RUMFORD — On Sunday, Feb. 2, at 3 p.m., the Rumford Napoleon Ouellette American Legion Post 24 will perform their annual ceremony of the 71st anniversary of the four chaplains’ sacrifices. This is open to the public with a light meal to follow.

Early on the morning of Feb. 3, 1943, the U.S. troop transport Dorchester was wallowing through icy seas off Greenland. Most of the 900 troop on board were asleep in their bunks. Suddenly a torpedo smashed into the Dorchester’s flank. Frantically pounding up the ladders, the troops milled in confusion on the decks.

In those dark moments of panic, the coolest men aboard were four U.S. Army chaplains: 1st Lieutenants Clark V. Poling (Reformed Church of America); Alexander D. Goode (Jewish); John P. Washington (Catholic); George L. Fox (Methodist). The four chaplains led the men to boxes of life jackets and passed them out to the soldiers with boat-drill precision.

When the boxes were empty, the four chaplains quietly slipped off their own precious life preservers, put them on four young GIs and told them to jump.

The Dorchester went down 25 minutes later in a rumble of steam. Some 600 men were lost, but the heroic chaplains had helped save more than 200. The last anyone saw of them, they were standing on the slanting deck, their arms linked in prayer to the one God they all served.

The post’s ceremony will honor these brave men and the sacrifices they made for others.


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