On the night of February 2, 1943, the USAT Dorchester with 902 men aboard was sailing towards Greenland on the way to Europe with her cargo of American troops for the war effort. On board amongst the soldiers and sailors were four Army Chaplains. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed.
The Dorchester would never make it to Europe.
Torpedoed by U-223 at 12:55 am, she began to sink in the icy Atlantic.
After the torpedoing of the ship, many men were without life jackets or clothing. The Chaplains kept the men calm and distributed life jackets, and when the supply of life jackets ran out, they gave their own to the next 4 men in line.
The Chaplains remained on the deck of the ship with linked arms and voices offering prayers for the men of the Dorchester. Of the 902 on board, there were 230 survivors. 672 died, including the 4 Chaplains. Their acts of selflessness and heroism would go down in history.
Each of the chaplains was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart posthumously and in 1961 Congress and the President authorized The Four Chaplains medal, an award equivalent to the Medal of Honor, and only awarded this one time, was awarded to the four posthumously to commemorate their heroism.