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.
This helps us in our current age understand that at certain times war is necessary to defeat evil; or in self defense. While often it is hard to tell throughout history whether a war was just or not, in the end it is truly left to the judgment of God.
However, regardless Catholic chaplains have served throughout history on the battlefield to serve those who have fought wars whether from a sense of duty, or simply being caught up in the times and circumstances.
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.
The four chaplains were last seen praying together on the ship’s slanting deck, arms linked, as the USAT Dorchester quickly slid into the frigid waters off the coast of Greenland.
Sixty-eight years later, the four, all lieutenants — George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling, and John Washington, remain heroes to a chaplain corps that, like the rest of the U.S. military, has been strained by repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And their story is particularly resonant, chaplains say, because of their differences.
Around 12:55 a.m., a German U-boat fired a torpedo that struck Dorchester’s starboard side, below the water line and near the engine room. The explosion instantly killed 100 men and knocked out power and radio communication with Dorchester’s three escort ships. Within 20 minutes, the transport sank and more than 670 men died.