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 chaplainsMethodist 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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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 TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved