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Sea of Glory: Based on the True WWII Story of the Four Chaplains and the U.S.A.T. Dorchester

Sea of Glory: Based on the True WWII Story of the Four Chaplains and the U.S.A.T. Dorchester

5.0 2
by Ken Wales, David Poling
"A historical novel based on an actual event aboard the U. S. Army Transport, Dorchester, during World War II, portraying four chaplains -- Methodist minister George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed pastor Clark Poling, & Catholic priest John Washington -- who gave up their lives at sea to save the lives of others.

Author Biographies: Ken Wales has had a


"A historical novel based on an actual event aboard the U. S. Army Transport, Dorchester, during World War II, portraying four chaplains -- Methodist minister George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed pastor Clark Poling, & Catholic priest John Washington -- who gave up their lives at sea to save the lives of others.

Author Biographies: Ken Wales has had a long and successful career in films and television. His acclaimed accomplishments include the film The Tamarind Seed, and the award winning miniseries John Steinbeck's East of Eden and The Return of the Pink Panther. His passion and vision brought Catherine Marshall's acclaimed Christy to CBS television.

David Poling is a fifth generation Presbyterian Pastor and the author of The Last Years Of The Church, To Be Born Again, and Schweitzer. "

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Does factual history make for good fiction? Well, yes and no in this military novel with strong spiritual themes. Father John Washington, Rev. Clark Poling, Pastor George Fox and Rabbi Alex Goode are thrown together on the doomed army transport ship Dorchester in February 1943. As Nazi U-boats lurk just beneath the surface of the western Atlantic, waiting to intercept and destroy ships that pass within torpedo range, spiritual battles take place on board the Dorchester. Not, however, among the clergy. Despite their diverse religious traditions Catholic, Jewish, Methodist and Reformed Protestant the four chaplains find a consistent unity of purpose in boosting the spirits of the military men under their care. Indeed, the spiritual unity is unbelievably idyllic: some disagreement or tension among the four might have made their relationship more convincing. However, the final sacrifice they make based on true accounts is undisputedly inspiring. The novel's strength lies in its detailed depiction of a heavily researched historical event; this is also a weakness, as the reader often feels more like a history pupil than a participant in the adventure. This story might have been better presented as nonfiction. Still, history buffs who prefer a Christian theme in their novels will be happy to find a new offering in the limited pool of titles available to them, and WWII fans will enjoy this retelling of the sinking of the Dorchester. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Amid the secrecy surrounding military transports during World War II, four military chaplains board the U.S.A.T. Dorchester to minister to the 902 soldiers there. George Lansing Fox, a Methodist minister; Alexander D. Goode, a rabbi; Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister; and John P. Washington, a Catholic priest, are men of different faiths, ages, and backgrounds drawn together by an unswerving belief in God. As they show their concern and faith each day, they begin to shape a miracle in one man's heart that will blossom on February 3, 1943, the day a German U-boat torpedoes the Dorchester and the chaplains make a final sacrifice for the crew. While the details about the men's lives prior to boarding the Dorchester are rather dry, Poling (a cousin of one of the ministers) and Wales (a screenwriter for the TV show Christy) pack enough emotion into the rest of the novel to more than compensate. For fans of military fiction and the movie Saving Private Ryan. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

B&H Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.22(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The sea was gray and calm, lapping the rocksalong the beach with a steady, regular motion.There was no wave curl to crash and melt ontothe land, only irregular patches of white foam movingup and down rhythmically on top of the quiet water,dotting the surface from shoreline to horizon where thesteely ocean met the somber sky.

    "I'm getting cold, Poppy. Can we go back insidenow, please?"

    Wesley Adams looked down at his grandson. As hespoke, the boy put an arm around Adams's waist andburied his head in the front of his coat. His blond hairblew in the wind, and he closed his eyes tight againstthe sudden blast of sea air tinged with salt spray.

    "In a minute, Alex. Just one more minute." Adamsspoke softly without looking away from the water.

    The two stood alone on the rocky beach. Behindthem, lights from the windows of the Arctic Hotelshone in the twilight, projecting their bright rectanglesin precise formation across the sloping, pebble-strewnlawn that ran between the building and the shore.Above the sound of the wind they could hear the animatedmurmur of conversation and laughter comingfrom inside. There were fewer of them every time,Wesley thought. The longer they could keep this up,the better. The more it meant. The more Alex and therest of the world might understand.


