The West Point Civitan Luncheon Club warmly welcomed former Chancery Clerk, Robbie Robinson to speak at Wednesday’s meeting. Robinson was the special guest of Rev. Kelly Unger. Unger shared a bit of early history by telling a story about how his father, Rev. Unger, married the parents of Robbie Robinson. February is Clergy month and Robinson wanted to share a true story of World War II. He is a great lover of history and especially the time during the second world war.
Robinson started by sharing the Saga of the Four Chaplains. It was a true story of World War II chaplains, Methodist minister Rev. George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Roman Catholic priest Rev. John P. Washington, and Dutch Reformed Church in America minister Rev. Clark V. Poling. The converted luxury liner Dorchester left New York January 23, 1943, en route to Greenland, carrying the four chaplains and approximately 900 others. Most of the military personnel were not told the ship’s destination. The convoy was escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba, and Comanche.
The ship’s captain, Hans J. Danielsen, had been alerted that Coast Guard sonar had detected a submarine. Because German U-boats were monitoring sea lanes and had attacked and sunk ships earlier during the war, Capt. Danielsen had the ship’s crew on a state of high alert even before he received that information. He ordered the men to sleep in their clothing and keep their life jackets on. Many soldiers sleeping in the ship’s hold disregarded the order because of the engine’s heat. Others ignored it because the life jackets were uncomfortable.
During the early morning hours of February 3, 1943, the vessel was torpedoed by a German submarine.
The torpedo knocked out the Dorchester’s electrical system, leaving the ship dark. Panic set in among the men on board, many of them trapped below decks. The chaplains sought to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship. The chaplains helped guide wounded men to safety. As life jackets were passed out to the men, the supply ran out before each man had one. The chaplains removed their own life jackets and gave them to others. They helped as many men as they could into lifeboats. After seeing as many as possible escape, they then linked arms saying prayers and singing hymns, went down with the ship.
These four men were the living embodiment of John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
“Pastors do more than just preaching on Sundays. They visit the sick, marry our children, bury our dead and are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Robinson. “They do so very much for their congregations and for our community as a whole. I was proud for Rev. Unger to ask me to speak during clergy month.”