A Chaplain’s Duty: Letters Home from a WWII Chaplain

Written by Gayle Knapp



Note:  As far as I can tell, this book is out of print, except for an audio version.  If you’re able to track it down, it’s well worth the read.

This book was donated to the Waco Library by a family friend, Anne Bienfang, in memory of my grandfather, Sam K. Smith.  A Chaplain’s Duty is a compilation of letters that Reverend Knapp wrote home during World War II.  I would normally steer away from a book comprising nothing but letters, but I wanted to why Anne chose this book in particular to donate.

This is the best book I read last year.  It is in the running for the best book I have ever read.

I thought it started slow.  The letters seemed very church-y to me.  Not obnoxiously so, but still rather bland.  Reverend Knapp wrote to his wife about food and the weather.  He wrote how much he missed his family.  It reminded me of the letters I would write during summer camp.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I love history.  I have read quite a bit about World War II, and that may have contributed to my opinion of this book as a yawn-fest at the beginning.  Where was the excitement?  Where was the tension?

Then, the tone changed.  What I didn’t fully realize or appreciate what that Reverend Knapp was a volunteer chaplain with front line regiments.  As such, he took part in the preparations for D-Day.  He landed on a beach in Normandy.  He ministered during the Battle of the Bulge.  His position gave him a singular perspective on the war.

I don’t want to give anything away about this book, so I won’t go into too much more detail about what happened.  But the beauty of this book is as much in what Reverend Knapp doesn’t say in his letters home as what he does say .  These letters are love letters for his wife and his children, his country, his fellow soldiers.  Most of all, these letters tell of his love for God in a way that changes your relationship with Him as well.

Reverend George Knapp is a true hero.  Through him, you truly experience the human story of World War II, from Normandy to V-J Day.  It is a true depiction of patriotism, compassion, and faith. It is the kind of book that will change your life.