Exhibiting extraordinary faith, courage and selflessness, four chaplains serving on the USAT Dorchester on the evening of February 2, 1943 gave their lives so that so many others could live. Their courage has been celebrated on the first Sunday in February by organizations from the American Legion to religious organizations as Four Chaplains Sunday. The Globe-Miami local American Legion #4 honored the chaplains recently in an event held in Globe.
It is an act of courage by four chaplains on that fateful night which is honored today. The men – a Methodist, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Dutch Reformed – gave their lifejackets to others and shepherded many to safety as the ill-fated Dorchester sunk in the latter days of WWII. The Dorchester was crowded to capacity with 902 U.S. troops, merchant seamen and civilian workers.
Many accounts of the USAT Dorchester during WWII outline the men’s courage.
“Four first lieutenants gave the supreme sacrifice that day; each one an Army chaplain. They included Methodist minister, The Reverend George L. Fox, Reform-Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Ph.D), Roman Catholic priest the Reverend John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister, The Reverend Clark V. Poling. Their backgrounds, personalities and faiths were different. They had met at Army Chaplains School at Harvard University where they became friends as they prepared for service in the European theater, all sailing on board USAT Dorchester to report to their new assignments. All having one God as their father.”
“Of the 902 men aboard Dorchester, 672 died. When the news reached the United States, the nation was stunned by the magnitude of the tragedy and the heroci conduct of the four chaplains.”
Valor is a gift,” Carl Sandburg once said. “Those having it never know for sure whether they have it until the test comes.”