By John Ackerman -
70 years ago this past week, the USAT Dorchester set sail out of New York Harbor with a crowded 902 military personnel on their way to join the German Theater of World War II. On February 3rd, 1943, the Dorchester would be on its way to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off Greenland, taking down with it the lives of 627. Amongst them where four Lieutenants destined that night to forever be immortalized through their historic action as the Four Chaplains.
Today I am proud to join Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, Washington Mayor Gary Manier, Reverend Dr. Robert Phillips of First United Methodist Church and Rabbi Daniel Bogard of Anshai Emeth in calling for a Regional Recognition of Four Chaplains Day this coming February 3rd and the lessons to be learned from their Heroic Action.
We are asking each house of worship in the Tri-County Area to recognize them in their own way this Sunday, February 3rd, which is the 70th Anniversary of the sinking of the Dorchester. Together we invite all members of faith to join us in recognizing this national holiday and valuable lesson to be learned that more unites us then divides us.
Below please find a copy of the Proclamation I will be introducing tonight at the Tazewell County Board Meeting. Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis and Washington Mayor Gary Manier will also be issuing similar proclamations.
70th Anniversary of Four Chaplains Day
Whereas on February 3rd, 1943, the USAT Dorchester was torpedoed and sank off the coast of Greenland while transporting soldiers to the European Theater of World War II,
And Whereas as a result of the torpedo and sinking the Dorchester took the lives of 627 of the men out of the 902 on board,
And Whereas among the 627 lives lost that day included four newly graduated Lieutenants in the United States Army; the Reverend George L. Fox of the Methodist Church, Jewish Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Reverend Clark V. Poling of the Reformed Church in America, and Father John P. Washington of the Roman Catholic Church,
And Whereas the survivors of the sinking recognized the efforts of the Four Chaplains in organizing the rescue efforts and ultimately sacrificing their own lives to save others,
And Whereas many of the survivors stated later that in the ships final moments before slipping beneath the waves of the ocean, the Four Chaplains braced themselves against the railings, praying and singing to give strength to others with their final valiant declaration of faith, their arms linked together as they braced against the railing and leaned into each other for support,
And Whereas one of the witnesses to this act, John Ladd, later said, “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of Heaven”,
And Whereas the survivors told the story of the Four Chaplains, their heroism entranced the nation,
And Whereas in their death they illustrated a cause of unity without uniformity, encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people,
And Whereas on December 19th, 1944, all four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the
Distinguished Service Cross,
And Whereas upon being told that the Medal of Honor could not be awarded to these Four Chaplains as the stringent requirements for that medal required heroism performed “under fire, members of Congress decided to authorize a special medal intended to have the same weight and importance as the Medal of Honor, which would become the Four Chaplains' Medal, which was approved by a unanimous act of Congress on July 14, 1960,
And Whereas in 1988, February 3rd was established by a unanimous act of Congress as an annual "Four Chaplains Day”,
And Whereas this year we mark the 70th Anniversary of that tragic night in 1943,
And Whereas this 70th Anniversary also falls on a Sunday this year, which is iconic since we are honoring the heroism of Four Chaplains,
And Whereas City of Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, Tazewell County Board Member John C. Ackerman and City of Washington Mayor Gary Manier along with Revered Dr. Robert “Bob” Phillips of First United Methodist Church in Peoria and Rabbi Daniel Bogard of Anshai Emeth of the Jewish Faith have joined together to bring regional attention to this national day of remembrance,
Let Us Today call for all centers of faith within the Central Illinois Region to join us in a Regional Recognition of Four Chaplains Day this coming February 3rd and remember the lessons to be learned from Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Reverend Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington and their last heroic act of bravery.
John Ackerman is a member of the Tazewell County Board.