A distinguished legacy

Daily Reading for February 3 • The Dorchester Chaplains: Lieutenant George Fox, Lieutenant Alexander D. Goode, Lieutenant Clark V. Poling, and Lieutenant John P. Washington, 1943

On February 3, 1943, a German U-boat torpedoed the American transport ship Dorchester, sinking it off the coast of Greenland. Among the nearly 1,000 American soldiers aboard the Dorchester were four chaplains whose selfless acts of courage have left a distinguished legacy, a legacy that we hope to honor and remember in this resolution.

Survivors’ accounts describing the short 18 minutes that the ship was sinking report that Lieutenant George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Lieutenant Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish rabbi; Llieutenant John P. Washington, a Catholic priest; and Lieutenant Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister, worked to alert the soldiers to the danger and direct them to safety. They distributed life jackets until no more were available. Then, these four Army chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to four soldiers. . . .

Rabbi Alexander Goode did not ask whether the soldier that he was giving his life jacket to was Jewish; Father John Washington did not ask whether he was Catholic; Reverend George Fox did not ask whether he was Methodist; and Reverend Clark Poling did not ask whether he was Dutch Reformed. The Chaplains simply took off their own life jackets and gave them to the next in line.

The Chaplains were last seen on the hull, with their arms linked together in prayer, consoling the men who remained on the ship with a final service. The way that they died is so poignant because it reflects the way that they lived—full of devotion to God and serving the needs of their fellow men. As one survivor noted, the Chaplains “were always together. . . they carried their Faith together.” . . .

Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Senate (1) requests the President of the United States to issue a proclamation designating February 3, 1998 as “Four Chaplains Day”; and (2) invites the people of the Unites States, of all religions and creeds and in all communities, to observe this date with appropriate ceremonies, celebrations, and commemorations.

From the Congressional Record of the Senate, from the 105th Congress, Second Session, Volume 144, Part 1, January 27, 1998.

Past Posts