On February 3rd, 1943, a small convoy named SG-19 was making its way across the Atlantic to Greenland from New York. It consisted of the United States Army Transport Dorchester and two smaller merchant vessels, the SS Lutz and the SS Biscaya, escorted by three Coast Guard cutters: Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. Somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland at about 12:55 AM that morning, a German submarine torpedoed the Dorchester, knocking out her power as well as opening up her hull to the sea. Below decks were hundreds of young American servicemen, many of them on their first ocean voyage. They had been instructed to leave their life preservers on in case of attack, but the heat of the ship’s boilers and engines led many of them to take the jackets off. And with the loss of power they were all suddenly in the dark.
Among the personnel on board were four Army Chaplains, all First Lieutenants: George Fox (a Methodist); Alexander Goode (Reform-Rabbi); Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed); and John Washington (a Roman Catholic priest). The four had become fast friends at the Army Chaplains School on the Harvard University campus, right here in Cambridge.