The title of Carl's thesis at Bethel was "The Christian Basis of Pacifism." Although he did not initially support the war in Europe, or any other war, he saw his responsibility as ministering to souls rather than to serve only those who agreed with him. He was the first Bethel graduate to enlist as an Army Chaplain. The Army provided him with preparatory courses at Harvard Theological Seminary so that he would be able to perform the functions and practices of all religious military personnel.
He was assigned to Paton's 3rd Army, and earned bronze stars for campaigns in the Ardennes, Northern France, the Rhineland, Bavaria, and Czechoslovakia. Characteristically, he had no difficulty in changing his mind when new situations and insights called for it, and became more committed to supporting the war itself as he moved through Europe.
His duties, from performing religious services to burying the dead, required that he be at least as mobile as the troops he served. The photo above shows him in his jeep, which he named Yorick after a figure in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Carl's tiny-print, Army issue copy of the works of Shakespeare was the book which accompanied Carl's Bible through the war.
This picture shows his close associate, the Battalion Chief Doctor, and his most important aids. The inscription on the back of the photo reads, "We all look like this after 30 or 40 days in the field."
Emblem on the Minister's sash Carl used through the war.
Carl's tour of duty took him to the concentration camp at Dacchau. He lost whatever reservations he had left about the war at this point. Nonetheless, he was appalled at the results of months of saturation bombing of civilian targets, usually populations largely made up of starving, half crazed children, women, and the elderly. Before shipping back to the U.S., he spent several months in England, where he studied English Literature, with an emphasis on Shakespeare. This was a good time for an American soldier to go to school in England: classic books were available at low prices, and prominent British writers visited the students. His courses also contributed greatly to his next professional move, into teaching, when he returned to the U.S.
Despite the satisfactions of the decompression period in England, the role of a military chaplain may have been one of the most lonely and difficult of anyone in war time. At times, he might have to crawl out on a battle field under fire to take confession from a dying soldier. More often he would offer consolation to the desperate or dying. Burying the dead and sending letters home to their families was one of his major tasks. Unlike the troops who carried guns, he had no means of defending himself, and, given the nature of his office, virtually no opportunity to make friends or party with the other men. Even playing cards or telling casual jokes could easily be misconstrued or cited as examples of setting a bad example. Characteristically, however, he overcame the problem of loneliness in a beautiful and lasting way.