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Military service often entails sacrifice. Service members must sacrifice time with loved ones in order to carry out orders. Families must sacrifice stability in residence in order for service members to be stationed where they are needed.
Troops must sacrifice creature comforts and familiar surroundings in order to forward deploy. And, at times, men and women of the military might have to make the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines. However these sacrifices may be acknowledged, whether honored publicly or observed privately, they are a part of the reality that is serving in the military.
Four Chaplains Day is one such day of public observation. Each year on February 3rd, this day of remembrance is celebrated across the country. It honors four military chaplains who sacrificed their own lives to save the lives of their fellow service members during WWII.
Who Were the Four Chaplains?
The men who came to be known as the Four Chaplains were Methodist minister the Reverend George L. Fox, Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling, Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (PhD), and Roman Catholic priest Father John P. Washington. The four men had met while attending Chaplains School at Harvard in preparation for each of their appointments as chaplains.
George Lansing Fox was born March 15, 1900, in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. He left school at 17 and lied about his age in order to serve as an Army medical corp assistant in WWI. During his tour of duty, Fox was awarded the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, and the French Croix de Guerre for his bravery. Then, during WWII, Fox accepted an appointment as an Army chaplain on July 24, 1942 and began active duty on August 8, 1942. After he completed Army Chaplains school at Harvard, Fox reported to the 411th Coast Artillery Battalion at Camp Davis in North Carolina.
Clark Vandersall Poling was born August 7, 1910, in Columbus, Ohio. He studied at Yale University’s Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. Polling graduated with his B.D. degree in 1936, and was ordained in the Reformed Church in America. During WWII, he applied to serve as an Army chaplain, and accepted his appointment on June 10, 1942. On June 25, he reported to the 131st Quartermaster Truck Regiment at Camp Shelby, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Reform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (PhD) was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 10, 1911. He studied for the rabbinate at Hebrew Union College. He graduated with a B.H. degree in 1937, and then received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940. Goode had originally applied to become a Navy chaplain in 1941, but was not accepted. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to become an Army chaplain. Goode received his appointment on July 21, 1942 and went on active duty on August 9, 1942. After Chaplains School at Harvard, he was then assigned to the 333rd Airbase Squadron in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
John Patrick Washington was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 18, 1908. To prepare for entrance into the priesthood, he completed high school and college courses at Seton Hall, in South Orange, New Jersey. Washington graduated in 1931 with an A.B. Degree, then entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey, where he was ordained a priest on June 15, 1935. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Washington received his appointment as an Army chaplain. He reported for active duty on May 9, 1942, and was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division in Ft. George Meade, Maryland in June.