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This Week in AG History -- Sept. 1, 1968

U.S. Navy Chaplain David W. Plank served during the Vietnam War with distinction, ministered at the U.S. Naval Academy, pastored two AG churches, and counted World War II hero, Admiral Chester Nimitz, as a personal friend.
Retired United States Navy Chaplain David W. Plank represents many of the courageous and hardworking military chaplains in the Assemblies of God. Chaplain Plank served in the United State Navy in war and in peace, on foreign shore and home shore, and as an enlisted man and an officer.

Plank was born and raised in Pasadena, California. In 1956 he became the 19th Assemblies of God minister serving at that time in the Armed Forces Chaplaincy. He was assigned to the U.S. Navy. He served in various posts and achieved the rank of commander. For his service aboard the USS Hancock (CVA-19) during combat operations in Vietnam, Plank received the Navy Commendation Medal for “outstanding spiritual guidance…giving strength and fortitude to officers and men facing great peril…dynamic professional competence…loyal devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

In addition to his military career, he attended the University of California-Berkeley, Fuller Theological Seminary, Hoover Institute, and Harvard (where he was selected for postgraduate studies through an award given to one chaplain annually).

After completing postgraduate studies at Harvard Divinity School in May 1968, he was assigned to work as an Assemblies of God chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland (which included the Navy University and the Navy Cathedral). He joined two other Protestant chaplains in providing a religious minister to the over 4,000 midshipmen at the Navy’s premier academy for graduates dedicated to a career in the naval service.

Upon starting his duties, he received an interesting handwritten letter from Don Ross, a football coach at the Naval Academy. Ross wrote, “I just learned of your assignment here. May I say you are an answer to prayer.” Ross told how he had been a Christian for many years, but had felt that something was lacking in his life. After a time of prayer, he and his wife, Carol, experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Ross’s letter continued: “There is a real movement among the midshipmen … I can think of no better place for a chaplain than at our Academy.” He offered to assist Plank in any way possible with his duties as chaplain. He was excited to have a Spirit-filled chaplain at Annapolis.

Plank’s tour at Annapolis was three years. Soon after his arrival, he reported: “It is thrilling to witness here the clear evidence of the Holy Spirit’s working, to be joined by Christian brethren of kindred spirit, to realize that at this institution midshipmen are being trained not only in the naval science, but in godliness as well.”

Plank was serving in the Navy Chaplains Office at Camp Pendleton, California, when he retired from active duty on Jan. 1, 1977.

During his military career, Plank worked with many men and women around the globe, whose lives were changed by the Holy Spirit and went on to direct prayer meetings, open churches, and lead through their Christian example. Plank produced a manual for deacons, an altar workers manual, Called to Serve (GPH, 1967), and other books and articles for various publications.

Following his term in the Navy, Plank pastored two churches and for 14 years was the chaplain for the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, California. Some of his duties included counseling, offering bereavement support, and officiating at funerals and weddings.

One of Plank’s treasured mementos is a government issued stapler which was personally given to him by Admiral Chester Nimitz, who is remembered for directing the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet to victory during World War II. He also has an autographed photo of Nimitz signing the Japanese surrender in 1945 aboard the USS Missouri.

While he is proud of his friendship with Admiral Nimitz, what has mattered the most to him is serving others and sharing the love of Christ through his many years as a military chaplain and pastor. He felt that his position at the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as each of his other assignments and places of ministry were strategically directed by the hand of God.

Read, “God’s Strategic Naval Assignments,” by David W. Plank on pages 10-11 of the Sept. 1, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “And the Beat Goes On,” by C.M. Ward

• “How to Live Better for Less,” by Ruth Copeland

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Glenn W. Gohr

Glenn W. Gohr is the reference archivist at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in Springfield, Missouri.