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USS Dorchester

The USS Dorchester was one of a convoy of six US navy ships headed to Greenland in World War II. On the night of February 3, 1943, the ship was hit by a torpedo fired from a Nazi u-boat. The damage was severe, and the Dorchester sunk in under half an hour, taking about 600 men with her out of a total crew of 902.

The USS Dorchester is best remembered today for the story of its four chaplains: Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a Jew; Lt. Clark V. Poling, a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic. Unlike most of the men on board, they had headed Captain Hans Danielsen's orders to sleep with life vests on because the area was believed to be infested with enemy submarines. When the torpedo hit, there was mass confusion on the ship, and many of the men could not find their life jackets in time. Rather than go into the lifeboats, which were overcrowded, the chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to other soldiers so that they could escape, even though this meant that they would go down with the ship.

According to the testimony of some of the survivors, the last thing they saw of the ship was the four chaplains, standing on deck with their arms linked, praying as the ship went down.

The chaplains were honored posthumously with a special Medal of Heroism and a stamp, issued in 1948. By an act of Congress, February 3 was designated "Four Chaplains Day."

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