    Adams didn't answer, didn't look away from thequiet gray sea and the misty line that fused it with thesky above.

   "Is this where it happened?" Alex waited a longmoment. He knew his grandfather had heard him.

    "Yes, Alex. Here."

    "I wish I'd been here too."

    Did he really? Wesley didn't know if that was a goodthing or a bad thing. He'd spent the last fifty yearsturning that question over in his mind one way oranother. He could hardly explain how he felt about thisplace to his wife, or his best friends, or anybody whohadn't seen and felt and done what he had here once.How could he explain it to a ten-year-old boy? Helonged to explain it, though; it was the main reason hehad brought the lad with him. Every other trip hereover the years he had made alone.


    The old man broke from his gaze and looked downat his grandson. "You go ahead, Alex. I'll be there in alittle bit."

    Wesley watched as the boy bounded over the rocks,up across the lawn, and into the front door of thehotel. Alex was doing well, he thought. Picking up asense of this place and the occasion that brought themhere was a pretty fair accomplishment for a kid his age.And it was cold, Wesley had to admit. Spring inGreenland must be quite a jolt to a youngster who hadspent all of his springtimes up to now in Indianapolis.

    Alone, Wesley walked a few yards over to where TheRune waited, gray like everything else, looming overthe other rocks nearby. Somebody had named it afterthe stones prehistoric settlers had put up on the island:tall rocks sort of like he'd seen in pictures of EasterIsland. This jutting slab was the landmark he rememberedfrom the day he came ashore; this was the spothe and the others always came back to, standing at thebase of The Rune to look out over the water and let thememories come cascading over them like a waterfall.

    He pulled off one glove and fished inside his pocketfor the envelope. It was crisp and new, about half thesize of a regular manila envelope but white, capturingand holding the last of the daylight as he ran his fingersacross it, looking first at it and then at the emptyseascape in front of him.

    He reached inside and pulled out a thin sheaf of linedpaper that had been folded and folded again so manytimes the pages looked like they might spontaneouslyseparate into quarters any minute. He put the envelopeback in his pocket, and held the pages tightly, protectively,against the gusts. Shielding them with his body,he unfolded them carefully and, finding the best anglefor catching the faint dusk that remained, he beganreading to himself, sometimes pausing to look up at thewater.

* * *

    If I made it to the lifeboat, it would be a miracle.

    I'd waited as long as I could to jump, to the pointwhere it was more like stepping off the front porch of thehouse in Springfield, Illinois, where I grew up than itwas jumping off the rail of a ship swarming with desperatemen. As the icy deck inched steadily under the wateron its way to the bottom of the dark North Atlantic, thearea where men could stand grew smaller, driving theremaining soldiers and sailors into one another in anever tighter and more frantic huddle. Once in a whileone of them would separate from the cluster and jumpinto the swells, like a kernel of popcorn from a skillet.

    I heard other soldiers shouting and screaming allaround me, some of them still on deck and others alreadyin the water. The noise seemed muffled and distant eventhough several of them were so close their life jacketsbumped against mine. I felt their hot breath as theybellowed curses, prayers, and the names of their buddiesout into the Arctic darkness.

    I felt my own legs and other legs nearby churning upthe icy water, instinctively trying to stay afloat and keepthe circulation going. Every other sensation was shut outby an all-powerful coldness. Below decks in my bunktwenty minutes ago I'd been about to roast. Even thoughthe temperature hovered around zero outside, it was stiflingand miserable down there. Now the water was likea thousand needles sticking in me from every direction.

    At the first shock of it I couldn't breathe for a minute;my whole chest was paralyzed until a crest rolled me onmy face and gave me a snootful of water mixed with fueloil. I didn't know then that the oil insulated me in thewater and probably saved my life. I gagged and heavedfor a while, finally got a couple of clear gulps of air, thenlooked around to try to figure out what to do next.

    Only two or three lifeboats had been launched. Somedangled useless because of the list angle of the ship as shesank, but most of them were jammed in the davits. Ithadn't been above freezing since we left St. John's almostfour days ago, and the sleet and saltwater spray hadgradually encased the pulleys in smooth, translucentspheres of ice harder than steel. These frozen globes hadwithstood the onslaught of axes and knife blades untilthe brittle steel snapped, of frantic fists until they werebloodied and broken. The men who had wielded thoseaxes and knives were in the water with me now. Fearmade their eyes flash brilliant in the red light of theemergency beacons that began shining from the corner ofevery life jacket.

