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No Greater Glory: The Four Immortal Chaplains and the Sinking of the Dorchester in World War II Hardcover – May 11, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The U.S. Army Transportation Service troopship Dorchester was torpedoed in the North Atlantic, 100 miles south of Greenland, on the night of February 3, 1943. As a former luxury liner, the ship went down quickly. Of the 900 passengers and crew, 597 were military personnel, and four of those men were the ship's chaplains—Methodist senior chaplain George Lansing Fox, rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed minister Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest. Each chaplain distributed life vests as the ship went down and then gave up their own when supply ran out. (There were approximately 200 survivors.) Former Washington Post correspondent Kurzman (Fatal Voyage) follows the men from their enlistments to that fateful night, detailing their families and travails along the way. The result is the fullest reckoning yet for the men who have become known as "The Four Immortal Chaplains," who have previously been commemorated by the U.S. Postal Service, with a stamp issued in their honor.
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From Booklist

In the Battle of the Atlantic's catalog of tragedies, the 1943 sinking of an American troop transport stands out as a heroic vignette witnessed by survivors. They recounted how four chaplains, after pressing their life jackets on terrified young men, went down with the ship, praying. The chaplains have been commemorated over the years in various media but never in so comprehensive a fashion as in Kurzman's book. His research of primary documents associated with each chaplain's life and religious career, and interviews of people who knew them, pays off in a narrative that not only recalls the men's personalities but also the quality of their faith in God. It was slightly different for each--an intellectual decision for Protestant minister Clark Poling; a starting point for an idealistic commitment to brotherhood and democracy for the young rabbi Alexander Goode. From the chaplains' bonding in training camp to the voyage to Greenland, their duties and sacrifice are movingly commemorated in this poignant account, which is bound to connect with spiritually minded readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375508775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375508776
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anyechka on September 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Everyone who's already reviewed this book has said so much about it that it's hard to find anything more to say about how well it's written, what a great gripping true story it is, and the amazing heroism of the four chaplains. This book is so well-written and has such a compelling and involving story that I read it in like two days, and wished there had been even more. Additionally, this heroic tale from WWII has special meaning to many of the people in my area (New York State's Capital District) because Rev. Clark Poling's church was in nearby Schenectady, providing a local connection.

The book itself follows a somewhat nonlinear format, going back and forth between the pre-war lives of the four chaplains and their lives during the war, particularly after they boarded the Dorchester and arrived in Greenland for a very brief stay before going back on the ill-fated ship. After this point, the narrative switches entirely to a linear format, discussing the ship's final night before being torpedoed by a German U-boat and the chaos, heroism, and tragedy that ensued. Not many people could honestly say that they would give up their lifejackets if their ship went down in freezing waters in the middle of the night (Rabbi Alex Goode even gave up his gloves) or remain calm in the midst of such frantic circumstances and such a life-and-death situation. Many people back then also weren't so forward-thinking about interfaith relations, with a Reform rabbi, a Catholic priest, and two reverends from different Protestant denominations being such close friends and reaching out equally to everyone on the ship, largely being nonsectarian apart from when they did things like conduct services.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By NanookMN on July 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
I began reading when quite young, so when I began first grade my teacher made special arrangements for me to go to the library by myself. For a half hour every day, I got to curl up in a window seat with a good book, and I never left without an armful to take home with me. That library time was so special, and the librarian, Sr. Vianney, always welcomed me with a terrific smile. She was absolutely wonderful to me. I was nine and in the fourth grade when the Dorchester went down. The day after the sinking, my second grade teacher got me out of class to tell me about the chaplains and their heroic generosity. The priest had been Sr. Vianney's brother. Sr. Jude sent me off to tell Sr. Vianney how I felt. I went, but I had no idea what to say since I had no idea how I felt. Sad, certainly, but edified, too. I needn't have worried. Sr. Vianney looked almost beatific. I mumbled something to the effect that I thought her brother was wonderful, and she said, "They were all wonderful. Remember them." She gave me a hug, one of her smiles, thanked me for coming, and sent me back to class. Well, I have remembered -- what they did and what she said. I am lookiing foward to reading the book. It should be assigned reading for all who harbor religious prejudices and hatred.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard E. Segers on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I became intrigued by this story when I was no moare than 10. I was a stamp collector and came into the possession of the stam honoring the four. In those very pre-internet days and in a very small town with few resources I was only able to learn a small amount of the story. Since then there were pieces here and there but it was not until this book that the whole story was made available to me.

I was almost uable to put this book down once I started. It's well written. It's abook that you can read for factual historical content or faith and inspiration. The story of the four chaplains is one of the many little known inspiring and interestng stories of World War Two. Don't pass this book over thinking it is just another relilgous book. It is much more.

In this day and age when we hand out superlatives like they were penny candy, the story of the Chaplains and the sinking of the Dorchester is an almost must read not just for people of faith, but all people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is a profound irony that war, man's most inhumane treatment of his fellow man, oftentimes provides the most poignant lessons in humanity, selflessness, and heroism. The four men honored as the Four Immortal Chaplains would doubtless have eschewed the kind of praise their actions have won over the years, arguing that they were just men doing God's work on earth, but their story will be a source of inspiration and an example of true honor and bravery for all years to come. The tragedy of 9/11 helped inspire Dan Kurzman to tell their story anew; with No Greater Glory: The Four Immortal Chaplains and the Sinking of the Dorchester in World War II, he succeeds admirably in bringing a spirit of hope and unity to today's fractured world.

The Four Immortal Chaplains came from different backgrounds and religious faiths, but the bond of goodness and friendship that bound them together made them spiritual brothers united in the face of a common fate. George Lansing Fox was a Methodist minister who had already fought heroically and been wounded in World War I; Father John Washington was a young and scrappy Catholic priest who cheated on his eye test in order to qualify for the Army; Clark Poling was a Dutch Reformed minister who left his young family and his famous evangelist father to serve; and Alexander Goode was a brilliant Jewish rabbi consumed by a mission to promote universal brotherhood among all men of all religions. Each man had not only joined the services as chaplains after the attack on Pearl Harbor, they had each adamantly pursued a combat post overseas. They never made it to the front, finding themselves posted on the USAT Dorchester as she made her way from the nation's east coast, through Tornado Alley, to Greenland in early 1943.
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