USS Iwo Jima Explosion,

USS Iwo Jima, LPH 2. 1990-91

During the Gulf War, in October 1990 the ship I was aboard as a part of 1 MEB, pulled into the port of Manama, Bahrain, to repair a steam valve cap which controlled the steam supply to a standby electrical motor. A local contractor was hired to repair the cap. On October 30, as the USS Iwo Jima raised steam to get underway and rejoin the fleet, the valve began to leak once more. The bonnet blew off the valve, flooding the boiler room with live steam from two boilers. Ten of the crewmen in the room were killed, with the last surviving until 2330 that evening. For many of the embarked Marine personnel, it was their first time to see a casualty in a war.

On the 28th of October this year I attempted to get in touch with the Catholic Chaplain for our MEU. Here is a portion of that letter,

"Father Brenny was not only the only Catholic Chaplain but he was the only chaplain in the Marine Expeditionary Unit, which comprised about 10 ships and over a 10,000 men. Father Brenny had volunteered to return to the Navy Chaplain Corps after his commission (he was about 60 at the time) ended because he knew he would be needed. He was no young duck in those days but that did not stop him from tendering the needs of the troops.

He formed a Rosary group, he sang Mass everyday in the Captains Mess, and on Sundays he sang mass in the f'ocstle, and made an altar by placing a board over the capstans. He heard our confessions.

On Sundays he would fly to every ship to sing Mass, hear confessions, etc.

On Oct 30, 2010 a fitting in the the boiler room of the ship failed, spraying pressurized steam into the compartment killing some men by scalding, some escaped momentarily however their lungs being burned they died soon after. This is when this priest did what he often did. He gave the ones he could a blessing before death, comforted the men who were their mates. The next day he said (a) Mass for the dead.

On Christmas 1990 Father Brenny said midnight Mass on the flight deck by flashlight with red lenses so the enemy would not take up our position.

He spent many hours talking to me and others in his cabin. He finally left us for the United States on Good Friday when we stopped in Malaga in Spain.

He arrived at the MCAS Cherry Point Naval Hospital where he was a patient in the clinic where my wife was the leading Petty Officer.

As I had told my wife all about this miracle God performed his last Miracle by connecting this goodly Priest to my wife...
God works in mysterious ways.

We may have some errant Priests in the Church, Father Brenny(1) is not one of them. Thank God for him and his kind.


(1) Fr. Ken Brenny now retired and in his 80s lives in Little Falls, Minnesota. He began his letter with, "I'm still alive!"


Matthew Palardy said...

In these days in which many priests have become quite lackadaisical in their duties, I'm always grateful to read about the heroic and selfless work done by priests serving as military chaplains. They're a credit to the Church and a credit to the armed forces. Thank you for posting this, Richard.

By the way, I've been hearing numerous rumours lately stating that the Marine Corps is quickly and unofficially becoming the "Catholic branch" of the military. Knowing you are a retired Marine, I therefore ask, is there any truth to this?

Brantigny said...

The answer is yes, but not becoming, it had always been this way since at least I was in.