The Merchant Mariners of World War II
– Suffering the highest casualty rate of all the services, the WWII Merchant Marine played a critical role in transporting troops, tanks, airplanes, and supplies needed to bring about the Allied victory.
THE SEA IS MY BROTHER will be a 1/2 hour documentary video that follows the inspirational story of this group of overlooked and now elderly veterans.
Through the first-person POV of 86-year-old Gabriel Frank as he rallies his fellow veterans, re-connects to his life at sea, and meets with politicians in New York and Washington, the film follows the veterans’ fight for a bill finally granting them benefits for their service during WWII promised by President Roosevelt himself. While they know they may not live to see the bill passed, the fighting spirit that helped win WWII fuels their passionate dedication to striking a blow for dignity and an unjustly delayed recognition.
Watch the 8 1/2 minute trailer for this video here.
AMMV’s Outstanding Volunteers: Meet the Team behind the Dream
At the 30th annual AMMV National Convention held in New Orleans (March 2016), six AMMV members received awards for outstanding service to the AMMV organization.
Morris Harvey: Prior to being elected as AMMV’s National Vice President, Morris served two terms as AMMV National President. He is also a former Regional Vice President and after a 12 year hiatus has resumed presidency of the Ocala, FL Chapter. Additionally, he has spearheaded several AMMV Conventions during these periods of leadership. Morris is the Co-Chairman of AMMV’s Government Affairs Committee and engineered the historic “Storm the Hill” campaign in which five WWII MM Vets spent a week visiting Congress (2015) in promotion of H.R. 563. The creation and management of the AMMV website is yet another accomplishment attributable to his dedication to the organization. Morris continues to work tirelessly in support of his fellow WWII Merchant Marine Veterans.
Patti Scafidi: Patti is the wife of marine artist Don Scafidi, who was a Kings Point cadet during WWII. Their son, Max, is also a USMMA graduate – 57 years after his father! Patti is a strong activist for the Merchant Marine past and present. She currently is the lead Administrator of the AMMV Facebook page and is part of AMMV’s Membership Committee. Her efforts and promotional drives led to several new members in recent months. Patti also provided critical logistical support during the 2016 National Convention. Her husband’s original artwork display was a boost to the event, and she is credited for netting the Maritime Administrator as one of our Convention speakers.
Sheila Sova: Sheila is the proud daughter of a WWII Merchant Marine & Korean Army Veteran who was part of an IL/MO based AMMV Chapter before crossing the final bar. She is a hard-fisted advocate of the WWII MM and has appeared on TV news interviews and radio talk shows in support of these views. Sheila runs the AMMV Twitter page and has carried out many special assignments as an AMMV volunteer. When it comes to WWII MM legislation, she is one of our top promotors.
Dave Yoho: Dave was a WWII Merchant Mariner who is now a well-known businessman and motivational speaker. He came in touch with AMMV after discovering his young face on a historic reprint of a recruiting publication from the Sheepshead Bay training facility. Dave has since raised significant amounts of money to be used as “Mission Support”, allowing for expanded outreach efforts and better promotion of AMMV’s core causes. He has also crafted promotional videos in support of AMMV & H.R. 563, and was the opening speaker at our 30th Convention. Thanks to Dave, the WWII MM Vets have a new slogan: “Hell no, we won’t go away!”
Sindy Raymond: Saaren “Sindy” Raymond has dedicated many years to the cause of the American Merchant Marine Veteran. Before taking the job as National Office Administrator, she worked for the “Just Compensation Committee” under Ian Allison. She is referred to by AMMV’s National President as “the most important person in AMMV”. Sindy is the Editor of our quarterly News magazine and a member of the North Bay Mariners Chapter in CA.
Carole Gutierrez: (not pictured) Carole has been deeply involved with AMMV for several years. She produces the newsletter for her Oregon Chapter, of which her late husband Max was the President. Carole is the Graphics Design Coordinator for the AMMV News magazine (and other projects) and serves on our Editorial Committee. One of her primary contributions each year is the production of AMMV’s Convention Book (aka Memory Book). If all that is not enough, she is also a Regional Vice President.
