The 1920 Army Navy Chaplains Medal

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gherrmann44

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I know I posted about acquiring this medal earlier, but since then I have had this medal graded. I am also including in this post more of the background information associated with this medal. The last time I posted I started a lively thread on the merits of certifying medals (Actually user RWB in response to my post did). The final grade of this medal represents one of many reasons I am grading the medals in my Laura Gardin Fraser set. I am thrilled with the MS-63 grade this medal received. Before mailing the medal to NGC, MS-63 was my estimation of the best case scenario.

Both Laura Gardin and James Earle Fraser loved America and the United States Armed Forces. During World War 1 Laura served her country in one of only a few ways available to women. An independent minded woman, she served as a captain in the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps transporting wounded soldiers.[1]

I believe this experience made Laura Gardin Fraser uniquely qualified to design the 1920 Army Navy Chaplains Medal. The obverse of this medal perfectly illustrates the compassion of The Good Samaritan typical of Army chaplains who ministered to wounded soldiers on the front lines. I used The following excerpt from the Federal Council Bulletin Vol. 3 No. 5 May 1920 to support my claim.

The Chaplains Medal

The medal to be given by the Protestant churches united in war work to all their chaplains of the American Army and Navy who served in the war is the work of Mrs. Laura Gardin Fraser, of New York, one of the best known of American medalists.

The task which was given to Mrs. Fraser was to produce a design which would express the spirit of the men who served as chaplains and which should represent both branches of the service. That the sculptor has achieved a notable success and produced a medal of rare distinction and beauty is the judgment of competent artists and critics.

In the design for the chaplains medal, Mrs. Fraser has chosen to represent an army chaplain in the act of supreme service, ministering at the risk of his own life to a wounded man. To those familiar with experiences at the front, the danger of the situation will be at once apparent. In the center of the design the gas mask is seen, ready for immediate adjustment. Indeed, the suggestion is that the chaplain has, perhaps, momentarily removed it, the better to succor the wounded man. Each detail of the chaplains equipment has been carefully scrutinized and pronounced correct by more than one who served at the front. Strength and sympathy are expressed in the finely modeled figure of the chaplain. The figure of the wounded man represents one of those who served the big guns and were frequently stripped to the waist when in action. This choice of a subject appealed to the sculptor for its artistic possibilities. The very strength of the splendidly modeled back seems by contrast to accentuate the helplessness of the wounded gunner.

The fine record of the men who served as chaplains in the Navy, many of them constantly passing back and forth through the submarine danger zone, ministering to the crews of the naval vessels and the soldiers on the transports, is recalled by the representation of the battleship on the reverse of the medal. The design of this side, with the cross as the central feature, is dignified and strong.

If the thought occurs that not all the chaplains were privileged to serve as the chaplain represented on the obverse of the medal, the answer is that the design expresses the kind of service for which every man who entered the chaplaincy in both the Army and Navy was ready and eager.

The striking of these medals is the realization of a suggestion made soon after the armistice in the Executive Committee of the General War-Time Commission of the Churches. The Committee approved the proposal and made it one of the tasks committed to the General Committee on Army and Navy Chaplains when the War-Time Commission dissolved.

It is hoped the medals will have a permanent value for those who receive them. They are the gift of the churches which worked in closest fellowship during the war in carrying out their common tasks through the War-Time Commission. The medals are intended to convey in tangible form a message of grateful appreciation from the churches to their chaplain sons who were ready to give up life itself, if necessary, in the service of their fellows in the Army and Navy. The churches are proud indeed of the splendid record the chaplains made.

A word of gratitude should be said for the interest taken by the sculptor in her task. Mrs. Fraser brought to it an understanding sympathy without which so satisfying a result could never have been obtained. The medals are to be struck in bronze by the Gorham Company of New York.

The Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America originally budgeted $25,000 towards the production of these medals [2]

1 The Numismatist; July 2013, pg. 35

2 Federal Council Bulletin Vol. 3 No. 4 April 1920

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