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Gun Totin’ Chaplain Jerry Autry Airborne Press

22nd February 2012 History Books 13 Comments

Jerry Autry retired from the military in June of 1994 after 29 years. His Vietnam service included the 501st Geronimo Infantry Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division. Awarded 9 medals of valor and 2 purple hearts, he has been called the Army’s most decorated chaplain from Vietnam. He is a master parachutist, former Chief Chaplain of the 82nd Airborne Division and former member of the Green Beret Sports Parachute Club.

It is not often that a military chaplain publicly voices concern over a war, either past or present; but, in his latest book, retired Army chaplain Jerry Autry does just that. With insight sharpened by experience, and compassion kindled in the horror of battle, Chaplain Autry details the challenges, anguish and even the joys of a wartime pastorate. Gun Totin Chaplain, is the author’s gripping chronicle of his year of duty in Vietnam. From the draft notice he received on his wedding day through airborne jump school and his subsequent time in Vietnam, the reader follows a man of peace as he ministers to men at war. During his year in Vietnam, Chaplain Autry spent more time in the field with the troops than in rear areas, a choice that vexed his superiors. His wartime experiences propelled him through a lifetime of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Assigned to the fable 101st Airborne Division in 1968, the author served as pastor to men of all faiths and in any unit that needed him, including Marine and Special Forces teams along with airborne infantry and artillery units. Chaplain Autry has been referred to as the most highly decorated chaplain from the Vietnam era, earning two Purple Hearts and nine awards for valor. His memoir downplays his own heroics, which were noted in a Time magazine article that dubbed him the gun totin chaplain during the war years. The author s memoir is followed by a sharply written epilogue containing his commentaries on the current war in the Middle East and its painful similarities to Vietnam. Gun Totin Chaplain is historical perspective at its best. Jerry Autry provides an authentic voice of experience as he remembers Vietnam, and a voice of reason as he reflects on Iraq and Afghanistan. This book is as timely as it is enlightening and a must have for informed readers.

Gun Totin’ Chaplain

Serving Two Masters: The Development of American Military Chaplaincy, 1860-1920

I recommend this book to all chaplains and assistants, but especially to those new in the Chaplain Corps. This book should be in the library and part of the reading list for the chaplain officer basic and 56M advanced individual training courses.Chaplain (LTC) Thomas C. Condry, The Army Chaplaincy (Thomas C. Condry The Army Chaplaincy )

Richard Budd removes the veil and allows us to glimpse the birth and maturation of the military chaplaincy. For all those who desire to know how we got to where we are, Serving Two Masters is a must read.Matt Cox, Trinity Seminary Review (Matt Cox Trinity Seminary Review )

“This book speaks effectively on two fields: the history of American professions and the history of military organization. . . . [it is] an important contribution to the understanding of the modernization of religion and military prefessionalism. . . . As an institutional and buureaucratic history of the chaplaincy, thgis book will likely set the standard for many years.”The Journal of American History (The Journal of American History )

“An important, overdue, and stimulating contribution to the institutional history of the American military. It is also a quality starting point for any scholars interested in researching other areas of the chaplaincy”s long history.”Ohio History (Ohio History )

“Budd renders an insightful analysis of the chaplaincy”s sixty-year struggle for professional recognition and integration into the U.S. military establishment.”Sean Scott, The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society (Sean Scott The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society )

Chaplain Richard M. Budd has made a welcome, concise, well written and researched contribution to an overlooked chapter in chaplain history. Anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of how the professional and fully institutionalized chaplaincy of today’s military came about would do well by consulting Budd’s book.” –Bradley L. Carter, On Point.

Military chaplains have a long and distinguished tradition in the United States, but historians have typically ignored their vital role in ministering to the needs of soldiers and sailors. Richard M. Budd corrects this omission with a thoughtful history of the chaplains who sought to create a viable institutional structure for themselves within the U.S. Army and Navy that would best enable them to minister to the fighting men.

Despite the chaplaincy’s long history of accompanying American armies into battle, there has never been consensus on its role within the military, among the churches, or even among chaplains themselves. Each of these constituencies has had its own vision for chaplains, and these ideas have evolved with changing social conditions and military growth. Moreover, chaplains, acting as members of one profession operating within the specific environment of another, raised questions of whether they could or should integrate themselves into the military. In effect they had to learn to serve two institutional masters, the church and the government, simultaneously.

Budd provides a history of the struggle of chaplains to professionalize their ranks and to obtain a significant measure of autonomy within the military’s bureaucratic structure–always with the ultimate goal of more efficiently bringing their spiritual message to the troops.

Serving Two Masters: The Development of American Military Chaplaincy, 1860-1920

  • 13 responses to "Gun Totin’ Chaplain Jerry Autry Airborne Press"

  • Laraine Avello
    10:49 on February 22nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I served in A Co. 501st Dec 67/Dec 68. I saw Chaplain Autry on many occasions in the field. He was always the person you could go to on any problem or just to talk to. He was a field chaplain which we greatly appreciated. His book is an excellent read and gives you a perspective from a Chaplain’s viewpoint. While he was an officer, we troopers never looked at him as an officer but rather one of us. He captures the spirit of the Airborne which is a small entity within the Army and often resented by the non airborne solders, especially senior officers. I found myself chuckling about some of the things he wrote about jump school. You had to go through jump school to appreciate. His is a different perspective on Nam. But a important one. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Vietnam and the troops that served there.

