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Chaplains Give Their Lives to Save Sailors during World War II

On February 3, 1943, the USS Dorchester would become another casualty of World War II. But unlike others before it, what would take place on the upper deck of the Dorchester would become a testament of brotherly love and sacrifice.

Pushing through the treacherous waters with 905 American servicemen aboard bound for Greenland, the Dorchester left its convoy a few hours short of its destination. A Nazi submarine, stalking the ship undetected, fired a torpedo straight toward the ship’s flank, exploding in the boiler room. Many on board died instantly. Others—jolted from their bunks, half asleep—scrambled to reach the upper decks. The ship, rapidly taking on water, began to plunge beneath the sea.

On deck, amid the confusion and fright, Army Chaplains George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling and John Washington moved through the crowd, calming frightened men, directing bewildered soldiers to lifeboats, and distributing life jackets with quiet precision. Soon, however, the supply of jackets was exhausted and four young soldiers, afraid and without life vests, stood waiting. Quickly the chaplains stripped off their own jackets and forced them upon the young soldiers.

The four men of God (one Catholic, one Jewish and two Protestant) had given away their only means of saving themselves in order to save others. Men rowing away from the sinking ship in lifeboats saw the chaplains clinging to each other on the slanting deck. Their arms were linked together, their heads were bowed as they prayed to the one God whom each of them loved and served.

That’s what real love looks like. That’s what Jesus did for us. He sacrificed his life for ours. He died so that we might live. He went through hell so that we wouldn’t have to.

From a sermon by Scott Bayles, An Easter Love Story! 3/9/2010

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