In the inky black of night on February 3, 1943, the Army transport ship USS Dorchester was making its way through the icy North Atlantic with some 900 people on board when it was sunk by German torpedoes. 230 men were later rescued. Many of them corroborated the same story.
There were four Chaplains on Board. One Jewish. One Methodist. One Catholic. One Reformed. Each represented one of four very different faiths, yet all believing in the same God.
They were not among the rescued. Each spent their final hour giving their life jackets to soldiers who had none. They were heard by many as they locked arms as they preached and prayed words of encouragement and hope.
By giving their life jackets to soldiers who needed them, they possibly saved four lives. But in a spiritual sense their final words in that horrible hour perhaps saved more. Their words of encouragement and hope were heard by more than those on board. Soon the rescued would repeat the account of the sacrifice of these four Chaplains.
But it didn’t end there. The legacy of the four World War II Chaplains has been immortalized – not just by the reverberating stories told by the survivors. In 1948 a first class stamp was issued in honor of the Four Immortal Chaplains.
In 1988, Congress declared Feb 3rd as “Four Chaplains Day” by unanimous vote.
On Memorial Day, we remember acts of sacrificial acts of extreme courage, bravery, and valor – and all are deserving of it. But the lives that were saved by these heroes eventually met their own appointment with death. But the Four Immortal Chaplains displayed a different kind of courage. Their legacy continues to offer faith, hope, courage, and even eternal life to this day.
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