Four Chaplains Day
Reported By 1SG C.Brock
Image credit: U.S. Army
Today our nation marks Four Chaplains Day.
The commemoration honors the heroism of U.S. Army Chaplains 1LT George L. Fox (Methodist), 1LT Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), 1LT Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed), 1LT John P. Washington (Roman Catholic). These four men, after their troop transport ship SS Dorchester was torpedoed during World War II, ministered to fellow victims and gave up their life jackets so that others might live.
Early in the morning of February 3, 1943, German submarine U-223 attacked the Dorchester as she steamed towards Greenland. On board were over 900 U.S. Army Soldiers, merchant sailors, and civilians traveling to Great Britain as part of the Allied war effort. The sudden torpedo strike and subsequent boiler explosion killed many, and caused widespread confusion and panic among survivors.
The “Four Chaplains” calmly went around the ship, comforting the wounded and helping others to don lifejackets and lower the lifeboats. In the chaos, they realized that there were not enough lifejackets or boats for everyone. And so they gave up their own jackets, continuing to direct and encourage those trying to escape.
As the Dorchester sank, survivors recall, the Four Chaplains stood arm in arm on the deck, leading the wounded in prayer as together they slipped under the waves.
For their selfless sacrifice and dedication to their compatriots, these officers were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart posthumously. Each was also cited for the Medal of Honor, but these were denied because they had not served in combat action.
In 1948, Congress designated February 3 “Four Chaplains Day” to highlight the examples these men set.
And while the question of the Medal of Honor had been settled, those who remembered 1LTs Fox, Goode, Poling, and Washington felt these men had earned something more. So, in 1961, the Department of the Army approved the posthumous award of the Four Chaplains’ Medal to each Soldier.
Looking back to that day 78 years ago, the Four Chaplains represented the best of America, where people of various faiths and creeds came together to serve a nation in need. Let us remember.