Sacrifice of Four Chaplains during World War II remembered in Gloucester service
Four U.S. Army chaplains who gave their lives to be beacons of hope after the ship they were on was struck by a torpedo in the midst of World War II were remembered Saturday morning in a special service at the First United Baptist Church, White Marsh.
The Four Chaplains, who came from diverse backgrounds, encompassed values that guest speaker, the Rev. Kenneth Waclo, encouraged everyone to embrace today.
The four men were on board the USAT Dorchester, along with approximately 900 U.S. troops, merchant seamen and civilian workers, when it was fired upon by a German U-boat on Feb. 3, 1943. The Dorchester was traveling in the North Atlantic Ocean toward Greenland as part of a naval convoy.
The chaplains selflessly gave their life jackets, winter gloves, and essentially their lives that night to save others on board the doomed vessel, and have since been remembered with special ceremonies throughout the country on each anniversary of the tragedy.
On Saturday, representatives from American Legion Post 75, Gloucester and Post 83, Mathews; DAV Chapter 58, VFW Post 8252, and Marine Corps League Middle Peninsula Detachment 1317 all came together to honor and remember the sacrifices the four men—Alexander Good, George Fox, Clark Poling and John Washington—made that fateful night.
Waclo, who serves as a chaplain for the local U.S. Coast Guard Flotilla 64 and also as pastor of Bellamy United Methodist Church in Gloucester, provided four words that he said were manifested by the four brave men, and said they are virtues we all should live by today: Commitment, encouragement, caring and serving.
“As the Four Chaplains stood together facing their certain death, they demonstrated something greater than life and that is a confident faith in whose hands they were ultimately in,” Waclo said. “Their lives were spent preaching eternity, and their actions showed that they truly believed what they lived and lived what they believed.”
He said Chaplain Fox, a Methodist, showed commitment as he ran away from an abusive home to enter the most violent battlefields in Europe as part of the ambulance corps during World War I. “He saw first-hand the cruelty of war and the damage it inflicts physically and psychologically,” Waclo said. Fox, he added, wanted to be at the most dangerous spot, the front line, because he knew that was where chaplains were needed the most.