By the completion of the first phase of construction (15 Apr 1941-30 Sep 1942) at the New River Marine Barracks (subsequently Camp Lejeune), 1431 buildings had been finished. Of particular note were the two main post chapels-Building 16 (Protestant) and 17 (Catholic)-located on the Main Service Road (now McHugh Blvd) in the main post area, initially designated the Division Training Area. Building 16 and 17 were architecturally unremarkable having been constructed using the Bureau of Yards and Docks “cookie-cutter” approach of using standardized plans for similar buildings aboard naval installations, although, in this case, with a few “modified early American” touches. They were, however, within six short years following their first dedication on 6 December 1942, to become a unique testament to the service and sacrifices of Marines and Sailors during World War II and their units and, also, in doing so, incorporated the display of a long-forgotten piece of local history, the first crest or insignia of Camp Lejeune.
This testament was manifested in a series of multi-colored, stained-glass windows, twelve in the Catholic chapel and ten in the Protestant, known as the Lamb Windows after the designer and installer, the J. & R. Lamb Studios of Tenafly, N.J., and their renowned artist, Katherine Lamb. The chapels are likewise adorned to a lesser degree with other religiously themed accouterments of artistic value, but they are overshadowed by the pervasive majesty of Katherine Lamb’s windows. Major General John Marston, the base’s commanding general (30 Apr 1944-1 Jul 1946), who left an enduring legacy with the base’s appealing land scaping and numerous recreational facilities, also had a special interest in the chapels, seeing them central to the religious well-being of his Marines. With the support of the Commandant, General Archer Vandegrift, he envisioned having stained-glass windows created and incorporated in the chapels to function as memorials to the Marines who fought and died during the war and as a remembrance to the cause under which they served: “God and Country.” With funding in the amount of $150,000 provided by volunteer contributions from the units to be honored, the windows were commissioned in January 1946 and dedicated on 25 April 1948 after installation. Recognized thereafter as some of the best of American 20th century stained-glass art work, they were said in 1963 by the local press to be insured for $1 million.
Six-foot tall figures are the dominating motif of each window, twenty-four militant saints of the Catholic tradition in the twelve double windows of the Catholic chapel, ten archangels in the Biblical tradition in the ten windows of the Protestant. In both chapels, the windows honor, individually, the six Marine divisions, the Third and Fifth Amphibious Corps, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and Camp Lejeune. The Catholic chapel has two additional windows and uses them to honor the Navy, and defense and antiaircraft battalions. Also portrayed in the windows are maps of the Pacific Theater, vivid panels depicting key events in Marine Corps history, replicas of naval medals, and scenes, taken from donated photographs of Marine Corps life, training and combat. At the foot of each archangel is displayed a replica of the insignia of the unit honored and, likewise, above the head of each designated saint (one of the two in each window) is likewise the insignia of the honored unit. The chapels became in addition to their sacred ecclesiastical function, veritable and unique museums of Marine Corps history.
One problem immediately presented itself: Camp Lejeune did not have a crest or insignia as did the other units represented in the windows. To rectify this omission, Private Margaret Kellenberger at the Camp Art Shop was tasked in early 1946 with designing an official insignia, which was approved in time to be included in the Chapels’ Camp Lejeune windows. The product was a diamond shaped design featuring a silhouetted pine tree against a rising sun done in hues of blue, reddish orange and midnight black; the pine tree emphasized by the sun’s spoked rays and a lighter blue sky meeting a darker blue, rippled ocean.
The initial purpose of unit insignia was to provide a distinctive, visual, identifier of a Marine’s unit, to be worn as shoulder sleeve insignia, more commonly known as “patches,” on the left sleeve of dress uniforms. This practice was short-lived in the Marine Corps, permitted only from March 1943 until January 1948, it being appreciated that no further organizational distinction was appropriate other than just being a Marine. Although, the use of unit insignia for ceremonial, historical and administrative purposes remained and remains popular, such as on signs, letterheads and monuments, and, as in this case, in stained-glass windows.
In the stained-glass windows of Camp Lejeune’s chapels, in perpetuity, can be seen the history of the Marine Corps, notably during World War II, and represented in part by the insignia of the major participating Marine units, to include the first insignia of Camp Lejeune, which played no small part in the provision of units and personnel to the war in the Pacific.
Louis Berger Group, World War II Construction at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Contract DACW54-93-D-0033. Jul 1997.
G.W. Carr and J.E. Greiner, Completion Report Covering the Design of Camp Lejeune U.S. Marine Barracks New River, NC, for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks Contract Noy 4751 April 15, 1941-September 30, 1942. 17 Jul 1943. 2 vols.
“Catholic Chapel Makes its 29th Anniversary Sunday.” Globe. 24 Jan 63.
“Chapel Memorial Windows Dedicated Sunday.” Globe. 29 Apr 48.
“Chapel Memorial Windows.” Globe. 8 Apr 48.
Lt Joseph R. Kerr CHC USN, “Memorial Windows: Camp Lejeune’s Stained-Glass Masterpieces.” Marine Corps Gazette. Dec 1980.
Plant Account Facilities Inventory Listing of Buildings and Structures, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune. 30 Jun 1990.
“Protestant Chapel Presented by General Smith; Chaplain Workman Makes Oration.” New River Pioneer. 17 Dec 42.
James G. Thompson, Complete Guide to U.S. Marine Corps Medals, Badges and Insignia. MOA Press, 2003.
“Twenty Stained-Glass Windows Will Honor Camp Lejeune Marines.” News and Views. 4 Jan 46.
“Two New Chapels Are Handsome Structures.” New River Pioneer. 14 Jan 43.
Cpl Jon Wilke, “Chapel’s Window’s Display Corps’ History.” Globe. 22 Dec 98.
Posted on: March 23rd, 2021