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Elmer Heindl; chaplain earned Silver Star in WWII

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The Rev. Elmer Heindl, one of the most highly decorated chaplains in World War II, died yesterday at age 96.

Father Heindl, a Rochester native and Roman Catholic priest who enlisted in the Army as a chaplain in 1942, was awarded a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for ministering to war wounded while under Japanese fire in both the Philippines and the Solomon Islands.

He later received a Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest combat medal, for his ``extraordinary heroism in action" under heavy machine-gun fire during street fighting in Manila in 1945.

According to newspaper accounts that year, Father Heindl entered a prison watchtower under Japanese fire to offer prayers for a dying soldier, then took the body out. He returned to the tower to carry a wounded man to safety.

Two days later, Father Heindl crawled through enemy rocket and mortar fire to drag a wounded officer to an aid station and also carried other casualties to safety and administered last rites to the dying.

After the war, he served in several parishes in the Rochester area.

Father Heindl, who had been living in a nursing home, had been in a hospital burn unit since March when he fell in a shower and suffered burns while lying in hot water for an unknown period of time.

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