    After a few minutes the eyes began losing their brilliance,gradually transforming two by two into milky,vacant circles on faces frozen in hideous variations ofagony and disbelief.

    I don't know how for away the lifeboat was when Ifirst saw it. Forty or fifty yards maybe, headed away fromthe ship. As I watched, it came about and stopped. Oneor two guys in the water started swimming for it; the restI guess didn't see it or didn't care anymore. I made it tothe side of the boat and grabbed for the gunwale. Handscame down over the edge and took hold of my wrists,then my arms and shoulders. I couldn't tell when I wasall the way out of the water because I was so numb. I satdown and somebody gave me a blanket.

    Around us in the dark I could see red locator lightsfrom the life jackets, bobbing on the swells, spread out inevery direction like roses on velvet. I knew for every lightthere were probably two more men who had gone overboardwithout life jackets. Nobody had wanted to wearthem down below as hot as it was, even though we wereordered to keep them on twenty-four hours a day,including sack time. By the time they'd run up to thedeck without them, it was too late to go back; the gangwayswere already full to the ceiling with seawater.Sitting on a bench in the lifeboat, I couldn't imaginebeing hot again as long as I lived.

    The sky and the ocean were the same jet black color. Icould hardly see due to the faint light of the languidmoon, and when I first looked over at the Dorchester, itseemed like it was hovering in midair. The bow wasalready underwater; crests lapped at the foot of thesuperstructure amidships. That was when I saw the fourlieutenants standing on the exposed hull near the fantailin the dim light, accented by a dozen or so flashlights,some red, some white, waving around in the void. I'donly met them a couple of weeks before, but sitting therein that pitching, freezing boat I knew that because ofthem my life—however much longer it lasted—wouldnever be the same.

    In spite of everything going on, they stood there almostlike friends at a picnic, casual and relaxed. They hadtheir coats on, but none of them now had a life jacket.As I watched, they locked arms in a circle and liftedtheir heads up to the dark sky. I could see their mouthsmoving but heard nothing at first; then, straining, Icaught snatches of their voices interspersed among gustsof wind, the slap of waves on the sides of the lifeboat,and the cries of dying men in the water.

    Music. They were singing.

    Eternal Father, strong to save,

    Whose arm doth bind the restless wave ...

    It was faint, but what I heard was lusty and confident.Not typical of the sounds men make when they'reobviously minutes from death. But nothing had beentypical about that bunch.

    I forgot about those thousand needles in my flesh as Iwatched the circle of men settle lower toward the surfaceof the sea. The ship was sinking fast enough now thatevery wave crest lapped closer to where ...

* * *

    The bottom of the page below the crease was still inthe envelope in his coat pocket. That was all right; heknew the rest of it by heart. The pages ended up insmaller pieces every year. Here was another quarter ofa page that had to be taped.

    The sun had been down for a while now, but it wasstill light. Darkness came slowly this time of year to aplace less than four hundred miles from the ArcticCircle. Wesley looked out at the North Atlantic. As heglanced down again at the dog-eared sheets in hishand, a tear ran down his cheek and dropped onto thepaper. He thought it was a good thing he'd written inpencil. If it had been ink, the pages would have washedclean years ago.

    He transferred the pages to his gloved hand andreached into another pocket. After fishing around a fewseconds, he pulled out an old-fashioned watch chain.On the end of it dangled a delicate and beautifulpocket watch. Any passerby walking to the hotel justthen would have thought it a mighty odd thing to haveon a rock-strewn beach in Greenland. The watch andchain were both made of old rose gold that glinted andflashed even on a gray day like this one. The beautifullyengraved case seemed almost to glow with a warmth ofits own.

    He held it up so it caught the light from the hotelwindows. There was a shell design—a family coat ofarms and, Wesley always reminded himself, a symbolof baptism. He looked at it carefully, running histhumb across the surface to feel every familiar nick andimperfection. Slowly he lowered the watch back intohis pocket and dropped the chain in afterward.

    Wesley Adams was still rather handsome to be morethan seventy years old. Taut and wiry, he had fared betterover the years than some of the men back up at thehotel, those who were left to meet here to markanother anniversary of the night they had shared andsurvived together unlike any other night of their lives.

