Every year, Americans nationwide remember Four Chaplains Day with memorial services. On Sunday, Feb 10 the American Legion Post 130, VFW 10100 and the Masonic Lodge 379 in LaBelle will present a commemorative patriotic and faith based service at 2 p.m. at the Carlson United Methodist Church, 310 Campbell Street.. Please join us in supporting our Veterans. Open to the public!
On Feb. 3, 1943, the United States Army Transport Dorchester – a converted luxury liner – was crossing the North Atlantic, transporting more than 900 troops to an American base in Greenland. Aboard the ship were four chaplains of different faiths: Reverend George Fox (Methodist), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Father John Washington (Roman Catholic).
Around 12:55 a.m., a German U-boat fired a torpedo that struck the Dorchester. The explosion instantly killed 100 men and knocked out power and radio communication with Dorchester’s three escort ships. Within 20 minutes, the transport sank and more than 670 men died.
As soldiers rushed to lifeboats, the four chaplains spread out, comforting the wounded and directing others to safety. One survivor, later said, “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying. I could also hear the chaplains’ preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.”
Another survivor, watched the chaplains’ distribute life jackets, and when they ran out, they removed theirs and gave them to four young men. “It was the finest thing I have seen, or hope to see, this side of heaven,” he recalled.
As Dorchester sank, the chaplains were seen linked arm in arm, praying.
Fox, Goode, Poling and Washington were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart, and in 1948, Congress declared Feb. 3 to be Four Chaplains Day. The four chaplains were also honored with a U.S. postage stamp that year.