WAKEFIELD — The town’s Veteran Advisory Board is planning a small ceremony at the Four Chaplains Memorial outside Temple Emmanuel tomorrow from 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. It will consist of a short reading and laying of flowers.

Marion Dennehey will be laying flowers and Veteran Service Officer David Mangan will do a brief reading on the heroic action of these outstanding men.

The Wakefield memorial is located at the front door of Temple Emmanuel on Chestnut Street.

Congress officially designated Feb. 3 as Four Chaplains Day in 1988. Observances are held each year across the nation. It came as some surprise to discover that Wakefield has a memorial to The Four Chaplains. On May 30, 1955, a dedication ceremony took place at Temple Emmanuel in Wakefield. An Interfaith Memorial Plaque was presented to Temple Emmanuel by Dr. and Mrs. Joseph S. Leavitt. According to the records of the Temple, the gifts of the Four Chaplains Plaque and the Memorial Marker were given “in recognition of the Brotherhood of all Mankind.”

The Temple record continues, “The tablet at the entrance to the Temple commemorates the heroic sacrifice in selfless devotion of the Four Chaplains. It is an enduring reminder of the love and loyalty which is productive of understanding among those of all faiths and a respect of the dignity of all men. It symbolizes men’s best hope for peace in his longing for World Brotherhood.” In the early morning hours of 3 February 1943, US Army Transport Ship (U.S.A.T.) Dorchester, a converted cruise ship, was torpedoed by a German submarine in the icy seas off Labrador in the North Atlantic.

Heavily damaged by the torpedo, it is believed that the Dorchester took on water and sank within twenty minutes of the torpedo strike.

Survivors of the sinking reported that during the ensuing pandemonium, four men were seen offering encouragement, support and even their own life jackets to those in need.

The four men were Reverend George Lansing Fox, a Methodist Minister from Gilman VT; Doctor Alexander David Goode, a Rabbi from Washington DC; Reverend Clarke Vandersall Poling, a Minister of The First Reformed Church from Schenectady NY; and the Reverend John Patrick Washington, a Catholic Priest from Arlington NJ. They are known to this day as “The Four Chaplains”.

Immediately after the Dorchester was hit, witnesses reported that the Four Chaplains were moving among their fellow passengers ministering to the injured, offering direction and support for those clambering for lifeboats and ultimately removing their own life jackets and offering them to others when the supply of lifejackets was exhausted. “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven,” said John Ladd, a survivor who saw the chaplains’ selfless acts.

There were 902 men aboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester that cold February night. 672 died and there were 230 survivors. When the news of the Dorchester’s sinking reached America, the public was stunned by the magnitude of the tragedy and by the heroic conduct of the four chaplains.

The Four Chaplains were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart on December 19, 1944. A Special Medal for Heroism was authorized by Congress and awarded posthumously by President Eisenhower on January 18, 1961.