  • Seano
    15:45 on February 22nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I found this book to be a fast read. Jerry Autry has a knack for communicating in a story-teller’s style. This is a memoir of his service in Viet Nam to his country and fellow soldiers.
    When I think of a chaplain in times of war, I assume that they are sheltered to a great extent from the action. Mr. Autry went out in “the field” with fellow soldiers and that makes him special in my eyes.
    That segues into the circumstances of how he got his nick-name and title of this book.

    He shares with the reader the details of some of the rigorous training that he underwent. I was surprised.

    Mr. Autry was not just a chaplain to protestants. There were no denominational boundaries. He shares his experiences,some are humorous and a lot involve death and loss for fellow soldiers and family back home.

    The Epilogue was a collection of essays written by the author on topics mostly relating to the Iraq war. I look at that portion of the book as a bonus and I found that the author made a strong case for his opinion even on controversial ideas like returning to the draft.

    It’s hard to imagine a better book on Viet Nam from the perspective of a chaplain. Highly recommended!

  • pop frame
    18:36 on February 22nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Having had the privilege to review Colonel Autry’s manuscript, I am anxious for its release and circulation. I heartedly endorse this book for three reasons: I served with Autry in 72-73 and this guy is the “real deal”! I currently volunteer at the VA hospital and his words echo the vet’s sentiment over-and-over again. From a reader’s point of view, the style of the book pulls you into the war experience in a living and profound way. Hoooo – aaaaaah!

  • joequits
    7:07 on February 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Jerry Autry’s personal account of his time in Viet Nam is a must-read for anyone who has never been to war. The emotional and intellectual journey the author experienced on the battle field is surprising in some ways (he actually volunteered to leave his wife and child to go there!), humorous at times, and very moving in many instances. His story is an unusually intimate and balanced account of the internal struggle to reconcile spiritual beliefs with duty to country; and, in the author’s case, duty to the soldiers to whom he committed to minister. As he recounts life and death situations the reader understands that “religious distinctions” become a superfluous luxury when a scared or dying soldier simply wants to make peace with his God. And perhaps just as importantly, this memoir makes the reader more cognizant of the way our populace regards and “serves” those men and women whose sacrifices the rest of us can never comprehend. In this current time of war, Autry’s book is a timely and thought provoking GIFT to all of us.

  • that sucked!
    20:16 on February 23rd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Being an egocentric, self righteous, cocky, and totally self absorbed Vietnam Vet (translation=NAVAL AVIATOR!) I read this book and learned much about the ground war in the south. Plus the humor injected throughout kept me in stitches. This boy from N Carolina do know how to write.

    A must read for those interested in the other side of the war from the perspective on one who was there, on the ground, in the fight and helping to stabilize those souls around him. An almost impossible task indeed but the Padre pulled it off on more than one occasion.

    The ADM.

  • eliteuser
    2:17 on February 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Chaplain Autry brings it all home in this good read. From the terrible cost in young lives both wounded and dead to the “political involvment” that now looks eerily similar to our Iraq situation. His courage and honor shine through his modest presentation of his own deeds in ministering to the guys on the front lines in a combat zone. Thank God we have such people in our time of need and I am sure he has a counterpart in the Middle East today.

  • Satish KC
    6:57 on February 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Excellent value – timely read with the 235th birthday of the Army Chaplains, this is a recent history of military chaplains

  • Now what?
    15:24 on February 24th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    As a retired Army Nurse, rank of Colonel and married to two Vietnam Vets, one with the 101st and the other Special Forces, this book is without political censorship and tells it like it was and is in the middle east today. The Author has taken great risks writing in such a forthright manner and I’d recommend more from him and others as to the realities of war so those that consider only the glamorous movie version think twice as to whats really happening and become active to save the next generation. Thank you and looking forward to more writings. I sincerely hope the men in your unit in Vietnam have been able to be notified and purchased this book. Linda B Carter USA NURSE, Retired Colonel

  • RattyUK
    2:52 on February 25th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    As a soldier in the care of Chaplain Autry in Vietnam I can’t say that I knew him very well then, but since our reunions in Washington D.C., Reno and recently at the burial services of our mutual friend, I can truely say that his book “Gun-Totin’ Chaplain” reflects the true nature of the man. His sincere and caring nature comes thru with every chapter, endearing respect and admoration from all that know him. He knows the meaning of, and makes the best of his “borrowed time”.

  • Anna Poelo
    7:10 on February 25th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Jerry put into words my exact feelings. Thank you for the book and your thoughts on the Iraqi War.

  • mark holton
    23:50 on February 25th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    No whitewash here. In this revealing memoir of a man of true courage and compassion you will meet real soldiers of every rank and profession and understand the human struggle to survive the horror of Vietnam; have an idea of its results. War is truly hell and Chaplain Autry became an angel of courage and inspiration to many, persisting in the face of much criticism from his superiors who would prefer he stay safer and quieter. He allows the reader inside his head and heart, to see his own struggle, and I thank him for this book. Anyone concerned about what our young men and women might be facing in Iraq should read this book.

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