Story of courage and sacrifice provides enduring lesson each Feb. 3
Members of Highlands American Legion Post 370 gathered at the Veteran’s Plaza on Wednesday morning to remember four heroic men who gave their lives to save the lives of fellow soldiers.
Mayor Patrick Taylor opened the ceremony by reading a declaration designating Feb. 3 as “Four Chaplains Memorial Day” in Highlands.
“We wanted to come together to pay respects and to remember four men who sacrificed their own lives for the lives of others on this day 78 years ago,” Post 370 commander Ed McCloskey said. “It’s an incredible story and one that deserves recognition each year.”
Rabbi Alexander Goode, Catholic priest Clark Poling, minister George Fox and minister John Washington were among the crew of the US Dorchester when the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine on Feb. 3, 1943. The blast killed an untold number of men and the rest were forced into the ice-cold waters of the Atlantic as the Dorchester sank.
Following the captain’s orders to abandon ship, the four chaplains took up station at a supply room handing out life vests. After all the vests were distributed, the four men gave their own vests to soldiers who were without, thus sacrificing themselves. Only 230 of the 902 men aboard the ship survived.
Members of Post 370 retold the heroic story by reading each chaplain’s part. The four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross for their bravery and have become an enduring reminder of selflessness.
“In 1961, then President Dwight Eisenhower awarded a special one-time Congressional medal entitled the Medal of Heroism to the four chaplains,” McCloskey said. “Congress intended for this medal to carry the same weight as the Medal of Honor.”