Patti Scafidi represented the AMMV at a book signing in New Orleans. The objective was to meet the book author and offer any support that AMMV could offer to promote the sale of his book and to get this Merchant Marine story out to the public.
THE MATHEWS MEN –The Untold Story of an Epic World War II Sea Battle Just Off the Coast of America
Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay with little to offer except
unspoiled scenery, but it sent one of the largest concentrations of sea captains and U.S. merchant mariners of any community in America to fight in World War II. The Mathews Men tells that heroic story through the experiences of the extraordinary Hodges family and their seven seafaring sons.
The Hodges and their neighbors in Mathews suddenly found themselves squarely in the crosshairs of the U-boats bearing down on the coastal United States in 1942. From the late 1930s to 1945, virtually all the fuel, food, and munitions that sustained the Allies in Europe traveled in merchant ships. After Pearl Harbor, those unprotected ships instantly became the U-boats’ prime targets, and the Navy lacked the inclination or resources to defend them until the beginning of 1943. The U-boats aimed to sink every American ship they could find, sometimes within sight of tourist beaches, and to kill as many mariners as possible, in order to frighten their shipmates into staying ashore.
As the war progressed, men from Mathews sailed the North and South Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and even the icy Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle, where they braved the dreaded Murmansk Run. Some died horrific deaths. Others fought to survive torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, mine blasts, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys-only to ship out again on the next boat as soon as they’d returned to safety.
The Mathews Men shows us the war far beyond the traditional battlefields-often the U.S. merchant mariners’ life-and-death struggles took place just off the U.S. coast-and also takes us to the landing beaches on D-Day and to the Pacific. “When final victory is ours,” General Dwight D. Eisenhower had predicted, “there is no organization that will share its credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine.” Their achievements and sacrifices, however, went largely unheralded- Until now.
WILLIAM GEROUX wrote for the Richmond Times-Dispatch for twenty-five years.
His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press, and various regional
magazines. He has also worked for Maersk, the largest container-shipping company in the world.
He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats
“Vividly drawn and emotionally gripping.”
—Daniel James Brown, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat
One of the last unheralded heroic stories of World War II: the U-boat assault off the American coast against the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine who were supplying the European war, and one community’s monumental contribution to that effort.
AMMV President, Captain Chris Edyvean, reported the following thoughts of The Mathews Men:
As I continued to read “The Mathews Men“, I was in for a big treat. There are 8 pages – including pictures – of the story of the sinking of the SS City of New York. This was duel cargo/passenger ship, in which a pregnant woman who was fleeing an Axis occupied territory gave birth in a lifeboat following the sinking. In all the books I have read on the WWII MM, this is the first time I have found anything on this story.
In this year’s Memory Book, my local Shipmaster’s group placed a full page ad which honored two WWII vets who are/were part of our group. One of these featured vets is William Carlson, who was a member of the Navy Armed Guard on the SS City of New York when she was sunk. Bill had told me the story, but I could never find additional information. Now I have the details! Bill was in a different lifeboat, and he explained that he never knew if the baby survived or not. Turns out that the “lifeboat baby” was a well-known story at the time, and the press deemed this child as “the baby Hitler couldn’t get”. The book contains not only photos but names, which makes searching the internet easy in terms of finding later information on this family.
However, the main focus of the book is the war that the German U-boats waged right off our own shores, and how unprepared our country was for these attacks. “Mathews” is a county in Virginia which saw an unusually high number of Merchant Mariners in this struggle. I won’t reveal any more details; go get the book for yourself!
