Our Merchant Marine of World War II suffered a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all U.S. Armed Forces combined. Most don’t know we were the only all-volunteer service. We were what the battle of the Atlantic was all about.
Franklin D. Roosevelt One of his many statements about the U.S. Merchant Marine: They have written one of its most brilliant chapters. They have delivered the goods when and where needed in every theater of operations and across every ocean in the biggest, the most difficult and dangerous job ever undertaken. As time goes on, there will be greater public understanding of our merchant’s fleet record during this war.
President Roosevelt, as he signed the GI Bill in 1944: I trust Congress will soon provide similar opportunities to members of the Merchant Marine who have risked their lives time and time again during war for the welfare of their country.
Forty-three years after WWII (1988) the Merchant Marine were finally given their veterans rights. However, not completely or in accordance with the other services. We were cut off as of Aug. 15, 1945. The other services received WWII veterans rights to Dec. 31, 1946 or 14 more months than we did. For 10 years, our American Merchant Marine organizations had to struggle to make us equal with the other services. That finally happened on Nov. 11, 1998. After 53 years, we are now equal with the five armed forces.
We now, old men of the sea, continue our fight for recognition. For example, before moving to Payson from Ohio two years ago, there was a several million dollar veterans monument built in Columbus, Ohio, the state capital. There was not a mention of the Merchant Marine. After three years and a lot of politics, we now have a very small plaque to remember us.
To my knowledge, there are only three living WWII Merchant Marine veterans in the area, myself, Charles Hyer and Bob Hanson. If I have missed someone, let me know so we can get acquainted.
There were 250,000 mariners during the war. Today, only 75,000 of us are with you. Payson certainly does an exceptional job of honoring Veterans Day. This year and every year after, please honor those of us who have crossed the bar and those of us at the ceremony. When asked to stand, we will proudly stand tall.
Cory “Corky” Matthews, USMM Radio Officer, World War II veteran