Army Chaplain Corps
Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish Rabbi; Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister are known as the “Four Chaplains”

St. Martin of Tours

The Origin of "Chaplain"

Martin of Tours. Said to be part of the Origin of the word "Chaplain".

In the fourth century, a soldier, Martin of Tours, entered Amiens’ city gates where he saw a beggar shivering in the cold. Using his sword, Martin cut his cape (“cappa” in Latin) in half and gave part to the beggar.

That night, he dreamed that Christ appeared wearing the beggar’s half of the cape and identified himself to Martin as the beggar.

This dream so affected Martin that he became a Christian and entered religious service, founding a monastery. After his death, he was canonized and named France’s patron saint.

St. Martin’s cape became an object of veneration carried into battle by French kings. Its portable shrine was called the “capella’ and its caretaker priest, the “cappellanus.”

Eventually, all clergy affiliated with the military were called “capellani” or in French “chapelains,” hence chaplains.


The Four Chaplains praying aboard the sinking Dorchester.

When the U.S.A.T Dorchester was torpedoed by German submarines, four U.S. Army Chaplains offered their aid to the hundreds of men aboard the transport ship, sacrificing their own lives during the rescue.

Lt. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish Rabbi; Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister are known as the “Four Chaplains”.

On Feb. 2, 1943, the Dorchester was carrying 902 servicemen, merchant seamen and civilians on a transport mission across the North Atlantic when it was struck by a German torpedo. The attack punctured the hull and disrupted the ship’s electrical system, forcing the crew to evacuate in darkness.

Amid the chaos, the chaplains helped guide the wounded and panicking men to safety. Life jackets were in short supply, and the chaplains removed their own jackets and gave them to others. They helped as many men as possible into the lifeboats, and then linked arms on the ship’s deck, singing hymns and prayers as the ship sank into the sea.

For their actions, the men were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. Later, Congress authorized the ‘Four Chaplains Medal’, which was presented to the next of kin of each of the four chaplains.

Learn more about the Four Chaplains 


Emil Kapuan was one of 12 Army chaplains to die in the Korean War, all in North Korean concentration camps. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Emil Kapaun served as a chaplain in World War II and the Korean War. In 1950, He and his unit were captured by Chinese soldiers and taken to a North Korean prisoner of war camp. He died of malnutrition and pneumonia in one of the camp’s hospitals.

Kapaun was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service during the war. Even while severely weakened, Kapaun constantly performed religious services and rites for other prisoners in the camp. He was also known to give away his own food, mediate disputes, and persuade prisoners to tend to the wounded.

Kapuan was one of 12 Army chaplains to die in the war, all in North Korean concentration camps. His Distinguished Service Cross was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.


Chaplain (Maj.) Francis P. Duffy poses in an undated photo. Duffy, a Catholic priest, is one of the most celebrated chaplains from World War I. He accompanied litter bearers into battle to help recover the wounded and recived the Distinguished Service Cross, among other awards, for his bravery under fire. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School)

Francis P. Duffy served in the Spanish American War (1898) and on the Western Front in World War I. A member of the 165th U.S. Infantry Regiment, he was known to accompany litter bearers to recover wounded men, which frequently occurred during battle.

Duffy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Conspicuous Service Cross. He also received several decorations from French government for his actions during the war.

Duffy died in 1932. The northern area of Times Square is named in his honor.


Charles J. Watters
Charles J. Watters earned the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions during the Vietnam War. Watters died will attending to Soldiers in a close combat situation.

John Rosbrugh
The first U.S. Chaplain to be killed in battle, Presbyterian Rev. John Rosburgh served in the Revolutionary War. He was killed in a bayonet attack by Hessian soldiers.

Chaim Potok
Chaim Potok is a Rabbi and author who served as a Chaplain in South Korea from 1955 to 1957.

John D. Burkhalter
Baptist minister John D. Burkhalter was part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy beach. He earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Start and the Silver Star for directing the recovery of American casualties while under heavy fire.


Interested in joining the Chaplain Corps? Get started on your application by talking to a recruiter.

Learn more about the requirements to become an Army Chaplain