SOME REVIEWS AND PURCHASING OPTIONS:
JUST RECOGNITION – MERCHANT MARINERS – KOREAN SERVICE
STATUS REPORT ON APPLICATION FOR VETERAN RECOGNITION 24
Group Application to Secretary of the Air Force seeking recognition of the oceangoing service of American Merchant Seamen employed by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) and by commercial shipping lines aboard public and private vessels of United States registry and sailing in direct support of the Armed Forces of the United States during the “Korean Conflict” (defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs for benefit purposes as 27 June 1950 to 31 January 1955, inclusive).
Established under: “GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977” approved 23 November 1977. (Citation: Public Law 95-202, Title IV, Section 401; 91 Statutes 1449, as amended.)
Codified as: United States Code, Title 38—Veterans’ Benefits, Section 106 note (2012 Edition).
Implementing regulations: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 32—National Defense, Part 47—Active Duty Service for Civilian or Contractual Groups (7-1-15 Edition).
Governing: Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 1000.20 “Active Duty Service Determinations for Civilian and Contractual Groups” dated 11 September 1989 (Certified Current as of November 21, 2003).
Work Accomplished to Date
104 handwritten pages of text (about 85 type-written, double-spaced pages)
Downloaded or copied about 150 source documents from books, newspaper articles, and Internet websites
Selected tentatively for inclusion in application: 3 crew lists; 4 charts/graphs; 9 maps; 15 photographs and 13 tables.
Identified in the combat zone—Korean waters: 73 U.S.—flagged commercial merchantmen during the first six months of war; 49 United States Naval Ships (USNS), 45 crews of which became eligible for the Korean Service Medal by 1954. One of these ships, USNS Diphda (T-AKA 59) also served as USS Diphda (AKA 59).
Requirements for Acceptance of Group Application by DoD Civilian/Military Service Review Board (DoD C/MSRB)
Define the Group
Show relationship group had with U. S. Armed Forces; manner in which members employed; service members provided Substantiate and document the application
Burden of Proof rests with the applicant
Policy under regulations of the DoD C/MSRB
Active Duty recognition of civilian service based on extent of similarity of control of group members vs. military personnel Control determined by criteria called “Incidents” or “factors” that are either favorable or unfavorable toward recognition of equivalency:
Uniqueness of service
Organizational authority over group
Integration of group into Organization
Subjection to military discipline
Subjection to military justice
Prohibition against group members joining Armed Forces
Receipt of military training and/or achievement of military capability
Submission to U. S. Armed Forces for Protection Permitted to resign?
Prior recognition of group’s service (by state and local authorities)
Consideration also given to status of group in international law: Treated as civilians, or assimilated to the Armed Forces?
[Note: Nothing is stated as to which status is considered favorably or unfavorably.]
As previously identified by former AMMV Team Chairman Dr. Larry Kerkow, DoD’s rewrite of these policy regulations after the 1987 defeat in U. S. District Court (Schumacher v. Aldridge; 665 F. Supp. 41) of the Secretary of the Air Force’s decision not to recognize the service of Oceangoing and Invasion Mariner Groups produced arbitrary and capricious factors. Consequently, what AMMV is facing in this application process is a requirement to fit a square merchant marine peg into a round DoD hole. My arguments concerning this were stated in my letters of 25 November and 21 December of 2015. Briefly:
At one time the Mission and its successful accomplishment drove the Armed Forces, especially during wartime. Performance mattered. Congress recognized that the service of civilians should be critical in supporting the Armed Forces for favorable recognition as active duty. None of this is valued in the current criteria. The emphasis is, rather, on conformity, control and appearance.
The U. S. Merchant Marine is a uniquely adaptable service and is provided for by law to the Armed Forces as auxiliary in time of war. It is not an organization; it is an institution, an industry. Mariners are employees who go to work on ships, rather than go on duty wearing a uniform. Service is supposed to be the issue here, not appearances.
The U. S. Merchant Marine is controlled by federal law and regulations largely administered by the Coast Guard. The United States Code, Title 46— Shipping governs. Yet, under the Boards’ regulations, Section 47.5(a)(3), a Coast Guard representative is only appointed as an additional voting member if the Group is claiming active Coast Guard service. Effectively, we have no representative on the Board.
