Wreaths Across America Remembers the Hero of the U.S.A.T. Dorchester Rescue

COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine — On Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, Wreaths Across America honored the American heroes known as “The Four Chaplains” with a special Facebook live event.


However, The Four Chaplains were not the only heroes that day.


On Jan. 23, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester left New York harbor bound for Greenland carrying over 900 officers, servicemen and civilian workers. The ship was a coastal passenger steamship requisitioned and operated by the War Shipping Administration (W.S.A.) for wartime use as a troop ship. The ship was transiting the Labrador Sea when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat (U-233) on Feb. 3, 1943. The ship sank, and 675 people on board lost their lives. Amidst the chaos to save 230 lives, four chaplains guided soldiers trapped below deck to escape hatches and gave away their life jackets to save others on that fateful day. When the chaplains had done all they could, they linked arms to pray and sing hymns as the Dorchester slipped beneath the waves.

As part of the rescue response to the sinking of the Dorchester, African American Coast Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr. jumped into icy Greenland waters from his rescue ship to save two men from drowning and continued to help rescue a total of 93 survivors from life-boats. After his heroic acts, 54 days later Charles Walter David Jr. succumbed to pneumonia stemming from those icy waters.

Replica Dog tags of Guardsman Charles Walter David Jr. hang in remembrance on the Four Chaplains section of the Wreaths Across America tip land. Replica dog tags hang on the live balsam trees used to make memorial wreaths to honor the lives, duty, and commitment of fallen soldiers and create a living memorial to inspire a new generation to make a positive impact.

Wreaths Across America is the non-profit organization best known for placing veterans’ wreaths on the headstones of our nation’s fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. However, the organization, in total, places more than 1.7 million sponsored wreaths at 2557 participating locations nationwide and offers other programs throughout the calendar year. These programs include The Mobile Education Exhibit, a national flag-waving effort. Wreaths Across America Radio and a Virtual Concert now streaming on Showcase NOW, just to mention a few.

You can sponsor a wreath for $15 at wreathsacrossamerica.org/. Each sponsorship goes toward a fresh balsam veteran’s wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, as part of National Wreaths Across America Day.

About Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.

For more information or to sponsor a wreath please visit wreathsacrossamerica.org.