Four Chaplains' Medal

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Four Chaplains' Medal
Chaplainmedal.png
Awarded by 86th United States Congress
Type Single-grade breast medal and ribbon
Awarded for Extraordinary heroism displayed by George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington
Status Commemorative decoration
Statistics
Established July 14, 1960
Total awarded 4 (posthumously)

The Four Chaplains' Medal was a decoration approved by an Act of Congress on July 14, 1960 (P.L. 86-656, 74 Stat. 521). The decoration recognizes the heroic actions of four Army Chaplains during World War II.

The statute awarding the medal is listed as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized to award posthumously appropriate medals and certificates to Chaplain George L. Fox of Gilman, Vermont; Chaplain Alexander D. Goode of Washington, District of Columbia; Chaplain Clark V. Poling of Schenectady, New York; and Chaplain John P. Washington of Arlington, New Jersey, in recognition of the extraordinary heroism displayed by them when they sacrificed their lives in the sinking of the troop transport Dorchester in the North Atlantic in 1943 by giving up their life preservers to other men aboard such transport. The medals and certificates authorized by this Act shall be in such form and of such design as shall be prescribed by the President, and shall be awarded to such representatives of the aforementioned chaplains as the President may designate.[1]

Also known as the Chaplain's Medal of Honor and the Chaplain's Medal for Heroism, its design commemorates the actions of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives in the line of duty on February 3, 1943. The medal was designed by Thomas Hudson Jones (1892–1969) of the United States Army Institute of Heraldry. It was presented posthumously to their next of kin by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker at Ft. Myer, Virginia on January 18, 1961.[2]

Congress had attempted to confer the Medal of Honor but was blocked by the stringent requirements that required heroism performed under fire. The special medal was intended to have the same weight and importance as the Medal of Honor.[3][additional citation needed]

The Four Chaplains[edit]

Main article: Four Chaplains

The four chaplains were lieutenants in the United States Army: Rev. George L. Fox (Methodist), Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), Rev. Clark V. Poling (Reformed Church in America) and Fr. John P. Washington (Roman Catholic). In late 1942, the chaplains were transferred to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts and attended Chaplains School at Harvard University. In January 1943, the chaplains embarked on board the USAT Dorchester, which was transporting over 900 soldiers to the United Kingdom via Greenland.

On February 2, 1943 the German submarine U-223 spotted the convoy on the move and closed with the ships, firing a torpedo which struck the Dorchester shortly after midnight. Hundreds of men packed the decks of the rapidly sinking ship and scrambled for the lifeboats. Several of the lifeboats had been damaged and the four chaplains began to organize frightened soldiers. They distributed life jackets from a locker; when the supply of life jackets ran out, each of the chaplains gave theirs to other soldiers. When the last lifeboats were away, the chaplains prayed with those unable to escape the sinking ship. 27 minutes after the torpedo struck, the Dorchester disappeared below the waves with 672 men still aboard. The last anyone saw of the four chaplains, they were standing on the deck, arms linked and praying together.[3]

As to official military decorations, each of the four chaplains was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Institute of Heraldry – Army Chaplain Medal of Valor
  2. ^ "Federal Military Medals and Decorations". Foxfall Medals. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Saga of the Four Chaplains". The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Thornton, Francis Beauchesne (c. 1953). Sea of glory; the magnificent story of the four chaplains. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall. pp. 243 LCCN 52-10662 OCLC 1349281