955 before serving as Post Chaplain at the Army’s Headquarters at Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.
Subsequently, he was then assigned to the Chaplain’s staff at Fort Meade, Maryland. before accepting the high profile position as Post Chaplain at Fort Myer, Virginia, home of the Old Guard and Arlington Cemetery.
Selecting Fort Richardson, Alaska as his twilight tour, Chaplain Connett served as post chaplain there until his retirement after 28 years of Army service.
Chaplain Connett became minister at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Jerseyville, Illinois where he passed away in 1973 at age 58. He is buried on Chaplain’s Hill in Arlington National Cemetery.
Among his many service ribbons and awards are: The Bronze Star with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, The Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, The Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Senior Paratrooper Wings, Victory medals and Army Occupation medals from both WWII and Korea, Chaplain of the Year award, 1967.
Thank you, Janice A Connett
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard