Co-Authored by: David Del Corso and Tomer Chen
The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the ending of World War II. As usual, most World War II memorial monuments show tributes commemorating the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and sometimes Coast Guard. However, there is one branch that rarely gets recognition, yet had the highest casualty percentage during World War II. This branch is able to deliver goods and people at a time of war and a time of peace. Without them, no victory can be sought, no hope can be thought.
Merchant Mariner Origins
Today we celebrate US National Maritime Day. The US Merchant Marine can trace its origins back to 1775, when a group of rebels captured the HMS “Margaretta” to deliver much needed supplies to fellow rebels ashore, thus beginning the US Merchant Marine. Since then, cargo, transportation, and military support have been the staples of the merchant mariner force.
During World War II, the U.S. Merchant Marine continued the call for supplies and met it with great casualties. One of every 26 U.S. Merchant Mariners lost their life while trying to deliver goods to the Allied front due to Axis attacks and storms. A total of 1,554 U.S. Merchant Marine vessels were lost during World War II. However, they were still able to deliver necessary goods and equipment to keep the Allied forces supplied and propel them to victory.
The U.S. Merchant Marine continues to deliver goods, people, supplies, and hope today. In late March 2020, as New York City and Los Angeles battled COVID-19, the USNS “Comfort” and USNS “Mercy” arrived in New York Harbor and Los Angeles Harbor, respectively to help relieve the stress in the cities’ hospitals. Besides US Navy doctors and nurses aboard these vessels, US Merchant Mariners were also manning vital facilities on these ships on the bridge and in the engine room. The arrival of these vessels was a beacon of hope in a time of need.
On US National Maritime Day, we reflect and give thanks to the merchant mariners and mariners in all of the armed forces who answered the call, and to all the frontline workers who have bolstered the response of a resilient nation in a time of need.