History & Culture

Father Maloney – July 1, 1944

Father Maloney

Sometimes words of one there carry such power that you cannot improve upon them. Sometimes the example of a good man says more than any well-intended guidance. Father Maloney was there, with “Wild Bill” Guarnere. Their actions and words echo. Come and listen. 

Both men were in the 101st Airborne, first division to jump into Germany in WW II, 506th parachute infantry regiment, “E” or Easy Company, 2nd platoon. That was June 6, 1944. But July 1, 1944, is also a special day. You will see why – in a moment. 

The 506th and Easy are famous because Steven Ambrose wrote about them, Tom Hanks produced a series on them, Band of Brothers, chronicling their spirit – from D-Day in Normandy through war’s end. But that is not what makes July 1 special, not for these men. 

The stories Ambrose and Hanks tell are powerful. 

But there is more. Bill was a rough Irish Catholic from Philly. So was Ed “Babe” Heffron, another Easy paratrooper. They talked daily most of their lives. Bill liked talking. Babe liked cigars. 

Bill and Babe – in the crucible of WW II – were close to Father Maloney, another Irish Catholic military chaplain. That closeness is what makes July 1, 1944 – so special. You see, the fighting these men saw was beyond description. Bill lost his leg trying to save another paratrooper, Joe Toye, who had lost his leg. That was Bastogne. Germans thought they had it. But young men like Bill, Joe, and Babe thought differently. Both men were expected to die. Both lived. 

In the years ahead, the men of Easy who returned were honored. As time passed, Bill and Babe decided some details deserved further mention, so they wrote a book in 2007. They called it “Brothers in Battle – Best of Friends.” 

As with most combat veterans, they were self-effacing, concerned to recognize those who did not come home. They were proud of America, those who defend Her – especially under pressure. That is what brings us to Father Maloney. 

His full name was John S. Maloney. On D-Day – June 6, 1944 – he was 32, older than most, young by modern standards. He was their regimental chaplain. He wore glasses, rather uncommon for a paratrooper. On that day, he jumped under fire, soon among dead and dying. 

A citation reads: “He assisted medical-aid men in administering first aid to the wounded under intense enemy machine-gun fire …further assisted in their evacuation under continuous mortar fire,” and his “fortitude, initiative and courage exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States …” He was unbroken, giving aid and praying with those around him. 

In the series, he is seen moving among the wounded under intense fire. “Wild Bill’s” memory is clear, laid out candidly and with warmth. The role of military medics and chaplains seldom gets attention – but speaks volumes to who we are, who aim to be, who we pray to be, who they are. 

This is where words of those there cannot be improved upon. This is where love meets ink, by grace our eyes. Writes Bill of Father Maloney in the horrific battle of Carantan, a life-and-death effort to link Omaha and Utah Beaches, preventing the Allies from being pushed into the sea: 

“Everyone was running … smoke everywhere … it was chaos. Everyone’s screaming for medics. Father Maloney ran around giving last rights … He had no weapons on him, just carried a cross. He was all over like a ghost, running in and out. If you were fighting and not hurt, you didn’t pay attention to what he was doing at the time, but if you got wounded, and you didn’t know if you were going to survive, his presence was important.”

Bill is no sentimentalist, but when it comes to Father Maloney, he talked gratitude. “Thinking back, he inspired the men; it was like having the Lord himself come down to visit you. You know you’re not alone; someone cared for you.”  

Some never forget. Some are never forgotten. In 2007, Bill wrote: “When Father Maloney died twenty years ago, I went up to New York … helped bury him. I had flowers made up into a Screaming Eagle [for the 101st], three feet high and two feet wide, and put it by his side … The chaplains and the medics were the real heroes.” 

Men of Easy Company, America’s paratroopers, and those who served in their day and at that place did what they had to. They won the day at Carantan, linking Omaha and Utah beaches – where the Americans landed. Then they closed another gap, uniting Americans with British and Canadians who had landed at Sword, Juno, and Gold, defeating multiple Panzer divisions. 

And about July 1, 1944? What was so special about that day, on which the sun rose after victory at Carantan’s “Battle of Bloody Gulch,” where Father Maloney had moved “like a ghost” – indifferent to machine-gun fire, administering hope, prayer, and last rights to men in need? 

Well, that was the day America paid tribute to his selfless service. 

That was the day, as Bill records, Father Maloney “was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions at Normandy.” The award is for “extraordinary heroism,” second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. On July 1, just worth remembering men like Bill, Babe, Joe – and Father Maloney. 

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Paul Russo
3 months ago

I met a few Metal of Honor Heroes in my time in the military, also other combat heroes that were awarded metals. They were different in many ways, but all had a look in their eyes that said, “ Loved their country and fellow man” inspiring to meet them.
JFK said, Ask what you can do for your country, today we demand Free Stuff from our country.
It’s like waiting for your country’s funeral.

Linda Maria
3 months ago

Loved this story! Very inspiring! Just one small favor– please correct the spelling of the Catholic Last Rites of the Church! Thanks!

Jeanette
3 months ago

thank you for sharing this.

K
3 months ago

Amazing Article About One Y The United States Military Heros!

Texas Resister 64
3 months ago

Awesome writing about an awesome cleric, and this deacon finds the story very inspiring.

Carol
3 months ago

My name happens to be Carol also. I always read the articles written by Mr. Charles. I wish that more people would read and comment on his articles. I firmly believe he is the best writer I have read in a very long time! He hits the nail on the head each time! I have reached a point in my life (in my 80’s) when I can say what I want. I am being daily assaulted by the “useful idiots” in this country who can not see beyond their own self love or their god POWER to see the love of others. This is so much more than a history lesson. I will never forget all of my relatives who served in WWII, the Vietnam War etc. Today we are faced with a war on our own turf. This great country will go down in flames if we do not return common sense in this government and stop this hatred for anyone who thinks differently. My husband who was born in Berlin in 1938 and saw what hitler and stalin did to their people (first hand knowledge) and has at the age of 83 begun reading Sabine Bode’s books on how the German children were during and after WWII. He remembers so much of this horror. I have worked in places in the world in health care where you would not want any of your family to live and work. In closing I want to tell you I never capitalize people or places I have no respect for so I hope you do not think these are typos or I am stupid! I speak the truth which is more than I can say for the press other than a few of those on Fox news and Newsmax. So thank you Mr. Charles for another illuminating article. And I appreciate that we can still express what we think somewhere! Carol

RBC
3 months ago
Reply to  Carol

God bless you, Carol. You just made my day, and trust me – we will not give up, we will not cede ground, we will not let this great Republic retreat, face defeat, or – in the words of Lincoln – perish. You have put wind under my wings… Stay strong, confident, and at peace. Only in the onset of darkness do we begin to appreciate light. Thank you so much, Robert Charles

Carol
3 months ago

Thanks for this history lesson and reminding us of the brave that are still among us and those long gone. Let’s never forget them!

Andi
3 months ago
Reply to  Carol

AMEN!

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