Father Ranger

Monsignor Joseph R. Lacy

The men of the 5th Ranger Battalion could barely keep from laughing when they first saw their chaplain, Lieutenant Joe Lacy, a week before D-Day.  These were young men, in peak physical condition.  Father Joe Lacy was old by Ranger standards, knocking on 40, overweight by at least 30 pounds, wearing thick glasses and short, 5 foot, six inches.  He was described by one Ranger as “a small, fat old Irishman.”  No way would he be able to keep up when they  invaded France.

On the trip across the Channel to France,  Chaplain Lacy told the men:  “When you land on the beach and you get in there, I don’t want to see anybody kneeling down and praying. If I do I’m gonna come up and boot you in the tail. You leave the praying to me and you do the fighting.”  A few of the men began to think that maybe this priest was tougher than he looked.

On June 6, 1944 at 7:30 AM,  LCA 1377 landed the Rangers on Omaha Dog Green Beach, the first landing craft to land on that section of Omaha Beach.  Father Lacy was the last man out just before an artillery shell hit the fantail.  Everything was chaos with the beach being swept by German artillery and small arms fire.  Wounded men were everywhere, both on the beach and in the water feebly trying to get to the beach.  Father Lacy did not hesistate.  With no thought for his own safety he waded into the water to pull men out of the ocean and onto the beach.  He began treating the wounded on the beach and administering the Last Rites to those beyond human assistance.  On a day when courage was not in short supply men took notice of this small fat priest who was doing his best under fire to save as many lives as he could.  While his battalion led the way off Omaha Beach, Father Lacy continued to tend their  wounded and the wounded of other units.  For his actions that day Father Lacy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor, after the Medal of Honor, in the United States Army. 

5th Ranger Battalion

6 Responses to Father Ranger

  1. Joseph Kaminsky says:

    Later Monsignor Joe Lacy was a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford CT. I believe he is mentioned in “The Longest Day.” Until this article, I did not know that he had received the Distinguished Service Cross. I do not doubt that few in our diocese did.

  2. Ed Lane says:

    I am President of 5th Rangers Reenacted, a historical reenactment group that portrays 5th Rangers at various public events. I am privileged to portray Fr. Lacy.

    When Fr. Lacy reported to the Rangers a few days before D-Day, the commander of the Rangers looked at him and said, “Padre, you’re old and you’re fat. You’ll never keep up with us.”

    Fr. Lacy looked at him and replied, “You don’t worry about about that, I’ll do my job. You tell me where you’ll be at the end of the day and I’ll be there.”

    I have been fortunate to visit Omaha Beach twice and walk the area these brave men contested on June 6, 1944. Every man who landed there was a hero, some of their deeds were recognized, many are only marked by a simple marble Roman cross.

    The following is the citation for his Distinguished Service Cross.

    First United States Army
    APO 230

    General orders No. 28
    20 June 1944

    Section I–Award of Distinguished Service Cross–Under the provisions of AR 600-45, 22 September 1943, and pursuant to authority contained in paragraph 30, Section I, Circular No. 32, Hq ETOUSA, 20 March 1944, as amended, the Distinguished Service Cross is awarded to the following officers and enlisted men:

    E * X * T * R * A * C * T

    First Lieutenant Joseph R. LACY, 0525094, Chaplain Corps, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action on 6 June 1944 at *******, France. In the invasion of France, Chaplain LACY landed on the beach with one of the leading assault units. Numerous casualties had been inflicted by the heavy rifle, mortar, artillery and rocket fire of the enemy. With complete disregard for his own safety, he moved about the beach, continually exposed to enemy fire, and assisted wounded men from the water’s edge to the comparative safety of a nearby seawall, and at the same time inspired the men to a similar disregard for the enemy fire. Chaplain LACY’s heroic and dauntless action is in keeping wit the highest traditions of the service. Entered military service from Connecticut.

  3. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Thank you for the info Ed! Men like Chaplain Lacy and the other Rangers who landed on the beach that day are torches who light the way for the rest of us.

  4. Rich Keenan says:

    I have read this article with great interest as like Ed Lane I belong to a Rangers Reenactment group- this time based in the UK. I am just beginning to resarch Fr Lacy with a view to portryaing him this side of the Pond. I find his story inspiring as I spent several years studying for the priesthood.

    I would like to ensure that the bravery of Fr Lacy and all the chaplains in WW2 is also remebered along with all those young men who gave their lives for our generation

    Fr Ranger- Lead the Way!

  5. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Indeed Rich! You might like this post on the original Ranger.


  6. Ed Lane says:


    Please contact us at our web site. Hit the “Help” button to navigate.

    We will be glad to share information with you.

    I am a Postulant in the Holy Order of Deacons in the Anglican Communion.

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