February 3,1943: The Four Chaplains



John Washington first saw the light of day on July 18, 1908 in Newark, New Jersey.

One of seven kids in a poor immigrant family, John as a boy had a newspaper route to help bring in money for the family. Singing in the choir at mass, John decided by the seventh grade that his goal in life was to be a priest.

Graduating from Seton Hall with an A.B. degree in 1931, John entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in 1931 and was ordained a priest on June 15, 1935. Father Washington ‘s first assignment was at Saint Genevieve’s in Elizabeth, New Jersey, followed by service at Saint Stephen’s in Arlington, New Jersey. Father Washington, having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks in Newark, knew how important proper guidance was for kids. He would play baseball with them on the streets and organized youth baseball teams at the parishes to which he was assigned.

Immediately after Pearl Harbor Father Washington joined the Army as a chaplain. On May 9, 1942 he was named Chief of the Chaplain Reserve Pool at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. In June he was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division and in November 1942 attended the chaplain course at Harvard. There he first met three other chaplains: George L. Fox, a Methodist minister, Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister and Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish rabbi.

Fox was the oldest of the chaplains having been born in 1900. This was his second World War, having served in World War I where his courage was acknowledged by being awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre. On August 8, 1942 he went on active duty as a chaplain, the same day his son joined the Marine Corps.

Poling was born in 1910. His father had served as a chaplain in World War I. When he went off to the Army Poling told his father: “Dad, don’t pray for my safe return, just pray that I shall do my duty and something more, pray that I shall never be a coward. Pray that I shall have the strength, courage, and understanding of men, and especially pray that I shall be patient. Oh, Dad, just pray that I shall be adequate.”

Goode was the youngest of the four chaplains having been born in 1911. The son of a rabbi, he also became a rabbi.   He attempted to become a chaplain with the Navy in January 1941. Not accepted at that time he entered the Army as a chaplain on July 21, 1942. (more…)

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