A Day in History:  Four Chaplains Day

It was 75 years ago, on January 23, that the troop ship USAT Dorchester, a converted luxury cruise ship, left the shores of New York for Greenland carrying four Army chaplains, along with 900 others, in a convoy with three Coast Guard escort ships. All first lieutenants, the chaplains were sailing to their assignment in the European theater.

The chaplains, also known as the “Immortal Chaplains” were the Reverend George L. Fox, Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Good, Roman Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling.

Early in the morning of February 3, The Dorchester was torpedoed by a German submarine. Knocking out the ship’s electrical system, the ship went dark. As many panicked, the chaplains helped to calm the men and organize an evacuation.  Without enough life jackets for all of the men on board, the chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to others. One survivor said that the last thing he saw as he swam away from the ship was the Four Chaplains with their arms linked, saying prayers and singing hymns while the ship went down. Another survivor said their voices in prayer were the only thing that kept him going.

On December 19, 1944 each of the four chaplains was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. In addition, a special medal, the Four Chaplains Medal, was approved by Congress, and presented to the chaplains’ families.

On February 3, 1951 President Harry Truman dedicated the Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia. In his speech he said “This interfaith shrine … will stand through long generations to teach Americans that men can die heroically as brothers so should they live together in mutual faith and goodwill.”

It wasn’t until the 3rd of February in 1988 that Congress established an annual “Four Chaplains Day” in memory of the chaplains. Each year military and civilian groups hold ceremonies and services to honor the sacrifice of the Four Chaplains.

Because of the cold temperatures, and only two lifeboats in use, the life jackets weren’t able to protect all of the men that day. Their sister ships, Escanaba and Comanche were able to save only 230 of the men. Those who were lost that day are remembered as the single greatest loss of American personnel of a convoy during the war. The sacrifice of the Four Chaplains is considered one of the most touching stories of World War II.

Veterans Commemoratives is proud to honor War Veterans, with unique Service rings, watches and Jackets featuring their official War Medals and Ribbons, Service and Career Emblems & Insignia. Thank you all for your Service to Country.

You might also like:

Veterans Commemorative Dose of News:

  • Elite Bomber Jacket
  • warcarrin mini banner
  • warcarwat mini banner


  • Thank you very much for the two beautiful garments! Both the MA1-Bravo Jacket and the Concealed Carry Soft Shell Vest fit perfectly and are tailored to perfection. They are rugged and warm, exactly what I was looking for.

    Ed J.

  • I received the jacket this past Wednesday. I just love it. Good quality, feels great, and looks sharp. I have been looking for such a jacket the past few years and have finally found it.

    Edward A.

  • Dear Vetcom, Received the MA-1 Bravo Jacket yesterday. Thank you so very much, made a Veteran very happy. Was so hoping to have it on time for him to wear on Veterans Day and you made sure it was here in time. The jacket is beautiful and my husband just loves it. Again, thank you so very much and God bless.

    Jessie H.

  • I received my U.S. Military War Veteran Birthstone Ring this morning. It's awesome, and I'm so glad that I ordered it through Veterans Commemoratives. Needless to say, I'm very happy. Thank you so much.

    Randy C.

More News & Stories:

Presidents Day – Honoring the Leaders Who Shaped Our Country

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” – Abraham Lincoln

Read more

A Day in History:  “That’s All, Brother” Flies Again

“This operation is not being planned with any alternatives. This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.” – Dwight D Eisenhower

Read more

A Day in History:  Four Chaplains Day

“They gave their lives without being asked. When their ship was sinking, they handed out all the life preservers that were available and then took off their own and gave them away in order that four other men might be saved.” – President Harry S. Truman, speaking in Philadelphia, PA at the dedication of the Chapel of the Four Chaplains

Read more

Happy Ending to Veteran’s Lost Ring Story!

It’s been just a few weeks since Veterans Commemoratives was contacted by the store manager of a Habitat For Humanity store in Davenport, Iowa regarding a Military Service Ring that was found in the store parking lot. The efforts of that store manager, in conjunction with Veterans Commemoratives, social media, and local media stations have succeeded in bringing this story to a happy ending.

Read more

A Day in History:  USS Pueblo “Incident” – North Korea, January 23, 1968

“The world shall know that America is proud of the crew of the Pueblo and distressed over their plight of American honor, respect, and security.” – President Gerald Ford (then Congressman of Michigan)

Read more