William Broughton, known to his many friends as Father Bill, died September 22 after a brief illness. He was 93. He had lived at the Coronado Shores since 1974.
During his long and storied career (nearly 50 years in the U.S. Navy), he experienced service in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and became an invaluable member of the Chaplain Corps.
His insatiable craving for knowledge about ancient Israel and the Middle East led him to discover a love of biblical archeology. He participated in several digs throughout the Middle East. He was fond of saying, “You can’t appreciate the Bible without getting your hands dirty.”
At the age of 17, Bill’s dreams of joining the U.S. Navy became reality. After finishing high school, he enlisted, and served four years on destroyers. It was during this time he decided to go into the ministry. He went to college and then entered seminary. He was ordained and served at a parish in Winnetka, Illinois for the next decade.
Being a military chaplain in the field of battle tested Father Bill’s mettle time and time again, as he went from one war zone to another – Communist China, Korea, Vietnam. On a mission in Tsingtao, China, with Marines on the ground, he witnessed horrific interrogation and physical torture by the Communists that was both frightening and dehumanizing.
In 1950, while still on destroyer duty, his ship had to fight its way through mined waterways and continuous fire from the Inchon shore. History records it as “The Sitting Duck Incident.”
Bill overheard the admiral say their mission was to draw enemy fire, so American planes could target their gun installations on shore. Bill overheard the admiral say, “Washington has declared that we are expendable.”
That had a profound effect on Bill. He would recall many years later, “I suddenly sensed, more than ever before, that this was it. At that moment, my life was to become a life of total commitment to the service of God and my fellow man. After that, I never questioned my calling.”
In 1959 Bill was ordained to the Priesthood in the Diocese of Chicago. In 1968, Chaplain Broughton entered the Navy Chaplain’s School at Newport, Rhode Island as a Lieutenant (junior grade).
The scenes of war stayed with Bill his whole life. He made many friends in Vietnam while serving as battlefield chaplain (1st and 3rd Marine Divisions). Young men he had met in the jungles clung to him as their only connection to home and family. They loved him dearly, and he them.
“They felt I represented their home, their loved ones. That I was somebody that cared and was not part of the system. I was somebody that would listen to their pain of being thrown into that inhumane situation, complicated even more by the rejection of their own countrymen back home.”
In 1975, Father Bill participated in the Mayaguez Incident, to retake an American merchant vessel and her crew and return them to safety. His long career included serving on Navy destroyers, with the Marines in Vietnam, at the Navy Shipyard at Hunters Point, the San Diego Naval Training Center, with the U.S. Coast Guard at Governors Island (NY), and more.
Father Bill retired in 1985 as a full Commander. He received the Navy Commendation Medal in 1972 for meritorious service while serving as Battalion Chaplain of that group in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam and at the Marine Corps Base in Okinawa (1969-1970).
He received a Navy Commendation Medal with Bronze V (two awards), Coast Guard Commendation Medal and Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation and Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Occupation Service Medal, China Service Medal, National Defense Medal (two awards) and the Korean Service Medal (two awards).
He received the Humanitarian Service Medal and the United Nations Service Medal. He received the Korean Presidential Unit Citation as well as the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross. In 2008 he was invited to London by the Archbishop of Canterbury to receive the Cross of St Augustine for his work in spreading the word of God.
His final military duty was to serve as the Protestant Chaplain at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado before his retirement in 1985.
After his retirement from the Navy, Father Bill spent much of his time in the Holy Land, leading tour groups, teaching courses at St. George’s College and working at St. John’s Hospital for the blind. He participated in more archeological digs, officiated at baptisms, weddings and funerals on both coasts, presented seminars with slide shows about the Holy Land to groups in the Coronado/San Diego area, and in general continued to share God’s Word.
“If I could do one last thing,” said a humble Father Bill at his retirement from the Navy, “I would like to salute each person that I have ministered to in the name of the Lord, and thank each one for so great an honor.”
Father Bill never married, never had children. Surviving family include nieces and nephews David, Kyle, and Nicholas Broughton, Melody Pacheco, Melaine and Danielle Medeiros, Kerrie and Emma Broughton, Paul and Kathleen Magliolo.
Father Bill is also survived by a close friend and frequent companion, Tami Dorr, who took care of him until the very end.
Services for William Broughton will take place on Friday, Oct. 7, at 10 a.m., at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, 2728 Sixth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to a charity of your choice to, “…take care of people,” as Father Bill would say.
VOL. 112, NO. 40 - Oct. 5, 2022