Jewish group fights for chaplain monument at Arlington
On Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery, no monument exists to Jewish chaplains killed in action.
May 7th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Jewish group fights for chaplain monument at Arlington

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Arlington, Virginia (CNN) – Three German torpedoes ripped through the icy waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Greenland. On February 2, 1943, the USS Dorchester was transporting 902 U.S. servicemen to war. Only one torpedo hit, but it struck a deathblow - killing scores instantly and resetting the ship's course to the bottom of the ocean.

Amid the chaos, survivors later recalled, four U.S. Army chaplains fought to bring calm and comfort, praying for the dead and encouraging the living to fight for survival. They helped frightened servicemen find life jackets and head to rescue craft. Each of the four chaplains gave up his life jacket to save the life of another.

All four stayed on the ship's new course to the bottom of the ocean and gave their lives so others might live. The last thing survivors saw of the four chaplains, they were huddled together praying.

Lt. George Fox, a Methodist chaplain; Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic chaplain; and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed chaplain, are each memorialized on Chaplains Hill at Arlington National Cemetery on monuments honoring the service of Protestant and Catholic chaplains killed in the line of duty.

Graves at Arlington are marked with religious symbols.

But amid the sea of white marble tombstones and granite monuments, one name is missing - Lt. Alexander D. Goode, the fourth chaplain from the USS Dorchester.

He was Jewish - a rabbi.

On a quiet hill at Arlington, three large granite and bronze monuments to chaplains overlook a host of graves of fallen military chaplains. One honors chaplains killed in World War I, one honors Protestant chaplains, and one Catholic chaplains.

"I knew the story of the four chaplains," said Ken Kraetzer. "I found three names, the Catholic and the Protestants, but realized there wasn't a monument to honor Rabbi Alexander Goode."

Kraetzer, who is Catholic, was researching a book on veterans from his hometown when he found the gap. A bank consultant by day, he hosts a weekly radio show about veterans and military issues in New Rochelle, New York.

He quickly alerted Jewish military groups to the missing monument.

Since World War I, 13 Jewish chaplains have died while on active duty.

"It's a matter of principle. It's a matter of keeping faith with those who kept faith with us," said Rabbi Harold Robinson, a retired admiral who served as a U.S. Navy chaplain for nearly two decades and who now heads the Jewish Chaplains Council.

"There are about 255 chaplains who died in active service; 242 of them are memorialized on Chaplains Hill. From my perspective that's wrong," he said.

"If you've been in the military, you know about the bond," he said. "You don't leave 13 behind. I don't think anyone intentionally did that. I think that's where it's at, and I think we have a chance to bring them home."

Robinson and Kraetzer got the ball rolling three years ago. They reached out to Arlington officials who, they said, told them if they raised the money privately and had the monument approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, it could be erected at Chaplains Hill.

They partnered with veterans groups, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and quickly had enough money and a design.

"The money's been raised. The design is analogous to the existing monuments," Robinson said.

But things went south at Arlington after a scandal over mismarked graves forced a former superintendent out. The new administration at Arlington said the group would need an act of Congress to put up the new memorial.

"To have the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate pass a bill to allow a memorial, while not very controversial in and of itself, is not the easiest thing in the world to do," said William Daroff, who is government affairs director for the Jewish Federations of North America.

The Jewish Federations of North America was asked by the Jewish Chaplains Council to help get the attention of Congress to pass the bill.

William Daroff of the Jewish Federations of North America walks among the graves at Arlington.

"Over the last decade or two there's been a feeling in Washington there's been too many memorials to begin with," Daroff said, standing in the shade by Chaplains Hill. Congress wanted to make the process more restrictive.

"It's not about Jewish chaplains to begin with but rather it's just about a process to make sure these things aren't going up willy-nilly," he said.

"I don't think it was a purposeful slight of the Jewish community," Daroff said. "But now that it's come to our attention and the attention of Jewish chaplains, it's natural that our nation should stand up and say thank you."

They have enlisted several members of Congress to try to help pass the bill. The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter this month. If the bill makes it out of committee, it would head to the House floor for a vote and, if passed, would go to the Senate.

As the memorial moves closer to reality, the excitement is building among members of the group involved as well as family members of the fallen chaplains.

"It's very, very meaningful to the families," Kraetzer said. "We're hearing from more and more of the families of the 13 chaplains, and it means the world to them to have the recognition for their family member."

"Every cross, every monument, at Arlington bears a story," he said. "That's one of our goals - to get the story out."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • DC • Judaism • Military • United States

soundoff (352 Responses)
  1. theviper

    so simple...remove the existing monuments and replace them with a small chapel dedicated to all the chaplains who gave their lives for our country. list their names inside the chapel in the chronological order of their passing. the print should be no more than 1" high and include the symbol of their religious affiliations after their names. no other symbols should adorn the chapel.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  2. Joe Somebody

    Why don't you guys look up Haym Solomon. If it weren't for Haym Solomon, The United States may not have won the Revolutionary War. Jews have been in this part of the world for quite some time now and us Jews so have a place in American history. I think this monument should be created not only because all four deserve recognition but because it's privately funded and just the ethical thing to do. There isn't really any reason why there shouldn't be a Jewish monument erected.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  3. R.Emond

    Hey people:

    Remember that Jesus said, "let the dead worry about the dead"

    So what is the exercise about anyway?

