Every year, American Legion posts nationwide commemorate the selfless acts of the Four Chaplains on or near Feb. 3, designated Four Chaplains Day by Congress in 1948. This year, Four Chaplains Sunday is Feb. 5.
On Feb. 3, 1943, the United States Army Transport Dorchester tragically sunk while crossing the North Atlantic, transporting troops to an American base in Greenland. A German U-boat fired a torpedo that struck the Dorchester, killing 672 of the 902 officers and enlisted men, merchant seamen and civilian workers aboard. Many of those survivors owe their lives to the courage and leadership exhibited by four chaplains of different faiths, who, in sacrificing their lives, created a unique legacy of brotherhood.
As soldiers rushed to lifeboats, Reverend George Fox (Methodist), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Father John Washington (Roman Catholic) comforted the wounded and directed others to safety. One survivor watched the chaplains distribute life jackets, and when they ran out, they removed theirs and gave them to four young men.
As the Dorchester sank, the chaplains were seen linked arm in arm, praying.
The following is an example of how to conduct a Four Chaplain’s service. Additional information is available in our Four Chaplains Sunday guide.
Location: The service can be held at a post, fraternal hall, auditorium, church, synagogue or chapel.
Media: Spread the word about your Four Chaplains service through local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and social media. Encourage reporters to write about the upcoming service or to do a follow-up story.
Program: Printed programs add to the dignity and importance of the occasion.
Posting of the colors
Pledge of Allegiance
“America the Beautiful” (assembly or solo)
Introduction of guests
Message (focused on the Four Chaplains and sacrificial service)
Tributes to the Four Chaplains (wreath laying or candle lighting by four clergy, one of each faith)
“Let There Be Peace on Earth” (assembly)
Retirement of colors
To symbolize the tragic sinking of the Dorchester, there can be any number of focal points for the service such as four lifejackets or four empty seats.