DUBUQUE, Iowa – Loras College will present a free showing of “For God and Country,” a short, inspirational documentary on The Rev. Aloysius Schmitt, a 1932 graduate of Loras (then known as Columbia College), who was killed while saving 12 men during the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4 at Mindframe Theater, 555 John F. Kennedy Road, Dubuque.
Craig Schaefer, professor of media studies and director of the documentary, along with Dr. Steve Sloan, Schmitt’s great nephew, a member of the Loras College Board of Regents and a 1978 graduate, will be on hand after the film to answer questions about the film and Schmitt. The film was produced by Loras College and the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Loras College also announced more details surrounding a vigil for Schmitt on Friday, Oct. 7 at Christ the King Chapel, 1500 Alta Vista, St., Dubuque. The procession begins at 2:30 p.m. at Loras Parkway, (formerly Cox Street) and ends at the chapel, where a prayer service will be held at approximately 3 p.m. From 3 to 8 p.m. visitation will take place at the chapel with a second prayer service at 6 p.m.
Schmitt will then be laid to rest during a Memorial Mass, with full military honors, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8 at the chapel. Because of the limited capacity at the Chapel, guests will be welcome to watch a live stream (www.loras.edu/streaming) of the Mass inside the Alumni Campus Center on campus. Loras staff will direct those attending. Also, parking may be limited, so guests are encouraged to arrive early.
In lieu of gifts, guests are encouraged to give on behalf of the Schmitt Memorial Fund at Loras College at alumni.loras.edu/fatherschmitt.
After graduating from Loras, Schmitt, born in 1909 in St. Lucas, Iowa, studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained on Dec. 8, 1935. Schmitt served as an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Dubuque and entered the chaplain corps of the U.S. Navy in 1939. One year later, he was assigned to the USS Oklahoma.
Schmitt, age 32 at the time, was killed aboard the battleship on Dec. 7, 1941 after it was hit by torpedoes. As it capsized, Schmitt helped push 12 men through a porthole to safety before he died. He posthumously received the Navy Marine Corp Medal and the Purple Heart for his heroism.
The remains of the 429 sailors and Marines killed on the Oklahoma were found in the months and years after the attack, but decomposition had made all but a small number unidentifiable. In 1944, the bodies of the unidentified, Schmitt’s presumably among them, were buried as “unknowns” in two Hawaiian cemeteries. They were exhumed three years later in an attempt to identify them using dental records, but when those efforts proved unsuccessful, they were reburied in 1950 in 61 caskets at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
Over half a century later, in 2003, one of those caskets was dug up, and five crew members were identified through DNA testing. But analysis showed that the remains of dozens of other crewmembers were also present in that same casket. Four years later, another casket was disinterred and an additional member of the Oklahoma’s crew was identified. In light of those findings, the U.S. Department of Defense announced in 2015 that the remaining caskets would be exhumed and efforts made to identify the rest of the 388 unknowns of the Oklahoma’s crew and return them to their families.
The Sloan family was notified that Schmitt was officially identified earlier this month.
About Loras College
Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. Loras is ranked 11th out of the Top 100 baccalaureate colleges, according to the 2016 Washington Monthly College Rankings and the 11th Best Regional College, according to Midwest U.S. News Best Colleges.
Sue Hafkemeyer, Director of Communication
Office: 563.588.7769 | Cell: 563.590.3999
Thomas Jensen, Public Relations Manager
Office: 563.588.7179 | Cell: 919.930.1997