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Legion No. 187 to have memorial service

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

WINFIELD -- The James E. Marshall American Legion Post No. 187 is having a Four Chaplains Remembrance memorial service at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Winfield Presbyterian Church.

The service is to honor the Four Chaplains and the men aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, which was sunk in the North Atlantic by a German submarine on Feb. 3, 1943. Of the 902 men on board, only 230 survived and only two are still living today.

The public is invited to the memorial service, and a chili dinner will follow the program.

"This service honors all those who have ever worn the uniform and whose courage and faith have sustained our country," according to a news release from Post #187.

According to The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was filled to capacity with 902 service men, merchant seamen and civilian workers as it navigated the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland. About 150 miles from its destination and just after midnight, the ship was spotted by a U-223 German submarine.

The German sub fired, and the U.S.A.T. Dorchester was struck on its starboard side by a torpedo. Because of the heat onboard the U.S. ship, many of the servicemen had shed their lifejackets prior to the encounter, making the attack even more perilous.

"Through the pandemonium, according to those present, four Army chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness. Those chaplains were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed," according to The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation.

"Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers. There they tried to calm the frightened, tend the wounded and guide the disoriented toward safety.

"'Witnesses of that terrible night remember hearing the four men offer prayers for the dying and encouragement for those who would live,' says Wyatt R. Fox, son of Reverend Fox.

"One witness, Private William B. Bednar, found himself floating in oil-smeared water surrounded by dead bodies and debris. 'I could hear men crying, pleading, praying,' Bednar recalls. 'I could also hear the chaplains preaching courage. Their voices were the only thing that kept me going.'"

For more information about the memorial service in Winfield, call Dan Chandler at 304-397-6609.