The Dorchester at 71: The Moral Leadership of the Four Chaplains in Context
By Dr. Mark W. Johnson, Ph.D., Chaplain Corps HistorianJanuary 29, 2014
Somewhat missing from most accounts detailing the heroism of the Four Chaplains is the context in which their sacrifice took place, other than mentioning that a German submarine attacked and sank Dorchester, bound for Greenland, on the morning of February 3, 1943. It is not my intention to now add another commemoration of the sacrifice of the Four Chaplains on this seventy first anniversary year of their heroic act. Rather, I want to examine the events of February 3, 1943, from a broader point of view and explore some of the contextual aspects of the incident: Why was Dorchester heading for Greenland? How did a German U-boat slip through the screen of protective escort ships to deliver Dorchester a fatal blow? The transport was part of a multi-ship convoy, but why did it take so long for rescue ships to arrive on the scene, which resulted in the great majority of potential survivors freezing to death in the icy waters of the North Atlantic? And why was an interdenominational team of four chaplains on Dorchester in the first place?
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