February 5, 2018 4:00 a.m.
Five local residents were honored during The Four Chaplains ceremony on Saturday at the American Legion Post 16 building near downtown Roseburg.
A group of over 75 people came to the event including all three Douglas County Commissioners, along with members and leaders from a variety of veterans groups in the county. The ceremony is designed to honor the four chaplains who gave away their floatation devices to others when the U.S. Army Transport ship Dorchester, was hit by a German submarine torpedo on February 3, 1943 while it was headed to Greenland.
During Saturday’s ceremony, a candle was lit for each chaplain. The heroes were Reverend George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling and Father John Washington. Historical accounts say the men distributed life vests to soldiers after the Dorchester was hit, then linked arms, sang hymns and prayed until the ship went down into the cold Atlantic water.
675 people died in the incident while only 230 survived.
The ceremony included information about each chaplain, a bell ringing, the playing of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes and the playing of “Taps” as well. After the ceremony ended, retired naval veteran Jim Little said there was one more thing to take care of.
Little called five people to the front of the room where they were given the Legion of Honor Award. They included Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, Sheriff John Hanlin, VFW Post Commander Mike Eakin, and veteran’s leaders Dodie Blessing and Carol Hunt. Little said the honor was based on their documented acts of selfless service, going the “extra mile” to serve others, just like the Four Chaplains did. .
All five were clearly surprised to get the honor. Sheriff John Hanlin said he thought he was attending to present an award to Tim Freeman, while Freeman thought he was giving an award to Hanlin. The other three had been similarly tricked as well.
The recipients were nominated by someone locally and approved by the Chapel of Four Chaplains in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.