Arlington National Cemetery Update

Posted: August 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

On 24 OCT, thanks to several years of persistent inter-faith advocacy and recent action in Congress, a conspicuously empty space on a knoll in Arlington National Cemetery will be filled with a long-overdue monument to Jewish chaplains. In a sense, the story of the soon-to-be erected Jewish Chaplains Monument at Arlington began in the North Atlantic near Greenland on the frigid night of Feb. 3, 1943. It was then that a German U-boat torpedoed the U.S. Army troop transport ship Dorchester. The troopship carried 902 service men, merchant seamen and civilian war workers. Among those aboard were four Army chaplains, Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed; and Lt. Alexander D. Goode, who was Jewish. All but 230 on the Dorchester perished in the sinking, but of those who survived, some owed their lives to the four chaplains. These men of God stayed aboard the stricken ship, offering the terrified, fleeing crew and passengers comfort with encouragement and prayers. They also handed out life jackets including, in the end, their own. Almost 70 years later, Sons of The American Legion member Ken Kraetzer of New York, during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, climbed Chaplains Hill where three monuments stand to honor military clergymen who have died in service. Each of the monuments there were established by their respective religious communities. Besides wishing to see the inscribed names of honored chaplains who had been alumni of his alma mater, Providence College, Kraetzer wanted to view a remembrance of World War II's fabled four chaplains. As Kraetzer tells it, "I was familiar with their story because of the Four Chaplains Mass held each year by the Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., post. Legion posts around the country deserve credit for keeping the four chaplains' story alive for now six decades." In 2006, The American Legion passed a national resolution calling for Medals of Honor for each of the four chaplains.
Kraetzer found three names, but not a fourth. Father Washington was remembered on the Catholic chaplains stone. Rev. Fox and Rev. Poling were celebrated on a monument dedicated to Protestant chaplains. But there was no mention of Rabbi Alexander Goode. In fact, as Kraetzer discovered, there was no monument to Jewish chaplains at all. "When I realized that Jewish chaplains were not honored at Arlington," says Kraetzer, "I called the Jewish War Veterans. They were not aware of this. They, in turn, suggested I call Adm. Harold Robinson, and Director of the Jewish Welfare Board's Jewish Chaplains Council. We have been on a mission ever since." After 3 year s of effort Adm. Robinson said,  'We are just a couple of bureaucratic niceties away from casting the bronze plaque and contracting to have the monument erected – planning a dedication ceremony for the fall and an educational tour with the bronze plaque also in the fall and (publishing) a brochure about the role of chaplains in the United States military… (This project has) been very, very heartwarming and very moving, and I imagine the memorial's dedication will be altogether overwhelming.' [Source: American Legion website Craig Roberts article 11 Jul 2011 ++]


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