KEARNY, NJ – A solemn memorial service was held at 12 p.m. on Sunday, February 6, 2022 at St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church in remembrance and honor of four United States Army chaplains whose lives were lost on February 3, 1943 when the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a military transport ship carrying 902 American servicemen and civilian workers, was struck by a torpedo from a German Nazi submarine about 100 miles off the coast of Greenland. This year marks the 79th anniversary of the sinking of the Dorchester.
The four chaplains aboard the Dorchester were Reverend Father John P. Washington, Methodist Minister Reverend Chaplain Lt. George L. Fox, Rabbi Chaplain Lt. Alexander D. Goode and Dutch Reformed Minister Reverend Chaplain Lt. Clark Poling. Reverend Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest, last served at St. Stephen’s church in Kearny before volunteering for the war in 1942. Each year, a Mass is celebrated in honor of the four chaplains at St. Stephen’s in Kearny.
Only 230 men survived the sinking of the Dorchester, making it one of the worst naval tragedies for the United States in World War II and their sacrifice is remembered as one of the most moving stories of WWII. Witnesses recall seeing the chaplains remove their life jackets and give them to servicemen and watched as the four chaplains stood with arms interlocked, each praying as the ship sunk. Through their sacrifice, the four chaplains became an enduring example of extraordinary courage, faith and selflessness.
In 1998, Congress established February 3rd as an annual “Four Chaplains Day.” Numerous military groups, civilian groups, and organizations throughout the nation hold commemorative services and observances.
The services in Kearny included a tribute to veterans in attendance including members of American Legion Post 99 and Wilson Gugelman Veterans of Foreign War Post 1302. Father Joe Mancini and other Archdiocesan clergy led the service and members of the local Boy Scout Troop 305 joined in honoring the Four Chaplains.
The Town of Kearny extends sincere thanks to Kearny Boy Scout Joe Drefko who recently refurbished the Four Chaplains monument as his Eagle Scout Service Project. The project included restoration of the statue, repair of the base, and removal of the hedges and shrubs that grew in the area. Scout Drefko also laid a brick path leading up to the monument, planted new bushes, and added a plaque at the base which details the story of the Four Chaplains. A new bench was also installed at the monument location.
(Photos by Barbara Goldberg)