The story: On Feb. 3, 1943, an enemy torpedo struck the Army transport Dorchester as it carried 902 officers and enlisted men, Navy armed guard, merchant seamen, and civilian workers in the North Atlantic. The Coast Guard cutter escorts Comanche and Escanaba rescued 230 men. As Dorchester took on water, four Army chaplains—Lt. George L. Fox (Methodist), Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic), and Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed)—calmed frightened soldiers, aided the wounded, and guided the disoriented toward safety. On deck, they began distributing life jackets. When there were no more available, the chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to four young men. “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” said John Ladd, a survivor. As the ship went down, men in rafts saw the four chaplains, arms linked and braced against the slanting deck, singing hymns and praying.
How we remember them (COVID restrictions apply): Every year, American Legion Posts nationwide, including local American Legion Oro Valley Post 132, commemorate the selfless acts of the Four Chaplains on or about Feb. 3, designated Four Chaplains Day by Congress in 1948. Through interfaith services, memorial ceremonies, and other solemn events, members of the American Legion Family and communities honor the chaplains and the 668 other men who died when Dorchester sank. This year’s local Four Chaplains Day observance will take place Feb. 6, 1 p.m., at Kino Veterans Memorial Park, 2805 E. Ajo Way, Tucson. Due to COVID-related restrictions, the memorial service will be live streamed on the South Lawn Cemetery’s Facebook site at www.facebook.com/FunerariaDelAngelSouthLawn. For information, contact Danny Lemon, the American Legion Oro Valley Post 132 Chaplain, at [email protected] or 520-349-7325.