Fr. John P. Washington, Rev. Clark V. Poling, Rev. George L. Fox, and Rabbi Alexander D. Goode - all lieutenants in the US Army serving as chaplains -- were on the US Army Transport ship Dorchester. The ship, which had been launched in 1926 to ferry passengers from Miami to Boston, had been requisitioned by the War Department to carry troops to Europe.
At 12:55 AM on February 3, the ship was about ninety miles from Greenland, traveling in a small convoy with a Coast Guard escort when the German U-boat 223 intercepted it. A single torpedo did so much damage that the six-whistle alarm to abandon ship could not even be sounded, everyone who could headed for the lifeboats anyway. The ship, which sunk within eighteen minutes of the attack, was listing so much that some of the lifeboats could not be launched. Other boats were frozen down by the sea-spray from the previous day's heavy seas and cold air. Some of the lifeboats which were launched capsized from overcrowding.
On deck, the chaplains stayed to hand out life jackets to the men, even after men had urged them to save themselves. When the supply of life jackets was exhausted, the chaplains took off their own and gave them to the next four men in line. Then they joined arms, led the remaining men on deck in prayer, and prepared for the Dorchester to sink.
Rev. George L. Fox was awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the Croix de Guerre for his service as a medical orderly during World War One. Following the war, he married, started a family, and eventually became an ordained Methodist minister. He moved his family to Vermont, where he served as a circuit-riding minister shared among three congregations. On the same day that he enlisted in the Army to serve in World War Two, his son enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.