Merchant Marine in WWII: “Men and the Sea” 1943 US War Shipping Administration

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“Short documentary shows how U.S.  merchant  seamen were trained in seamanship, signaling, gunnery  and  radio operation.”

Public domain film from the US National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected,  and  mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction,  and /or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

The United States Merchant Marine is the fleet of U.S. civilian-owned  merchant  vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods  and   services  in  and  out of the navigable waters of the United States. The Merchant Marine is responsible for transporting cargo  and  passengers during peacetime. In time of war, the Merchant Marine is capable of being an auxiliary to the Navy,  and  can be called upon to deliver military personnel  and  materiel for the military. The Merchant Marine, however, does not have a role in combat, although a  merchant  mariner has a responsibility to protect cargo carried aboard his ship.

Merchant mariners move cargo  and  passengers between nations  and  within the United States,  and  operate  and  maintain deep-sea  merchant  ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, excursion vessels,  and  other waterborne craft on the oceans, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals, harbors,  and  other waterways.

As of 2006, the United States  merchant  fleet numbered 465 ships  and  approximately 100,000 people work on U.S. flag  merchant  ships. Seven hundred ships owned by American interests but registered, or flagged, in other countries are not included in this number.

The federal government maintains fleets of  merchant  ships via organizations such as Military Sealift Command  and  the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In 2004, the federal government employed approximately 5% of all American water transportation workers.

In the 19th  and  20th centuries, various laws fundamentally changed the course of American  merchant  shipping. These laws put an end to common practices such as flogging  and  shanghaiing,  and  increased shipboard safety  and  living standards. The United States Merchant Marine is also governed by several international conventions to promote safety  and  prevent pollution…

Revolutionary War

The first wartime role of an identifiable United States  merchant  marine took place on June 12, 1775, in  and  around Machias, Maine. A group of citizens, hearing the news from Concord  and  Lexington, captured the British schooner HMS Margaretta…

Word of this revolt reached Boston, where the Continental Congress  and  the various colonies issued Letters of Marque to privateers. The privateers interrupted the British supply chain all along the eastern seaboard of the United States  and  across the Atlantic Ocean. These actions by the privateers predate both the United States Coast Guard  and  the United States Navy, which were formed in 1790  and  1775, respectively.

19th  and  20th centuries

The  merchant  marine was active in subsequent wars, from the Confederate commerce raiders of the American Civil War, to the assaults on Allied commerce in the First  and  in the Second World Wars. 3.1 million tons of  merchant  ships were lost in World War II. Mariners died at a rate of 1 in 24, which was the highest rate of casualties of any service…

Merchant shipping also played its role in the wars in Vietnam  and  Korea. During the Korean War, the number of ships under charter grew from 6 to 255. In September 1950, when the U.S. Marine Corps went ashore at Incheon, 13 Navy cargo ships, 26 chartered American,  and  34 Japanese-manned  merchant  ships, under the operational control of Military Sea Transportation Service, participated.

During the Vietnam War, ships crewed by civilian seamen carried 95% of the supplies used by the American armed forces. Many of these ships sailed into combat zones under fire. The SS Mayaguez incident involved the capture of mariners from the American  merchant  ship SS Mayaguez.

During the first Gulf War, the  merchant  ships of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) delivered more than 11 million metric tons…


Jay Bulworth says:

God bless the Merchant Marines, may they rest in peace. My grandfather was in for the entire war, he passed over the weekend. If you know one who is still around hear their stories while you still can.

emkarlstad says:

My grandfather ran away from home at 14 and joined the merchant marine in 1944. He gave his parents the forms and said they were for the Sea Scouts. He later became an Electrician's Mate 1st class in the US Navy for 20 years. He started on Liberty class and then Victory class.

The Flylooper says:

My late father was a merchant mariner during WWII. Went to school in Sheepshead Bay for Purser and Pharmacist Mate training. One of the ships (the S.S. Francisco Morazan) he sailed on was attacked by kamikazes in the Philippines. By luck, the ship survived but two others went down with great loss of life.

After the war, he came ashore and worked in the steamship business until retirement.

Treck Dimondback says:

The unsung heroes of the maritime campaign

schizoidboy says:

The interesting thing I heard was that their standards were lower than for the military and those who couldn't get in the armed services often joined the Merchant Marine. So joining the Merchant Marines was practically doing military service if not actually doing military service. I remember during a Memorial Day ceremony where cadets were putting flags on graves one the cadets asked if they should put a flag on a marker with the Merchant Marine and the answer was an immediate "yes".

Mary Mcneely says:

My father MARSHALL P. HURLBURT was a Merchant Marine in WW2. His ship was sunk but can' remember it's name.

Eric Walsh says:

our boys won the war..with hard work and love for their country..God Bless them all and thanks..

Colm Prentice says:

my uncle james McWilliams was in the merchant marines during world war 2

jere matthew Johnson says:

God bless the US Merchant Marine "in peace and war" 1755

Jeff Quitney says:

Merchant Marine in WWII: "Men and the Sea" 1943 US War Shipping Administration #MerchantMarine #shipping

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