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Time to Remember Four Chaplains

American Legionnaire Shirl Snodgrass lights a candle in memory of the Four Chaplains.

During the height of World War II, Allied troop transport ship SS Dorchester was traveling in the North Atlantic near Newfoundland when it was struck by torpedoes fired by a German submarine. The attack took out the ship’s electrical system, and many men were trapped below decks. The crew’s four chaplains helped with the evacuation of the ship, and acted as a calming influence to the frightened sailors. The chaplains handed out life jackets and helped their fellows into lifeboats. Unfortunately, there were not enough jackets to go around, and the chaplains selflessly gave up their own jackets so that others might have a chance of survival. Making the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow sailors, the chaplains stayed on board the SS Dorchester, singing hymns as they went down with the ship.

The SS Dorchester sank on February 3, 1943. Each February, American Legion posts all around the country hold Four Chaplains Memorial Services to commemorate the sacrifice of these brave men. Emphasis is placed upon the various faiths practiced by the four chaplains, and how differences of religion did not matter to them when they helped their fellow sailors.

On Thursday, February 1, American Legion James E. Marshall Post 187 held a Four Chaplains Memorial Service at the Winfield Presbyterian Church. Commander David Bush gave a brief history of the sinking of the SS Dorchester and the efforts that the four chaplains made to help evacuate the ship. The service featured a table with photographs of the four chaplains and memorial candles dedicated to each man. As the candles were lit, American Legion members read the biographies of the chaplains. Kenny Bright honored Methodist minister Reverend George L. Fox; Curtis Grant honored Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; Arnie Harrison honored Reformed Church in America Minister Reverend Clark V. Poling; and Jason Caulfield honored Catholic Father John P. Washington. Jim McDade read the poem “Four Special Chaplains.” The service ended with the playing of “Taps.” A reception was held afterwards at the Winfield Community Center.

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