Heroes are born on the spot of disaster. They are not coddled, trained, or nurtured to have a double portion of courage. They are there when it needed to be done and no one else has done it. Those we enshrined in our heart and thoughts on Memorial day are such people. They practiced what they believed for God and country.
Such were four men of God who gave their all as soldiers and as chaplains. It was early in the morning of February 3, 1943. The US troop transport “Dorchester” was wallowing through ice filled seas off Greenland. Most of the 900 troops on board were asleep in their bunks. Suddenly a torpedo smashed into the ship. Frantically pounding up the ladders, the troops milled in confusion on the decks.
In those dark moments of panic, the coolest men on board were four US Army chaplains: First Lieutenants Clark V. Poling, Andrew D. Goode, John P. Washington, and George L. Fox. These four chaplains led the men to boxes of life jackets and passed them out to the soldiers with drill decision. When the boxes were empty, the four chaplains quietly slipped off their own precious life preservers, put them on four young soldiers and told them to jump.
The Dorchester went down 25 minutes later in a rumble of steam. Some 600 men were lost, but the heroic chaplains helped save over 200. The last anyone saw them, they were standing on the slanting deck, their arms linked, in prayer, to the one God they served in behalf of their country, the United States of America!