Fort Hunter Liggett hosted a Four Chaplains Memorial Prayer Luncheon, Feb. 14, 2018. Led by Chaplain (Col.) Gregory Long, the Fort Hunter Liggett Garrison chaplain, the event shared teh story of the Four Chaplains during World War II.
Shortly after midnight, Feb. 3, 1943, the U.S. Army Transport Dorchester was torpedoed by a German submarine and began to take on water. On board the Dorchester were 900 men deploying to join the ALlied forces fighting World War II in the European theater.
Among those men were four chaplains from four different walks of faith, who, despite their differences, calmly united to assist others in boarding lifeboats in the midst of the chaos and panic. They were Chaplain (1st Lt.) George L. Fox, who was Methodist; Chaplain (1st Lt.) Alexander D. Goode, who was Jewish; Chaplain (1st Lt.) Clark V. Poling, who was Dutch Reformed; and Chaplain (1st Lt.) John P. Washington, who was Roman Catholic.
Pvt. William B. Bednar, who jumped overboard to await rescue in the oil-smeared water, later said this: "I could hear men crying, pleading, praying. I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going."
When there was no more spare lifejackets to share, the chaplains resolutely removed their own and gave them to others. "It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven," said John Ladd, a survivor who saw the chaplains' selfless act.
Having given away their lifejackets, the chaplains joined arms, prayed, and sang hymns on the deck of the ship, as it finally went down in what would be the worst single loss of American personnel in any American convoy during World War II.
"These four chaplains understood there was no greater purpose in life than to give your life for those whom you say you love," said guest speaker Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, the 7th Infantry Division chaplain. "When that ship was hit, they all realized the ship was going down. When it was time to make a decision, these leaders, these chaplains did what they always do and that was to love their neighbor. They went looking for Soldiers, they didn't ask them for their idenitfication tags or ask their denomination. They saw an opportunity to call. Live to call what they preaching all their lives and that was to love their neighbor.
"The best thing about these leaders is their example for us all. They were from different faiths, they may not have had the same theology but they had the same purpose. They may not have had the same faith, but they had the same faithfullness. They may not have had the same denomination, but had the same determination and directions," he concluded.
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