The “Integration” factor applies only minimally to the extent that USNS and merchant vessels under MSTS control are assigned to task organization’s under operational command by a naval officer. “Customs and courtesies” are cited as part of this favorable factor, yet when was the last time any civilian rendered such courtesies to uniformed officers? We have a naval tradition, but we are employees who work on ships.
The Uniform Code of [Military] Justice (Public Law 81-506; 64 Statutes 107), was approved 5 May 1950, just before the start of the Korean Conflict. This effectively ended the speculation about whether or not civilians accompanying the armed forces during an undeclared war fall under the legal jurisdiction of military commanders. The Manual for Courts-Martial applies to uniformed service members and not to civilians. Our disciplinary procedures are dealt with by the ships’ master under regulations, and our justice matters fall under the U. S. Criminal Code. Based on the current criteria as stated, the U. S. Merchant Marine’s service during the Korean Conflict will not be favorably recognized.
Merchant seamen are not prohibited from joining the armed forces, assuming they can meet the physical, mental and moral standards prescribed for enlistment. Their service was so essential during WWII that they received occupational deferments rather than be inducted into the Army (and later the Navy and Marine Corps as well). There was also a shortage of seamen during the Korean Conflict. This factor is really quite out-of-date since the women’s issue over unfairness and unequal treatment has all but vanished. Getting killed in combat is now a matter of equal opportunity. Welcome aboard!
“Protection of Shipping” was made a primary function of the Navy and a collateral function of the Air Force by Direction of President Truman to the Secretary of Defense on 21 April 1948. The sources for this application show that both services provided surface and air escort to USNS and commercial vessels. Yet, considering the Unfavorable criterion above, one would expect that seeking such protection automatically results in a negative recommendation of the group’s service. Why this was ever included and what the motivation was in writing it is uncertain, but it is tailormade for rejection of this application.
In the Works
Several projects are identified that require a “task force” of more than one man. The 42 sealifts that moved the troops/cargo to Japan/Korea require identification of shipping. I have the proposals in hand.
To volunteer call Michael Helbig at 907-244-4238 or email at email@example.com.
Submitted to AMMV National Vice President Morris Harvey by Michael J. Helbig
Veteran’s status for Korea and Vietnam is still stuck. We were rejected for the second time by the Air Force C/MSRB (Civilian/Military Service Review Board) because their staff judged that we did not have evidence of the service but only claims without documents to support our position that Merchant Mariners were under DOD orders, subject to Military Code of Justice, and on and on.
The following story is very good coverage of the status of the effort to gain veterans status for Merchant Mariners who served in Korea and Vietnam. It is based on an interview with Peter Gannon and others, reported by Julia Satterthwaite, and published by The Oakland Press in Metamora, Michigan.
Peter is quoted “We were under Navy contract, had DOD identification cards in case of capture, were fired upon, received hazardous duty pay, had service club privileges, FPO, PX, medical in country and were under Military Code of Justice.” Our Task Force was unable to obtain documentation (Evidence) relating to these categories of information. Dr. Kerkow was advised that documents directly related to troop and material movements would still be classified. If there is anyone reading this, who has experience obtaining documents from the Federal Government (the DOD) please contact me – we need your help. Morris Harvey, firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 352-564-0267.
You can also send your comments and thoughts to us by using the “Contact Us” feature of this website.
Metamora man calls on the government to allow veteran benefits for Merchant Marines
By Julia Satterthwaite, email@example.com
POSTED: 07/25/15, 11:07 AM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
Peter Gannon, 74, of Metamora, was one of 5,000 men who served as a Merchant Marine in Vietnam, with two tours –– one in 1969 and another in 1970 –– and hopes that he will see the day that all Merchant Marines achieve veteran status.
