From Left to Right: Goode, Poling, Fox, Washington
The Story of the Four Chaplains
Celebrating Men of Valor
It was mid-afternoon on February 2, 1943, and the U.S.A.T Dorchester was making its way across the North Atlantic loaded to capacity with 902 servicemen, merchant seamen, and civilian workers. The ship was part of a convoy headed for Greenland and eventually the war in Europe. This was also the high-water mark for German "Wolf Packs" in the North Atlantic. These enemy submarine packs searched the sea for Allied ships to attack and sink.
At 12:55 a.m. February 3, a U-boat stalking the Dorchester fired a torpedo and struck the transport ship. Panic and chaos quickly set in. Through the pandemonium, four Army chaplains calmed the frightened, tended to the wounded and passed out lifejackets to the men who lacked them. Those chaplains were: Lt. George L. Fox, Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Lt. Clark V. Poling, Lt. John P. Washington.
When the chaplains ran out of lifejackets, they did the most anyone could do for their fellow shipmates. They took off their own lifejackets and gave them to the soldiers who had none.
As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains standing on the deck of the Dorchester, their arms linked together praying as the ship sunk below the turbulent Atlantic Ocean.
Nearly 700 men, including the chaplains, were lost when the transport went down. It was the third-greatest loss of life at sea for American troops during the Second World War.
The magnitude of the tragedy and heroic conduct of the four chaplains was not lost on the American people. The Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were awarded posthumously to their families on December 19, 1944. In 1996, Congress created a special Congressional Medal of Valor, never to be struck again, for the "Immortal Chaplains" next of kin.
Every year, Post 459 celebrates and remembers these men of valor with our annual Four Chaplains Service.
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