Arthur E. Inks  Serviceman on the SS Dorchester 


           Last month, in our Support Our Troops column, we featured a World War II story on four Army chaplains who perished on the SS Dorchester on Feb. 3, 1943.  After the ship was torpedoed they helped soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own lifejackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers and sang hymns as they went down with the ship. 

          After we ran this story in our February issue, we received an email from one of our readers – 

 Thanks for putting something in the Northern Connection magazine about Four Chaplains Day. 
Since I’ve gone down the genealogy rabbit hole, I have been so interested in the Dorchester. My  great-grandfather (Arthur Inks) died that night when the ship went down. I lived with his daughter in McCandless for much of my life. At different times, Arthur’s wife and son also lived with us. I’m heading out to Philly to attend the 75th Anniversary with the Four Chaplains organization. 

– Sharon Volpe of McCandless Township 


          As a follow-up we’re retracing the days that led up to Arthur Inks departure on that ill-fated United States Army Transport (USAT) ship.  As Ms. Volpe explains, “Arthur had been having problems at home.  He and his wife were separated, and he and his mistress had had just put their newborn son up for adoption. Arthur had an 18-year-old son, Jimmy, who recently enlisted in the Navy.  Arthur’s daughter, Betty, was my grandmother,” Sharon said.  “She listed swimming as one of her favorite activities in her senior yearbook. After her father’s assumed drowning, she would refuse to ever get into a pool again.” 

         “My great-grandfather boarded the Dorchester on Jan. 23, 1943.  He had been in the military for about one year.  Like many from Western Penna., he had worked as a laborer in both a steel mill and a coal mine.  Right before, the war, his job was with a hanger company in Baltimore; it ended up closing its doors.  Arthur moved back to Uniontown, where he lived much of life, and was living there when he got the news he had to report for duty.  At age 41, he was one of the oldest men on that ship that even had a 14-year-old stowaway,” Sharon said. 

           When the Dorchester was hit, it immediately lost electricity and radio contact.  There was no way they could radio for help.  Some lifeboats were inaccessible because of their location; others were frozen to the ship.  This military transport ship sank quickly into the icy waters of the Atlantic.  Of the 902 men aboard the Dorchester, 230 survived and 672 perished – including Arthur.  Today, there is one lone survivor, William Bunkelman, who lives in a nursing home in Monroe, Mich. 

          “Many Pittsburghers have passed the chapel at the Pittsburgh International Airport.  In 1994, it was dedicated to the Four Chaplains.  The Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill has a large memorial to the men.  I have no information about how my great-grandfather actually died that night, but I am happy that there is an incredible story about the Dorchester that we cannot let fade away.  The research I have fallen into with this has made me cry on more than a few occasions.  I have twice stood in front of his name engraved on the East Coast Memorial in Battery Park in New York City and grieved for this man I never knew,” said Sharon. 

 By Paula Green