Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Monsignor L. Curtis Tiernan Papers

Dates: Date Span: c. 1937-1975; Bulk Date Span: 1937-1961

Chaplain of 129th Field Artillery, 1917-1919 Chief Chaplain, European Theater of Operations, 1943-1946

The papers of Father L. Curtis Tiernan consist of materials and correspondence mostly relating to his friendship with Harry S. Truman and his service as a U.S. Army Chaplain during World War II. Much of the collection consists of personal correspondence of Father Tiernan's brother, J. Peter Tiernan. The collection is arranged divided by subject in alphabetical order.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]


ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: Less than one-half of one linear feet (about 200 pages)
Access: Open.
Copyright: J. Peter Tiernan donated his copyright in his unpublished writings, including those of his brother's, L. Curtis Tiernan, in this collection or any other collection in the possession of the United States Government to the people of the United States. In addition, documents prepared by United States Government employees in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in documents that do not fall in the above two categories is presumed to remain with the writers of the documents.
Reprocessed by: Rebecca J. Phipps (2000) as part of the Internship Program at the Truman Library.
Supervising Archivists: Randy Sowell and Amy Williams

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

1884, July 13

Born; St. Louis, Missouri

c. 1903

Graduated from Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri

1903-1906

Attended St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. Graduated with A.B. in 1906

c. 1910

Studied at the North American College in Rome, Italy

1910, May 21

Ordained as Roman Catholic Priest at St. John Basilica; Rome, Italy

1917-1919

Served as Chaplain in the 129th Field Artillery 35th Division

1918, September 26-November 11

Administered to the wounded at the Meuse-Argonne offensive for two days and nights. Received the Legion of Merit for his work.

c. 1918

Received the Silver Star for gallantry

1919

Established the St. Louis Parish near Swope Park in Kansas City, Missouri

1922, August

Became pastor of Saint Agnes in Springfield, Missouri

1929, January 7

Re-entered the Regular Army as an Army Chaplain with the rank of Lieutenant

1942, July 13

Arrived in England to begin service in the European Theater

1943, September -1948, June

Served as Chief Chaplain in the European Theater. Established training school for Chaplains. Founded the Soldiers' Apostolic Union with Lt. Robert J. Curtis. Received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Bronze Star

1944

Tiernan named Domestic Prelate and received the title Right Reverend Monsignor by Pope Pius XII

1945, July 23

Tiernan was President Truman's personal guest at Potsdam Conference

1948

Retired with the rank of Colonel

1960, May

Celebrated 50 year golden jubilee in Kansas City, Missouri

1960, June 20

Died at St. Mary's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri at the age of 75

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COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The papers of L. Curtis Tiernan consist of materials and correspondence relating to his friendship with Harry S. Truman and his service as Chaplain during World War II. However, much of the collection consists of personal correspondence of Father Tiernan's brother, J. Peter Tiernan. The collection spans the period from approximately 1917 to 1975, with the bulk of the material dating from 1937 to 1961. The collection contains approximately 200 pages of material and is arranged by subject in alphabetical order.

Father L. Curtis Tiernan served as Chaplain of the 129th Field Artillery of the 35th Division during World War I. For the most part, the collection however, does not deal directly with this role. During this time Tiernan met Harry S. Truman; the two men maintained a long personal relationship throughout their lives. It is likely that Father Tiernan introduced his brother, J. Peter Tiernan, to Truman sometime after World War I. They, too, corresponded for many years.

The majority of the documents in the "General Correspondence" folder concern the acquisition of Father Tiernan's personal papers after his death in 1960. However, the folder does contain two letters addressed to Father Tiernan. The first, from Edwin V. O'Hara, Bishop of Kansas City, dated February 17, 1944, states that Father Tiernan had been made a Domestic Prelate with the title of Monsignor. The second, dated July 20, 1957, is from John P. Cody, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, confirming Father Tiernan's inclusion in the Annuario Pontificio of 1957. Also included is a single handwritten page of what appears to be a multi-page letter, presumably written by Father Tiernan, that discusses the Republican party and corruption in the American government.

The folder also includes correspondence between Bishop Cody, Father James A. Moffatt, and Jim Bernard, Father Tiernan's attorney. Apparently, Tiernan had willed a crucifix containing a relic to Moffatt; however, Tiernan had been buried with the cross. The family was reluctant to exhume the body; Bernard's letter is appealing to the Bishop to make a ruling. The letters do not indicate how the issue was resolved.

The "Military Correspondence-Chaplain" folder contains a letter addressed to Father Tiernan from George F. Rixey, Deputy Chief of Chaplains, dated September 14, 1943. During a previous visit between Father Tiernan and Rixey, Tiernan had asked Rixey to make suggestions for improving the European Theatre's division of Chaplains. Rixey responded with a letter discussing the fact that Tiernan's section had three Roman Catholics, two Episcopalians, and one Presbyterian. Two of the Catholics filled the two senior positions, which violated the War Department's policy. A number of memos and letters follow regarding efforts to solve the problem. This folder also contains documents regarding Tiernan's travel to the United States after the war's close.

The "Tiernan, L. Curtis and J. Peter Tiernan-Correspondence with Harry S. Truman" folder contains one letter from Truman to Father Tiernan. Truman's letter to Father Tiernan is a typed note acknowledging the Father's illness at the Naval Hospital in Naples. At the bottom of the page, Truman wrote a note expressing the hope that Pope John XXIII would "do for you what you did for me." The remaining letters are Peter Tiernan's rough drafts and final versions of notes and letters to President Truman as well as notes from Truman to Peter Tiernan.

The remaining folders contain a number of documents, clippings, and other printed materials. The collection includes several identification cards, including certification that Mgr. L. Curtis Tiernan was a member of Battery D of the 129th Field Artillery, his World War I US military card, and his War Department ID dated September 13, 1948. The Newspaper Clipping folder contains a number of articles pertaining to the Jewish population after World War II; it is unclear whether Father or Peter Tiernan collected the articles. Articles, printed materials, and clippings about the Truman family, the USS Missouri, Independence, Missouri, and the Jesuit Seminary Aid Association are also included. The collection contains two photographs, one of Father Tiernan during World War II and another of President Truman with a turkey that he received as a Christmas gift.

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos.

Series

1

SUBJECT FILE, c. 1917-1975; Bulk Date Span 1937-1961

Correspondence, memoranda, identification cards, tickets, newspaper clippings, printed material and other items relating to Father L. Curtis Tiernan; his role as Chief Chaplain of the European Theater during World War II; his brother, J. Peter Tiernan; Harry S. Truman; the Truman family; and the Truman Library. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

     

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FOLDER TITLE LIST

SUBJECT FILE, c. 1917-1975; Bulk Date Span 1937- 1961

Box 1

  • General Correspondence
  • Identification Cards and Tickets
  • Military Correspondence-Chaplain
  • Newspaper Clippings
  • Printed Materials
  • Programs
  • Tiernan, L Curtis and J. Peter Tiernan-Correspondence with Harry S. Truman
  • Cross Reference Sheets [Photographs]

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