Recently, I was deeply moved, once again, when I read about the inspiring account of four chaplains who served together on the same ship during World War II. Their story provides a life lesson for all of us.
Feb. 3 marked the 76th anniversary of the sinking of the United States Army Transport Dorchester and the selfless acts of four Army chaplains aboard.
The Dorchester tragically sunk on Feb. 3, 1943, while crossing the North Atlantic, transporting troops to an American base in Greenland. A German U-boat fired three torpedoes, one of which fatally struck the 5,649-ton Dorchester, killing 672 of the 902 officers and enlisted men, merchant seamen and civilian workers aboard as it sailed through the icy waters of the Atlantic. The ship was only 150 miles from its destination.
Many of those survivors owe their lives to the courage and commitment to their oath to serve our nation and leadership exhibited by four faithful chaplains of different faiths, who, in sacrificing their lives, created a unique legacy of brotherhood and unity.
As soldiers rushed to lifeboats, Rev. Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. George Fox (Methodist) and Fr. John Washington (Roman Catholic) comforted the wounded and directed others to safety.
One survivor reported watching the chaplains distribute life jackets, and when supplies were depleted, the chaplains removed their life jackets and gave them to four young men.
As the Dorchester sank 20 minutes after being torpedoed, the chaplains were last seen standing on the ship, linked together arm in arm, praying and singing hymns of faith as they were ushered into eternity.
American Legion Posts throughout the nation conduct memorial ceremonies of remembrance each year honoring the love and sacrifice of these four selfless chaplains. Their sacrificing story continues to inspire generation after generation, and illustrates, again, America is the home of the free because of the brave.
Rick Baum, Marine veteran, Vietnam era
Zionsville Legion Post chaplain/service officer