    He didn't know how long he stood there with thecold wind coming off the water and whipping his hairaround his face. Every sensation from the first time hehad stood there on that beach came forward from somedistant recess. The confusion and shock. Too exhaustedto be hungry. Too cold to think about anything but thecold. Helped ashore by strangers from the Coast Guardcutter that had picked them up six hours before inArctic blackness.

    He could see the old night again as clearly as he sawhis hand before him, feel the freezing needles, replaythe sight of that wedge of the rear deck of an old coastalsteamer hovering between sea and sky, yielding steadilyto the waves. The weakening cries of dying men. Andthe triumphant sound of that strange impromptuquartet of lieutenants, all chaplains, cast across thewater and debris and pockets of burning fuel oil, foldingthe night itself into a strangely comfortingembrace.

    Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep

    Its own appointed limits keep ...

    He turned back toward the Arctic Hotel. It was thebiggest building here in Narssarssuaq, near CapeFarewell on the southern tip of Greenland. Now amodest tourist attraction, it had been built as one ofthe most important top secret Allied installations of thewar. Sergeant Adams had been on his way to this placethat night.

    "Blue West One," he said softly to himself lookingup at the building. Then he smiled and put his tatteredpages away.


    Wesley started. He had neither seen nor heard Alexcome down over the rocks to the water's edge.

    Alex stared at his grandfather's eyes. "Are you OK?"

    "I'm fine."

    "Your eyes look sad."

    "Sorry." The two stood together, and the boy put hisarm around the man again. Wesley swallowed, clearedhis throat, and spoke. "Really, I'm OK. I feel good,actually." Another pause. "I'm glad you're here."

    Alex looked around. "I've heard about Blue WestOne for years. Since I was a little kid," he said.

    Wesley Adams chuckled. "Years, huh? Well, we'll seeif this trip won't tell you a little more.

    "Still cold?" the man asked.

    "I'm better now."

    Wesley squeezed his grandson's shoulder. The twostood looking out to sea again, squinting into thewind. Now he could barely make out the line separatingsea and sky. As he stared northward along thebeach, he saw four figures in the distance walkingtoward him. What would four guys be doing that farfrom the hotel this time in the afternoon? Was it somekind of illusion? Temperature inversion? An old man'simagination agitated with thoughts of times and thingspast?

    He was mesmerized by the sight. He didn't knowwhether Alex saw it too; he didn't ask but looked onsilently as four images came closer. Soon the fourseemed close enough for him to recognize, as plain tothe old man as if the four chaplains were walking thereon the beach and coming over to greet him. He couldsee they were talking and laughing among themselves,though all he heard was the sea breeze and the waterlapping up on the rocks of the beach. He recognizedthem by their walks even before he could see theirfaces: friendly, easygoing Father John Washington;calm, confident Reverend Clark Poling; experienced,knowledgeable Pastor George Fox; and last but neverleast, athletic, enthusiastic Rabbi Alex Goode.

    There they were, friends ambling along the beachand looking around nonchalantly at the shore theywere destined never to reach in life. Adams stood withhis back to The Rune, watching them. His eyes metWashington's; in them he saw the answering gleam ofrecognition.

    O hear us when we cry to Thee

    For those in peril on the sea.

    "Thank you," the old man said, not realizing he hadspoken aloud. Alex hugged him tight, and his grandfatherlooked down in reply. The boy saw tears streakingdown his grandfather's face.

    "I love you, Poppy."

    "I love you, Alex."

    Arms around each other's waist, the two stood for amoment together.

    "Go on back inside if you like," Wesley Adams said."I'll be right there."

Excerpted from SEA OF GLORY by KEN WALES & DAVID POLING. Copyright © 2001 by Ken Wales and David Poling. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.



Carol Publishing Group

Copyright © 1978 Robert Windeler.All rights reserved.

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Sea of Glory: Based on the True WW II Story of the Four Chaplains and the U. S. A. T. Dorchester 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
SEA OF GLORY is a moving, compelling biographical story about four navy chaplains during the early years of World War II. My husband, who served in the U.S. Navy (1942 - 1946) could not put it down once he started reading. SEA OF GLORY stresses faith, humanity, and patriotism during a time of historical destruction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The release of 'Sea of Glory' could not have come at a better time in our country's history. This Novel by Ken Wales and David Poling, shows the best mankind has ever produced, both as servants of God and Country! This slightly fictionalized account, details one of Americas most heroic actions in WWII. The story of the Four Chaplains and the USAT Dorchester is an emotionally strong one by itself, but these authors were able to amplify the emotions producing a book you will never forget.