65 years ago in the North Atlantic, they perished so others could live

It was shortly before 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1943 — 65 years ago today — and a German submarine had just blown a gaping hole in the converted cruise ship [named the Dorchester], which was packed with more than 900 soldiers, seamen and civilians headed for bases on the icy reaches of Greenland.

The ship would have about 25 minutes before it sank into the frigid North Atlantic.

As stunned soldiers clambered onto the deck, many started to gather around four officers who had grouped themselves together.

The officers — the Rev. George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, the Rev. Clark Poling and the Rev. John Washington — were the ship’s chaplains. They comforted the men, prayed with them, tried to calm them down, and scrounged up spare life jackets for the dozens who had failed to put on their own before the attack.

Then, at some point, witnesses said, one of the chaplains took off his own cork-filled life jacket and gave it to a soldier who didn’t have one. Before long, none of the chaplains was wearing one.

The ship tilted heavily to starboard and then slipped beneath the sea. Of the 904 men on board, only 229 survived

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Military / Armed Forces

7 comments on “65 years ago in the North Atlantic, they perished so others could live

  1. AnglicanFirst says:

    One of the chaplains was from my home town. I can still rememb er my mother pointing out the church where he preached and telling me the story of “The Four Chaplains.”

  2. Bob from Boone says:

    General Convention 2006 passed a resolution that “Directed the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to consider the commemoration of the Dorchester Chaplains as an addition to the Calendar of the Church Year (B008).” This begins a process that may led to the addition of a day of commentation honoring their Christ-like sacrifice that would be added to Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

    You may also be aware that the USPO issued a commemorative stamp honoring the chaplains.

  3. Jeffersonian says:

    No greater gift…

  4. Jafer says:

    Thank you, Kendall, for posting this wonderful article; what an inspiring post about the selfless giving that was so pronounced in those four men.

  5. Dick Mitchell says:

    Thank you for this story. The Four Chaplains are remembered in a stained glass window at Washington National Cathedral, in the War Memorial Chapel on the nave floor.

  6. recchip says:

    Thank you Kendall,
    Just yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity of participating in the annual “4 chaplains” service at our local American Legion Post. We always do a “event” and we had over 75 folks come out. (I had to skip Church but my rector said OK).
    A proud Son of a member of the Greatest Generation, my Father a World War II veteran.

  7. evan miller says:

    I learned about them as a 7 year-old when my father took me by train (the George Washington) to D.C. for my birthday and we went to the Wax Museum where thery were depicted in a very moving and lifelike tableau.