June 27, 2016

Partly cloudy

Veterans salute WWII heroes at Brunswick service

BRUNSWICK — The four chaplains were last seen praying together as their ship sank below the waves.

Brunswick American Legion Post 234 celebrated the lives of four chaplains of different denominations who gave up their lives to save soldiers aboard a torpedoed troop ship during World War II.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 513 salute during a service at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Brunswick commemorate four chaplains who gave their lives trying to rescue soldiers on a sinking U.S. Army transport during World War II. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

About 20 people attended the nondenominational service Sunday at St. Ambrose Catholic Church. The American Legion designates Feb. 3 as a day to commemorate the four.

On Feb. 3, 1943, the Army transport Dorchester was crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, taking troops to Greenland. At about 12:55 a.m., a German U-boat fired a torpedo that struck the Dorchester.

The four chaplains calmed the men and helped pass out life jackets.

“When there were no life jackets available, the four chaplains removed their own and gave them to four frightened soldiers,” said Willie Springer, American Legion Post 234 chaplain.

Springer said the four men came from diverse backgrounds and faiths.

“They had one thing in common that set them apart,” he said. “They willingly gave up their lives and left behind loving families so that others had what turned out to be only a slightly increased chance of survival.”

The ship sank within 20 minutes, and 672 men died. The ship had been carrying 902 people.

Four clergy members shared personal stories of each of the chaplains, interspersed with readings from Scripture and hymns.

The Rev. Thomas Shaw of Brunswick United Methodist Church represented the Rev. George Fox, a Methodist; Rabbi Alan Lettofsky, of Beth Israel, the West Temple in Shaker Heights, represented Rabbi Alexander Goode; Gary Tomazic, a deacon at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Brunswick, represented the Rev.
John Washington, a Catholic; and the Rev. Donald Poest from Brunswick Reformed Church represented the Rev. Clark Poling, of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Terri Monnin, 41, a Lyndhurst resident, said she has come to the event for the past three years because her friend’s father was a survivor of the Dorchester.

“Even though the four chaplains knew that they would perish, they took care of their troops,” she said. “It’s an example of what all our troops do.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.