“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Staten Island in Richmond County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

The Four Chaplains

The Four Chaplains Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Larry Gertner, May 1997
1. The Four Chaplains Marker
At its original location at the Naval Station New York, Stapleton, Staten Island.
It was here at the former Army Port of Embarkation, Pier 11, in Stapleton, Staten Island, that the USAT Dorchester loaded with a contingent of officers and men left port on the morning of January 22nd, 1943 for a destination unknown to meet a convoy of ships heading out into the cold Atlantic Ocean.

It was known as Torpedo Junction, the U-boat infested waters of the North Atlantic during World War II. In those waters of February 3, 1943 it would become another statistic in the “Ships Lost at Sea”, but unlike others before it, what would take place on the deck of the Dorchester would be a significant event for all time, a moment of heroic and noble human drama, a deed that was in the words of one survivor, “the finest thing I have ever seen, or hope to see, this side of heaven”.

Pushing through the treacherous waters with 900 American service men aboard bound for Greenland, the Dorchester left its convoy a few hours short of its destination, not an unusual maneuver. A Nazi submarine, stalk the ship undetected, took this opportunity to fire a torpedo straight toward the ship’s aging flank. The missile
The Four Chaplains plaque image. Click for full size.
American Legion website, unknown
2. The Four Chaplains plaque
The current iteration somewhere on the grounds of Fort Wadsworth.
Click or scan to see
this page online
struck amidships and exploded in the boiler room. Many aboard died instantly. Some were trampled below deck. others, jolted from their bunks, half asleep, clambered to reach the decks of the stricken vessel. The ship, taking on water rapidly, began listing to starboard. because security reasons prevented use of distress flares, the escort vessels, still close enough to assist, pushed on into the darkness, unaware that the Dorchester was sinking. Overcrowded life boats capsized; rafts drifted away before anyone could reach them.

On deck, amid confusion and terror, Army chaplains George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling and John O. Washington moved about calming frightened men, directing bewildered soldiers to lifeboats, and distributing life jackets with calm precision. Soon the supply of life jackets was exhausted, yet four young soldiers, afraid and without life vests, stood waiting. Quickly, the chaplains stripped off their own jackets and forced them on the young soldiers.

The four men of God, one Catholic, one Jewish and two Protestant, had given away their only means of saving themselves in order to save others. Men rowing away from the stricken ship in lifeboats saw the chaplains clinging to each other on the slanting deck. Their arms were linked together, their heads were bowed as they prayed to the One God with whom each of them loved and served.
Original Four Chaplains plaque site. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By USN photograph, 2007
3. Original Four Chaplains plaque site.
The Sullivans Pier at the former Naval Station New York. The plaque was in the vicinity of the striped tent .
The Dorchester sank beneath the icy waters carrying with it the four chaplains and some 668 servicemen.

This plaque memorializes the heroic act performed by these four men of God and the legacy of the brotherhood and respect for their fellow man.

(Small dedication plaque out of frame.)
Topics. This memorial is listed in these topic lists: Churches & ReligionWar, World II. A significant historical date for this entry is January 22, 1943.
Location. 40° 36.229′ N, 74° 3.514′ W. Marker is in Staten Island, New York, in Richmond County. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: somewhere on the Fort Wadsworth grounds, Staten Island NY 10305, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fort Wadsworth (within shouting distance of this marker); Dry Moat and Counterscarp (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Father Capodanno Memorial (about 700 feet away); Battery Duane (approx. 0.2 miles away); a different marker also named Fort Wadsworth (approx. 0.2 miles away); Chilena (approx. 0.2 miles away); Fort Tompkins (approx. 0.2 miles away); Defending New York Harbor (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Staten Island.
Also see . . .
1. The Four Chaplains. Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on August 8, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 

2. SS Dorchester. Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on August 8, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.)
SS Dorchester image. Click for full size.
Photographed By University of Cincinnati magazine, unknown
4. SS Dorchester
Additional commentary.
I first saw this plaque during the 1997 Fleet Week Open House at the Navy Pier in Stapleton, Staten Island. The pier, since renamed The Sullivans Pier, was built on the site of the original Pier 11 from which Dorchester had sailed from on that fateful voyage. Since there was no such thing as the HMDb then, I only took the one photo of the main plaque itself, but I think it was on a polished black marble plinth.

When the base closed, the plaque vanished without fanfare during demolition work and was never returned. A few years ago, I heard rumors that it had been reinstalled on the grounds of Fort Wadsworth, now part of the Gateway National Park. However, when I asked the staff about it, they had no idea about its existence. I wrote it off as an urban legend until I was researching this marker and found the entry at the American Legion site.

I have driven around the park since then looking for it without luck. When the Visitor Center reopens, I hope to get a more definite answer as to its location and more photos.
    — Submitted August 8, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.
USAT Dorchester image. Click for full size.
Stamp A Day website, 1942
5. USAT Dorchester
The Four Chaplains image. Click for full size.
Stamp A Day website, unknown
6. The Four Chaplains
The Immortal Chaplains of the S.S. Dorchester image. Click for more information.
Stamp A Day website, unknown
7. The Immortal Chaplains of the S.S. Dorchester
US First Class Postage Stamp, 1948
A Stamp A Day website entry
Click for more information.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 27, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 8, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 245 times since then and 145 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 8, 2020, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photos of the marker at its original location at the NSNY and its current location at Fort Wadsworth. • Can you help?

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May. 25, 2022