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Veterans Honor WWII Chaplains Who Died Heroes

February 10, 1991

CINCINNATI (AP) _ World War II veterans gathered Sunday to honor four military chaplains who surrendered their life preservers and drowned so that four soldiers could survive after a 1943 U-boat attack.

″Each proved that courage has no faith or creed,″ said Don Poland of a Hamilton County American Legion group that has sponsored the annual memorial service for 20 years at St. Boniface Church.

The clergymen were the Revs. George Fox and Clark Poling, both Protestants; the Rev. John Washington, a Roman Catholic priest, and Rabbi Alexander Goode.

The USS Dorchester, a transport ship, was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Newfoundland on Feb. 3, 1943, and about 600 of the 900 troops on board drowned.

Witnesses said the chaplains gave their life jackets to four soldiers as the ship sank, then linked arms and prayed as the ship went down.

This year, the congregation also prayed for U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf War and for an end to combat.

″Lord, sustain us in our efforts for a peaceful, just solution of the Persian Gulf crisis,″ said Robert Schinaman, a member of the Legion.

More than 300 people packed St. Boniface, a Roman Catholic church, for a memorial Mass. A color guard marched in bearing American flags and the banners of military organizations including the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and AMVETS.

Clergymen lit candles in memory of each of the chaplains. American Legion members fired guns in tribute outside and bugler William Elfers played taps. Mayor David Mann read a proclamation in honor of the four churchmen.

The Rev. Samuel Holt, a retired Presbyterian minister, lit the candle to honor Poling, a colleague at Yale Divinity School.

″He was a wonderful person. He was giving of himself,″ Holt said.

Herman Holthaus, an American Legion member who helped organize the first Cincinnati observance in 1971, said attendances have swelled over the years.

″Each year, it gets better,″ said Holthaus, a World War II veteran who served in the Army in Italy.

Holthaus said he was inspired to organize the memorial because the American Legion has maintained an annual program honoring the four chaplains.

The memorial is one of numerous such services conducted around the nation for the chaplains. They were also honored by the dedication of an interfaith chapel in Philadelphia at a ceremony attended by then-President Harry Truman.

In 1961, Congress approved a posthumous special medal of heroism for the four.

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