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Military chaplains have a long and distinguished tradition in the United States, but historians have typically ignored their vital role in ministering to the needs of soldiers and sailors. Richard M. Budd corrects this omission with a thoughtful history of the chaplains who sought to create a viable institutional structure for themselves within the U.S. Army and Navy that would best enable them to minister to the fighting men.
Despite the chaplaincy's long history of accompanying American armies into battle, there has never been consensus on its role within the military, among the churches, or even among chaplains themselves. Each of these constituencies has had its own vision for chaplains, and these ideas have evolved with changing social conditions and military growth. Moreover, chaplains, acting as members of one profession operating within the specific environment of another, raised questions of whether they could or should integrate themselves into the military. In effect they had to learn to serve two institutional masters, the church and the government, simultaneously.
Budd provides a history of the struggle of chaplains to professionalize their ranks and to obtain a significant measure of autonomy within the military's bureaucratic structure--always with the ultimate goal of more efficiently bringing their spiritual message to the troops.