Four Chaplains Day recognizes four Army chaplains who came together onboard a sinking ship to calm passengers by singing hymns, praying, and helping organize an orderly evacuation. In 1943 the U.S.A.T. Dorchester set sail across the Atlantic with 902 passengers. A German sub fired a torpedo at the full-capacity ship, sinking and killing hundreds onboard.
The Four Chaplains were Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Father John P. Washington, and Reverend Clark V. Poling. Survivors recall the courage and support these four brave men provided to the distressed individuals on board. All four passed out life jackets and even gave their own life jackets away to people in need. All four chaplains remained with the ship as she sank. They were last seen with their arms linked, braced against the slanted deck, singing hymns.
The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation was set up as a way to remember these four selfless individuals and as a reminder of how interfaith unity was shared between them. The U.S. awarded the chaplains Purple Hearts and Distinguished Service Cross medals in 1944. The four men were nominated for the Medal of Honor but did not qualify because they were not engaged in combat. Congress created a “special Medal for Heroism” as a substitute.