WATCH: Brevard Veterans Center Honors the ‘Four Chaplains’ Who Perished Aboard the SS Dorchester During World War II
By Steve Wilson // February 8, 2021
FNLR–SCD Stories of Service: all gave away their life jackets to save others before they died
WATCH: In another edition of “Stories of Service,” Orville Susong and Steve Wilson were live from the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center to commemorate the “Four Chaplains,” who perished aboard the SS Dorchester during World War II.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In another edition of “Stories of Service,” Orville Susong and Steve Wilson were live from the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center to commemorate the “Four Chaplains,” who perished aboard the SS Dorchester during World War II.
The Four Chaplains, also referred to as the “Immortal Chaplains” or the “Dorchester Chaplains,” were four World War II chaplains who died rescuing civilians and military personnel as the troopship sank on February 3, 1943.
The 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.
The ship left New York on January 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying approximately 900 others, as part of a convoy of three ships escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche.
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 impact of the chaplain’s story was deep, with many memorials and coverage in the media. Each of the four chaplains was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart.
The chaplains were nominated for the Medal of Honor but were found ineligible as they had not engaged in combat with the enemy. Instead, Congress created a medal for them, with the same weight and importance as the Medal of Honor.