Lesson Plan – Breaking Down Identity Barriers (WWII and 9/11)

On February 3, 1943 — a day in the midst of a war motivated by identity persecution — the U.S.S Dorchester was torpedoed off the coast of Greenland (Krome), causing a tragic turn of events for the military passengers of this vessel. As the ship began to sink four military chaplains — Protestant Reverends George L. Fox and Clark A. Poling, Catholic Priest John P. Washington and Reform Rabbi Alexander Goode — worked as a team to save the lives of their fellow passengers. They risked their lives by not only giving up their life jackets to the other soldiers, but also by forsaking their ability to board the lifeboats (picture collection and letter from Rollie). According to survivor Rollie T. Phillips: “The chaplains stood together as the ship went down.” He recalled being “close to the ship when she sank and the memory of them standing together” united (Rollie’s letter). Some of the survivors even claimed that the four men were praying together (Krome). This heroic and patriotic act made a tremendous impact on the American people because despite the fact that anti-Semitism and anti-Catholic sentiment still resonated within America, these four chaplains bonded together and broke down identity barriers. Before William Herberg’s Protestant, Catholic, and Jew— a text suggesting that America was country composed of Judeo-Christian values — this event help to facilitate interfaith dialogue between Christians and Jews.

Ohio Standards Correlation:

History: Grade 12, Benchmark B, Points 2 & 3
People in Societies: Grade 12, Benchmark A, Points 1 & 2
People in Societies: Grade 11, Benchmark C, Point 4


  • Introduction
  • Goals
  • Activities
  • Resources
  • Supporting News Articles

Prepared by Adam Grossman with the help of Alley Schottenstein