AMMV represented at the American Legion’s 101st Convention

The American Legion held its 101st National Convention from August 23rd thru 29th in Indianapolis, IN. AMMV Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Robert Lewis of MA is a long-time member of the American Legion and personally rented a booth for the American Merchant Marine Veterans organization. Robert unfortunately was unable to attend; however, AMMV Executive Vice President Captain Anthony “Dru” DiMattia made last minute arrangements to fill-in. Other AMMV members in attendence were WWII Merchant Marine Veteran & AMMV Government Affairs Co-Chair Charles A. Mills; his daughter, Yvette Miles; and AMMV Special Projects & Veterans Outreach specialist Sheila M. Sova. Assisting behind the scenes with the overall planning was AMMV National Office Administrator Lynn Kelly.

From left to right: Charles A. Mills, Yvette Miles, Capt. Dru DiMattia, & Sheila Sova. Photo credit: American Legion

Upon entering the Indianapolis Convention Center, the group spotted the U.S. Merchant Marine flag hanging alongside the other Armed Forces flags, setting a great tone for the weekend to come. The American Legion does recognize U.S. Merchant Mariner service for membership criteria, if granted Veteran status by meeting eligibility requirements (serving in the WWII period between December 7th, 1941 to December 31st, 1946).

AMMV’s booth was located front and center from one of the main entrances of the facility. Featured were many promotional items such as AMMV News magazines, coasters, hand held fans, and koozie cups. Copies of the flyer from usmm.org called “World War II U.S. Merchant Marine Made Victory Possible” were available, as was legislative information regarding the Congressional Gold Medal for the WWII U.S. Merchant Marine (S. 133). Visitors who had relatives in the Merchant Marine knew nothing about current Congressional Gold Medal legislation efforts.

Many proud sons and daughters teared up when stopping by the AMMV booth, some in surprise to see the U.S. Merchant Marine represented at their convention. Younger veterans were able to learn of the vital service of our Merchant Marine by aid of our educational materials and by hearing the first-hand testimony of Charles Mills.

Charles had always wanted to join the American Legion, recalling about twenty years earlier being turned down for membership. When asked if he still wanted to join, Charles found himself being sworn in within minutes of the conversation. Photographers from the American Legion flocked over to capture the moment.

Charles Mills being inducted to the American Legion by the Past National Commander Jake Comer and MA State Commander Fred White

Besides Charles, the only other WWII Veteran that we met at the convention was Gerald Messier of MA. Gerald, having served in the Army, certainly knew what the Merchant Marine did in WWII. Quite a character himself, Gerald began dancing in front of the booth which soon drew attention, and a photographer from the American Legion came down to photograph Charles and Gerald. A short video was tweeted from the AMMV Twitter page @AMMWWII, of which the official American Legion platform (180,000 followers) retweeted. This led to a whole new set of followers of AMMV on Twitter.

Charles Mills posing with fellow WWII Vet Gerald Messier

Extensive coverage of the American Legion Convention was posted across social media platforms

Many American Legion members conveyed that their local Post includes WWII Merchant Mariners. Some asked for magazines and other materials to take home to help increase the general knowledge of the role of the WWII U.S. Merchant Marine. A few new members joined AMMV. Overall, AMMV’s appearance at the American Legion National Convention can be labeled as a successful endeavor, and it was no surprise that Charles was the star of the show!

Texas Legion member thanking Charles for his service

 

Remembering Morris Harvey

Submitted by Capt. Christopher J. Edyvean
Past AMMV National President

The AMMV organization felt a great loss with the passing of President Emeritus Morris Harvey, who crossed the final bar shortly after his 92nd birthday in June. I would like to share a few words about this man and recap what he has done in the past for AMMV.

WWII Merchant Mariner Morris Harvey, circa 1945

During and after WWII, Morris sailed primarily as a Deck Department member on the following vessels: William Paca, Warren P. Marks, Nicholas D. Labadie, William W. Seaton, Alcoa Ranger, Alcoa Partner, and Alcoa Pennant.

Morris worked promptly through the ranks of AMMV, first serving as President of the Ocala, FL Chapter, later moving up to a Regional Vice President position, and finally having been elected National President following the completion of A.J. Wichita’s two terms of office; Morris would also serve two terms. If all that wasn’t enough, he served a term as National Vice President to provide guidance to the (then) incoming administration.

