GENESEO, N.Y., Feb. 3, 2023 – The Livingston County Board of Supervisors has proclaimed February 3, 2023 to be Four Chaplains Day across the County.
On February 3, 1943, the United States Army Transport Dorchester was one of three ships en route to an American base in Greenland carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seaman and civilian workers. While nearing its destination, the Dorchester was suddenly attacked by a German submarine, which fired a torpedo that instantly killed scores and injured many more.
Among the chaos, four Army chaplains, Lt. George Fox, Lt. Alexander Goode, Lt. John Washington and Lt. Clark Poling worked to calm the men, tended to the injured and guided disoriented passengers to safety. While doing so, the four chaplains were confronted with cold artic winds and deteriorating conditions aboard the vessel. In spite of the conditions, the four chaplains found a storage locker and began to distribute life jackets. Upon realizing that there weren’t enough for everyone on board, the four chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them away.
As the ship went down, survivors recalled seeing the four chaplains with arms linked as they prayed and sang hymns. Of the 902 men aboard the Dorchester that night, 203 survived – many because of the heroism shown by the four chaplains.
As a result of their selfless actions, the four were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart and each received a Special Medal for Heroism called the Four Chaplains’ Medal.
“These four chaplains are a shining example of the importance of helping others, even under the most dire conditions,” added David Terry, Director of the Livingston County Office of Veterans Services. “In a conversation with his father before deploying on the SS Dorchester, Chaplain Poling declared that It wasn’t fair to just pray for his safe return,” continued Terry. “Polig said ‘just pray that I shall do my duty, never be a coward and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I should be adequate.’ Little did he know that February 3, 1943 would be one of the worst sea disasters of World War II and that he and three other chaplains of different faiths in unison would give of themselves to their fellow soldiers and their country. Today, we honor these four heroic chaplains for their sacrifice and their legacy.”
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About Livingston County:
Founded in 1821, Livingston County, N.Y., is comprised of more than 61,000 residents in 17 towns located across 631 square miles of the Finger Lakes region.