Jerry Der Boghosian, the patriotic mentor at the Jesus Party Urban Youth Outreach, recently observed the anniversary of the sinking of the USS Dorchester with 50 children of the ministry.
It was Feb. 3, 1943, and the U.S. Army Transport Dorchester was one of three ships in a convoy, moving across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to an American base in Greenland. A converted luxury liner, the Dorchester was crowded to capacity, carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilian workers.
It was only 150 miles from its destination when shortly after midnight, an officer aboard the German submarine U2 spotted it. After identifying and targeting the ship, he gave orders to fire. The hit was decisive, striking the ship far below the water line. The initial blast killed scores of men and seriously wounded many more.
Through the pandemonium, four men spread out among the passengers, calming the frightened, tending the wounded and guiding the disoriented toward safety. They were four Army chaplains, Lt. George Fox, a Methodist; Lt. Alexander Goode, a Jewish rabbi; Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic priest; and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister.
Once topside, the chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing lifejackets. It was then that engineer Grady Clark witnessed an astonishing sight. When there were no more lifejackets in the storage room, the chaplains simultaneously removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men.
When giving their life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did Fox or Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their lifejackets to the next man in line.
One survivor would later say, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”
As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains, arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. Their voices could also be heard offering prayers and singing hymns.