Four Chaplains Day highlighted at Summit Common Council meeting – Union News Daily
SUMMIT, NJ – A Four Chaplains Day presentation was made to the Summit Common Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1 by the American Legion Lindsey Street Post 322, a veterans organization in Summit, which was founded in 1946. Henry Bassman, commandant of the post, along with William Rapp, the former commandant of the post, were present to educate the public on the heroism of the four chaplains on February 3, 1943.
“The Four Chaplains is an important story, as it serves as a reminder that people of different backgrounds – social status, religion, political points – can be together, work together and, in this case, serve valiantly in sacrificing their lives for our country, ” Bassman said during the presentation. “This Thursday, February 3, will mark the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the US Army Transport Dorchester during World War II. February 3 is now commemorated as Four Chaplains Day, due to the heroic and selfless act of four army chaplains who were aboard Dorchester. This is the remarkable story of the Four Chaplains.
Bassman detailed the education of the four chaplains at the meeting.
“The troopship Dorchester left Newfoundland, where (there are) American bases in Greenland, on January 23, 1943,” Bassman said. “Four chaplains were on board the ship. Like so many people during World War II, they came from different backgrounds and had become colleagues and friends during their training at the Army Chaplain School. It was Methodist minister George L. Fox, born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. At the age of 17 he left school, joined the army and served in the First World War in the medical nucleus as an assistant and was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and the Cross of French war. After the war, he attended Illinois Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology, where he was ordained a Methodist minister. In 1942, Fox volunteered to serve as an Army chaplain. He began active service on August 8, 1942.
“Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was born in Brooklyn, NY on May 10, 1911. He was ordained by Hebrew Union College and later earned a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University,” Bassman continued. “He first applied to become a Navy chaplain in January 1941, but failed the physical exam. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied for the army and was accepted. Dutch Reform pastor, Reverend Clark V. Poling, was born in Columbus, Ohio The son of an evangelical minister who was rechristened in 1936 is a Baptist minister, Poling studied at Yale University Divinity School and was ordained in the ‘Reformed Church in America. With the outbreak of World War II, he applied to serve as an Army chaplain. Father John P. Washington was from New Jersey. He was born in Newark (and) educated in Seton Hall. After graduating with an associate degree, he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington and was ordained a priest in the Catholic Church. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was appointed chaplain in the US Army.
Rapp detailed their heroism on that historic day, which was transformational; until the SS Dorchester incident, there was no mention of Catholics, Protestants and Jews working together for a common cause in the 1940s, which caused a sharp division in the country along religious lines , especially in prayer.
“Shortly after midnight on February 3, the Dorchester was hit by three torpedoes from a German submarine,” Rapp said. “The torpedoes blasted a hole in the starboard side of the ship from below the waterline to the upper deck. All electricity was cut off. The ship was without lights or a sound system. Panic broke out. installed and many were trapped below decks. “Abandon ship” was to be transmitted man to man. The four chaplains calmed the men, helped the injured, distributed life jackets and directed the men to the lifeboats. When the chaplains ran out of life jackets, they gave theirs to four other young men.
“A sailor, Master John J. Mahoney, attempted to enter his cabin, but Rabbi Goode stopped him. Mahoney, concerned about the cold Arctic air, explained that he forgot his gloves. ‘It does not matter. I have two pairs,” Goode replied,” he continued.
“The rabbi then gave the NCO his own gloves. In retrospect, Mahoney realized that Rabbi Goode did not conveniently wear two pairs of gloves. The rabbi had decided not to leave the Dorchester. As the ship began to sink, a witness, Pvt. William B. Bednar, found himself floating in oil-stained water, surrounded by corpses and debris. “I could hear men crying, pleading, praying. I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going,” Bednar recalls.
“As the Dorchester sank, the four chaplains were seen bound arm in arm, praying. Reportedly, survivors could hear the chaplains’ prayers, English, Hebrew and Latin being recited simultaneously. Six hundred seventy-two of the 902 officers, enlisted men, merchant seamen and civilian workers on board died.Many of the survivors owe their lives to the courage and leadership of the four chaplains who, by sacrificing their lives, created a unique legacy of brotherhood. All four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross – the second highest military honor for extraordinary heroism – and the Purple Heart. Many members of Congress wanted to award the Medal of Honor to men, but were prevented from doing so, as regulations required the Medal of Honor recipient to perform gallantly under direct enemy fire. s unanimously awarded a special gold medal to the families of the four chaplains in their memory.
According to Bassman, today the Four Chaplains Late Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery is dedicated to the four chaplains and all chaplains who serve. During a visit a few years ago, Bassman came across two headstones side by side but of different religious backgrounds. For him, there was a clear representation of brotherhood displayed in this gesture, to be together forever.
Moved by this story, Board Chair Marjorie Fox said it reminds us to work together as a community.
“I think it’s a really good reminder of how there are so many divisions in our society right now and what makes this country so great is that we’re all Americans and we really all have to work together and trying to be a great community and in Summit as well. Thank you for that reminder,” Fox said during the reunion.
Summit Mayor Nora Radest also found the presentation moving.
“I just want to thank you, Henry and Bill. It is very moving, and I wish that so many divisions that we have in our country are transcended by what we have in common and not by what tears us apart,” Radest said during the meeting.
Councilwoman Lisa Allen agreed.
“I’ve seen you walking around town, and I know your friendship has been a very long time, and you’re both a breath of fresh air, Bill and Henry, so thank you for tonight.” It’s a reminder that it’s not even just about division, but it’s the authenticity of really caring about people and really appreciating that we are one people,” Allen said during the meeting.