As chaplain for the US Army's 102nd Evacuation Hospital in the European Theater, Renwick C. Kennedy--"Ren" to those who knew him--witnessed great courage, extreme talent, and many lives snatched from the precipice of death, all under the most trying conditions. He also observed drug and alcohol abuse, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and chronic depression.
What he saw, he chronicled in his journal, and what he wrote, he processed with an intellectual and ethical rigor born of his remarkably sophisticated worldview and his deeply held Christian faith. With Kennedy's war diaries and postwar articles published in Christian Century and Time magazines in front of him, historian Tennant McWilliams spent a year retracing every step, every turn, every location of the 102nd in wartime France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, compiling rich detail on this episode in Kennedy's life.
McWilliams's interviews with citizens of France and Luxembourg who recall the 102nd further revealed local people's reactions to the army hospital that illuminated both Kennedy's severe criticism and his enduring praise for evac life. The result is a candid view of what went on in the World War II evac hospitals. With a nuanced and gritty style, The Chaplain's Conflict shatters the self-interested and sometimes sentimental images of evacs held by some among the medical community.
This complex and compelling observation of doctors practicing war-zone medicine in World War II will hold great appeal for readers of military and medical history, as well as those interested in the socio-cultural, ethical, and religious implications of war and military service.
Retired from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he was professor of history and dean, TENNANT MCWILLIAMS currently serves as visiting professor of history at Samford University in Birmingham. His other books include The New South Faces the World: Foreign Affairs and the Southern Sense of Self, 1877-1950.
What Readers Are Saying:
"Engaging . . . allows the reader to travel along with the author and his wife to Europe as they . . . retrace the footsteps of US Army Chaplain Renwick C. Kennedy and the 102nd Evacuation Hospital."--Judith Bellafaire, Author of Women Doctors in War
"Stylishly written and meticulously researched, The Chaplain's Conflict does for World War II evacuation hospitals what the M*A*S*H television series did for those of the Korean conflict—and more. It shows us a bloody world of grim moral contradictions through the eyes of a gifted diarist, Renwick C. Kennedy. By tracing Ren's journey from a sleepy Alabama town to the Battle of the Bulge, Tennant McWilliams provides a gripping, surprising new chapter to the story of what some have called 'The Good War.'"--Howell Raines, New York Times former executive editor
"A compelling citizen-soldier critique focused on the dicier terrains of 'The Greatest Generation."--Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump and Conversations with the Enemy
" . . . a remarkable read. . . . Having been wounded twice, I found the descriptions of the 102nd Evacuation Hospital to be compelling. . . . showing . . . where military medicine has been and the importance of where it is going . . . . In many ways, reading The Chaplain’s Conflict is like reading a primer on leadership . . . the good and the bad.”--Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC (RET), former commandant of the US Marine Corps and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, president, Birmingham Southern College
"This is a must read for any military chaplain and medical officer...This book will serve as an important insight into the role of a chaplain as a principle staff officer."--Farrar Bentley, East Texas Historical Journal
" . . . an honest look at actual day-to-day life in a real-life WWII Army evacuation hospital. Kennedy's story goes deeply and fairly into the most fundamental issues of war."--ARP Magazine