Merchant Mariners

Smithsonian Magazine pays tribute to the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine as the unsung heroes of World War II . . .

The U-boat war was particularly unforgiving to merchant mariners. The Merchant Marine suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of the military, losing 9,300 men, with most of the losses occurring in 1942, when most merchant ships sailed U.S. waters with little or no protection from the U.S. Navy. In March 1942 alone, 27 ships from six Allied nations were sunk off U.S. shores. Statistically, America’s coastal waters were the most dangerous, the scene of half the world’s sinkings. The experience of being torpedoed was so common that the president of the Boston Seaman’s Club founded a “40-Fathom Club” for those who had survived it. “I hope the membership won’t become too large,” he added, but it grew larger every day as rescue ships brought oil-soaked survivors to the docks at Halifax, Boston, New York, Norfolk, Morehead City, Miami, and Havana. Many of the mariners who survived torpedo attacks went right back to sea, often sailing through the same perilous waters, only to be torpedoed again. One mariner was torpedoed ten times.

Read it all at Smithsonian Magazine.

I’m just a bit partial . . . Both my father and his brother served in the USMM during the war, continuing as merchant mariners throughout their working careers.

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