Wreaths Across America remembers 79th anniversary of sinking of U.S.A.T. Dorchester
On Thursday, Feb. 3, Wreaths Across America will honor the American heroes known as “The Four Chaplains” with a special Facebook Live event at noon, from the Balsam Valley Chapel and tip lands located in Downeast Maine.
On Jan. 23, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester left New York harbor bound for Greenland carrying more than 900 officers, servicemen and civilian workers. The ship was a coastal passenger steamship requisitioned and operated by the War Shipping Administration (WSA) for wartime use as a troop ship. It was transiting the Labrador Sea when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat (U-233) on Feb. 3. The ship sank, and 675 people on board lost their lives. Amidst the chaos to save 230 lives, four chaplains guided soldiers trapped below deck to escape hatches. They gave away their life jackets to save others on that fateful day. When the chaplains had done all they could, they linked arms to pray and sing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.
In this ceremony, participants will hear messages and stories about Lt. George L. Fox (Methodist), Lt. Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Lt. Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed) and Lt. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic), “The Four Chaplains”; as well as remembrances for the crew of the U.S.A.T. Dorchester and African American Coast Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr. He jumped into icy Greenland waters from a nearby rescue ship to save two men from drowning, and then continued to help rescue a total of 93 survivors from lifeboats. After his heroic acts, 54 days later, David succumbed to pneumonia – stemming from those icy waters.
To watch live on Facebook, or share the ceremony on Feb. 3, use this link. To listen live on Wreaths Across America Radio, click here. To learn more about “The Four Chaplains,” view this video. To learn more about David, follow this link.
Replica dog tags of “The Four Chaplains” and David hang on trees located on the Tip-land in Maine as part of the Wreaths Across America remembrance tree. This free program (open to all fallen veterans and their families) hangs replica dog tags on the branches of live balsam trees used to make veterans wreaths to honor the lives, duty and commitment of fallen soldiers, and create a living memorial to inspire a new generation to make a positive impact.
One can sponsor a wreath for $15 at https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
A press release noted, “Each sponsorship goes toward a live, balsam veteran’s wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day.”
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – “Remember, Honor, Teach” – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. For more information or to sponsor a wreath, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.