Almost Yesterday: John Harold Craven, Chief of Chaplains
It seems like almost yesterday that a young man from Chaffee, Missouri, joined the United States Marine Corps. The date was October 24, 1933. And, the young man, John H. Craven, went through boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, and volunteered for sea duty in order to qualify for admission to the Naval Academy, the only visible option to him for acquiring a college education during the Great Depression.
Craven was assigned to the battleship New Mexico where he served for 18 months. In May 1935, while his ship was in port in Pearl Harbor, Craven said that, "God spoke to me, and it was a clear call - like a still small voice." He added that, "I then had a wonderful experience of God's grace in my heart."
From that inspirational moment Craven redirected his life to become a "preacher and a military Chaplain." He attended college and seminary while serving as a pastor in a number of small churches, and when World War II began he re-entered military service as a Navy Chaplain.
During World War II, Craven accompanied Marines on combat amphibious operations in some of the most difficult actions in the Pacific: Tinian, Saipan and Iwo Jima. He witnessed the flag raising at Iwo Jima and during the Korean War participated in the Inchon Landings, the battle for Seoul and the bitter retreat from the Chosin Reservoir.
Craven baptized so many Marines as they went into battle he came to be known as "John the Baptist." He served as a Chaplain in the Vietnam War, at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and as Chief of Chaplains for the entire U. S. military. This young man from Chaffee, Missouri, remains a legendary figure in U. S. military history. It seems like almost yesterday.