QC American Legion Remembers Chaplains
The veterans of the Queens County American Legion commemorated the sacrifice of the Four Chaplains, in World War II, at a recent service at the St. Francis de Sales R.C. Church, in Rockaway Beach.
The annual observance was led by the Queens County Commander, John Severa, and was organized by Past County Commander Vincent Calimano (Post 272). It was attended by Legionnaires from Legion posts throughout Queens County.
The service commenced with a Mass said by the St. Francis de Sales Pastor, Rev. Mgsr. Martin T. Geraghty. In his homily, he recalled how the four U.S. Army Chaplains (George L. Fox, Methodist; Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed; John P. Washington, Catholic) were on a U.S. Army transport ship "Dorchester,’ with 751 troops, on February 3, 1943 near Greenland, when it was torpedoed by a German submarine.
As the ship went down swiftly in the freezing waters, the Chaplains moved among the panicking soldiers, calming them and handing out life belts. When the life belts ran out, they gave away their own. They were seen last, arms linked, in prayer on the deck of the ship as it sank beneath the waves.
Of the total 902 survivors and crew on the ship, 675 died. Many of the survivors, rescued by Coast Guard cutter, credited their survival to the selfless actions of the Four Chaplains. In 1961 the U.S. Congress, for the first and only time in history, awarded them posthumously the Special Medal for Heroism.
Following the Mass, the Legionnaires and the Ladies Auxiliary proceeded to the Four Chaplains Memorial plaque, outside the church, where they laid a wreath and were led in a prayer of remembrance by the Rev. Phillip Sica, chaplain of the Queens Village post 301. The celebrants then went to the O’Connell Post 272 for a breakfast prepared by the members.