Observance of Four Chaplains Sunday

By Charlene Hoeflich

January 28, 2014

POMEROY - Two services of remembrance for the four chaplains who remained on the U.S.S. Dorchester as it sank into the ocean off the shore of Greenland during World War 11 will be held by Drew Webster Post 39, American Legion, this weekend.

On Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. the legionnaires and members of their families will gather at the post home for a tribute service, and then on Sunday, Feb. 2, set aside as Four Chaplains Day, veterans will participate in the morning worship service at the Victory Baptist Church in Middleport.

The story goes that a convoy of three ships and three escorting Coast Guard cutters passed through “torpedo alley” some 100 miles off the coast of Greenland at about 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1943. The submarine U-223 fired three torpedoes, one of which hit the midsection of the Dorchester, a U.S. Army troopship with more than 900 men on board.

The four chaplains on board — two Protestant pastors, a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi — were among the first on deck, calming the men and handing out life jackets. When they ran out, they took off their own and placed them on waiting soldiers without regard to faith or race. Approximately 18 minutes after the explosion, the ship went down. They were last seen by witnesses as standing arm-in-arm on the hull of the ship, each praying in his own way for the care of the men. Of the 902 men aboard the Dorchester, 672 died, leaving 230 survivors.

The four chaplains were Father John Washington (Catholic), Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed), Rabbi Alexander Goode (Jewish) and Rev. George Fox (Methodist).

These four men of God were later honored by the leaders of their country for their selfless acts of courage, compassion and faith.In 1960 Congress created a special Congressional Medal of Valor, never to be repeated again, and presented it to the next of kin of the men who became known as “Immortal Chaplains .”