Chaplain Father James O'Brien US Army page 4

The Reverend Father James Walter O'Brien
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army

He made the grueling Death March on Bataan.

Chaplain O'Brien prayed with and granted absolution
to the men until the ship was sunk.

To Those "That Gave their All!"

May they rest in Eternal Peace
for which they defended for all of us.

Requiescat in pace!


Biography taken from:

Maxwell AFB, Alabama 1993

The Reverend Father
James Walter O'Brien

James Walter O'Brien
Born: April 21, 1912
Died: October 24, 1944
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Oakland, California
Arisan Maru


James O'Brien was educated at St. Joseph's Parochial School in Alameda, California, and at St. Joseph's College in Mountain View, California. Between 1932 and 1938 he attended St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, California. He was tonsured in 1934. He was ordained at St. Mary's Cathedral by the Mitty for the San Francisco Diocese on April 2, 1938. He was assigned to Five Wounds Parish, San Jose, California, as assistant pastor between April 21, 1938, and May 7, 1941.

Because ofhis small stature (less than five feet, six inches), he had been rejected by the U.S. Navy Chaplaincy. The Army, however, accepted him and commissioned him as a chaplain in the 3rd Coast Artillery at Fort MacArthur in California. He was sent to the Philippines on July 14, 1941, where hewas assigned as an assistant base chaplain at Nichols Field, Philippines. As thefirst resident Catholic chaplain at Nichols, one of his early projects was to organize a Holy Name Society.

His quarters at Nichols were destroyed on the first day of the war 8,1941, but he bedded down in a thicket near the base and spent every davlight hour ministering to the from Manila around Christmas 1941, he became an assistant regimental chaplain for the Provisional Air Corps on Bataan. By commandeering an abandoned jeep, be also did his best to reach and serve all in the Eastern Sector of II Corps. He made the grueling Death March which followed the surrender on Bataan, ministering along the way to the battle-weary and ill-fed men struggled along the roadway toward imprisonment.

Following a period of internment at Camp O'Donnell, he was moved to Cabanatua in June 1942. There, he continued to hear confessions and say Mass when not joining in the'back-breaking labor of the camp work details. He was among the 1,800 prisoners who sailed from Manila for Japan aboard the Arisan Maru. The unmarked ship was sunk by American submarines in the China Sea on October 24, 1944. Eight men survived the open-sea disaster by clinging for days to floating debris. One of the eight tells of how Chaplain O'Brien prayed with and granted absolution to the Catholic men until the ship was completely submerged.

For his outstanding bravery, Chaplain James Walter O'Brien was award the
silver star medal.


The Reverend Father
James Walter O'Brien


Chaplains Corps
US Army (deceased)

John and Annie O'Brien
Parents (Deceased)

John O'Brien
Brother (Deceased)

Margaret Kettleman
Sister (Deceased)

Constance Henneberry
Sister (Deceased)

Steven Henneberry

Bridget O'Connell

Margaret Dorff

Ellen Brock

Michael Henneberry

This web page was created by and
is maintained by Paul D. Henriott
Last updated August 12012