John H. Craven – Chaplain (Captain), United States Navy

From contemporary news report

John H. Craven, 85, a Captain in the Navy's Chaplain Corps who served with Marine Corps units in high-casualty combat operations during World War II and the Korean War, died April 10, 2001, at Arlington Hospital of complications related to a blood infection.

Captain Craven retired in 1974 after five years as the Chief Chaplain of the Marine Corps and more than 30 years of military service, most of which was spent with Marine units. Since 1989, he had been Chaplain at Vinson Hall, the Navy and Marine Corps retirement center in McLean.

During World War II, he accompanied Marines on combat amphibious landings in the Marshall Islands and on Saipan and Tinian in the Pacific. He witnessed the U.S. flag raising at Iwo Jima in February 1945, and he participated in the landings at Inchon and the battle for Seoul during the Korean War. Following the entry of Chinese forces into the conflict in late 1950, he accompanied the embattled 7th Marine Regiment on the bitterly cold and bloody retreat from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, suffering severe frostbite. Years later, Marine Corps veterans of the Chosin retreat would recall his prodding and exhortations — not uniformly gentle — to keep moving when they felt like giving up.

To Marines in the field he was known as “John the Baptist.” In 1983, on the 50th anniversary of Captain Craven's enlistment in the Marine Corps, General P.X. Kelley, the Corps commandant, called him “a legend in your own time. You served with the Marines longer than any other chaplain in American history.”

In his 1999 book, “The Oldest Generation Speaks,” NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw wrote of Captain Craven's praying with wounded Marines in combat zones at Iwo Jima. For shellshocked Marines, the most effective treatment was often the Lord's Prayer, Brokaw quoted Captain Craven as saying. Many times, there was little else the chaplain could do, except to wipe the volcanic ash from the faces of the wounded men with moistened gauze.

Captain Craven was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, and he completed boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, in 1933. Later, he served aboard the battleship New Mexico at Pearl Harbor. While there, he felt a calling to the ministry.

He left active duty in 1935 but remained in the Marine Corps Reserve while attending Southwest Baptist College and later William Jewell College in Missouri. He received a master's degree in theology at Central Baptist Seminary in Kansas City and was pastor at several Missouri churches before he reentered military service as a Navy chaplain in 1942.

After World War II service in the Pacific, Captain Craven returned in 1948 to Parris Island, where he was a chaplain at the Marine Recruit Depot. In June 1950, he was serving aboard a ship in the Mediterranean when the Korean War broke out. His ship was dispatched through the Suez Canal and across the Indian Ocean to Korea. A Marine captain who served with him in Korea described him in a letter home as “a mild-mannered Navy chaplain who answers to the name of John Craven. Since landing in Korea, I know that Chaplain Craven has spent more time in the front lines than any other man in the regiment.”

After the Korean War, Captain Craven served aboard the aircraft carrier Coral Sea, received a master's degree in theology at Harvard Divinity School and served at a naval air station in Japan and at the Marine Corps post at Quantico. He was chaplain at Bethesda Naval Hospital on November 22, 1963, and was there to meet the friends and family of President John F. Kennedy when the president's body was brought there after his assassination in Dallas.

He was chaplain for the Fleet Marine Force Pacific in the 1960s during the peak years of the war in Vietnam and made several trips to Southeast Asia, where he was an adviser on counterinsurgency measures to General Victor Krulak, the commander of the Pacific force. “Craven persuaded me . . . that we would never be effective in counterinsurgency unless our troops had not only an understanding of but a respect for the local people, their habits and customs,” Krulak would write later in a report.

After serving a tour in the Great Lakes Naval District, Captain Craven was posted to Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, where he finished his career as chaplain for the Marine Corps.

After retiring from the Marine Corps in 1974, Captain Craven moved to Okinawa on a one-year assignment from the Foreign Missionaries Board of the Baptist Church.

He then relocated to Virginia Beach. Until he returned to this area in 1989, he was director of Christian Social Ministries for the Norfolk Baptist Association.

In 1995, Captain Craven returned to Iwo Jima to participate in dedication ceremonies for a monument to the Americans and Japanese who had fought there 50 years earlier. After leading a prayer, he embraced a former Japanese army captain who had since become a Buddhist priest. Later he wrote of the experience: “Before leaving the beach and the spot where our command post had been, I photographed a small green plant with a small red bloom. To me it represented the hopes and dreams for peace rising out of the  blood-soaked sands of Iwo Jima.”

Captain Craven's military decorations included a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.

He received a doctorate in theology from McCormick Seminary.

His wife, Betty May Smith Craven, died in 1989.

Survivors include his wife, Verna Craven of Vinson Hall; two daughters from his first marriage, Margaret Diamond of Burke and Carol Ashe of Virginia Beach; and two grandchildren.


On April 12, 2001, of McLean, Virginia. Funeral service at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel on Wednesday, May 9 at 3 p.m., followed by interment with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.


On April 10, 2001, of McLean, Virginia, beloved husband of Verna H. Craven; devoted father of Carol Ashe of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Margaret Diamond of Burke, Virginia; loving brother of Allen B. Craven of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Survived by two grandchildren, Sharif and Amir Elkassed. Friends may call at McLean Baptist Church, 1367 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, Virginia, on Wednesday, April 11, from 6 to 8 p.m., and Thursday, April 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. Expressions of sympathy in his memory to the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation, 6251 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, VA 22101.

Verna Eckhardt Hyde Craven, 87, a former secretary for the Army Materiel Command, died of cardiac arrest June 27, 2007, at Susquehanna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Johnson City, New York. She was a former resident of Washington and Vinson Hall, the military retirement community in McLean, Virginia.

Mrs. Craven, who was born in Taylor, Pennsylvania, lived in the Washington area for 63 years and worked for the Department of the Army from 1941 until her retirement in 1971.

She was a member of National Presbyterian Church for 57 years and belonged to it's Business and Professional Women's Guild. She also was a long-term member of the Potomac Rose Society. She moved from Vinson Hall to New York in 2004.

Her husband, retired Navy Captain John M. Hyde, a decorated veteran of World War II, died in 1979. Her husband, retired Navy Captain John H. Craven, the longest serving chaplain in the Marine Corps, died in 2001.

Survivors include three stepdaughters, Lynn Woodbury and Margaret Diamond, both of Burke, and Carol Craven of Virginia Beach; and three step-grandchildren.


Of Taylor, Pennsylvania, VERNA ECKHARDT HYDE CRAVEN, 87, former resident of Washington, D.C., and McLean, Viginia. Widow of John M. Hyde, Captain, U.S. Navy, Ret; John H. Craven, Captain U.S. Navy, Ret.

Survivors, nieces and nephew, Margaret Norcutt, Mary Connelly, John Eckhardt; stepdaughters, Lynn Woodbury, Burke, Virginia, Margaret Diamond, Burke, Virginia, Carol Craven, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Retired employee of U.S. Army, Material Command. Longtime member of National Presbyterian Church, Potomac Rose Society. Graveside service will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, Friday, July 13 at 2 p.m. Memorial contributions may be made to National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.



  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/12/1915
  • DATE OF DEATH: 04/10/2001


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 05/11/1918
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/06/1990

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