Four Chaplains Remembered in Yorktown

Rabbi Robert Weiner, Pastor Susan Nagle, Pastor Dan O'Brien, and Rev Father Robert Quarato stood in for the Four Chaplains. Credits: Patrick McDonough
Students and veterans took part in the ceremony. Credits: Patrick McDonough
Veterans, students and the public attended the Four Chaplains ceremony. Credits: Patrick McDonough

YORKTOWN, N.Y. - American Legion Post 1009 in Yorktown continued a long tradition of commemorating the lives of four U.S. Army Chaplains who were lost in World War II when their troopship was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the North Atlantic. 

Sounds like a typical, boring, “veterans only” type of an event, doesn’t it? Why would 80 people take time out of their busy Super Bowl Sunday to attend this ceremony? It is because of the story.

These men were Army chaplains. They were men of faith ministering to their fellow man on the way to war. One chaplain was a rabbi, one a Dutch Reformed minister, one a Methodist minister and the last a Catholic priest.

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These men were traveling together on a WWII U.S. troopship across the icy North Atlantic. During the voyage, they found they had more in common than anyone would have thought. During this voyage, their ship was torpedoed and quickly sinking into the icy sea when these men of faith stepped forward. They handed out life preservers and calmed all the soldiers on board without asking what faith they were.

When the life preservers were all gone they gave up their own preservers to save four more men knowing full well that action sealed their fates. As their ship sank into its icy grave, these four chaplains were seen linked arm in arm with their shipmates praying together. Nowhere was one religion claiming the high ground. All four chaplains were there for the men of all faiths to calm and reassure them in their time of greatest need. These were good men exhibiting the freedom of religion in America at its wholehearted best.

Pastor Susan Nagle of Grace Lutheran Church of Yorktown, Rabbi Robert Weiner of Temple Beth Am in Yorktown Hts, Pastor Dan O’Brien of Calvary Bible Church in Yorktown Hts, and Rev. Father Robert Quarato from St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Shrub Oak each stood and read a biography of one of these four chaplains during this moving ceremony.

They were joined by nine students from Mildred E. Strang Middle School’s Living History program. These “Revolutionary Troopers” were dressed in Revolutionary War uniforms with muskets led by their teacher and historical reenactor, Chris DiPasquale. These troopers opened the ceremony by presenting our nation’s flag to open the ceremonies. Their part done, they could have left, but they stayed in the rear of the Hall to hear this story for themselves.

Joining them were veterans from all of America’s wars since that war to end all wars. Also in attendance were Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace, Yorktown Town Councilman Ed Lachterman and Vishnu Patel, Yorktown Town Justice Salvatore Lagonia and Dan Pagano, representing state Sen. Terrence Murphy, who all came for the same reason—because of the powerful story of these heroic men. This was an event every American could be proud of, a ceremony celebrating the bravery, tolerance, cooperation, and faith of four American soldiers.

Patrick McDonough is adjutant of American Legion Post 1009.

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