During the second half of the twentieth century, the American
military chaplaincy underwent a profound transformation.
Broad-based and ecumenical in the World War II era, the chaplaincy
emerged from the Vietnam War as generally conservative and
evangelical. Before and after the Vietnam War, the chaplaincy
tended to mirror broader social, political, military, and religious
trends. During the Vietnam War, however, chaplains' experiences and
interpretations of war placed them on the margins of both military
and religious cultures. Because chaplains lived and worked amid
many communities--religious and secular, military and civilian,
denominational and ecumenical--they often found themselves
mediating heated struggles over the conflict, on the home front as
well as on the front lines.
In this benchmark study, Jacqueline Whitt foregrounds the voices of
chaplains themselves to explore how those serving in Vietnam acted
as vital links between diverse communities, working personally and
publicly to reconcile apparent tensions between their various
constituencies. Whitt also offers a unique perspective on the
realities of religious practice in the war's foxholes and
firebases, as chaplains ministered with a focus on soldiers' shared
experiences rather than traditional theologies.