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Church, Scouts join for four chaplain service

HOWLAND — Four chaplains who sacrificed their own lives to save others aboard the USS Dorchester 77 years ago were honored at a service held at Howland Community Church.

The event was co-hosted by the American Legion Post 700 and Howland area Boy and Girl Scout troops, which helped with the church service, including Scripture reading and collecting the offering.

Chuck Sayers of the American Legion said the four Army chaplains — George Fox, a Methodist and the oldest at 41; Alexander Goode, a Jewish rabbi; John Washington, a Roman Catholic and an Irish immigrant; and Clark Poling, a Dutch Reform Protestant — made the ultimate sacrifice by removing their life jackets and passing them to four young servicemen.

Darlene Freer of the American Legion auxiliary said that on Feb. 2, 1943, the USS Dorchester with 902 servicemen, merchant marines and others traveling from Newfoundland to the United States, was torpedoed and damaged.

“The life jackets were handed out to those on the ship, but they ran out. These four chaplains of different denominations gave up their life jackets to save the lives of others. The four chaplains tried to help and comfort the wounded and those dying,” she said.

She said some service people made it to life boats. Some 230 people survived.

Connie Robinson of Austintown was the guest speaker, sharing the story of how her uncle, Pvt. Paul Rankin Jr., was serving on the USS Dorchester and did not survive.

“I am grateful and appreciative of this beautiful service that you are honoring the heroic efforts of the chaplains. My mother’s younger brother never came home. My mother was always convinced her brother would walk through the door but we received word he died at sea,” she said.

Robinson said Rankin spent New Year’s Eve 1943 in New York City, with his last letter sent to the family dated Jan. 24, 1943.

“The sacrifice they all gave to America will always be remembered,” she said.

The service having the scouts take part in various ways qualified them from the Scout Sunday Participation Award. The scouts help light candles to honor the four chaplains.

The Rev. David Luther, chaplain for the American Legion, said the four chaplains laid down their lives for others. “Their story should never be forgotten. It is a true example of celebrating the strength of faith for a man to lay down his life for another,” Luther said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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