6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK)



Mission Statement:
The US Army Chaplaincy provides religious support to America's Army while assisting commanders in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion for all Soldiers. In short, we nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen.

Army Chaplains during the Vietnam War

The first Army chaplain in Vietnam arrived on 26 Feb. 1962, with some 3,000 U.S. troops in country. The numbers of serving chaplains roughly kept pace with the troop levels; peaking at over 300 chaplains in the field in 1967.

The Army Chaplaincy is the oldest of the American military chaplaincies, and predated the Declaration of Independence by almost a year.  The Second Continental Congress authorized Chaplains for the Army on 29 July 1775.  The same Congress authorized Chaplains in the Navy on 28 November 1775.  The Air Force Chaplain Service came into existence on 26 July 1949.

While ministry to the troops was their overriding concern, they also aided the Vietnamese people in many ways, including mobilizing clothing, food and money for schools, orphanages, medical facilities and the like.

Thanks to the helicopter, chaplains could visit the far-flung reaches of their parishes; with portable field kits, they could set up and conduct services wherever needed.

Throughout the war, many chaplains shared the dangers and discomforts with the troops, while providing spiritual and emotional support and aiding the sick, wounded and dying.

Rabbi Meir Engel, who died of a heart attack in 1964, was the first U.S. Army chaplain to die in the Vietnam War.  In 1966, William J. Barragy was the first chaplain to fall in combat. In all, thirteen U.S. Army chaplains (MOS:  5310) died in Vietnam.

Two U.S. Army chaplains, Charlie Watters and Angelo Liteky were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest award for valor

Throughout the war, many chaplains shared the dangers and discomforts with the troops, while providing spiritual and emotional support and aiding the sick, wounded and dying.

Rabbi Meir Engel, who died of a heart attack in 1964, was the first U.S. Army chaplain to die in the Vietnam War. In 1966, William J. Barragy was the first chaplain to fall in combat. In all, thirteen U.S. Army chaplains (MOS 5310) died in Vietnam.

Chaplains also received 26 Silver Star Medals, 66 Legions of Merit, 719 Bronze Stars, 82 Purple Hearts, 318 Air Medals and 586 Army Commendation Medals during the Vietnam War.


The Congressional Medal of Honor


6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) Vietnam Chapel Services

The Chaplain and chapel services was an important part of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery. The status and the importance and availability of religious services and counseling provided by the Battalion chaplain is outlined in the Battalion Operational Report.

Chapel program: the Chapel program consists of general Protestant worship services on Sunday at Battery D, 0800 hours, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1000 hours, Battery B, 1115 hours, and Battery A, 1415 hours. Possibly, Sunday services will be held at Battery C in the near future. The close proximity of Battery C to the MACV Annex Chapel, and the time of day (1330 hours) available for services are factors to the considered. Transportation is made available for all Catholic personnel to their masses. Jewish chaplains are available for counseling and services to Jewish personnel. The weekday program consists of Bible study at 1930 hrs. Sunday evening at Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, and devotional film service on Tuesday with counseling on Monday and Tuesday morning. Character guidance is held Wednesday morning of each week. Counseling and visitation on Friday at Battery A with film and devotional Friday night. Battery B receives counseling and visitation on Wednesday of each week with character guidance the first Wednesday of each month. Counseling and visitation are held each Thursday at Battery C with film devotional service on Thursday nights. Battery D is counsel and vested each Tuesday. Film and devotional on Sunday night with character guidance presented the first Tuesday of each month. In addition to these services being provided to members of the battalion, counseling and visitations are each Friday with character guidance being presented in the second Friday of each month to the 79th Ordnance Detachment.

Operational report of Headquarters, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery, for Period Ending 31 July 1968

Rifles, Religion, and Radios


A portion of the document is from (my recollections and thoughts of Vietnam written for my children) by Wallace J. Savoy, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery,(1967- 1968) battalion S2 (captain at the time)


This was one of my father's (Sp5 Richard V. Poremba) pictures of soldiers dresed in jungle fatigues and white shirts going to Chapel serivce. My father was assigned to C Btry, 6th Bn, 56th Arty
Photo courtesy Timothy F. Poremba

I was totally unhappy about having only a .45 cal. pistol, especially since I was out on the road, sometimes in isolated areas, almost every day.  I also carried my old Buck hunting knife, but that was even more useless than the .45 unless there was hand-to-hand action, and that’s a sorry state of affairs to get yourself into.  Our battalion was still armed with the older M14 rifle, while most of the combat units in country were getting the new M16 rifles.  I wanted a rifle, but we had only enough for our troops.  On a hunch, I visited a friend in the 25th Infantry Division to our south, close to Saigon.  He was in the supply area, and had access to combat damaged weapons.  I “conned” him into letting me take a couple of damaged M16 rifles, one that had a bad butt stock, while the other one had a damaged barrel.  I pulled the pins holding the barrel/receiver groups to the stocks, separated the rifle components, and put the good butt stock on the good rifle, and then went to a nearby range to check the “zero” on the sights.  It shot right on target and I was happy.  The Ordnance guys tell you to never mix and match weapon parts, that only they are qualified to do this, but I had been around weapons long enough that I felt confident that there was nothing hazardous in what I was doing.  I was only swapping out major component sections.  I gave my buddy 5 pounds of coffee I had scrounged from our mess in return for the favor.  I got ammo, extra clips, and carried the M16 rifle with me everywhere I went from that point on, and felt a lot more comfortable about being able to defend myself in a pinch.  I passed the M16 rifle on to my replacement when I left Vietnam at the end of my tour.

