The members of Yorktown American Legion Post #1009 took some time away from busy Super Bowl Sunday to remember four US Army chaplains whose heroic actions cost them their lives one freezing February night in 1943.
This annual Chapel of the Four Chaplains Ceremony honors the four US Army chaplains who were aboard the US troopship, Dorchester, in February 1943 when it was torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic. Of the 902 young men on board that fateful night, only 230 survived its sinking. Many of those survivors owe their lives to the courage and leadership exhibited by the heroic four chaplains, who, in sacrificing their lives, created a unique legacy of brotherhood. The chaplains of different faiths handed out life vests and calmed the soldiers aboard their dying ship. When they ran out of life vests to hand out, each Chaplain handed over their own life vest to save others. Their bravery was an inspiration to all who survived the sinking and all who heard of it. These Americans are remembered at this ceremony for their bravery and their inter-faith cooperation in helping their fellow soldiers in their greatest time of need.
This ceremony has become a community event with four prominent local clergy members taking part in celebrating this inspiring story of faith and bravery. This year, Rabbi Robert Weiner of Temple Beth Am, Pastor Dan O’Brien of Calvary Bible Church, Msgr. Joseph Giandurco from St Patrick’s Church, and Pastor Christopher Chantelau of Grace Lutheran Church stood in for each of the four chaplains. The American Legion Hall was filled with American Legion and Sons of the American Legion members from Yorktown, Mt Kisco, and Ossining; members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Korean War Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, and many community members. Joining them that day in the audience were: 40th District NYS Senator Peter Harckham, Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater, past Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert, Yorktown Town Council members Tom Diana and Vishnu Patel, Town Clerk Diana Quast, Judges Sal Lagonia & Gary Raniolo, and Highway Supervisor Dave Paganelli.
The story of the Immortal Four Chaplains was well-known following World War II with monuments being raised and dedicated across the country. Two local monuments are located at Belmont Racetrack in Queens and near Grant's Tomb in Manhattan. They are honored in stained-glass windows at the Pentagon and West Point. A US postage stamp with their image was even printed in 1948 to celebrate these brave chaplains. Today, many don't know about this wonderful story of bravery and faith and it is for this reason that the Legionnaires of Yorktown Post #1009 conduct this annual ceremony to educate everyone on the facts of that fatefull day in 1943.