Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Collections: Objects of the Month

November 2010:
Four Immortal Chaplains postage stamps, 1948

Archives Record
Object #: 1995.06.2
Donor: Teresa Goode Kaplan
Description: Sheet of postage stamps, 1948.
Stamps depict the sinking S.S. Dorchester and portraits of the Four Immortal Chaplains

Four Immortal Chaplains postage stamp, 1948Background:
In 1948, Chaplain Alexander Goode (far right on the stamp) and three Christian chaplains were memorialized on this three-cent stamp for their heroism during World War II.

Alexander Goode grew up in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Eastern High School, and served Washington Hebrew Congregation during the summers while studying for his ordination at Hebrew Union College.

At age 32, Rabbi Goode enlisted as a military chaplain. He was assigned to the Dorchester, an overcrowded ship carrying more than 900 soldiers and civilian workers to the European front.

Chaplain Alexander GoodeIn February 1943, just miles off the Greenland coast, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship. In the ensuing pandemonium, Chaplain Goode and three Christian chaplains calmly directed their fellow soldiers to lifeboats. Chaplain Goode and the other chaplains gave away their life jackets and joined arms at the ship's railing—praying and singing hymns to men on lifeboats and in the water. The ship sank 27 minutes later, taking the chaplains with it.

The Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were awarded posthumously to the chaplains' next of kin, and a one-time only posthumous Special Medal for Heroism was authorized by Congress and awarded by the President Eisenhower on January 18, 1961.

Chaplain Goode is one of thirteen Jewish chaplains who has perished while in service. At Arlington National Cemetery, there are memorials for Protestant chaplains, Catholic chaplains, and World War I chaplains. Earlier this year, the Association of Jewish Chaplains began a campaign to honor Jewish chaplains with a new memorial. The memorial is slated to be unveiled in Spring 2011.

To complement the new memorial, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington is partnering with the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington to create a brochure of Jewish sites in the Arlington National Cemetery. Points of interest will include the new chaplains' memorial, the graves of statesman and military leaders, and the space shuttle memorials.

Do you have wartime material that you'd like to donate to the archival collection? Call (202) 789-0900 or email info@jhsgw.org.

Would you like to contribute to make publication of the new Jewish Sites in Arlington National Cemetery brochure possible? Click here to donate now (put "Arlington brochure" in the Designation box) or send a check to JHSGW, P.O. Box 791104, Baltimore, MD 21279 (indicate Arlington brochure in the memo line).