Lieutenant Father Verbis Lafleur was ordained a priest in New Orleans, in 1938, and celebrated his first solemn high mass at his home parish of St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas, Louisiana, on April 5, 1938. He was assigned to St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Abbeville, and there joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, before the U.S. entered World War II. In July of that year, he was assigned to the 19th Bombardment Unit, and was sent to the Philippines as their chaplain. He became a prisoner of war when his unit was captured by the Japanese, and was killed September 7, 1944, when the ship on which he and 750 prisoners were being transported, the Shinyo Maru, was torpedoed by an American submarine. Father Lafleur refused to leave the ship when the men had the chance to climb out, instead remaining behind to help the other men up the ladder. Those who made it to shore last saw him in waist-deep water, assisting others. His body was not recovered.
For his bravery in action, he won the Distinguished Service Cross and was later awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Then, On Oct. 17, 2017, he posthumously received a second Distinguished Service Medal and Purple Heart for his actions on board the Japanese prisoner of war ship that cost him his life but saved scores more.
A cause for canonization to sainthood for Father Lafleur was opened in May, 2012.
On Friday, September 7, 2007, the 63rd anniversary of his death, a monument erected to the memory of Rev. J. Verbis Lafleur was dedicated on the grounds of the St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas, Louisiana, his home town.
A book about his life was published in 2010:
“But He Dies Not” The Life, Faith, and Sacrifice of Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur -Priest - Military Chaplain, by Peter Guerra and Suzanne Dore Guerra
More information available at http://fatherlafleur.org/
Brother of Benjamin Wilber Lafleur, Edna Lafleur Delery, Ethel Lafleur Perry, Lillie Lafleur Antonia, Marie Olivia Lafleur Sylvester, Mildred Lafleur Poret. Shelton J. Lafleur.