THE NORTH ATLANTIC (WHTM) — Feb. 3, 2023, marks the 80th anniversary of an extraordinary act of heroism during World War 2. It wasn’t a story of bravery in combat, but of four men who sacrificed themselves to save others. They’ve been called the Dorchester Chaplains, or the Immortal Chaplains, but are most often referred to simply as The Four Chaplains.

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In 2013, the 70th anniversary of the event, I worked with reporter Chuck Rhodes on a story about the four for his “Out and About” series. One of them came from York, Pennsylvania, and we were able to talk to people who remembered him:

They were only hours away from their destination, an American base in Greenland. Nine hundred American troops squeezed into a converted luxury liner. Then, just before one o’clock on the morning of February 3, 1943, a torpedo from a German submarine ripped into the side of the Army Transport Ship Dorchester. Killing dozens of men outright, and wounding many more.

In the ensuing chaos, four army chaplains began distributing life jackets. When the supply ran out, the chaplains removed their own and gave them to others. A move described by a survivor as “the finest thing he had seen, this side of heaven.”

Soon the world would know about the heroics of Lt. Don Washington, a Roman Catholic priest. Lt. a Dutch Reformed Minister. Lt. George Fox, a Methodist minister born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, and Lt. Alexander Goode, a 31-year-old rabbi, who had only recently left the pulpit at Temple Beth Israel in York.

Those who remember Rabbi Goode said they were not surprised when they heard that he had linked arms with the other chaplains, and joined them in prayer as the ship went down. Hershfield was a member of one of Rabbi Goode’s last confirmation classes.

I figured he was willing to give up his life for all the other sailors, people aboard, I just felt he was that kind of a man”

“Well, it made an impression, those kinds of deeds, I don’t care who you are. He was a nice human being. A nice family.”

The manhandling pastoral duties at Temple Beth Israel today says Rabbi Goode would have been uncomfortable with being called a hero.

“It wasn’t about him. He wanted to enter the service because it was about others, it was especially about the country.”

The Four Chaplains were later honored by Congress with a special medal for heroism issued just for them.

And today an elementary school in York pays tribute to Rabbi Goode by name.

In York County, I’m Chuck Rhodes, Out and About for abc27 news.

Of the 900+ people on board the Dorchester, only about 200 survived, most of them dying of hypothermia in 31o water. Without the calming presence of the chaplains, who helped them into lifeboats as well as passed out life jackets, many say the death toll would have been worse. Witnesses to the event say the four men were last seen standing together on the deck of the Dorchester, singing and praying as the ship went down.

All four were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart. The Four Chaplains Medal came into being because they didn’t qualify for the Medal of Honor, which is only awarded for heroism while engaged in actual combat. In response to this Congress authorized the Four Chaplains Medal on July 14, 1960. (The vote was unanimous.) On January 18, 1961, at Fort Myer, Virginia, the medals were presented posthumously to the next of kin of each of the four chaplains.