80 years later: Military chaplains who sacrificed lives for fellow service members honored at Jacksonville ceremony

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a story of sacrifice and selflessness.

Eighty years ago Friday, the sinking of a military ship — as devastating as it was — brought out the best qualities in at least four of the passengers onboard. And the legacy of their heroic acts continues on.

The chaplains were onboard the U.S. Army transit ship the Dorchester when it was torpedoed by the Germans in the North Atlantic on Feb. 3, 1943. Survivors say the men gave away their life jackets and ministered to the others as the ship went down.

“What’s unique about this is the fact that these four chaplains, as the story goes by the survivors, is that they were locked in arms and they were singing hymns and praying as the ship was sinking, and thus they went down in the icy waters of the cold North Atlantic,” explained the Rev. Patrick Archuleta.

Of the more than 900 onboard, 674 would die that night.

Their story of sacrifice lived on during a Jacksonville ceremony, which honored other service members for their good deeds, like retired Army Gen. Michael Fleming.

“It’s quite emotional,” Fleming said. “My father was at Naval Station Mayport and met my mom, and I was born and raised in Jacksonville, and it’s such an honor in my hometown to be able to do so much. And the four chaplains they have a great story of self sacrifice so i’ve been blessed in my military career to blend my faith with being able to serve in the military.

Also honored was Charles Walter David Jr., who served as steward’s mate in the U.S. Coast Guard. He dove in the North Atlantic in an attempt to rescue those from the torpedoed Dorchester.

The four chaplains were George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling and John Washington.

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