American Legion Post 9 to honor 'Dorchester Chaplains'

Posted 2/17/19

Veterans, local clergy and members of the public gathered on Thursday evening, Feb. 14 at the American Legion Woods-Smith Post 9 to honor the memory of the ''Four Chaplains" sometimes referred to as …

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American Legion Post 9 to honor 'Dorchester Chaplains'

Posted

Veterans, local clergy and members of the public gathered on Thursday evening, Feb. 14 at the American Legion Woods-Smith Post 9 to honor the memory of the ''Four Chaplains" sometimes referred to as the "Dorchester Chaplains" or "Immortal Chaplains". The American Legion Post 9 discussed how much they support the need for more selfless acts like this in such a world that we live in today.

The Four Chaplains honored included Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; the Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; the Rev. Clark V. Poling of the Reformed Church of America, and the Rev. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest. 

According to a Feb. 4 story in the New York Times, the Four Chaplains died on Feb. 3, 1943, when the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a military transport ship carrying 902 American servicemen and civilian workers, was torpedoed by a German submarine about 100 miles off the coast of Greenland. It was considered one of the worst naval tragedies for Americans in World War II, with only 230 survivors. 

In the resulting panic, four chaplains stood on the deck, remaining calm and handing out life jackets. When the supply ran out, the chaplains gave the sailors their own. Witnesses recalled seeing the four chaplains standing with arms interlocked, each praying in his own way as the ship sunk. 

According to the Times, the witness accounts of the actions of the chaplains was so moving to Americans at the time that the government posthumously awarded each chaplain the Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart in 1944. They were honored in a 1948 postage stamp, and in 1988 Congress established Feb. 3 as an annual "Four Chaplains Day."

Meanwhile, the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation in Philadelphia tries to raise awareness though scholarship competitions, awards for valor, school group visits to its chapel and funding an emergency chaplain corps. Several hundred remembrances are held each year at veterans posts, churches and temples to mark their passing. 

St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church in Kearny, N.J., commissioned a large bronze sculpture depicting the chaplains on the sinking ship, as well as a special chapel with photographs of the men. 

Mark S. Auerbach, a cousin of Goode from Passaic, New Jersey, told the Times, "The message of ecumenicalism and sharing and caring is timeless. This is one of the least known stories out of World War II, and one of the greatest.