n the frigid night of FEBRUARY 3, 1943, the overcrowded Allied ship
carrying 902 servicemen, plowed through the dark waters near Greenland.
At 1:00am, a Nazi submarine fired a torpedo into the transport's flank, killing many in the explosion and trapping others below deck.
It sank in 27 minutes.
The two escort ships, Coast Guard cutters
, were able to rescue only 231 survivors.
In the chaos of fire, smoke, oil and ammonia, four chaplains calmed sailors and distributed life jackets:
Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist;
Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed;
Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and
Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish.
When there were no more life jackets, the
ripped off their own and put them on four young men.
As the ship went down, survivors floating in rafts could see the
linking arms and bracing themselves on the slanting deck.
They bowed their heads in
as they sank to their icy deaths.
Survivor Grady Clark wrote:
"As I swam away from the ship, I looked back.
The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under.
The last thing I saw,
the Four Chaplains
were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again.
They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets."
Congress honored them by declaring this
"Four Chaplains Day."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
working together for liberty in his address at Madison Square Garden, October 28, 1940:
"YOUR GOVERNMENT IS working ... with representatives of
faiths. Without these three, all three of them ... things would not be as ... easy."
On February 7, 1954,
President Dwight Eisenhower
spoke from the White House for the
American Legion 'Back-to-God' Program
"And we remember that, only a decade ago, aboard the transport
of four faiths together willingly sacrificed their lives so that four others might live ..."
America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations
"Today as then, there is need for positive acts of renewed recognition that faith is our surest strength, our greatest resource.
'Back to God'
movement is such a positive act ...
Whatever our individual church, whatever our personal creed, our common faith in God is a common bond among us ...
Together we thank the Power that has made and preserved us a nation.
By the millions, we speak prayers, we sing hymns-and no matter what their words may be, their spirit is the same-
'In God is Our Trust.'"
Another inspiring story of a Christian risking his life to save soldiers was
combat medic Desmond Doss,
as portrayed in the award-winning film
Hacksaw Ridge (2016).
Yet another inspiring story was that of
haplain William Thomas Cummings
, who served with the U.S. Army in the
World War II.
He was captured by the Japanese and died when his unmarked prisoner ship was sunk sailing to Japan on January 18, 1945.
Earlier, while serving with the American troops during the
Battle of Bataan,
January 7 to April 9, 1942,
Chaplain Father Cummings
gave a stirring field sermon in which he declared:
"There are no atheists in the foxholes."
repeated these words in his address February 7, 1954:
I am delighted that
are sponsoring a movement to increase our
awareness of God
in our daily lives.
In battle, they learned a great truth -
that there are no atheists in the foxholes
They know that in time of test and trial, we instinctively
turn to God
for new courage and peace of mind. All the history of America bears witness to this truth ...
In the three centuries that separate the
, America's freedom, her courage, her strength, and her progress have had their
foundation in faith."
The Treacherous World of the 16th Century & How the Pilgrims Escaped It: The Prequel to America's Freedom