“I am a Vietnam veteran that doesn’t exist, according to the government,” Gannon said.
“We were under Navy contract, had DOD identification cards in case of capture, were fired upon, received hazardous duty pay, had service club privileges, FPO, PX, medical in country and were under Military Code of Justice.”
The Merchant Marine is the fleet of ships which carries imports and exports during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime to deliver troops and war material, according to the website www.usmm.org.
Gannon is president of the R.J. MacAlvanna Charter American Merchant Marine Association.
“We carried most of all the military supplies such as ammo, bombs, food, tanks, planes –– you name it –– even troops on occasion,” Gannon said. “More than 55 ships in Vietnam were hit with enemy fire and dozens of seamen killed and wounded in this conflict. Up and down the coast and rivers these ships and tugs moved the material to supply our troops doing the fighting.”
Gannon explains the significance of the Merchant Marine during World War II, which he says had a larger casualty rate at 4 percent or 1 in 25 than those serving in the Marine Corps (3 percent), Army (2 percent), Navy (.9 percent) or Coast Guard (.25 percent).
“Without the Merchant Marine, WWII could never have been won –– they handled everything to support the front line troops,” Gannon said.
“In 1942, the Merchant Marine lost over 600 ships. In June alone, they lost 146 ships that were sunk by the Germans. The papers in the States, because the government kind of controlled the newspaper, would report maybe 2, 3, 4 ships sunk. They wanted to keep getting volunteers for the Merchant Marine. If you knew that 146 ships were torpedoed in the last month, would you go down and sign your name on that list?”
In 1988, a group of Merchant Mariners who served in WWII after Dec. 7, 1941 sued the government to receive Veteran’s benefits and won. However, the Civilian/Military Review Board (C/MSRB) approved only service thru Aug. 15, 1945. It took another eight years to get the C/MSRB to recognize Merchant Mariner service between August 15 and December 31, 1946, the official end of WWII –– but these Mariners only received the right to be buried in a National Cemetery, no VA benefits.
National Office Administrator of the American Merchant Mariner Veterans Inc., a non-profit organization, Sindy Raymond, of Santa Rosa, Calif., explains why Merchant Mariners were denied benefits.
“I think because the Merchant Mariners were sailing as civilians, but they were basically conscripted by the navy and the army in times of war,” Raymond said. “We are putting forth a major effort to get the later people –– Vietnam, Korea and Middle East mariners Veteran’s status.”
Gannon was single, living in Buffalo and working at a dead-end job at a manufacturing plant when his buddy Bill suggested he sell his house, store his furniture and come on over to Vietnam to work. Gannon did just that and, with two suitcases in hand and wearing a suit, he boarded a Pan Am flight to Saigon, regretting his wardrobe choice when he landed in the heat and humidity of Vietnam.
“I went from October weather in Buffalo to (what felt like) 211 degrees air temperature getting off the plane in Saigon –– it hits you like a blast,” Gannon said. “First job I found was for Alaska Barge and Transport –– we ran the ocean towing barges. We could go maybe three knots, which is a very slow walk. Did that for my first tour, took my R&R and came back and got a job with Sea Land –– you know, the big container ships ––– and worked on the boats and on the beach as a liaison between boats and the military in Hue City, basically, out of Da Nang a lot and Phu Bai.”
Gannon can’t understand why his service doesn’t “count.”
“I volunteered my body, my life –– everything else,” Gannon said. “I paid my own way over the Vietnam, worked for two tours, came home and I got nothing. The only thing that the government gave us was a ribbon button. Yippee, I might add. Why recognize WW2 men (deservedly so) but not other wartime war zone seamen?”
Gannon is now president of the R.J. Mac Alvanah, named after a dying Merchant Mariner who “crossed over the bar had donated a pile of money to the chapter” according to Gannon) Chapter of Merchant Mariners in Port Charlotte, Fla., where Gannon lives seven months of the year.
