Flags at half-staff on February 3, 2018

Governor Dayton Orders Flags Flown at Half-Staff in Honor of Immortal Four Chaplains Day

ST. PAUL, MN – In observance of the 75th Anniversary of the tragic sinking of the United States Army transport Dorchester off the coast of Greenland, Governor Mark Dayton has directed all U.S. Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state buildings in the State of Minnesota, from sunrise until sunset on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations also are encouraged to lower their flags in observance of the anniversary on Saturday, February 3, 2018, at the time of their choosing.

In 1957, the U.S. Congress established national observance of the tragedies anniversary to honor the four chaplains of different faiths whose heroic and selfless acts that day saved the lives of many men. The Governor’s proclamation notes that Immortal Four Chaplains Day encourages all Minnesotans to express “compassion for those of different races or faiths.”

Witnesses of the event in 1943 recounted the heroic actions of Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed. During the 18 minutes the transport was sinking, the four chaplains went soldier to soldier to calm fears and hand out lifejackets. When there were no more lifejackets left to hand out, the four chaplains removed their own life vests and selflessly gave them to soldiers in need of protection. The four chaplains went down with the ship, arm-in-arm in prayer.

The chaplains’ unique interfaith spirit and love for their fellow men was memorialized by the United States Postal Service on a postage stamp titled “These Immortal Chaplains – Interfaith in Action.”

The Proclamation reads as follows:

WHEREAS: February 3, 2018, marks the 75th Anniversary of the tragic torpedoing of the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a United States Army transport ship, 150 miles off the coast of Greenland that resulted in the loss of 672 lives; and

WHEREAS: Witnesses of the event recount in the Congressional Record the heroism and self-sacrifice of four chaplains of different faiths: Lt. George L Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode,Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed; and

WHEREAS: The witnesses recalled that while the ship sank, the four chaplains went from soldier to soldier calming fears, handing out lifejackets, and guiding men to safety. When there were no more lifejackets to give, they removed their own and gave them to others. The chaplains were last seen arm-in-arm in prayer on the ship’s deck; and

WHEREAS: Many of the 230 men who survived owed their lives to these four chaplains. Their unique, interfaith spirit and love for their fellow man was memorialized by the United States Postal Service on a popular 1948 postage stamp entitled: “These Immortal Chaplains – Interfaith in Action;” and

WHEREAS: In 1957, Congress passed a Concurrent Resolution honoring these four chaplains and the men who died with them, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower issued similar proclamations calling for national recognition and participation in memorial services throughout the land, to be observed annually by the American Legion and others on the first Sunday in February; and

WHEREAS: In 1960, Congress created a special Medal for Heroism in memory of the four chaplains, an action which has never been repeated. On January 27, 1998, the United States Congress passed a unanimous resolution, designating February 3 as “Four Chaplains Day,” which was co-authored by U.S. Senator Rod Grams of Minnesota. At the same time, a similar bill passed unanimously in the Minnesota State Legislature; and

WHEREAS: The first Sunday in February is recognized nationally by many congregations and by the American Legion as “Four Chaplains Sunday.” As it has done for decades, the Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel Foundation will host a “Four Chaplains Remembrance Service” the Sunday prior to the anniversary date, which is Sunday,January 31, at the historic Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel, where there is a permanent stained glass window depicting the compassion of the four chaplains.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, MARK DAYTON, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim Saturday, February 3, 2018, as: IMMORTAL FOUR CHAPLAINS DAY in the State of Minnesota, as an example of compassion for those of different races or faiths, and order flags to be flown at half, staff from sunrise until sunset on February 3, 2018, in honor of Immortal Four Chaplains Day.