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The Chaplains of the 384th Bomb Group

Prayer and the presence of a spiritual leader were very important to the young airmen, soldiers, and seamen of World War II, most away from home for the first time in their lives while serving their country. They had no guarantee they would live to return to their homes one day, or even return to their base from a combat mission. A prayer to their maker or blessing from a religious leader often preceded their entry into that day’s battle.

One young airman of the 384th Bomb Group, radio operator Eugene Spearman, wrote about what the presence of the chaplain meant to him as his B-17 would take off from the airfield at the beginning of his missions,

We then taxied out to the end of the runway and awaited our signal for take-off. Standing just outside the plane during most of my missions even in rain or snow stood a man, Brother Billy, holding a Bible. His being there was such a blessing for me. Just knowing that someone was praying for me made me feel better.

Father Method Billy at Grafton Underwood

Several chaplains, both Catholic and Protestant, served the members of the 384th Bomb Group during WWII, first at the base, Station 106, in Grafton Underwood, England, and then later in Istres, France after the Group’s final mission.

Learn about chaplains serving in the military during World War II and read a summary of those serving with the 384th Bomb Group in post 384th Bomb Group Chaplains.

And for more general information about the Chaplain Corps, read this article from the WW2 US Medical Research Centre.

Note that in my 384th Bomb Group Chaplains post, which was written in 2017 at the beginning of my research into the 384th Bomb Group chaplains, I incorrectly included James T. Duvall and overlooked Julius Garst Appleton, however, Keith Ellefson helped me sort it out and here we have an accurate list, as far as we know, of the 384th Chaplains.

Chaplain Method Cyril Billy

Portrait of Method Cyril Billy

Chaplain Method Billy was the first recorded Catholic chaplain of the 384th Bomb Group. He was assigned to the Group Headquarters Complement per Headquarters Detachment, 384th Bomb Group Morning Report, dated 23 August 1943, effective 22 August 1943. Father Billy served with the 384th until he transferred to the 92nd Bomb Group based in Poddington, England on 6 October 1944.

Method Billy was born in 1910 and died in 1995. He is buried in the Saint Cyril Slovak Catholic Cemetery in Binghamton, Broome County, New York.

Learn more about Father Billy in post Chaplain Method Cyril Billy.

Chaplain Herbert Francis Butterbach

Major Herbert Francis Butterbach

Herbert Francis Butterbach was the second Catholic chaplain of the 384th Bomb Group. When Method Billy transferred to the 92nd Bomb Group, the 92nd’s chaplain, Herbert Butterbach, transferred to the 384th. Chaplain Butterbach was attached to the Group as of 6 October 1944, and arrived in Grafton Underwood on 12 October. He served through the completion of the 384th’s final mission and was relieved from attachment per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #94 dated 30 April 1945.

Herbert Butterbach was born in 1910 and died of a heart attack at Drew Field, Tampa, Florida on 16 August 1945. He was only thirty-five years old at the time of his death. He is buried in St. Martin Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Learn more about Herbert Butterbach in post Chaplain Herbert Francis Butterbach.

Chaplain Dayle R. Schnelle

Chaplain Dayle Schnelle, Protestant Chaplain
Source: Robert Bletscher, 2011

Chaplain Robert Dayle Schnelle was the first Protestant chaplain of the 384th Bomb Group. He was assigned to the Group Headquarters Detachment per 384th Bomb Group Morning Report, effective 12 March 1943 while the Group was still in stateside training in Wendover, Utah.

Dayle Schnelle was born in 1916 and died in 1994. He is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas.

Learn more about Dayle Schnelle in post Chaplain Dayle R. Schnelle.

Chaplain James T. Duvall

At the beginning of my research into the 384th Bomb Group chaplains, I believed that James T. Duvall was one of the group, and I included him in my first overview post. However, fellow 384th Bomb Group researcher and combat data specialist Keith Ellefson discovered that Duvall was not assigned or attached to the 384th Bomb Group. Keith found that “He was assigned to the 415th Air Service Group as the 415th Air Service Group Chaplain.” Keith also added “However, he was assigned to the main unit that supported the 384th, so I imagine that the 384th Chaplain and the 415th Chaplain worked together to support the mission at Istres.”

Considering the connection, I am including him in this list of chaplains, but did not research or write about him extensively. Please refer to his listing on the American Air Museum in Britain website, for a brief summary listing which notes “Chaplain Duvall served in the Air Force for 20 years and was afterwards pastor in Spokane WA and Hamilton MT.” The museum website does include Grafton Underwood in the Places category of his listing, but I do not believe he ever served there.

Chaplain Julius Garst Appleton

Julius Garst Appleton, 1924 Univ. of Cincinnati Yearbook

In the Fall of 1944, Julius Appleton served as chaplain of the 495th Fighter Training Group based at Station 342 at Atcham in Shropshire, England. And he likely served with the 384th Bomb Group in Istres, France after the Group had moved there as he does not appear in the personnel listing on the Group’s website. I do not believe he served with the Group at Grafton Underwood.

While I believe Julius Appleton was a Protestant chaplain, he was very concerned with the needs of Jewish members of the military. He wrote a number of letters to the Director of the National Jewish Welfare Board in New York City while he was stationed in the States.

Learn more about Julius Appleton in post Chaplain Julius Garst Appleton.

Julius Appleton was born in 1902 and died in 1985. He was buried in the Greenwood Memory Lawn Mortuary and Cemetery in Phoenix.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

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