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Four Chaplains memorial service Monday

February 2, 2013

The Four Chaplain Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the First Baptist Church, 705 W FM 700.

The memorial service honors and remembers the Veterans who passed away in 2012. The Legion of Honor award will be presented to three individuals who have given outstanding service to our Veterans during this past year.

Local VA Medical Center officials encourage all family members of veterans who passed away to be present and welcome the community to come and attend the memorial service.

The memorial service is named after four U.S. Army chaplains who sacrificed their lives to save others when the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was sunk by a German U-boat in 1943.

Once a luxury coastal liner, the 5,649-ton vessel had been converted into an Army transport ship. The Dorchester, one of three ships in the SG-19 convoy, was moving steadily across the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland when it was struck by a torpedo fired from a German U-Boat.

Aboard the Dorchester, panic and chaos had set in. The blast had killed scores of men, and many more were seriously wounded. Others, stunned by the explosion were groping in the darkness. Those sleeping without clothing rushed topside where they were confronted first by a blast of icy Arctic air and then by the knowledge that death awaited.

Men jumped from the ship into lifeboats, over-crowding them to the point of capsizing, according to eyewitnesses. Other rafts, tossed into the Atlantic, drifted away before soldiers could get in them.

Through the pandemonium, according to those present, four Army chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed.
Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers. There they tried to calm the frightened, tend the wounded and guide the disoriented toward safety.

The chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing life jackets. When there were no more lifejackets in the storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men.

As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains — arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers.

For more information on Monday's memorial service, contact Chaplain Dean Thomas at 432-263-7361, ext. 4823.

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