image description
Pictures of the four chaplains were placed before the podium.
image description
The ship bell was rung two times before it sank. Legion members rang the bell for each chaplain.
image description
McCann students made two crosses and a star of David for the ceremony.
image description
The Drury jazz band both sang and played.
image description
A candle was lit for each chaplain.
image description
Former commander Dennis St. Pierre reads the biography of on of the chaplains.
image description
Legion member Thomas Lussier also reads a biography.
image description
Tammy Lussier lights a candle for one of the chaplains.

American Legion Post 125 Honors the Four Chaplains

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story
Kiel read through the history of the sinking of the Dorchester.
NORTH ADAMS Mass. — The Northern Berkshire veteran community acknowledged the "Four Chaplains," marking the 80th anniversary of their heroics and sacrifice during the sinking of the SS Dorchester during World War II.
Dozens gathered in the American Legion ON Sunday to pay tribute to the four Army chaplains who who died rescuing civilian and military personnel as SS Dorchester, an American troop ship, sank on Feb. 3, 1943
"This service is a tribute to those courageous chaplains and the 672 brave young men who lost their lives on that fateful night," said American Legion Post 125 Commander Mitchell Kiel. "Further, this ceremony honors all those who have served and whose courage and faith has sustained our country." 
The ceremony is held throughout the nation around Feb. 3. This is the first time it has been held in Western Massachusetts, said Kevin Hamel, assistant state chaplain with the American Legion.
"It is great. It is a good thing … We have done something like this in Leeds at the soldiers home … but because of COVID they have stopped," he said. "These guys picked it up now, which is great."
Kiel read a series of recollections from the disaster before the portraits of the four Chaplains: Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Lt.  Alexander D. Goode, a rabbi; Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reform minister, and Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest, that sat before the podium adorned with life jackets. 
The ship was transporting some 900 military passengers to Greenland when it was torpedoed by a German submarine off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. More than 600 people died.
"At 12:55 a.m., a periscope broke the chilly Atlantic waters. Through the crosshairs, an officer aboard U-223 spotted Dorchester….he gave orders to fire a fan of three torpedoes," Kiel read. "The one that hit was decisive and deadly, striking the starboard side. A midship far below the water line alerted that Dorchester was sinking rapidly … the Dorchester would slip beneath the Atlantic icy waters."
He said the four chaplains sprang into action not only trying to rescue as many as possible, but to calm those who would not make it off the ship.
"Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers," he said. "They tried to calm the frightened, tend the wounded, and guided the disoriented towards safety. Witnesses of that terrible night remember hearing the four men offer prayers for the dying and encouragement."
An escort ship was able to save 97 men. Ships saved another 133, although one died at a later time .
"With the knowledge that death awaited, men jumped from the ship into lifeboats overcrowding them to the point of capsizing," Kiel continued. "According to eyewitnesses, other rafts tossed into the Atlantic drifted away before soldiers could get into them. In the midst of the pandemonium, according to those present, four army chaplains brought hope in despair and light in darkness." 
The four chaplains went down with the ship.
"When there were no more life jackets to hand out, the chaplains removed their own and gave them to four frightened young men," Kiel read. "Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew,  Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic. Nor did Reverend Fox or Reverend Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their life jackets to those next in line."
Kiel said the chaplains received Purple Hearts posthumously and, in 1960, a special medal of heroism was presented to their next of kin.
After, Legionaires and community members lit four candles for the chaplains followed by short biographical readings.
The Drury jazz band also performed.

Tags: american legion,   veterans,   

Comments welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to

North Adams Commission Passes on River Street Parking Ban

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Traffic Commission is holding off on any changes to parking along River Street near the Corner Store. 
The commission had received a letter from resident Nancy Bullett and several phone calls from residents about congestion specifically between Holden and North Holden streets caused by cars parked along River Street.
"The way the cars were parked right up to the corner and with the high, like the SUVs, and that [drivers turning out of  North Holden] really couldn't see oncoming traffic," Chair MaryAnn King told the commission on March 8. "You had to like almost pull out halfway in the road to turn before you can see oncoming traffic."
She said she didn't want to hurt any businesses by prohibiting parking along the north side and so had spoken with the police. The result was the Highway Department installed new signs for "no parking here to corner" on both sides of the street to remind motorists that parking within 20 feet of an intersection is prohibited. 
View Full Story

More North Adams Stories