On Memorial Day please remember Fr. Leo Peter Craig, O.P. (1913-1951), who was killed while serving as an Army Chaplain in Korea. In the picture above, taken moments before his death, Fr. Craig is seen anointing a soldier who had been severely injured by a land mine.
Fr. Craig was born in Everett, Massachusetts in 1913, attended LaSalle Academy in Providence and Providence College, graduating in 1935. That same year he entered the Dominican novitiate at St. Rose in Kentucky. After studying philosophy at River Forest, Illinois, and theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, he was ordained to the Priesthood on May 21, 1942. The picture above shows his ordination class at the Dominican House of Studies (including two Spanish friars from the Province of the Most Holy Rosary and three classmates from the Eastern Province, including John Joseph Ryan, O.P. of Long Island). Fr. Craig is standing on the left.
He served as at Aquinas High School, Columbus, Ohio and as a curate at St. Andrew’s parish in Cincinnati, Ohio. Father Craig volunteered for a chaplaincy in the Army in 1949. After the basic course in Chaplain school, he was assigned to Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Orders for Korea soon followed and Father Craig was assigned to the famous First Cavalry Division fighting in Korea. On his way to his new assignment he was given an opportunity to visit his brother, Father Lawrence Craig, a missionary of the Sacred Hearts stationed in Japan. (Source: The Greybeards, vol. 17 no. 6, 2003 pdf)
On April 15, 1951, as he was preparing to say Mass, he heard a loud explosion. A soldier had been injured by a landmine. Fr. Craig went to his assistance. The picture above shows Dr. Crouch, USNR of Boston working on the soldier, assisted by several GIs, as Fr. Craig kneels and administers the Last Rights. Within 30 seconds of the taking of the picture above, another soldier stepped on a nearby mine. Fr. Craig was killed along with seven others. The photographer survived because he had run out of film and had gone to find more.
On September 25, 1951, Fr. Craig’s remains arrived on army transport in New York Harbor. He was brought to St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan where a solemn High Requiem Mass was offered in the Dominican rite. The ministers of the Mass were Reverend Thomas Q. Shanley, O.P., Associate Editor of the Holy Name Journal, Celebrant; Reverend Philip L. McQuillan O.P. of the Dominican Mission Band, Deacon; Reverend Thomas T. Shea, O.P., former Navy Chaplain, SubDeacon. Interment was at All Souls Cemetery in Pleasantville, New York.