NEW ORLEANS (February 20, 2013) — In a special event on Thursday, February 28, The National WWII Museum will remember the famed Four Chaplains who gave their life preservers to other soldiers and perished in the freezing North Atlantic 70 years ago after their ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat.
The presentation by Judge Barry Sax is entitled “Brotherhood and Sacrifice at Sea: The True Story of the Immortal Four Chaplains of WWII.” Richard “Dick” Swanson, who was aboard the USS Comanche, one of the Coast Guard cutters in the Dorchester’s convoy that rescued survivors, will also share his memories as an eyewitness of the disaster and rescue effort.
“This is a rare opportunity to hear from a witness to an event seared into the memories of all those living at the time,” said Museum President and CEO Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller. “The Four Chaplains, all from different faiths, gave their lives to assist and comfort those aboard the doomed ship. It’s an incredible tale of bravery and selflessness.”
Sax is a retired Department of Defense administrative judge, historian and member of the board of directors of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
On February 3, 1943, a US Army Transport the Dorchester was making its way in a convoy from the United States to an Army Command Base in southern Greenland. She was carrying more than 900 men, but the Dorchester never delivered them to their destination. She was struck by a torpedo fired from a German U-Boat and sank within 20 minutes.
On board the Dorchester were four chaplains – Methodist minister the Rev. George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Good, Catholic priest the Rev. John P. Washington and the Rev. Clark V. Poling, a Reformed Church in America minister. As panic set in among soldiers aboard the sinking Dorchester, the chaplains guided men in darkened ship corridors to safety, then gave up their life vests to those who had none. After helping as many men as possible into life boats, the four men were seen linking arms, singing and praying. They went down with the ship and were among nearly 700 who were lost.
The Comanche rescued nearly 100 of some 230 survivors and Swanson was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism as a result of his actions.
The National WWII Museum plans to highlight the “Immortal Four Chaplains” story as part of a faith in wartime exhibition in the planned Liberation Pavilion, scheduled for completion in 2016.
“On behalf of the Immortal Chaplains Foundation, members of the chaplains and survivors’ families we send our heartfelt thanks for remembering this story of compassion for others,” said David Fox, the foundation’s president.
The February 28 program begins at 5:00 p.m. in the Museum’s Stage Door Canteen and includes a reception, 6:00 p.m. presentation and audience Q&A. The event is free and open to the public with registration strongly encouraged. To RSVP call 504-528-1944 x 412 and leave a message with your name, number in party and the name of the program you wish to attend.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world — why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who served on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-527-6012 or visit www.nationalww2museum.org. Follow us on Twitter at WWIImuseum or visit our Facebook fan page.