The granite monument recognizes Four Chaplains of different faiths who gave up their lives to save others during the sinking of the USAT Dorchester during World II. Heaton was aboard the ship and witnessed the chaplains’ heroic actions as the ship sank into the icy Atlantic after being struck by a German torpedo.
After they removed their life jackets and gave them to others, sealing their fates aboard the doomed Army transport vessel, the men – one Catholic, two Protestant and one Jewish – were last seen with their heads bowed in prayer, offering spiritual comfort to the terrified soldiers.
The story of the four chaplains’ sacrifice is not a new one for military history buffs, but the men represent a segment of combat veterans whose sacrifices, some say, have been underrecognized.
All four chaplains died together after giving their lifejackets to save others on board. Survivors of the attack witnessed the four praying together as the ship went down in the icy waters. Yet the names of only three of these fallen heroes are presently memorialized on Chaplain’s Hill at Arlington National Cemetery. In fact, none of the 13 Jewish chaplains who have died in service to our country are listed on the three chaplains’ monuments in our nation’s most sacred resting place.
Gale-force winds made for a nauseating, if not monotonous, voyage. Fortunately, among those doing their best to alleviate the discomfort were four chaplains: the Rev. John Washington, the Rev. Clark Poling, Rabbi Alexander Goode and the Rev. George Fox.
During the voyage, they organized sing-alongs and talent shows, but mostly they took confessions and held worship services that were attended by everyone, no matter what their faith.
“They were always together, they carried their faith together,” ship’s first sergeant said.
One problem, however, is that combining the two initiatives in a single bill could further delay the memorial, although House Veterans’ Affairs Committee aides say that may not matter.
The privately funded memorial to 13 Jewish chaplains who have died on active duty has been in the planning stages since 2006, but it has been held up because Army officials who oversee the national cemetery said they needed Congress to pass a resolution supporting the project.
Legislation was introduced last summer after cemetery officials told supporters of the requirement, but it got lost in the pre-election shuffle, delaying the groundbreaking.
She grew up reveling in stories about him: Morton Singer, the weight-lifting Orthodox rabbi who loved cars, rock ‘n’ roll and his faith.
He was serious in his commitment to help American soldiers worship in wartime. Yet his name — and those of 12 other Jewish clergymen — is absent from monuments at Arlington National Cemetery that honor more than 240 other fallen military chaplains.
A new congressional effort backed by Jewish groups and survivors of the chaplains aims to change that.