Monday, April 14, 2008
America MUST Pray - The Four Chaplains
On February 3, 1943, the troop ship Dorchester was sailing from St. John, Newfoundland to Iceland with nine hundred soldiers. The waters were cold and it was midnight when a German submarine torpedoed the ship. In the dark the ship's whistle began to blarethe ship was sinking. On board were four Army chaplains: one Catholic, a Methodist, a Jewish rabbi, and a Dutch Reformed clergyman named Clark Poling. Before the ship sailed Poling told his family, "Don't pray for my safe return, pray that I do my duty."
As the vessel was sinking everyone was grabbing life jackets. Seeing that some were without one, the four chaplains took off their own vests and handed them to four men who had none standing at the railing. As the ship sank, those soldiers in the water and in lifeboats could see the chaplains with arms linked and bracing themselves as they went down. Because of the cold water only about two hundred men survived the sinking. Almost all of those who lived ended up with some kind of physical impairment for the rest of their lives, but none could forget the sacrifice of these chaplains who perished under the waves.
In the years that followed, in the military chapels, from West Point to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, stain glass windows were etched with the portrays of these four brave and self-sacrificing chaplains. In 1960, Congress honored the men by striking a distinctive Congressional Medal of Honor that was awarded to them posthumously.