The Merchant Marine

Something for the weekend.  It seems appropriate for this Labor Day Weekend to recall some of the unsung heroes of World War II, the Merchant Marine.  Along with their British colleagues in the Merchant Service, and the merchant fleets of the other allied nations, the Merchant Marine manned the merchant vessels that delivered supplies and troops through the war torn waters of the Atlantic and Pacific.  Technically civilians, one out of 26 merchant mariners died in action during the war, giving them a higher fatality rate than any of the armed services.   Members of the Merchant Marine were often jeered  as slackers and draft dodgers by civilians when they were back on shore who had no comprehension of the vital role they played.  Incredibly, these gallant men were denied veteran status and any veteran benefits because they were civilians.  This injustice was not corrected until 1988 when President Reagan signed the Merchant Marine Fairness Act.

8 Responses to The Merchant Marine

  1. T. Shaw says:

    Eternal Father, Strong to save,
    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
    Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep
    Its own appointed limits keep;
    O hear us when we cry to thee,
    for those in peril on the sea.

    O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
    And hushed their raging at Thy word,
    Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
    and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
    Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
    For those in peril on the sea!

    Most Holy spirit! Who didst brood
    Upon the chaos dark and rude,
    And bid its angry tumult cease,
    And give, for wild confusion, peace;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
    For those in peril on the sea!

    O Trinity of love and power!
    Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
    From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
    Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
    Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
    Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

    Sorry to say, it’s the US Navy Hymn and a Church of England hymn, at that.

  2. Mack Hall says:


    My mother’s first husband, Claude Blanchette, was lost with the SS Muskogee in 1942. His image, with three others, forms part of the Merchant Marine memorial in Battery Park in New York.

  3. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Ultimate sacrifices by men like Claude Blanchette are the reason we are free today.

  4. D.Tierney says:


    Sometimes when the bands are playing
    And the uniforms march by
    You will find a seaman watching
    With a wistful-looking eye

    And you know just what he’s thinking
    As he hears the cheering crowd
    As the soldiers and the sailors
    Swing along, erect and proud

    He is thinking that his country
    Shows its honor once again
    For those in uniform while forgetting
    All the seas’ forgotten men

    He is thinking of the armies
    And the food and fighting tanks
    That for every safe arrival
    To the seaman owe their thanks

    He is thinking of his buddies
    Who have paid the final score
    Not in khaki or in blues,
    But the working clothes they wore

    But we’d like to tell him something
    That we think he may not know
    A reminder he can stow away
    Wherever he may go

    All your countrymen are proud of you
    And though there’s no brass band
    Not a bugle nor a banner
    When a Merchant Seaman lands

    We know the job you’re doing
    In your worn and tattered clothes
    On the seas where death is lurking
    Where a fellow’s courage shows

    So be sure to keep your chin up
    When the uniforms’ parade
    What a man wears doesn’t matter
    ‘Tis the stuff of which he’s made

    – Author Unknown

  5. Donald R. McClarey says:

    A grand poem!

  6. pete kurkimilis says:

    I received a letter of thanks as well aa a medal for my participation as a merchant saeaman on the murmansk run in 1942…..What a shame that the Russian government thought more of our service than the U.S.Goverment…Shame on Senator Akaka for not allowing senate bill s 663 to the senate floor for a vote.His conscience will never be clear until he rectifies this terrible injustice!!!!!!!

  7. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Thank you for your service Mr. Kurkimilis!

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