Tuesday, October 23, 2018
One of the Four Chaplains
I found a treasure in a library book sale in Florida last week. War Letters; Extraordinary Correspondence From American Wars. Letters are preserved from the Civil War through Bosnia. Of particular interest to me are those from the two world wars.
Among the World War II letters are two from Alexander Goode to his sweetheart/wife. Although his name wasn’t familiar, I immediately recognized his situation. He was one of the Four Chaplains.
In January, 1943, the Dorchester, a coastal liner converted to a troop ship, carried 902 men to Europe. The small convoy consisted of two other ships and three Coast Guard cutters. When the Dorchester and its companions were only 150 miles from its destination, they were discovered by a German wolf-pack.
At 12:55 a.m., February 3, 1943, a torpedo slammed into the vessel, destroying the electrical system and creating panic.
Four chaplains were aboard the ship: one priest, one rabbi, and two Protestant ministers. In the pandemonium, Lieutenants George L. Fox, Alexander D. Good, Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington calmed the men, distributed life jackets, and directed them to the lifeboats. When they ran out of vests, the chaplains removed their own and gave them to the soldiers.
Survivors watching the ship go down saw the four chaplains link arms and brace themselves on the slanting deck. They could be heard praying.
In 1933, Alexander Goode recognized the danger for Jews in Germany. He wrote to his sweetheart that Germany’s expulsion of Jews was their loss and America’s gain. He believed there would be no difficulty in their entering America. “This country will be glad to have them.”
I wonder what he thought as the years passed and no country wanted to admit Jews.
Ten years later, he wrote a last farewell to his now-wife. “Don’t worry—I’ll be coming back much sooner than you think.”
It was the last his wife ever heard from him.