Residents invited to ‘Four Chaplains Day’ service

Published 10:39 pm Friday, January 11, 2019

All local residents are invited to a “Four Chaplains Day” service at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Healing Waters Center, 12712 Smiths Neck Road, Carrollton.

This service is sponsored by American Legion Post 49.

“This interfaith service honors the memory of four U.S. Army chaplains who gave their lives to save others as the troop ship U.S. Army Transport Dorchester sank near Greenland on Feb. 3, 1943, during World War II,” a press release on the event states. “They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out.

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“The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship,” the press release adds.

American Legion Post 49 states this is the first observance of the event in Hampton Roads.

According to, the observance commemorates Chaplains John P. Washington, George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode and Clark V. Poling.

On the evening of Feb. 2, 1943, the Dorchester was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 service men, merchant seamen and civilian workers, the website states.

Once a luxury coastal liner, the vessel had been converted into an Army transport ship and was moving through icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland, escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche.

Capt. Hans J. Danielsen knew a submarine had been detected by the Tampa’s sonar and that German U-boats constantly patrolled the area. He ordered the men to sleep in their clothing and keep life jackets on, but some ignored the warning due to the discomfort of sleeping.

Just after 12:55 a.m. on Feb. 3, the German submarine U-223 fired three torpedoes. One struck the starboard side mid-ship below the water line. Danielsen gave the order to abandon ship, and in less than 20 minutes, the Dorchester sank.

During the pandemonium, witnesses later said, the chaplains — Fox was Methodist, Goode was Jewish, Washington was Roman Catholic and Poling was Dutch Reformed — calmed the frightened, tended the wounded and guided the disoriented toward safety. When there were no more lifejackets left in the storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to other men.

Survivors reported seeing the four chaplains, arms linked and praying, aboard the ship as it sank.

Of the 902 men aboard, 672 died, leaving only 230 survivors, who were picked up by two of the Coast Guard cutters.

The four chaplains were honored with the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart, presented to their next of kin, the website states. They were also granted a Special Medal for Heroism.

For more information about the local service, contact Pastor Marcel Berrios at 356-1515 or