Chaplain who died at Pearl Harbor to get combat medal

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Seventy six years after he died at Pearl Harbor, a Navy chaplain who helped sailors escape from a sinking battleship is scheduled to be honored with the Silver Star medal Thursday in a ceremony at his alma mater in Iowa.

Lt. j.g. Aloysius Schmitt, a Catholic priest from St. Lucas, Iowa, will posthumously receive the third-highest decoration for valor in combat during a ceremony at Loras College, in Dubuque.

Navy Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben will present the medal to family members in a ceremony on the campus.

Schmitt was buried in a special crypt there after his remains were identified last year by experts with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

He had been aboard the USS Oklahoma when it was torpedoed and capsized during the attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

His remains were not accounted for at first, because the bodies of most of the sailors and Marines recovered from the ship were too jumbled and decomposed to be identified.

Father Schmitt, 32, had just said Mass that Sunday morning when the Oklahoma was hit by at least nine Japanese torpedoes.

The battleship quickly rolled over in 50 feet of water, trapping hundreds of men below decks.

Schmitt is said to have helped as many as 12 sailors get out of a small compartment.