The year was 1943. The SS Dorchester was docked in the New York Harbor and
would soon set sail. On board were hundreds of soldiers.
Their destination was classified. It was during the height of the
Second World War, so all that was known was that they would probably meet enemy
ships out in the open sea.
The Dorchester was used by the army for military
purposes. It was originally a luxury liner,
meant for rich vacationers who could afford to pay to travel on the ship in
luxury. However, because of the war, the Dorchester had a new use. The Germans
were sinking ships rapidly. The Allied forces that were fighting the Germans
were left with no choice but to make use of the luxury liners for their military
Apart from the soldiers, there were also four priests on board the
Dorchester for that fateful journey. Lieutenants Fox, Goode, Poling and Washing
ton had each joined the Corps of Chaplains. They would help the soldiers by
trying to keep up their spirits.
The Dorchester set sail in a convoy. A group
of ships moved off together and there were also armed ships from the Navy that
would escort them to their destinations. Midway through the voyage, the men
became seasick. The sea was not very choppy. The ship was small, and it became
hot and stuffy inside. Judging from the direction in which they were sailing,
the men soon guessed that they were heading towards Greenland. On the way there,
they had to pass Newfoundland. This was definitely a dangerous journey because
the waters off Newfoundland were notorious. This area was nicknamed Torpedo
Junction because many ships had been torpedoed by the Germans at this spot, so
that there were dozens of sunken ships on the seabed. To prepare for the
possibility of being hit by an enemy torpedo, drills were held on the
Dorchester. This way, everyone would know what to do in case of an emergency.
All the soldiers were aware of the danger of their situation. Many were anxious
and scared, so they turned to the four priests for comfort.
Efforts were made
to try to raise the morale of the men. There were music and card games to
entertain them. Some men sang songs. For a While at least, the men began to feel
better. Then the news came. A ship accompanying them had detected a submarine
close by. In spite of efforts made to get the specific location of the
submarine, it remained elusive. The captain of the Dorchester prepared his men.
They were ordered to sleep fully dressed, with life jackets nearby, so that they
could make a quick escape should anything happen. Many men found it difficult to
sleep, given the situation.
Suddenly, it happened; the Dorchester was hit and
began to sink. The men rushed out onto the deck in panic. Everyone was moving
about madly, unsure of what to do. Amid all the chaos, the four priests
appeared. They saw at once what they had to do. Each of them guided the men to
their stations, so that they could be evacuated. Seeing that some men had
forgotten their life jackets in the panic, the four priests gave them theirs. As
the ship sank, the priests stood together, praying. They perished with the ship.
When the Dorchester sunk, it took the lives of more than six hundred men,
including the four priests. The latter were real heroes.