What is Four Chaplains Day?

Lindsay Elitharp | Thursday, January 21, 2016


Four Chaplains Day marks the sinking of the SS Dorchester, a transport ship on route to Greenland, during World War II on February 3rd, 1943. The vessel was torpedoed by a German submarine in a tragic hit that knocked out the ship’s power and radio contact with its three escort ships. Panic-stricken, the 904 soldiers and civilian personnel aboard raced to evacuate the darkened ship.

Four Chaplains Day Four Chaplains
Source: Wikipedia, “Four Chaplains”

The Four Chaplains

The Four Chaplains were four Army chaplains who gave their lives to save others aboard. The chaplains tried to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship, handing out life jackets and helping men into lifeboats. When the life jacket supply ran out, the chaplains valiantly removed their jackets and gave them to others. Survivors of the tragedy recall the four chaplains linking arms, saying prayers, and singing hymns as the ship went down.

As life jackets offer little protection against hypothermia, most of the men died in the water while sister ships Escanaba and Comanche rushed to save the 230 survivors. The sinking of the Dorchester is remembered as the single greatest loss of American personnel of any American convoy during World War II.

Harold Paczosa memorial
Harold Paczosa’s memorial in the Liberty House backyard

Remembering Pvt Harold Paczosa

Pvt Harold Paczosa of Manchester, New Hampshire was one of the many that died at sea in the sinking of the Dorchester. His sister, Annette Nelson, chose to honor his sacrifice by donating their childhood home, now Liberty House, to the VFW asking only that it be used to help veterans and that a memorial stone be preserved on the property honoring Harold. This year on Four Chaplains Day, the anniversary of Pvt Harold Paczosa’s passing, we invite you to join us in remembering his sacrifice and the gift his family made to future veterans by creating the space for Liberty House to come into being. Visit our Facebook page for details.

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Visit Beyond Spare Change to listen to firsthand stories from veterans who’ve turned their lives around at Liberty House and if you like what we’re doing for veterans in New Hampshire, check out Ways To Help to learn how you can help homeless veterans get back on their feet.

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