On Sunday, Feb. 7, at 11:00am, American Legion Post 47 of Calhoun will hold a memorial service for The Four Chaplains.
This elite group of chaplains, Lt George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed, were stationed aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester during WWII. On Feb. 3, at 12:55 a.m., a periscope broke the chilly Atlantic waters. Through the cross hairs, an officer aboard the German submarine U-223 spotted the Dorchester.
The U-223 approached the convoy on the surface, and after identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire the torpedoes, a fan of three were fired. The one that hit was decisive — and deadly — striking the starboard side, amid ship, far below the water line.
There was less than 20 minutes before the ship would go under. With every one in a panic these four chaplains moved throughout the ship calming the crew and getting them in an orderly fashion to the lifeboats. It was said that the chaplains could be heard preaching courage. Lt. Goode even gave one sailor his gloves to keep his hands warm.
The chaplains started handing out lifejackets to crewmembers and ushering them to the life boats. There were too few lifejackets for everyone. Without hesitation they took off their jackets and gave them out to four crewmembers. As the ship went down a witness said you could see the four chaplains, linked arm in arm shouting prayer as they braced against the slant of the deck.
One survivor said it was the most selfless act that he had ever seen. There were 902 sailors aboard the ship. 672 men died and 230 survived. When the news hit America they were shocked by the magnitude of the tragedy and heroic act of the four chaplains.