Written by Joe Scotchie Saturday, 01 February 2014 00:00
On Sunday, Feb. 2, there will be ceremonies held nationwide to commemorate the bravery of “The Four Chaplains,” men of the cloth who gave their lives in a 1943 World War II battle so that others could survive. One of those solemn ceremonies will be held in
Roslyn Harbor at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, with ceremonies beginning at 2 p.m.
“It’s not about what they meant to the Levittown community, but what they meant to society as a whole,” said Levittown Veteran Andrew Booth, a former commander of the Nassau County American Legion. “These four heroes sacraficed their lives by giving up their lifejackets.”
The Four Chaplains — Rev. George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. Clark Poling and Rev. John Washington — are legendary figures in American military history. They were officers on the U.S.S. Dorchester, a civilian cruise ship that had been converted into military service once war broke out.
On Jan. 23, 1943, the Dorchester left New York as part of a three-ship convoy headed towards Greenland. It had 904 men on board. On the morning of Feb. 3, 1943, a German submarine attacked it. Immediately, panic set in as some sailors had life jackets, while
others were without them. The chaplains organized an evacuation of the ship and as the supply of life jackets ran out, all four gave their respective jackets to sailors who were without one. Survivors recalled that as the ship went down, prayers and hymns could be heard from the deck.
Over the decades, the legend of The Four Chaplains has grown considerably, not only as an act of extraordinarily courage, but also one of interfaith goodwill.
The four men have been the subject of several books, a 2004 television documentary, a music composition, The Light Eternal, plus numerous pieces of artwork, including stained glass windows, sculptures and plaques, plus chapels and sanctuaries standing throughout the country.
In 1948, a commemorative stamp was issued in their honor. Three years later, President Harry S. Truman dedicated The Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Washington, DC. In 1960, the four received the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. Also in
Washington, the chaplains are commemorated with a stain glass window at the National Cathedral. Other stained glass windows are in buildings at the United States Pentagon and the West Point Military Academy.
In the New York City area, the Four Chaplains are remembered in a variety of places. That includes monument and plaque memorials at the Belmont Park Racecourse in Elmont, Eisenhower Park at Veterans’ Memorial Plaza, the Kings County Courthouse in Brooklyn, and the Four Chaplains Memorial Swimming Pool at the Veterans Hospital in the Bronx.
Each year, the non-denominational church service is hosted by a variety of churches throughout the county. This year’s service at St. Mary’s Church, is located at 110 Bryant Ave., in Roslyn Harbor. Call 516-621-2222 for information.