Two addresses will tell of the story of four military chaplains, including former Hope student Clark V. Poling '33, who sacrificed their lives when their troop ship was torpedoed during World War Two.
Television and film producer Ken Wales will appear at two local venues on Sunday, April 21, to tell the story of the four chaplains--one Dutch Reformed, one Jewish, one Roman Catholic and one Methodist--who gave their lives to save others when the "U.S.A.T. Dorchester" was sunk by a German U-Boat on Feb. 3, 1943. Wales is the author of "Sea of Glory" (Broadman & Holman Publishers), which retells the chaplains' story.
Wales will speak at Church of the Servant, 3835 Burton, S.E., in Grand Rapids, at 3 p.m.; and at Community Reformed Church, 10376 Felch Street (corner of 104th and Felch) in Zeeland at 6 p.m. The public is invited to both events, and admission is free.
More than 900 American servicemen were on the "Dorchester" when the torpedo struck and exploded in the boiler room. Chaos ensued on deck as many of the ship's lifeboats overturned or failed to employ in the icy conditions.
The four Army chaplains, Poling, George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode and John E. Washington, calmly organized the evacuation efforts in hope of saving as many men as possible. When it was clear that there were not enough accessible life jackets, the four chaplains gave their own to young soldiers, and then held hands, prayed and began singing a hymn together as they went down with the sinking vessel. One survivor later observed, "It was the finest thing I have seen, or hope to see, this side of heaven." Nearly 700 servicemen lost their lives with the chaplains.
Poling had enrolled at Hope in the fall of 1929, and attended the college for two years. He played football as a freshman, and was a member of the Knickerbocker Fraternity. He completed his undergraduate education at Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1933, and earned his B.D. in 1936 at Yale University's Divinity School, and was ordained in the Reformed Church in America. Prior to the war, he first served the First Church of Christ in New London, Conn., as associate minister, and subsequently became pastor of the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, N.Y.
His name is on the plaque near the northeast entrance of Nykerk Hall that identifies the former Hope students who died in the service of their country during World War II. The story of the four chaplains was shared in the April, 1993, issue of "news from Hope College" in commemoration of the event's 50th anniversary.
Wales's co-author on "Sea of Glory" is David Poling, first cousin of Chaplain Clark V. Poling. David Poling is a columnist whose weekly features have appeared in more than 600 newspapers during the last 10 years.
Wales is currently working on a major feature film based on the story of the four chaplains and the "Dorchester." His productions have included "The Tamarind Seed," "Wild Rovers," "Islands in the Stream" with George C. Scott and the CBS series "Christy," based on the novel by Catherine Marshall. He has acted in more than 35 films and numerous television programs. He teaches periodically at his alma mater, the University of Southern California, and lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The presentations on April 21 are sponsored by the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at Calvin College.