A World War Two hero from Fayette County who gave his life to help his fellow shipmates during the Pearl Harbor attack has been honored in a very special way.
In Dubuque on Thursday – the 76th anniversary of the attack – the Navy presented the Silver Star Medal to the family of Navy Chaplain Lt. Aloysius H. Schmitt, who grew up in Saint Lucas. Schmitt was aboard the USS Oklahoma when the Japanese planes hit the ship in the harbor and it started to capsize. Schmitt allowed others to get through a hole to safety as water poured into the Oklahoma — he never made it out.
Great-nephew Steve Sloan never got to meet him — but he knew the story. Sloan says the family always thought “Father Al” was a hero, as did those who knew him, and felt it was appropriate for the military to recognize him with the medal. They tried several times before it finally happened.
The Silver Star Medal is the military’s third-highest personal decoration for valor in combat. Sloan says many stories like Schmitt’s go untold… and that is why it was important to see this part of the story through.
There’s another chapter to the story of Father Schmitt that was also recently closed. His remains had been buried in a military cemetery in Hawaii for 75 years until they were finally identified using modern techniques and were returned to northeast Iowa for burial.
Sloan has been to Pearl Harbor and saw the place where Father Al sacrificed his life to help others.
Sloan was on hand along with other family members Thursday morning at Loras College, Schmitt’s alma mater, for the ceremony awarding the medal.
(story and top photo courtesy of Radio Iowa)
(bottom photo: Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, the Navy Chief of Chaplains, presents deceased Lt. Aloysius H. Schmitt’s Silver Star Medal to his niece and nephews, Dan Schmitt, left, Frances Hemesath, middle, and Del Schmitt, right, in Dubuque. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman/Released)