A History of Four Chaplains Day

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 a German submarine U2 spotted it. After firing its torpedoes, the hit was decisive, striking the ship, far below the water line. The hit caused massive destruction, killing many with the blast. Panic and chaos quickly set in. Men were screaming, others crying or franticly trying to get lifeboats off the ship. Through the pandemonium, the four Army chaplains, were calming the frightened, tending the wounded and guiding the disoriented toward safety. They were 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 to distribute life jackets. When there was no more to give, they took their life jackets off and gave them to the next man in line. Survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains arms linked together, offering prayers and singing hymns as the ship went down. Of the 902 men aboard, only 230 survived. Although the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart were later awarded posthumously, Congress wished to confer the Medal of Honor but was blocked by the stringent requirements which required heroism performed under fire. So a posthumous Special Medal of Heroism, the Four Chaplain’s Medal, was authorized by Congress and awarded by the President on Jan. 18, 1961.

Department of Pennsylvania VFW Annual Mid-Winter Conference Held

Last weekend, there was teaching, committee reports and awards given out at the Department of Pennsylvania’s VFW Annual Mid-Winter Conference. The highlight was The Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen Banquet. Rory Decker, sponsored by District 10 and VFW Post 531, was the state winner with the essay “Why I Honor The American Flag”. There was more than 8,000 entries. Marcia M. Bartlett, sponsored by District 15 and VFW Post 6757, was named Voice of Democracy Teacher of the Year. The Voice of Democracy Essay was “Why My Vote Matters”. The top five were: Katrina E. Henne, fifth place, sponsored by Dist. 9 VFW Post 3376, $2.000; Morgan M. Steiner, fourth place, sponsored by Dist. 10 VFW Post 5207, $2,500; Helena N. Volpe, third place, sponsored by Dist. 8 VFW Post 3258, 3,000; Katherine T. Lewandowski, second place, sponsored by Dist. 11 VFW Post 5010; Christine A. Troll, first place, sponsored by Dist. 23 VFW Post 554, $5.000 and going on to VFW Nationals. Please note sixth through 24th place all received $1,000. There were 3,493 entrees.

POW/MIA Update

Edward J. Weissenback was an employee of Air America Incorporated and a crewman aboard an Air America C-123K. On Dec. 27, 1971, his aircraft was on a routine resupply mission between Thailand and Laos when radio contact was lost northeast of Sayaboury, Laos. Search and rescue efforts continued through Dec. 31, 1971. Interment services are pending.

Roy F. Townley was an employee of Air America Incorporated, and a co-pilot aboard an Air America C-123K. Interment services are pending.

Army Sgt. Frank J. Suliman was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. On Dec. 1, 1950, the convoy of trucks Suliman was riding in was halted by a roadblock and the soldiers were commanded to dismount to get through the roadblock on foot.  Interment services are pending.

Army Pvt. Floyd A. Fulmer was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Nov. 14, 1944, after fierce combat in the Raffelsbrand sector of the Hürtgen Forest, near the village of Simonskall, in Germany. Interment services are pending.

Baker 2nd Class David L. Kesler was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all service members.


– Charles Castelluccio