For the repose of their souls…
Sinking of the Dorchester
The chaplains, who all held the rank of lieutenant, were the Methodist Reverend George L. Fox, the Jewish rabbi Alexander D. Goode, the Roman Catholic Priest John P. Washington and the Reformed Church in America Reverend Clark V. Poling. The four chaplains were sailing on then USAT Dorchester troop transport on February 3, 1943 when the vessel was torpedoed by the Kriegsmarine’s U-223. As the vessel sank, the four chaplains calmed the frightened soldiers and sailors, aided in the evacuation of the ship, and helped guide wounded men to safety. The chaplains also gave up their own life belts.
As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.—Grady Clark, survivor
On December 19, 1944, all four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. The Chaplain’s Medal for Heroism was authorized in 1961 and posthumously presented by the President of the United States to the families of the chaplains.