By DAVID SWEARINGEN
February 7, 2023
The Four Chaplains, also referred to as the Immortal Chaplains or the Dorchester Chaplains, were four World War II chaplains who died rescuing civilian and military personnel as the American troop ship SS Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943, in what has been referred to as the second-worst sea disaster of World War II. The Dorchester was a civilian liner converted for military service in World War II as a War Shipping Administration troop transport. She was able to carry slightly more than 900 military passengers and crew.
The ship left New York on January 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying approximately 900 as part of a convoy of three ships escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba, and Comanche. During the early morning hours of February 3, the vessel was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. The chaplains helped the other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.
The impact of the chaplains’ story was deep, with many memorials and extensive coverage in the media. Each of the four chaplains was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart. The chaplains were nominated for the Medal of Honor, but were ineligible as they had not engaged in combat with the enemy. Instead, Congress created a medal for them, with the same weight and importance as the Medal of Honor.
For the Stephenville program, the four Chaplains were Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Alexander D. Goode, Rev. Clark V. Poling, and Fr. John Washington.
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