    May 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  4. david, USN RET (SS)

    All chaplins should be honored, they did not ask the ones they were helping what religon you were. GOD bless our troops.

    May 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  5. Jesus

    Why is it necessary to indicate religion on such military memorials?

    May 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • theviper

      ok, leave it out. the names would qualify their designation anyway.

      May 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  6. peacppl

    sorry..this is not the israeli defense forces we are talking about

    May 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  7. Chuck Steak

    Wow, this is a no-brainer. If Congress can't pass a bill to correct this simple omission, we all DOOMED ! ! !

    May 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  8. D. Ellis

    I used to help a Jewish friend of mine with his father's memorial park years ago. The one thing I learned was that Jews can't be buried amongst non-Jews, so they have their section set aside. So, I have to wonder if maybe there isn't a memorial to the 4th Chaplin somewhere in Arlington's Jewish section assuming they have such a thing.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • hi

      there are ways around this, if that one plot is separated, the coffin that is, by stone or something else, then it can still be there

      May 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  9. Shenandoah1865

    Of course the monument should be added – right away – with the heartfelt thanks of a grateful nation.

    I am so ashamed to read some of the comments above. C'mon people, we are better than that. We owe an unpayable debt to all who have served our country with honor. No exceptions.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm |


    May 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  11. felixblock

    what a painful discussion. A jew, a christian, a muslim,an agnostic, an atheist, all call their mothers before dying (if given a chance). I am sorry for most of the comments.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  12. mimzi

    I can't think of any good reason the monument shouldn't be put up.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  13. Ed Galbraith

    How about a "SKEPTIC" for fallen agnostics? seriously. Or are good people of conscience (perhaps most or many of us) to be excluded. What claim does "religion" have on YOUR integrity? None on mine.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Holly

      Because this is for those 4 chaplains in particular. 3 have been recognized, one wasn't. How hard is that to figure out? They want equal recognition for all 4. And there weren't any skeptic/agnostic chaplains on board. Read the article. It's not about 'heroes' per se, but these particular 4 men.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  14. Ed Galbraith

    How about a question mark for agnostic heros. Seriously.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Holly

      Maybe because there weren't any agnostic chaplains on board the ship?

      May 7, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  15. cassarit

    He's a good goy!

    May 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  16. Fiercely Independent

    My father was Jewish and he served in the 104th Timberwolf Division in WWII and received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in the Battle of Huertgen Forest (which is noted at the WWII Memorial in DC). Can't we all just (try) to get along???

    May 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  17. RobeMart

    I served in the USMC for over 13 years as both an enlisted Marine and a commissioned officer. I found that Chaplains were for the most part non-denominational when it came to performing their duties. For example, at Marble Mountain in Viet Nam in 1966-67 there was a Jewish Chaplin that would often help out the Catholic Chaplin with Sunday services.
    I can guarantee anyone that as one who has received the Last Rites once that at that moment one doesn’t give a hoot or a holler about the Chaplin's insignia or rank. One’s only concern was getting the spiritual comfort needed for making a potentially long, one-way trip.
    All US military Chaplains’ service and ultimate sacrifice to our great Country and our military should be formally recognized at our National Military cemeteries, but in particular at Arlington, Virginia for the entire world to see. No taxpayer money needed, just a grateful Nation of Americans saying thank you to the many generations of all Chaplains.

    May 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  18. Peter Rabbit

    this is a stupid conversation. 3 were given memorials for the same act of bravery and 1 was not. fix it, end of story. oh, and maybe the christian committee that put those 3 there and not the jew should pay for it.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Scramas


      May 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • iServe

      Sadly simple logic doesnt work for the government or the military.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Earthquake

      I agree. Amen.

      May 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  19. BTS

    One monument "To all the men of faith that have died for their country" end of story, why single them out by individual faith?

    May 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • TommyTT

      Because three of the four have already been singled out.

      May 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  20. Lisa

    If you truly think the memorial should be allowed, then contact your senators and representatives and let them know your feelings. That's what I'm going to do.

    May 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Read more

      I would highly recommend reading The Deepening Darkness. Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future before I build any monuments to (patriarchy). mitworld.mit.edu search for Learning to See in the Dark. Then read In A Different Voice, The Birth of Pleasure, and then The Deepening Darkness. The first two will talk about patriarchy training in younger years, and The Deepening Darkness will get to soldiers. Society lies to men and women. You might not want to build a monument to that.

      May 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.