CL-41 Tribute Home

USS Philadelphia
Chaplain's Letters to Shipmates

25 March 1944

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Good Afternoon Shipmates,

Few nations, fewer men have the deep humility which is the child of self criticism. It is very seldom that a man or a nation relishes the revelations of their own faults. If the mirror is held before us, so that we can’t escape the image, we forget our faults quickly. But how we revel in looking down our noses at the faults of others. Young people I find can be as a class the most insufferably intolerant group on earth. If age and advancing years should bring anything to a man it is the grand gift of tolerance, forbearance, at least an attempt to understand other people, other nations. Not to sit in harsh judgment on nations as a whole. We add nothing positive to our own national stature by belittling otheres especially our allies.

I personally prefer the American who says frankly yes this or that nation is dirty or drinks its beer warm or has miserable slums or dirty churches or beggars with hideous sores. That’s true. But back home there’s a section of my town with filthy clapboard houses and we have beautiful scenery all loused up with crumby billboards and the political set up in my home town is corrupt as can be. The American who says why even President Roosevelt said that a third of our people, that’s about 40 million people mind you, 40 million Americans are ill fed, ill housed, ill clothed.

So when I sneer at folks in Scotland, Africa, Sicily, Italy, I’d be doing my country a favor if I hold up the mirror to American shortcomings and swore I’d do something about them when I return to civilian life. Let’s concentrate the searchlight of self criticism on our own national scene, admit that we have our share of the world’s dirty people, diseased children, corrupt politicians, miserably educated young people, overflowing jails, insane asylums and poor houses.

If you don’t believe me drop around while I give you the experience of a couple of years in jails, asylums, jails (as Chaplain, of course). We’re a wealthy nation – the weathiest – and yet we are many years from licking our own national cancers. Then what can you expect from people who don’t have one hundredth of our limitless resources.

Sure they’re to blame just as much as we were to blame for all the economic ills which have harried us before the war and which may plague us after the war. So when you go ashore here and in other foreign lands, let’s not be priggishly conceited over ourselves. We can make the best impression not by hurling our money and weight around like a drunken sailor but by carrying ourselves as we are. As representatives of our families as we sons of good parents not trying to live up to some screwy character you saw in the movies but just being your sturdy, simple small town self. Not contemptuous, not a bigmouth braggart. You weren’t one at home were you? Just a nice guy who has a nice home, with a sweet girl you’re in love with, over here to do an unpleasant job in the shortest best way. Summing up – Be tolerant of other nations, highly critical of yourself and for Pete’s sake be yourself ashore.

Nine months to Xmas today special Mass at 1630 – Remember church tomorrow.

D.J. Burke