FOUR CHAPLAINS DAY
On February 3rd each year, Four Chaplains Day honors four military chaplains from World War II who sacrificed their lives for fellow service members.
Chaplains in the military are an integral part of the service environment. They provide counseling, spiritual guidance, conduct services, and religious rites, among other responsibilities, and serve all over the globe. If there are military personnel stationed there, chaplains are too.
During World War II, four chaplains who had attended Chaplain School together at Harvard boarded the Dorchester en route to the Army Command Base in southern Greenland. Aboard the ship were 904 service members.
The four chaplains were Reverend George L. Fox, a Methodist minister, Reverend Clark V. Poling of the Reformed Church of America, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, and Father John P. Washington of the Roman Catholic Church. Their voyage began on January 23, 1943. At the time, German U-Boats were patrolling the area, and the convoy was on high alert. When a German submarine torpedoed the Dorchester on February 3, 1943, in the frigid waters off the coast of Newfoundland, chaos ensued.
Eyewitnesses recounted the chaplains’ heroism, including giving their life jackets and gloves to other service members. They prayed with service members, assisting them into lifeboats. The four chaplains remained on the sinking Dorchester. Only 230 men were rescued from the waters.
Congress awarded the four chaplains the Four Chaplains Medal in 1960.
HOW TO OBSERVE FOUR CHAPLAINS DAY
- Read about the four chaplains in books like No Greater Glory: The Four Immortal Chaplains and the Sinking of the Dorchester in World War II by Dan Kurzman or Sea of Glory by Ken Wales.
- Watch the movie Four Chaplains: Sacrifice at Sea.
- Visit exhibits remembering the four chaplains such as the National World War II Museum in New Orleans or Pioneer Chapel at Fort Leavenworth where a stained glass window remembers the chaplains.
- Attend memorial services in honor of the four chaplains.
FOUR CHAPLAINS DAY HISTORY
In 1998, Congress unanimously established Four Chaplains Day to be observed annually on February 3rd.