D-Day Chaplain celebrates Mass

D-Day Chaplain celebrates Mass
D-Day Chaplain celebrates Mass

Father (Major) Edward J. Waters, Catholic Chaplain from Owego, N.Y., conducts Divine Services on a pier for members of the first assault troops thrown against Hitler’s forces on the continent. Provided photo.

It’s been 74 years since the boats invaded the beach at Normandy to fight one of the bloodiest battles the world has ever seen. However, not everyone who went ashore that day was armed.  

Army Chaplain Major, Edward J. Waters, was the only member of his craft who landed without a weapon to protect himself, because he was there with a different mission – to provide spiritual support to the wounded and dying men. 

He talked to as many as he could and prayed with them. Soldiers died in front of him. He recited from John : 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house there are many mansions.”

Chaplain Waters was one of many chaplains at Normandy that day. On this anniversary, we remember the men who kept faith alive in the hellish depths of World War II. 

On D-Day, as reported so far, Tioga County had three combat infantrymen and a Catholic Chaplain there. Tioga County families aware of other members of the Greatest Generation who were there on June 6, 1944 are asked to share those stories. Email your D-Day information to VFW Post 1371 Memorial Day Chairman Jim Raftis at jraftis2@stny.rr.com. 

Tioga County’s three D-Day Army infantrymen met for the first time 65 years later on Flag Day June 14, 2009, at a WWII Recognition Dinner at the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 in Owego. They were Bill Murray of Candor, Purple Heart Recipient; Frank Fulbrook of Nichols; and French Medal Recipient Bill Cowles of Waverly. 

A native of Delphine Street on Owego’s Flats, Father Major Edward J. Waters was ordained a priest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral-Rochester on June 6, 1936. One of the largest congregations ever to attend a service at St. Patrick’s-Owego was present the next day for his first Solemn High Mass. 

Father Waters was also the first priest in the Diocese of Rochester to volunteer as a chaplain. He served with the First Infantry through campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and across France to Berlin. 

On the Italian battle front, in a six foot deep excavation dug by the soldiers, Father Waters set up his altar near the front lines and coolly conducted the Mass the Fighting Men wanted to hear before they clashed with the enemy. 

Father Waters died of a heart attack while Pastor of St. Patrick’s Church-Elmira. There were 150 priests and a large military presence among the 600 at his church funeral mass and military funeral services at the cemetery. 

Father Waters’ was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Doty. He graduated from St. Patrick’s Parochial School and Owego Free Academy. He studied for the priesthood in diocesan seminaries. He enlisted in the service in the fall of 1940. 

The late Father Waters is the brother of the late Mrs. Donald Peg Doty of Spruce Street, Owego. 

Note, Father Waters’ significant career milestones include St. Patrick’s Parochial School and Church-Owego, ordained St. Patrick’s Cathedral-Rochester and the date June 6, 1936, D-Day Mass June 6, 1944 in England, and Pastor of St. Patrick’s-Elmira. Father Waters’ was proud of his Owego heritage and often had to explain to friends the meaning of “Once a Flat Rat, Always a Flat Rat.” 

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