Feb. 3rd was “Four Chaplains Day”, but with events happening in Egypt it slipped my mind. I will rectify that today. Instead of Saturday Morning Funnies, I bring you this. It is not funny, but a moving tribute to 4 of the bravest men this nation has ever produced.
A convoy of three ships and three escorting Coast Guard cutters passed through "torpedo alley" some 100 miles off the coast of Greenland at about 1 a.m. on February 3, 1943. The submarine U-223 fired three torpedoes, one of which hit the midsection of the Dorchester, a U.S. Army troopship with more than 900 men on board. Ammonia and oil were everywhere in the fast-sinking vessel and upon the freezing sea.
Stained glass window
from the Chapel at
Fort Snelling, Minnesota
The four Chaplains on board, two Protestant pastors, a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi, were among the first on deck, calming the men and handing out life jackets. When they ran out, they took off their own and placed them on waiting soldiers without regard to faith or race. Approximately 18 minutes from the explosion, the ship went down. They were the last to be seen by witnesses; they were standing arm-in-arm on the hull of the ship, each praying in his own way for the care of the men. Almost 700 died, making it the third largest loss at sea of its kind for the United States during World War II. The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa was able to escort the other freighters to Greenland. Meanwhile the cutters Comanche and Escanaba, disobeying orders to continue the seach for the German U-Boat, stopped to rescue 230 men from the frigid waters that night.
Stained glass window
from the Chapel at West Point
Stained glass window from the
Chapel at the Pentagon.
The four Chaplains were Father John Washington (Catholic), Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed), Rabbi Alexander Goode (Jewish) and Rev. George Fox (Methodist). These four Chaplains were later honored by the Congress and Presidents. They were recognized for their selfless acts of courage, compassion and faith. According to the First Sergeant on the ship, "They were always together, they carried their faith together." They demonstrated throughout the voyage and in their last moments, interfaith compassion in their relationship with the men and with each other. In 1960 Congress created a special Congressional Medal of Valor, never to be repeated again, and gave it to the next of kin of the "Immortal Chaplains."
As each year passes the only groups that remember their sacrifice are the Veteran's groups such as the VFW and American Legion. Once their story was told to school children now it is forbidden in many schools to mention their story lest G-d penetrate and pollute the environment.
You can find out more about these heroes at The Immortal Chaplains Foundation.