New Castle News

June 18, 2013

Merchant Marine paid high price during war

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Editor, The News:

Most people do not know anything about the value and casualties of the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.

The ships were called Liberty Ship and had the job to bring vital supplies to war fronts.

That included fuel, food, planes, guns, ammunition and anything else needed by our military. They also helped in every invasion that took place. They were active during the war longer than any other of the services, starting in May 1941.

Out of 6,236 American and Allied ships, about 1,554 were sunk or damaged. The ships taking goods to Murmansk, Russia, above the Arctic Circle, when sunk the death toll was almost 100 percent for those in the water because the water was freezing.

The ships were sunk by mines, bombers and torpedoes. The greatest concentration of sinking was in the Caribbean, second-highest in the North Atlantic off the eastern coast of the United States, the third-highest being off the coasts of England and France.

The Germans even laid down mines in the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River.

The Merchant Marine put their lives on the line just like all the other members of the armed services.

The death toll was 9,521 out of 243,000, which meant one out of 26 died, or 3.9 percent. That was the highest percentage of deaths of any of the other services. Also, 712 were interned as POWs, of which 97 died.

Would you believe the government didn’t recognize them as veterans until 1988, after years of court battles? Not only that, have you ever heard the Merchant Marine honored at any Memorial or Veterans Day ceremonies?

Also, they never got any paid leave or vacations or pensions. Fortunately, they did receive college benefits.

Dr. Harold E. Martin

Clark Street

Mount Jackson