COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine – On Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, Wreaths Across America will honor the American heroes known as “The Four Chaplains” with a special Facebook live event at 12 p.m. EST, from the Balsam Valley Chapel and tip lands located in Downeast Maine.
On January 23, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester left New York harbor bound for Greenland carrying over 900 officers, servicemen, and civilian workers. The ship was a coastal passenger steamship requisitioned and operated by the War Shipping Administration (WSA) for wartime use as a troopship. The ship was transiting the Labrador Sea when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat (U-233) on February 3, 1943.
The ship sank and 675 people on board lost their lives. Amidst the chaos to save 230 lives four chaplains guided soldiers trapped below deck to escape hatches and gave away their life jackets to save others on that fateful day. When the chaplains had done all they could, they linked arms to pray and sing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.
In this ceremony, participants will hear messages and stories about Lt. George L. Fox (Methodist), Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed), and Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic), “The Four Chaplains.” As well as remembrances for the crew of the U.S.A.T. Dorchester and African American Coast Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr., who jumped into icy Greenland waters, from a nearby rescue ship, to save two men from drowning and then continuing to help rescue a total of 93 survivors from lifeboats. After his heroic acts, 54 days later Charles Walter David Jr., succumbed to pneumonia stemming from those icy waters.
John P. Washington was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 18, 1908. He studied at Seton Hall, in South Orange, New Jersey, to complete his high school and college courses in preparation for the Catholic priesthood. He graduated in 1931 with an A.B. Degree, entering Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey, where he received his minor orders on May 26, 1933. He served as a subdeacon at all the solemn masses and later became a deacon on December 25, 1934. He was elected prefect of his class and was ordained a priest on June 15, 1935.
Father Washington’s first parish was at St. Genevieve’s, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He later served at St. Venantius for a year. In 1938, he was assigned to St. Stephen’s in Kearny, New Jersey. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, he received his appointment as a chaplain in the United States Army, reporting for active duty on May 9, 1942. He was named Chief of the Chaplains Reserve Pool, in Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, and in June 1942, he was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division in Ft. George Meade, Maryland. In November 1942, he reported to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts, and met Chaplains Fox, Goode, and Poling at Chaplains School at Harvard.
To watch live on Facebook, or share the ceremony on Feb. 3, at noon ET, use this link.
To listen live on Wreaths Across America Radio, click here.
To learn more about “The Four Chaplains,” view this video.
To learn more and to download pictures of the Four Chaplains and the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, follow this link.
To learn more about Coast Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr., follow this link.
Replica dog tags of the Four Chaplains and Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr. hang on trees located on the Tip-land in Maine as part of the Wreaths Across America Remembrance Tree program. This FREE program (open to all fallen veterans and their families) hangs replica dog tags on the branches of live balsam trees used to make veterans wreaths to honor the lives, duty and commitment of fallen soldiers and create a living memorial to inspire a new generation to make a positive impact.
You can sponsor a wreath for $15 at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org. Each sponsorship goes toward a live, balsam veteran’s wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest on Saturday, December 17, 2022, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day.