The Fort Dodge Civitan Club has invited area clergy to a breakfast in their honor at 7 a.m. Wednesday at the Hickory House in observance of Clergy Appreciation Week.
Carol Joselyn of Bethany House will present a program.
Clergy Appreciation Week was established to honor the four chaplains on the USS Dorchester who drowned on Feb. 3, 1943, when the troop ship went down near Greenland.
The USS Dorchester started life as a luxury passenger liner built in the United States during the Roaring Twenties. Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Dorchester was brought out of mothballs. The Army painted her gray, loaded a gun on her bow and designated her a United States Army troop transport ship charged with carrying troops from Staten Island to Greenland military bases and back.
The USS Dorchester carried four men of God - a Catholic, a Jew and two Protestants - and 905 American servicemen bound for Greenland. A Nazi submarine, stalking the ship undetected, fired a torpedo toward the ship. The missile exploded in the boiler room, and many on board died instantly; some were trapped below deck. Others, jolted from their bunks, headed to the decks. The ship, taking on water rapidly, began listing to starboard. Because security reasons prevented use of distress flares, escort vessels still close enough to assist pushed on into the darkness, unaware that the Dorchester was sinking. Overcrowded lifeboats capsized; rafts drifted away before anyone could reach them.
On deck, the four Army chaplains moved about calming men, directing soldiers to lifeboats and distributing life jackets. Soon the supply of jackets was exhausted, yet four young soldiers were still without life vests. Quickly the chaplains stripped off their own vests and forced them on the young soldiers.
In recognition of that sacrifice, Civitan International has declared the week of Jan. 31 to Feb. 6 as International Clergy Appreciation week.
The local Civitan Club meets weekly for informational programs at 7 a.m. Wednesday mornings at Hickory House. Information is available from Roger Leo at 576-4249.