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Ceremony honors 'The Four Chaplains' of WWII

Four Chaplains together
Service pays tribute to the "Four Chaplains" of WWII
Four Chaplains.jpg
Posted at 1:49 PM, Feb 05, 2024

HELENA — A memorial service for four chaplains who died in World War II was held on Saturday at Fort Harrison. The four lieutenants were Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Reverend Clark V. Poling, and Father John. P. Washington.

All practiced different religions but came together in the early morning of February 3rd, 1943, giving their lives to save others.

“They’re caring for their flock, and their flock may or may not wear the cross of [the Star of David] or whatnot, but they knew who could be there if necessary,” said Brian Daum, the State Chaplain for the Montana National Guard.

The men were sailing on United States Army transport Dorchester, which carried 900 American service members. In the early February morning, the boat was torpedoed by a German submarine.

Instead of panicking as the ship sank, they passed out life preservers, helped others flee the boat, and then gave their life preservers away.

Four chaplains display
From left to right: Methodist Minister Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, four chaplains together, Roman Catholic Priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America Minister Reverend Clark V. Poling

Once they had done all they could, the four men came together in prayer before perishing beneath the water. That day, 672 servicemen died.

Daum said, “We’re going to go through this, no matter what happens, together, and that’s an important part to really just the courage and the ability to be sustained in difficult times.”

The ceremony included singing from the Helena Express Singers, lighting candles, and reading a brief history for each man.

Praying at ceremony

They also rang a bell as each man was announced.

The Department of Montana American Legion commander, Lowell Long, said, “Anytime people left or entered a ship, a bell rang. These guys gave their life, so we just honor them by the ringing of the bell.”

Commander of Lewis and Clark Post 2, Ken Rosenbaum, played Taps to close the ceremony.

Ken Rosenbaum looking at four chaplains display

The men’s willingness to put aside their lives and religion to save others is a history that Ray Read, the curator of record at the Montana Military Museum, believes should be celebrated.

“We’re all together, no matter how we worship or maybe don’t worship, but we’re all together in this humanity,” said Read.

For more information about the story of the four chaplains, click here.