After I had gotten into a routine, the months began to pass fairly quickly, but not quick enough for me.  We worked 6 1/2 days a week, with time off Sunday mornings for chapel.  John Reed was a good chaplain.  He was from California, and was of the American Baptist faith.  It was fairly close to the good old Southern Baptist dogma that I was familiar with since childhood.  Norm Dowdy and I were both Baptists and soon we were talking to John Reed about personal things and issues dealing with problems that the troops had.  Our Personnel warrant officer, Ed Eike was in the midst of a divorce not of his choosing, and also talked to John a lot.  John got Ed, Norm, and I to meet with him during the evenings on Tuesdays when we had a chance and we had Bible study.  It was fun, and Norm and I got a lot of insight into religion and ourselves in general, as well as specific lessons from the Bible.  I guess I grew somewhat in my views and feelings about my religion during that time.  We talked about love for our fellow beings, and after several of those sessions, I really felt closeness to God that I had not felt before, and with that feeling, I experienced a really great feeling of love for fellow men, including the Vietnamese people and children I saw along the roads.  It really felt good to have that feeling, and sometimes I wish I could experience that emotional aspect of my life again.  I suppose that I could, if there weren’t so many distractions from work, society, family, etc., and I know that it’s something that I should have every day, but I don’t, sadly enough.  Some of it was brought on by being in a hazardous combat zone, and some by loneliness for family and loved ones, but much of it was a growing feeling toward God and man and self.

John was a good minister to the troops too, and he was popular with those who were open to him and religion, and even those who abhorred religion respected and liked him.  He had a good following at chapel each Sunday and we sang joyous hymns with fervor, even if they were pretty much off key.  Amazing Grace was an all time favorite hymn.

Somewhere in all this, my driver, Specialist Harden got involved with a Vietnamese girl and that got him into trouble.  I had a jeep with an AN/GRC-47 radio configuration consisting of 2 FM tactical radios.  As S2, the S2 folks and I could go out the gate any time without special permission.  Sometimes I sent Harden on errands to one of the other organizations to pick up reports or drop off intelligence information, so the gate guards were used to him coming and going through the gate.  One night, Harden decided to go see the “Love of his life”, and left the compound in my jeep about 9 PM.  He parked the jeep close to her house and spent time with her.  When he got back in the jeep to return to the compound around 11 PM, the radios were missing.  He knew then that he was in trouble.  He came to my hooch to tell me and I took down all the details, and told him we’d discuss it more the next morning.

MSG Holt was signed for the jeep and radios and when he found out about it he was livid and threatened to thrash Harden then and there until I intervened.  We reported the loss and Holt took Harden over to HQ battery to report to the battery commander.  When it was all over, and a report of survey had been completed, Harden had to pay over $2,000 for the radios, and he got an Article 15 punishment from Jim Sorensen for leaving the compound in a military vehicle in an unauthorized status.  What made it so bad was that it was likely some VC had our tactical radios and could monitor our transmissions.  Harden gave up his girl friend after that, more because he had no money than the fact that he had gotten into trouble over her. 

Thanksgiving message, 25 Nov 2010

by Chaplain John H Reed, Ret.

6/56 Artillery (VN 1967/8)


On October 3, 1789 Our First President George Washington Declared that our nation would make the 4th Thursday of November our National day of Thanksgivings. Our God had blessed us with freedom and liberty through the sacrifices of the brave Americans in the Revolutionary War. And so on this Thanksgiving Day, two hundred and twenty one years later, we pause and give Our God Thanks for our Country, our freedoms, and the continued thanks for the men and women throughout all these years who have served our country for the causes of justice, freedom, liberty, and peace. We honor those who have served and those who have given their lives that future generations might live as God our creator intended all men to live:

in love and in peace.


Dear Father, our God,  We pause today, and thank you for every good gift that you have given to us: for our lives, our families, our wonderful country with all of our freedoms, and for the courage you give us to live responsible lives so your purposes and design for the human race can continue.  You have created us to depend on you.  Help us always to reach out to you and your gracious love.  Forgive us when we slip into selfish attitudes and cease loving You and others. We thank you that our memories of our days in the service remind us of great friendships, great character building, and maturity which have helped us be the people we are today.

Lord, on this Thanksgiving Day of 2010 - We commit ourselves again to you, strengthen us to serve others around us, help us be a blessing, as you have blessed us.  We pray this in your Name, our Lord, Amen.

The Chapels of the Vietnam War

The word chapel is in particularly common usage in England, and even more so in Wales, for independent or nonconformist places of worship. I believe this definition captures the true meaning of chapels in Vietnam. The chapels, places of prayer and worship were definitely nonconformist places of worship.

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