United States Merchant Marine has a glorious past to boast about, it played the most critical part in the WW2, by providing the logistics support to the US Defense forces and allies.
The Merchant Marine through its exceptional contribution to the Defense (Allied) forces supplied the much needed personnel, supplies, and equipment, throughout the WW2, in spite of suffering severe loses. As per the reports Allied Forces would had lost the war without the presence of strong US Merchant Marine. A soldier needed approximately 12 MT of supplies to survive for one year during the war time,hence the role of Merchant Marine was even more crucial.
The most basic contributors to Allied victory in WW2 were
The Defense Forces fighting the war on foreign lands
The factories in the US producing the supplies
The Merchant Marines
Point to be noted is the significant role of US Merchant Marine as it acted as the link between the other two, providing the Goods/supplies produced to the troops fighting the war.
Total amount of cargo delivered during the war by Merchant Marine : 268,200,000
The cargo included:
1.Ammunition and explosives
2.Nearly 3000 aero planes
3.More than a 1000 Vehicles
4.Nearly a 1000 boats
5. Food supplies
8, Railway locomotives
Not only the above cargo More than 7 Million People were transported by the Merchant Marine
The exact no.s can be obtained from : Shipping Administration Report, January 15, 1946
Acts of Bravery
US Merchant Marine Officers and personnel were the ones most exposed to the enemy battle ships, submarines, bomber aircrafts, and the mines. With much low level of training in combat ,they were the ones who were becoming the easy tartgets of the enemy, but still with their blood they served the Nation and proved their worth. U.S Merchant Marine showed exemplary courage. These acts of bravery by Merchant Marine personnel proved that they are no less heroic. 140 Merchant Mariners were awarded with the Distinguished Service medal, which was the highest service medal of U.S Merchant Marine and in addition to this honour, 10 Merchant Ships were awarded the Gallant ship award.
The above pictures source :usmm.org
The vessels awarded the Gallantry Ship award were:
1.SS Meredith Victory: She was requested to assist in the removal of Korean civilians at the time her tanks full of jet fuel,She went for rescue in harbor which was being bombarded with shells, she maintained her position until 14,000 men, women, and children were taken on the ship and transported during a three day voyage without a single loss of life.
2.SS Adoniram Judson: This ship during the invasion of Philippines, she provided the air cover for landing area for Defense Forces for two days alone, later she was assisted by other vessels of the Navy. The crew of the vessel operated the machine guns on the ship and deterred the warplanes of the enemy in exemplary act of bravery.
3.SS Stephen Hopkins: The ship was attacked by two German raiders, who fired at close range on the ship, but the ship’s crew with great bravery kept their machine gun fires on and succeeded in sinking one of the raiders , other raider succeeded in firing a shell which exploded on the vessel causing serious damage to the ship, Cadet-Midshipman Edwin O’Hara in highest act of bravery fired continuously on the enemy raider and setting it on fire, during this course of action Cadet-Midshipman Edwin O’Hara was severely injured and later sacrificed his life, and was awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal posthumously.
4.SS Samuel Parker: She served in the Mediterranean for transporting troops and supplies which were the main contributor to the successes of the North African Campaign and the invasion of Sicily, during all these days she suffered many attacks by the enemy and won every attack.
5.SS William Moultrie: Her convoy was attacked badly and most of the ships sank, but SS William Moultrie arrived at the right scheduled time in the North Russian port and supplied the supplies which were very vital for the successful completion of the operation.
6.SS Cedar Mills: She rescued a destroyer French Ship which was her escort vessel but was separated due to a cyclone, and destroyer was about to sink, in spite of very bad weather the Ship decided to go and rescue the crew successfully and towing the destroyer for 5 days.
7.SS Marcus Daly: During the initial invasion of Philippines this ship docked at one of the ports in Philippines and was attacked by the enemy fighter aircrafts, but for six days her brave crew handled the guns and defeated every attack, numerous time this ship was attacked by enemy aircrafts every time emerged victorious.
8.SS Stanvac: Calcutta: Off the Coast of Brazil she was attacked with heavily armed raiders, but her crew fought courageously, and was able to destroy one of the raiders, despite suffering heavy injuries, the vessel while fighting suffered damage and sank, most ot the crew lost its life and some were taken Prisoner of war.
9.SS Nathaniel Greene: This ship was in voyage to north Russia during which she was attacked by the enemy warplanes and submarines but her crew fought and emerged victorious and discharged her cargo which was much needed, again she took part in the African campaign, where she was attacked with a torpedo and in such a condition she was successfully in beaching hence saving her crew.
10.SS Virginia Dare: This vessel loaded heavily with explosives was on a voyage to Northern Russia during which she was attacked many times by torpedo’s and aircrafts and every time escaped these attacks and fought bravely with limited ammunition of their guns, later she was attacked with a torpedo but even this time she was successful in beaching .
Merchant Marine Causalities
Merchant Marine faced the highest causalities due to the nature of vessels and limited combat training of the crew.
Following are some of the records
1.Killed at sea : 8300
2.Wounded : 12000, out of which 1100 later died.
3.Taken Prisoner of war : 663
A total of 1554 ships were sunk, out of whom 773 were the vessels with 1000 gross tones or more.
source of records: usmm.org
Hence the exemplary bravery that US Merchant Marine has shown in World war two, can never be forgotten, and inspires the Mariners of all Nationality.