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First Name: Clark

Last Name: Poling

Birthplace: Columbus, OH, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: V.

Date of Birth: 07 August 1910

Date of Death: 03 February 1943 (Presumed)

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served:
Clark V. Poling

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Clark V. Poling
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Chaplain Corps

Clark V. Poling was born on 7 August 1910 in Columbus, OH, to Daniel A., an evangelical minister, and Susie Jane Vandersall Poling. He was raised in Auburndale, MA, where he attended Whitney Public School. His mother died in 1918; his father remarried in 1919 and converted to the Baptist faith, becoming an ordained minister. The family moved to Poughkeepsie, NY, and Poling attended Oakwood High School where he excelled on the football team.

After graduation, he attended Hope College in Michigan and then Rutgers University in New Jersey, graduating in 1933. He then attended Yale Divinity School, graduating in 1936. He then took up a position as pastor of the First Reformed Church in Schenectady, NY, where he settled with his wife, Betty, and their son, Corky. A daughter, Susan Elizabeth, was born three months after his death.

At the outbreak of war in 1941, Poling immediately volunteered for service as an Army Chaplain in the footsteps of his father, who had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He initially served in Mississippi with a transport regiment.

In late 1942, Poling was transferred to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, MA, and attended Chaplains School at Harvard University. There he met fellow Chaplains, George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode and John P. Washington. In January 1943, the Chaplains embarked on board the USAT Dorchester, which was transporting over 900 soldiers to the United Kingdom via Greenland.

On 2 February 1943, the German submarine U-223 spotted the convoy on the move and closed with the ships, firing a torpedo which struck the Dorchester shortly after midnight. Hundreds of men packed the decks of the rapidly-sinking ship and scrambled for the lifeboats. Several of the lifeboats had been damaged and the four Chaplains began to organize the frightened soldiers. They distributed life jackets from a locker; when the supply of life jackets ran out, each of the Chaplains gave theirs to other soldiers. When the last lifeboats were away, the Chaplains prayed with those unable to escape the sinking ship. The Dorchester disappeared below the waves with 672 men still aboard, 27 minutes after the torpedo struck. The last anyone saw of the four Chaplains, they were standing on the deck, arms linked and praying together.

The four Chaplains were all awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart and received national acclaim for their courage and self-sacrifice.

Distinguished Service Cross Citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to First Lieutenant (Chaplain) Clark V. Poling (ASN: 0-477425), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States. On the night of 3 February 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a loaded troop transport, was torpedoed without warning by an enemy submarine in the North Atlantic and began to sink rapidly. In the resulting confusion and darkness some men found themselves without life jackets and others became helpless through fear and the dread of plunging into the freezing water. Chaplain Poling with three fellow Chaplains, moved about the deck, heroically and calmly, encouraging the men and assisting them to abandon ship. After the available supply of life jackets was exhausted they gave up their own and remained aboard ship and went down with it, offering words of encouragement and prayers to the last. Chaplain Fox's great self-sacrifice, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplifies the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the Chaplains Corps, and the United States Army.

War Department, General Orders No. 93 (December 28, 1944)


A chapel in their honor was dedicated on 3 February 1951 by President Harry S. Truman at Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

The Four Chaplains' Medal was established by Act of Congress on 14 July 1960 and was presented posthumously to their next of kin by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker at Ft. Myer, VA, on 18 January 1961.

Poling is honored with a Feast Day along with the other Four Chaplains on the liturgical of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America on 3 February.

The high point of the town of Deering, NH, formerly known as Wolf Hill (1570 ft.), was re-named Clark Summit in Poling's honor, and a memorial plaque with the following inscription was placed at the summit outlook.

"Located on what was once family land, Clark thought this was a peaceful place and would often go there to reflect on big decisions in his life. In fact, it was at Wolf Hill's summit that Clark decided to become a minister."


First Lieutenant Clark V. Poling died at sea on 3 February 1943. His body was never recovered. A memorial site is located at the Chapel of Four Chaplains in Philadelphia, PA.

Honoree ID: 2964   Created by: MHOH




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