February 2, 2023
It was an act of sacrifice and service so great we should never forget.
And yet, I am embarrassed to say, I had never heard about it until just the other day.
It was 80 years ago this week when four Army chaplains all gave up their lives in the sinking of the SS Dorchester. According to a Military Gazette article on the U.S. Army website, the ship sank after being struck by a torpedo from an enemy submarine.
The four chaplains, representing different religions, helped as many soldiers as possible into lifeboats and gave up their life jackets so that others could be saved. According to the article, the ship's survivors reported seeing the four chaplains consoling soldiers still on board the boat and leading them in prayer as the boat sank beneath the waves.
To commemorate this act of heroism, Congress, in 1960, authorized the Four Chaplains Medal, a unique medal only awarded once and carrying the same weight as the Medal of Honor. In addition, in 1981, Congress designated February 3 as "Four Chaplains Day."
Despite the honors, I might never have learned about these four chaplains had my husband not found the article while doing some research on another topic. Perhaps, these chaplains might have wanted it that way – not doing what they did for any recognition but, instead, out of love.
And, for that reason, we should know about and remember them.
– By Catherine Mueller
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