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Four Chaplains Day (February 3rd)

This is an archive of prayers composed for, or relevant to, Four Chaplains Day in the United States. In 1998, February 3 was established by senate resolution 169-98 as “Four Chaplains Day” to commemorate the anniversary of the sinking of United States Army transport SS Dorchester and subsequent heroism of four World War II chaplains who died rescuing civilian and military personnel as the American troop ship sank on February 3, 1943.

The SS Dorchester was a civilian liner converted for military service in World War II as a War Shipping Administration troop transport. She was able to carry slightly more than 900 military passengers and crew. During the early morning hours of February 3 the vessel was torpedoed by the German submarine U-223 off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. The chaplains helped the other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship. The four chaplains who drowned were Rev. George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (PhD), Father John P. Washington, and minister Rev. Clark V. Poling.

The impact of the chaplains’ story was deep, with coverage in the media and many public memorials. FDR’s administration had emphasized the value of “interconnectedness” throughout the 1930s. In that same time, “brotherhood” was promoted as a societal value by the National Conference for Christians & Jews. The story of the Four Chaplains self-sacrifice inspired a sense of brotherhood and interconnectedness at a critical moment when Americans of diverse religious backgrounds, sympathies, and prejudices, needed to be unified in a patriotic common cause against Fascism.

If you have composed a prayer for Four Chaplains Day, please share it here.

Looking for something else?

For National Brotherhood Week in the United States, go here.

For prayers composed for, or relevant to, Armistice/Veterans Day in the United States, go here.

For prayers composed for or relevant to Memorial Day in the United States, please visit here.

For United Nations Day in the United States, go here.

Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan on 7 February 2012

Memorial Prayer for Those Lost Through Human Strife, by Rabbi Chaplain (Lieutenant) Alexander David Goode (ca. 1943)