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Biography of Father John W. Scannell

Rev. John W. Scannell (1934)

Father Scannell was born in Ottumwa, Iowa USA, on March 28, 1907. He died on February 14, 1998, at San Diego, California. He received his BA degree from St. Ambrose College, Davenport, Iowa. After studying at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri and St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a Master's degree, he was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1934 for the Archdiocese of Denver. Father Scannell was assigned to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He was commissioned an officer in the Chaplain corps of the U.S. Army in January 1940. He was called to active duty and was the first chaplain to serve at Camp Callan, Torrey Pines Mesa, San Diego, California, on March 31, 1941. Camp Callan was a Coast Artillery Replacement Center, where every 13 weeks 7,000 men received basic training. At that time the population of San Diego was 75,000.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Chaplain Scannell volunteered for overseas duty and sailed from Fort Mason, California on April 7, 1942. Arriving in Oahu on April 17, he was assigned to the Tropic Lightning 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks and attached to the 35th Infantry Regiment. After three weeks, he was ordered to report to the 24th Infantry Division and was attached to the 19th Infantry Regiment (The Rocks of Chickamauga).

In the fall of 1942, the 25th Infantry Division was ordered to a combat zone. Lacking chaplains, Father Scannell volunteered to fill one of the vacancies. On Nov 7, 1942, he reported for duty and was attached to the 27th Infantry Regiment, called the Wolfhounds. Most of the 25th Division's fighting took place in the jungles of Guadacanal, the Solomon Islands and the Island of Luzon. During his three years overseas, Father Scannell received the following decorations and citations:

    • The Legion of Merit
    • The Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster
    • The Purple Heart
    • The Bronze Star
    • The American Defense Theater Ribbon
    • The Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon
    • The Philippine Liberation Ribbon
    • The Victory Metal
    • The Presidential Unit Citation (25th Division)

The award and citation relating to the Legion of Merit may epitomize Father Scannell's military service:

"Chaplain (Captain) John W. Scannell receives the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in the Solomon and Philippine Islands from Dec 1, 1942 to March 17, 1945. During the operations at Guadalcanal, he was constantly in the front lines rendering first aid, removing the wounded to safety and encouraging the men . . . He rejoined his own regiment and remained in the front line during its engagements on Sagekarasa, New Georgia, Arundel and Kolumbangara Islands. At Luzon, a sniper wounded him as he was giving the last rites to a wounded soldier on the battlefield."

Father Scannell was the founding Pastor of Christ the King Church in Denver and St William the Abbot Church, Fort Lupton. He was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus (Balboa Assembly, San Diego) and a life member of the Disabled American Veterans.

Because Father Scannell kept copies of most all of his sermons since 1934, we believe that you will find them of interest with much spiritual consolation. Father John Scannell was not only a courageous and holy Catholic Priest, he was also a very well read and learned theologian; as you will discover. Therefore, beginning in a couple of weeks and every month thereafter, we will put a copy of one of his sermons on this web site. Thank you for your interest.

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