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Wednesday, January 25, 2017 Honoring the Sacrifice of Four Chaplains

Honoring the Sacrifice of Four Chaplains By Beth WhiteFour Chaplains Day, recognized annually on February 3, remembers four chaplains for their remarkable act of bravery:

  • LT John P. Washington was a Catholic priest who served in Kearny, New Jersey.
  • LT Alexander D. Goode served as a Jewish rabbi in York, Pennsylvania.
  • LT Clark V. Poling lived in Schenectady, New York and served as the minister at the First Reformed Church.
  • LT George L. Fox served at the Methodist church in Gilman, Vermont and was a veteran of World War I. As a seventeen year old medical orderly, LT Fox received the Silver Star, Purple Heart and Croix de Guerre for meritorious service on the Western Front.


Although these four men came from various backgrounds and served in different denominations, they had one common bond that firmly placed their sacrifice in the annals of American history.

Liberty University Institute for Military Resilience February 2017 Blog.

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The four men served as Chaplains in the United States Army. Together, they boarded the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, one of three ships from Newfoundland to an American base in Greenland. The Dorchester, a former luxury liner, was crowded to capacity with 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers. Only 150 miles from its destination and shortly after midnight on February 3, 1943, the Dorchester was torpedoed by a German submarine U2. As pandemonium spread aboard the Dorchester, the four Chaplains tended to the wounded and guided the disoriented to safety.  As the Chaplains distributed lifejackets to the troops, it became evident that there were not enough. Without words or further hesitation, multiple eyewitnesses watched as each Chaplain removed his own life jacket and gave it to another person.  As the ship slowly sank, survivors in the nearby rafts watched as the four Chaplains, with arms linked and braced against the deck, sang hymns and prayed until they could be seen no more. There were 230 survivors, many of whom owed their lives to the care provided by the four Chaplains in their final moments.

Although the Chaplains were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart, Congress was prevented from conferring the Medal of Honor upon them. On January 18, 1961, a special Medal for Heroism was authorized by Congress and awarded by the President. This was the first and only time that the medal was given.

There are those, like the four Chaplains, who willingly give up their life jackets either literally or figuratively so that others may be saved. On this day, as we honor the memory of four military Chaplains who put aside their denominational differences for the good of all and willingly laid down their lives, may we always remember those service members who also make the ultimate sacrifice. Freedom is never free for it costs the blood of patriots.


About the Author:

Beth White served ten years with the Virginia Defense Force including three years as Virginia’s only female S-3. She has served within the Office of Military Affairs in a variety of capacities for fourteen of nineteen years at Liberty University. Beth is also married to a Vietnam veteran of the United States Air Force. She is currently finishing her Education Specialist degree at Liberty University.


 
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