Frank A. Tobey joined the military because of a passion for country and a heart for ministry.
He was born in February 1903 in Everett, Mass., and initially enlisted in the Massachusetts National Guard in 1922. Throughout 11 years of service in the National Guard, he advanced to the position of second lieutenant before entering pastoral ministry. After attending Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Hartford Seminary and Yale Divinity School, he became a chaplain in 1940.
Tobey served on active duty from 1941 to 1962. From 1945 to 1947, he worked as an American Baptist pastor at Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. While in service, he was stationed throughout the U.S., Philippines, Japan, Korea and the South Pacific.
Some of Tobey’s most notable experiences were as the chaplain of the X Corps and as the Senior Cleric of the Eighth Army during the Korean War, active between 1942 to 1968. The X Corps were stationed in Eastern Korea after the Inchon Landing and the landing at Wonsan on the northeast coast of Korea. The station today is Camp Humphreys Army Base in Anjung Ri, South Korea. He spent most of his service in the Southwest Pacific until 1953, when he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Chaplains in the Pentagon.
In 1958, Tobey was nominated to be Chief of Chaplains. Upon his acceptance of the position, he remarked in a 1958 interview, “To me, it was an unexpected honor and privilege, especially as I had served in the regular army for only 11 years.” He served as the 10th Chief of Chaplains for the remainder of his time in the military. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal and the Legion of Merit.
After his military service and retirement in 1962, Tobey continued to work at several churches throughout North America. He became pastor of Balboa Union Church in the Canal Zone, Panama, with interim work at Memorial Baptist Church and Rock Spring Congregational Church in Arlington, Va. His final period of work was spent at the Palisades Community Church in Washington, D.C. There, he wrote many of his sermons and devotionals, many of which are still used today. A journey that started from the small town of Everett, Mass., led to a life of travel, selfless care and dedication to his country and fellow Army soldiers.
Tobey died from cancer in December 1977 in Fairhope, Ala. He was 74 years old. His grave is located at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
We honor his service.