Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick
Chaplain USS Arizona
Commander Thomas Leroy Kirkpatrick, Chaplain, reported to the USS Arizona in September 1940 and was promoted to captain on July 1, 1941. Kirkpatrick represented the Protestant faith, more specifically, the Presbyterian (USA) denomination.
Besides holding Sunday worship services - either on ship or on shore - the chaplain played a major role in the ship's morale and social aspects.
The ship and its crew were like a small community, with all the problems any community has. Chaplains often were called upon to solve personal and personnel problems, and sometimes use his connections to arrange and lead special tours on shore. The chaplain was not only a minister, but also a psycholgist, social worker and social coordinator.
On the whole, naval chaplains accept their collateral duties in good spirit, believing that the faithful performances of them increased their effectiveness as religious leaders. One can guess that many men had a deeper spiritual experience because of the friendships that developed with the chaplains.
On Friday, December 5, 1941, Kirkpatrick, wrote prophetically to his friend and fellow chaplain of the USS North Carolina: "This is a tense week with us out here, and before you get this it will be decided one way or another, doubtless."
On Sunday morning, Kirkpatrick was in the wardroom of the Arizona with some of his fellow officers enjoying a cup of coffee. The wardroom mess was across from the admiral's cabin on the left side of the second deck. Presumably, when general quarters were sounded, Kirkpatrick rushed to his battle station in sickbay to minister to any casualties. (The location of sickbay on the Arizona was also on the same deck, just forward of gun turret number one.) As you may know by now, most of the men in that area of the ship were gone in an instant from the massive explosions of the forward magazines.
Thomas Kirkpatrick was one of the two Navy chaplains who died that day. The other was Father Aloysius Schmitt on the USS Oklahoma. These two were the first U.S. chaplains to give their lives in World War II.
In honor or Chaplain Kirkpatrick, a destroyer escort (DE-318) was commissioned in 1943 and named after him.
Fortunately, the story of Thomas Kirkpatrick does not end here. In 1996, Kirkpatrick's son, Tom, donated some of his father's personal affects that were recovered from the sunken battleship to the Arizona Memorial Museum. Currently on display in the museum is a desk clock from the chaplain's quarters. The clock is pretty much intact except for the face. However, you can still tell the time at which it stopped - 8:04:35.
Written by Neal Niiyama (USS Arizona Memorial Park Ranger).
Reprinted with permission from the author and the Arizona Memorial Museum Association
Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2000 Membership Newsletter "Remembrance".
Thomas L. Kirkpatrick was born 5 July 1887 in Cozad, Nebr., and was appointed Acting Chaplain, U.S. Navy, 19 February 1918. After serving as chaplain to stations in the United States and abroad, Thomas Kirkpatrick was assigned to battleship NORTH DAKOTA (BB-29) 24 June 1919. For the next 20 years, he served on battleship UTAH (BB-31), armored cruiser PITTSBURGH (CA-4); and aircraft carrier SARATOGA (CV-3) in addition to duty at Samoa from 1935 to 1937. He reported to battleship ARIZONA (BB-39) 13 September 1940, and was commissioned Captain 1 July 1941. Captain Kirkpatrick lost his life when ARIZONA was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941.
DE-318 Displacement: 1,200 t.
Length: 306' Beam: 36'7"
Draft: 8'7" Speed: 21 k.
Armament: 3 3"; 6 40mm; 10 20mm; 9 depth charge projectors; 2 depth charge tracks;
USS KIRKPATRICK (DE-318) was launched 5 June 1943, by Consolidated Steel Corp., Orange, Tex.; sponsored by Mrs. Genevieve Kirkpatrick, widow of Captain Kirkpatrick; and commissioned 23 October 1943, Lt. Comdr. V. E. Bakanas, USCG, in command.
After shakedown along the Atlantic Coast, KIRKPATRICK arrived Norfolk 23 December 1943, to commence transatlantic escort duty. From January 1944 to May 1945, she made 1 convoy escort mission to the Mediterranean, and 10 crossings between the United States and the British Isles. On her third voyage, GANDY (DE-764), another destroyer escort in the convoy, rammed German submarine U-550 after the U-boat had sunk tanker PAN PENNSYLVANIA. Eleven prisoners from the sunken enemy submarine were captured in this action of 16 April 1944.
KIRKPATRICK returned New York on completion of her final transatlantic escort mission 15 May 1945. After bombardment exercises in the Caribbean, she sailed for the Pacific. She entered Pearl Harbor 11 July for tactics with submarines in Hawaiian waters until 29 August when she departed on an escort cruise to the Far East. Departing Sasebo 2 November, KIRKPATRICK arrived Charleston 8 December 1945, via Pearl Harbor and the Panama Canal. She arrived Jacksonville 5 days later and decommissioned 1 May 1946, at Green Cove Springs, Fla.
KIRKPATRICK was reclassified a radar picket ship (DER-318) on 1 October 1951, and recommissioned 23 February 1952, Lt. Comdr. George S. Davis in command. After shakedown and training out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, KIRKPATRICK reported to Newport 11 July 1952 for radar picket operations on the Atlantic Barrier, the seaward extension of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line across northern Canada. She manned radar picket stations in the North Atlantic until 1960, a seaborne unit of the air defense system of the United States and Canada. Incidental to this service she visited ports of northern Europe in the summers of 1958 and 1959. The radar picket ship departed Newport 27 March 1960, and arrived Philadelphia 2 days later. She decommissioned there 24 June 1960, and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. At present she is berthed at Philadelphia.
Stricken from the Navy Register on 1 August 1974, KIRKPATRICK was sold on 12 March 1975. K. Jack Bauer and Stephen S. Roberts, "Register of Ships of the U. S. Navy, 1775-1990," p.225.