Father Aloysius H. Schmitt, a 32-year-old Navy chaplain from Dubuque, Iowa, had just finished celebrating the 6:15 a.m. Sunday Mass on December 7, 1941, on board the USS Oklahoma, a battleship in port at Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese struck.
As the attack raged, Father Schmitt went to the ship's sick bay to minister to the wounded and dying. But within minutes it became clear that the Oklahoma itself was mortally stricken and the call was given to abandon ship.
"Trapped at his battle station on the second deck below when the ship went over, Father Schmitt helped several sailors escape through a porthole to safety", it syas. "When he in turn tried to squeeze through, he was unable to do so, quite possibly because of the breviary in his pocket.
"Then seeing that other sailors had entered the rapidly flooding compartment for a means of escape, Chaplain Schmitt insisted that he be pushed back inside to assist them. True to his commitments as a priest and a naval officer, he urged them on, helping them to safety out of the porthole before water engulfed him there."
"He told the men trying to pull him out (to) let him back in" Henkels wrote, "They protested saying that he would get out alive, but he insisted "Please let go of me, and may God bless you all."