THE FOUR CHAPLAINS
Submitted to Chaplain Mark Hattabaugh
On the frigid night of February 3, 1943, the overcrowded Allied ship U.S.A.T. Dorchester, carrying 902 servicemen, plowed through the dark waters near Greenland. At 1:00 am, a Nazi submarine fired a torpedo into the transport's flank, killing many in the explosion and trapping others below deck. It sank in 27 minutes. The two escort ships, Coast Guard cutters Comanche and Escanaba, were able to rescue only 231 survivors.
In the chaos of fire, smoke, oil and ammonia, four chaplains calmed sailors and distributed life jackets. They were Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish.
When there were no more life jackets, the four chaplains ripped off their own and put them on four young men. As the ship went down, survivors floating in rafts could see the four chaplains linking arms and bracing themselves on the slanting deck. They bowed their heads in prayer as they sank to their icy deaths.
Congress honored them by declaring this "Four Chaplains Day." On February 7, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower spoke from the White House for the American Legion "Back-to-God" Program: "And we remember that, only a decade ago, aboard the transport Dorchester, four chaplains of four faiths together willingly sacrificed their lives so that four others might live. In the three centuries that separate the Pilgrims of the Mayflower from the chaplains of the Dorchester, America's freedom, her courage, her strength, and her progress have had their foundation in faith..." America's God and Country Eneyelopedia of Quotations.
Eisenhower continued: "Today as then, there is need for positive acts of renewed recognition that faith is our surest strength, our greatest resource. This 'Back-to-God' movement is such a positive act... Whatever our individual church, whatever our personal creed, our common faith in God is a common bond among us... Together we thank the Power that has made and preserved us as a nation. By the millions, we speak prayers, we sing hymns-and no matter what their words may be, their spirit is the same-'In God is our Trust.'"
Eisenhower stated in his address: "As a former soldier, I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth-that there are no atheists in the foxholes."
Note: The following is an article written by my Head Chaplain at the Hospital where I am a Chaplain.
I so appreciate James Richardson and his wonderful caring spirit. Director OCA William Dillon
There are various human emotions that are distressing and painful, but few affect us as much as the pain of guilt. Almost everyone experiences guilt in their lifetime. Guilt involves awareness that a person’s action or inaction has injured someone else. Acceptance of personal guilt may be followed by feelings of conviction. Sometimes guilt motivates a person to make amends, to confess and seek forgiveness, and to change their thinking and behavior.
Like frustration and anger, guilt can slow down or totally inhibit an individual’s progress, and at times, it can completely restrain his/her thinking and actions. When guilt is repressed, it can eventually take control of every aspect of a person’s life. It can totally dominate the thinking process, decrease motivation and productivity, undermine self-esteem and sense of worth, and crush any hopes and dreams. Each day can become more troubling and depressing. A mother, Karen Lang, wrote the following about her experience with guilt: One night after my nine-year-old son had just gone to bed, he asked me if I would lie down with him, as he was scared. I was getting ready for a busy week and was tired, so I replied, “No, you’re fine. Go to sleep.”
When he died the following afternoon after being hit by a car, I remembered what he’d asked me. The guilt that followed me from that day on was overwhelming. The guilt I felt after my son died burdened me for several years. Every anniversary, I would go over and over what I hadn’t done during those last few days before his death. I would remember every conversation, every request. The guilt beat me up, it made me replay my mistakes, and it wasted enormous amounts of my energy, re-enacting how I could have done something differently. It made me feel bad even when I didn’t feel bad!
I think one of the reasons it was so hard to give up and let go of my guilt was because I felt the need to push myself after his death for all the things I hadn’t done in his life. I would pretend that if I had made different choices, I could have changed that day. People would remind me of all the things I had done for my son and the wonderful life and love he was given, but it wasn’t enough for me. I constantly questioned why I hadn’t done more. After a few years, I realized that guilt was consuming me and in order for me to move on, I needed to find a way to let go and forgive myself. I was weighed down because I was living a life consumed by the past. Guilt did not allow me to be fully present with my family, or to see all the good that I had in my life then and now.
Studies have proven that many are helped with their guilt when involved in the religious practices of church, prayer and reading the Scriptures. A discussion with a minister, rabbi, priest, or other religious leader can be very supportive for processing feelings of guilt. Still, there are others who may also need the assistance of a psychologist in an individual or group therapy setting for finding peace and healing in their struggle with guilt.
By His Grace,
Rev. James Richardson, Chaplain