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Clergy Appreciation Week | The Four Chaplains
Just a few hours short of its destination, the Dorchester was hit by a torpedo from a Nazi submarine that had been following the vessel undetected. Many of the men were trapped below decks and died instantly when the torpedo hit. Those surviving the initial blast fell from their bunks and made their way to the upper deck. The ship began to list starboard, and since distress signals were prohibited for security reasons, other escort ships continued in the darkness unaware the Dorchester had been hit. Overcrowded lifeboats capsized while many drifted away before anyone could reach them.
Four men of God helped quiet the panic and fear of the soldiers aboard, as their sinking ship slipped into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Amongst the confusion and terror of the incident, Army Chaplains George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington moved about the ship, calming the frightened and bewildered soldiers while directing them to life boats. The chaplains distributed life jackets without any regard for their own safety. Suddenly they came upon four soldiers without life vests. The chaplains hastily stripped off their own vests and gave them to the young soldiers.
The Four men of God (one Catholic, one Jewish, and two Protestant) had given their only means of saving themselves in order to save others. Those rowing away from the sinking ship in lifeboats saw the chaplains clinging to each other on the listing deck. Their arms were linked together as their heads were bowed praying to the one God whom each of them loved and served. The Dorchester sank beneath the icy waters of the North Atlantic, she carried with her the four chaplains and some 675 servicemen.
Every year in the first week of February, Civitan’s nationwide pause to remember and say thank you to the clergy of all faiths in their communities. Clergy Appreciation Week is a significant event throughout North America. The week has been sponsored by Civitan clubs since 1960 when the Albuquerque, N. M. Breakfast Civitan Club first set aside the week to honor its community clergy. Since then Civitan Clubs have spread this idea to countless other communities.