ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. (Army News Service, Oct. 25, 2011) -- A sleek, granite memorial inscribed with the names of 14 Jewish Chaplains who died while in military service now stands beside memorials to their Roman Catholic and Protestant brethren on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery.
Unveiled Oct. 24, in a private ceremony by the families and relatives of the fallen Jewish chaplains, the long-overdue monument was finally passed by congressional resolution on Jan. 26 of this year and approved by the secretary of the Army.
"It is fitting and appropriate that we now have a memorial in our national cemetery to properly pay tribute to these 14 Jewish chaplains," said Kathy Manning, chair of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America. "Today's dedication ceremony is a reminder for the Jewish community to come together and reflect on all those who have bravely served in the armed forces."
The first chaplain's name on the memorial is Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, one of four chaplains who died Feb. 3, 1943, off the coast of Greenland aboard the transport ship Dorchester after it was torpedoed by a German submarine.
As the ship was sinking in the frigid waters, the four men of God -- one rabbi, a Roman Catholic priest, and two Protestant ministers -- gathered together, pulled lifejackets from the stowage lockers, then passed them out to the terror-stricken Soldiers crowding onto the upper deck. When the chaplains had run out of lifejackets, they stripped off their own and gave them to the Soldiers.
One of the crew later recalled how he had forgotten his gloves and was going to his quarters to retrieve them. Knowing the young petty officer would never survive going back into the darkness of the ship's hull, Goode gave the sailor his pair of gloves, telling him that he had two pair. It was only after he was safe that the sailor doubted the chaplain had two pair.
As the ship continued to slip away, the four chaplains -- Good, Father John P. Washington and Reverends Clark V. Poling and George L. Fox -- tended to the wounded and dying on deck. In less than 30 minutes, the ship sank, taking 674 Soldiers and crew. As the story emerged by the survivors, the chaplains became known as "The Immortals" for their selfless acts of courage.
Over the years, memorials were placed at Arlington National Cemetery for Washington, Poling and Fox, but not for Goode. There was no monument to recognize Jewish chaplains. Memorials were dedicated to all the chaplains who died in World War I, another to honor Protestant chaplains who died in World War II and another that memorialized the Roman Catholic chaplains who had died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
When he saw the unveiling of the memorial to Jewish chaplains, Vietnam veteran Larry Wapnick said, "Yes, it was long overdue, but now it doesn't matter, it's done, and it was a blessing to see the unveiling of this most beautiful monument and to stand together as Americans."
In his benediction at the cemetery's amphitheater where a ceremony was held to honor the fallen Jewish chaplains, Army Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Donald L. Rutherford gave the benediction blessing the 14 servants who gave their lives while serving God and country.
"Let us remember their families, the communities they represented, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen they served," he said. "May all present and future Jewish chaplains continue to the legacy of those who came before them."