Rev. George L. Fox, Methodist
Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Jewish
Rev. John P. Washington, Cathoiic
Rev. Clark V. Poling, Reformed Church of America
the location was aboard a ship, the US Army Tranport Dorchester
Fox was from Lewistown PA
Goode was from Brooklyn NY
Poling was from Columbus OH
Washington was from Newark NJ
All were first Lieutenants and chaplains in the US Army
They had met while preparing for their roles in the European theater at Harvard University
And on this day, 70 years ago in 1943, they died arm in arm as their ship, having been torpedoed, sank. They prayed together, they sang together.
There were not enough life jackets for all on board.
Each of the chaplains gave up his life jacket to someone else,
They helped as many as they could into the lifeboats.
Without hesitation they gave their lives so others might live.
We often wonder about the role of chaplains in war. Some criticize, as during Vietnam singer Eric Burden offered the a criticism in "Sky Pilot."
Some wonder about religious figures blessing and comforting those who kill in the name of their nation, or comfort those about to die.
Like medics, they do not carry weapons even as they go into harm's way where they themselves are at risk.
Some simply do not like religion or religious figures.
I am of a different opinion, perhaps because I have friends who have served as military chaplains. Despite my current self-definition in a religious tradition without ordained clergy respectful of the role they play, as my wife and I experienced with her parish priest during her time in hospital (and yes, we are now home).
I remember the Biblical line that no greater love hath a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
The Four Chaplains did not know those to whom they gave up their life vests. They only knew they were scared young men without vests, and they did not hesitate.
They loved in the best sense of the word.
Despite their religious differences, they prayed together - those going away on the lifeboats heard English, Latin and Hebrew.
Four men who were and are, at least to me, a model of service.
George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling, John P. Washington
Brothers in service, and this day in 1943, in quiet death.
I honor their memory.