“News from the Hut”
for American Legion Post #142; Hominy, Oklahoma.
by Gary Lanham
I had passed along to me an interesting story of faith in the face grim circumstances. It concerned a military story I had not heard of that occurred February 3rd 1943 during WWII. The civilian cruise ship converted to troop carrier Dorchester had made five successful crossings from New York City to Greenland when she set out for what would become her last voyage on January 22, 1943, with 902 officers, servicemen, and civilians aboard. The ship’s master for this fateful voyage was Captain Hans J. Danielsen, and her commanding officer was Captain Preston S. Krecker. On this voyage, the Dorchester was one of three ships being escorted by the Coast Guard cutters Comanche, Escanaba, and Tampa; the other two ships in the convoy were merchant vessels. Knowing that the convoy could at any time be attacked by a German U-boat, the men aboard the Dorchester were ordered to keep their life vests on at all times. That order was routinely disobeyed at night because the men found it difficult to sleep with a vest on.
At 55 minutes past midnight on February 3, the Dorchester was only about 100 miles from her destination when she was struck on her starboard side by a torpedo from a German U-boat. Because the blast took out the ship’s power, the Dorchester was unable to send a distress signal, and she started to list almost immediately. While the terrified men aboard the Dorchester were scrambling to get to the lifeboats, four Army chaplains — Father John P. Washington (Catholic); Reverend Clark V. Poling (Dutch Reformed), Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (Jewish), and Reverend George L. Fox (Methodist) — did what they could to calm the frightened, tend to the wounded, and guide the disoriented to safety. They also distributed the few life jackets they could find, including their own. Less than 20 minutes after being struck, the Dorchester sank beneath the waves, taking the Four Chaplains, Captain Krecker, and 667 other men with her; it was the third worse loss of life at sea for the United States during the war. Many of the survivors reported seeing the Four Chaplains standing together on the deck, arm-in-arm, each praying in their own way, as the Dorchester sank.
Although the sinking of the Dorchester was the third worst loss at sea suffered by the United States during the war, it is best remembered because of the selfless actions of the Four Chaplains. On December 19, 1944, each of the four were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart by Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell, Commanding General of the Army Service Forces, in a ceremony in the chapel at Fort Myer, Virginia. On January 18, 1961, the U.S. Congress authorized President Dwight D. Eisenhower to award them with a Special Medal for Heroism. Congress had wanted to award the Four Chaplains with the Medal of Honor but were prevented from doing so because that medal is specifically designated for acts of heroism committed when under fire.
The following is a public service announcement for men, in particular veterans. If you have forgotten that we are approaching Valentine’s Day we are bailing you out of the doghouse. We are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a special dinner Friday evening the 12th of February at 6:00 PM. The Legion and Auxiliary will host the event and enjoy Chef Sebert’s ribs, chicken, and Auxiliary side dishes and desserts. All you need to do is make that date night, bring a side dish or dessert and BINGO! You are in the clear.
Also be looking for Old Glory going up along Main Street soon. President’s Day is February 15th and the boys will be busy placing them. If you see them give them a honk. It’s good to have those in our midst to remind us of the patriotism that is the heart of Hominy.
Don’t forget our regular meetings continue the first and third Thursdays of the month at 7:00 PM on the 18th. Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings in February are still scheduled for biscuits and gravy and maybe a waffle or two and always a cup of Joe (coffee to the civilians). Keep your eye on the weather in case things have to be postponed. That will be most likely if the temperatures hit freezing. If you are a veteran come on by. If you have a good story it may end up in print. Also keep up with us at website “americanlegion142.org”.