Wreaths Across America to honor ‘The Four Chaplains’ with a Facebook Live event

Published 6:06 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

On Saturday, Wreaths Across America will pay tribute to the spirit of World War II American heroes, ‘The Four Chaplains,’ and commemorate the bravery displayed during the Dorchester incident, in which the ship was sunk by a German torpedo. 

The group will have a special Facebook live event at noon Saturday with a broadcast from the Balsam Valley Chapel in Jonesboro, Maine.

The SS Dorchester was a coastal passenger steamship requisitioned for wartime use that set sail from New York harbor on Jan. 23, 1943. The ship carried with 904 officers, service members and civilian workers and was part of a convoy bound for and U.S. Army Command base in Greenland

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The ship met its fate on Feb. 3, 1943 when it was torpedoed by the German submarine U-233 in the Labrador Sea. It sank in less than 20 minutes.

Amidst the chaos, four chaplains, Lt. George L. Fox (Methodist), Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed), and Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic), selflessly guided trapped soldiers to escape hatches and sacrificed their life jackets to save others. 

Their final act was to link arms and began praying and singing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.

In all, 675 lives were lost.

In 1988, Congress established Feb. 3 as Four Chaplains Day.

The Wreaths Across America ceremony will share poignant messages and stories about ‘The Four Chaplains’ and honor the memory of the Dorchester crew. 

It will also pay tribute to the bravery of Black U.S. Coast Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr., who, from a nearby rescue ship, Comanche, jumped into icy Greenland waters to save two men from drowning. He continued to rescue a total of 93 survivors from lifeboats. Sadly, 54 days later, David succumbed to pneumonia, stemming from his heroic acts in those frigid waters.

To watch live, go to the Wreaths Across America Facebook page and hit the button that reads “Four Chaplain Memorial Service.”

Lawrence County has had a Wreaths Across America ceremony every December since 2012 for the 950 veterans buried in Woodland Cemetery’s veteran section.

For more information or to sponsor a wreath, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.