Monday, February 4, 2019




Remembering the Four Chaplains

Four Chaplains plaque at Brewster American Legion Hall

BREWSTER – Veterans from across Putnam County the county gathered at the Brewster American Legion Post Saturday to recall the Saga of the Four Chaplains who stood on the deck of the sinking USAT Dorchester in World War II and lead men in prayer as the boat sank into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

The date was February 3, 1943, when an undetected German submarine fired a torpedo that exploded in the aging ship’s boiler room destroying the electric supply and releasing suffocating clouds of steam and ammonia gas.

Many on board died instantly trapped below the main deck. Taking on water rapidly, the ship began listing but because security prevented the use of distress signals or flares, nearby escort vessels were unaware that the Dorchester was sinking.

Overcrowded lifeboats capsized. Men clung to the rails, frozen in fear.

The four chaplains calmed the frightened men, got them into spare lifejackets and urged them over the side. The supply ran out and dozens of men were still waiting.

Having decided to remain with the ship, the chaplains gave their lifejackets to others and when last seen, the chaplains George Fox, a Methodist, Alexander Goode, a Jew, Clark Poling, a member of the Dutch Reformed Church and John Washington, a Roman Catholic, linked arms in friendship and bowed their heads in prayer as they led the men in scripture while the ship sank beneath the waves.

Post Commander Bill Miller called the chaplains’ self-sacrifice a “heroic act not only aboard the ship but the identity of the clergy representing three faiths of the American people adds symbolism to their sacrifice.”

A plaque is erected in the legion hall off Ice Pond Road in Southeast in memory of the Four Chaplains.

Putnam County’s Director of Veterans Affairs Karl Rohde said the plaque was one of two located in Putnam, the second being in the County Office Building in Carmel.

Putnam is the only county in New York State to display two such memorials.


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