CONGRESS!! DON’T DELAY FURTHER. RECOGNIZE OUR WORLD WAR II MERCHANT MARINES… they are slowly passing away like all the members of the “Greatest Generation” and deserve to be recognized fully for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the Nation.
We ask for all members of the Senate and the House to cosponsor and support the bills that will award the Congressional Gold Medal to the American Merchant Marine of WWII.
For all of our readers and supporters, please take a few minutes to email or phone your Legislators in the House and your U.S. Senators to ask them to co-sponsor and fully support the World War II Heroes of the U.S. Merchant Marines.
Before World War II there were about 55,000 civilian sailors employed in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Due to the national security requirements and the far-reaching transportation of U.S. military equipment and personnel throughout the period during and after the war, this number swelled dramatically to as many as 250,000 men (and yes, women) who served with the U.S. Merchant Marine by the end of the war. A pre-war merchant fleet of more than 1300 cargo ships and tankers expanded more than three-fold to in excess of 4200 U.S. merchant ships by the close of World War II.
Estimates of casualties range greatly from 5,662 to more than 8,300 merchant seamen and officers who died or went missing during World War II. Some accounts say as many as 12,000 were wounded, and more than 600 became prisoners of war. Among the first POWs of the war was the crew from the SS President Harrison, captured 8 December 1941 by the Japanese. Serving with the crew of the Harrison, was a stewardess on the ship, named Clara Gordan Main, who was held almost two years in captivity. She later received recognition of the Meritorious Service Medal, for saving the life of fellow crew member, Chief Steward McKay, nursing him back to health.
Some sources place the number of Merchant Mariners killed in excess of 9,000, including those who eventually died from wartime injuries. However, because the Merchant Marine has never been a single organization and it did not have a centralized record-keeping system at that time, the estimates of the numbers of Merchant Mariners killed, wounded, missing and taken prisoner vary considerably. We may never know the final count of all casualties of these brave individuals. Similarly, there is not a good estimate now of how many of them are still living.
Despite honorable, vital and heroic service in wartime, the men (and women) sailing aboard U.S. merchant vessels in direct support of our wartime efforts, were not accorded veteran status until decades following the end of World War II. Only in 1988 were U.S. Merchant Mariners who served in World War II officially recognized as veterans, and then only after a long court battle and after having been turned down repeatedly in earlier attempts to gain veteran status.
The service of U.S. Merchant Marine was critical to the war effort and to securing victory. These individuals deserve to be recognized like other important groups (such as the Tuskegee Airmen and WASPs) who contributed much to the Nation’s war time effort and whose sacrifice has been recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal.
Bills now being sponsored would bestow the Congressional Gold Medal to the American Merchant Mariners of World War II, in recognition of their vital service and sacrifice. Tell Congress you want them to give these Heroes the recognition they deserve!