Raymond says there are about 50 chapters with a total of about 2,200 members at this point. She can’t understand why the Air Force has turned their 86-page application, including 13 indices, to recognize Merchant Mariners from Vietnam and Korea down twice.
“They are saying that we are not supplying enough information,” Raymond said. “I read that efforts are going to be stepped up to see what we can do about this process. The Air Force itself does not itself recognize Merchant Mariners, whether they’re WWII or anybody.”
Executive Secretary to the Department of Defense Civilian/Military Service Review Board Bruce Brown stated that “the burden of proof is on the application” in the second rejection letter, dated Oct. 13, 2013, and provided some tips for what the group might want to include in their next application.
“For example, if you have copies of orders or directives from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts directing the movement of members of the American Merchant Mariners to carry out the missions in support of the United States’ war efforts during these times periods that would be helpful,” Brown wrote.
“Moreover, if you have official documents showing that the American Merchant Mariners as a group, as opposed to an individual, were entitled to the use of commissaries, exchanges and membership in military clubs during the time periods of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts that would be helpful to support your application.”
Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the American Merchant Marine Veterans Morris Harvey says they have two options moving forward.
“We have two choices: 1) continue to try to obtain the type of government (DoD) orders that the C/MSRB staff has demanded. This would require making public record requests. 2) legal action,” Harvey said. “In either case we would need a legal firm to advise and direct us in the choices we need to make.”
Gannon hopes to see all Merchant Mariners receive access to benefits.
“The question remains, why were the Department of Defense and the government so reluctant to give adequate recognition until the mid ‘80s to these men of the Merchant Marine of WWII, and yet still no recognition to Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War and other conflicts where men volunteered and put their lives in harms way?” Gannon said. “I guess they’ll wait until, as they did with WWII guys, we’re so old that we are dying off faster than they can move to appreciate what we all did.”
The article was posted at this URL:
AMMV member, marine artist Don Scafidi, is offering artistically created cards at a great price.
The card shown is “Storm Coming” from A Collection of Original 16″ X 20″ Oil on Canvas. This giclee card, signed by the artist, is printed on archival paper, using archival inks.
Go NOW to www.donscafidi.com to see the full collection.
NOTE: Don is donating 25 percent of proceeds of his fine art giclee cards to the AMMV.
By Morris Harvey, National Vice President AMMV
I write this to encourage you to buy and read this newest WWII Merchant Mariner book, “TORPEDOED for LIFE”. This book is different than others written on the MM fight for recognition as Veterans in WWII. Although it includes some relevant life experience stories which reflect the worthiness of the stand for Just Recognition, it also includes the story of our efforts in congress over the last ten years trying to get “OUR” congress to finally pass some form of Just Recognition. There is also reference back to happenings in 1946-47 and a chronological status of events in Congress and in the courts from 1977-88.
This book is worth buying and passing it on to Members of Congress, especially VA committee members. This email is a request for action – I ask that our AMMV members get involved and make sure that local lawmakers in your state receive a copy of this book and sign up to support HR563. I would hope that Chapters will raise funds to join this program. By way of this correspondence, I request that all RVP’s initiate a project in their region to insure that books are purchased and delivered to all lawmakers in the region. Members at Large can participate by working with their RVP. Call and volunteer.
The book is written by Herman “Gerry” Starnes from the prospective of a Merchant Mariner, who has been directly involved in the struggle – both personally and as chairman of the AMMV Government Affairs Committee. Gerry also took over the Co-Chairmanship with Ian Allison of the Just Compensation Committee, after the death of Henry Van Gemert. Gerry recruited the assistance of Ed Trester to select and incorporate pictures into the story. Gerry and Ed invested their own time and money to tell this story. Let’s support them by buying the book and support ourselves by getting the book into the hands of lawmakers.
The recent book price is $22.52 or used for less than $18.00 on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Torpedoed-Life-Combat-Veterans-Merchant/dp/1480285234 .
Sincerely, Morris Harvey