Sunday, February 07, 2021
Yorktown Legion Honors 4 Chaplains Virtually
Each year Yorktown American Legion Post 1009 holds a Four Chaplains Ceremony “to honor these brave men and educate the public about their inspiring story,” Post Adjutant Patrick McDonough reported Feb. 6.
“With COVID we had to change our way of remembering these brave men of faith and created a virtual ceremony and posted it on YouTube…
“We hope that everyone enjoys this video attempt at keeping our Post’s traditions alive while ‘sitting out’ this pandemic.”
Link to video
On Feb. 3, 1943, the United States Army Transport Dorchester – a converted luxury liner – was crossing the North Atlantic, transporting more than 900 troops to an American base in Greenland. Aboard the ship were four chaplains of different faiths: Reverend George Fox (Methodist), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Father John Washington (Roman Catholic).
Around 12:55 a.m., a German U-boat fired a torpedo that struck Dorchester’s starboard side, below the water line and near the engine room. The explosion instantly killed 100 men and knocked out power and radio communication with Dorchester’s three escort ships. Within 20 minutes, the transport sank and more than 670 men died.
As soldiers rushed to lifeboats, the four chaplains spread out, comforting the wounded and directing others to safety. One survivor, Private William Bednar, later said, “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying. I could also hear the chaplains’ preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.”
Another survivor, John Ladd, watched the chaplains’ distribute life jackets, and when they ran out, they removed theirs and gave them to four young men. “It was the finest thing I have seen, or hope to see, this side of heaven,” he recalled.
As Dorchester sank, the chaplains were seen linked arm in arm, praying.
Fox, Goode, Poling and Washington were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart, and in 1948, Congress declared Feb. 3 to be Four Chaplains Day. The four chaplains were also honored with a U.S. postage stamp that year.
—By National American Legion