Honoring the 4: Legion celebrates hero ‘chaplains’

Published 4:12 am Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In keeping with the U.S. Congress’ 1988 designation of “Four Chaplains Day,” on Saturday, Feb. 3, Magic City Post 24 of the American Legion honored the man of God with a memorial service, movingly presented by legionnaires, their families, and the Bogalusa High School JROTC cadre and cadets.

Post Chaplain Paul Corse presided, and Lt. Col. Gavin Guidry, senior Army instructor at BHS, and Gunnery Sgt. Jeffry Brown, Marine ROTC instructor at Franklinton High School, accompanied the cadets.

Conforming with the Legion’s policy of interacting with America’s youth, the cadets took an active part in the ceremony, along with Molly Gallaspy and her sister, Marianna, who began the program by singing “America the Beautiful,” to the keyboard accompaniment of their mother, Stacy.

Legonnaire Terry Sharp, formerly Legion District Commander, presented a summary of the events leading up to the disaster, which occurred in the icy waters of the North Atlantic when a German submarine torpedoed the converted luxury cruise ship, the Dorchester, which was carrying 904 crew members and American troops. The immediate starboard listing of the ship cut off access to many of the life boats and life jackets. As the ship faltered, some of the survivors saw the four chaplains: Rev. George Fox, Father John Washington, Rev. Clark Poling, and Rabbi Alexander Goode pressing their life vests upon unprepared troops, and then joining hands in prayer and song as the ship submerged.

In 1950, Chaplain Poling’s father, a minister himself, secured funding and built a commemorative chapel on the campus of Philadelphia’s Temple University. When President Harry Truman dedicated the chapel in 1951, he said, “This interfaith shrine will stand through long generations to teach Americans that as men can die heroically as brothers, so they should live together in mutual faith and goodwill.”

Only 227 of the 904 men survived.

In Saturday’s presentation, Post Chaplain Paul Corse represented Rev. Fox, Mike Henley took the part of Father Washington, Whit Gallaspy took the part of Rabbi Goode, and Gary Rushing portrayed Rev. Poling.