Morris single handedly managed several National Conventions and Regional Conferences. Anyone who has participated in the planning and execution of major events like these can surly testify as to the hard work and sacrifice that goes with it. In addition, he is to be credited for launching the ammv.us website and setting up the on-line joining feature.

Finally, although it may not have been his idea originally, Morris put the plan in motion for what AMMV would come to know as “Storm the Hill”. The first of such events, in which members would spend a week meeting with members of Congress, was conducted in 2015. Morris again led the STH team in 2017. (In 2018 & 2019, his health would no longer allow participation.)

Morris Harvey as AMMV National President, 2011-2015

Morris performed his AMMV duties while having heaps on his plate in his personal life. He cared for his wife Irene and managed both of their medical appointments and treatments. Morris and Irene lost a son to a motorcycle accident during his presidency. The couple had been in the process of remodeling their home.

I first spoke with Morris in 2014, when he was “grooming” me for a Regional Vice President position. However, what actually unfolded was Morris encouraging me run for AMMV President after his terms were finished. Morris quickly became a mentor to me, and more importantly, a true friend. I was able to visit him and Irene at their Florida home, and I work closely with Morris in co-chairing the 2016 (New Orleans) National Convention.

By the time the 2017 National Convention rolled around, Morris had lost his wife, but he still made the trip to Reno. He was unable to attend the St. Louis convention, although he certainly tried. He made it to the airport before realizing he was physically unable to endure the trip. In a miraculous “comeback”, Morris left hospice earlier this year to join us at the Tampa convention. The AMMV Executive Board had unanimously approved my motion to recognize Morris with the title of President Emeritus, and it was with great pleasure that I was able to present him with a commemoration certificate of such. Morris was also able to attend our special breakfast with Rita Cosby. This was the last time our AMMV family would see this fine man who has given so much to the organization.

Thank you, Morris. Godspeed.

Entertainer Sally Langwah with Morris

New Board Members and Updates on Legislation

Hello – My name is John Pitts. On Monday, July 1, 2019, the two year term of office as President of the American Merchant Marine Veterans, Inc. became effective. First and foremost, I would like to thank most recent Past President Captain Chris Edyvean for his successful efforts in advancing the goals and mission of the AMMV during his two terms over the last four years. Fair Winds & Following Seas on you new adventures!

Of the many issues involving the US Merchant Marine veterans of WWII, as well as those US Merchant Marine Veterans who have not been recognized as such by Congress at this time, the most noteworthy is H. R. 550, the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act.

American Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII have progressed further than a with any of the several previous attempts to garner recognition for American Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII. This legislation (H. R. 550) was introduced by Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) and secured the minimum 290 cosponsors necessary to receive a mandatory vote in the House of Representatives. If voted into law, H. R. 550 would provide for the award of a Congressional  Gold medal, COLLECTIVELY, to the United States Merchant Mariners of WWII, in recognition of their dedicated and vital service during WWII.

When passed in the House of Representatives, the bill would be forwarded for passage in the Senate as S.133. The Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act was introduced in the Senate simultaneously by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) are the original cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

In addition to H. R. 550, another Bill, Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2019, H.R. 154 was introduced into this 116th Congress. January 3, 2019 by Representative Al Green (D TX) which is designed to provide 1 payment of $25,000 to eligible American Merchant Mariners who provide a DD-214 for service in the USMM between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946,  and who have not received benefits under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944.

While the progress of H.R. 550 is welcome and impressive, the fight is not over. S. 133 needs to have the required number of Senators before it can be voted on in the Senate. Please contact your Senators and call for them to cosponsor S. 133. Also, please thank your Congressperson if they cosponsored H. R. 550.

Thank you for your time and interest in the American Merchant Marine Veterans. You can reach our website at: ammv.us.

Fraternally,
John Pitts
President, AMMV, Inc

Garamendi’s World War II Merchant Marine Congressional Gold Medal Act Poised for House Passage

H.R. 550: WWII Merchant Mariner Congressional Gold Medal Act will pass the U.S. House of Representatives. Lead sponsor Rep. Garamendi has an official press release:

WASHINGTON, DC- Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City), announced that his bipartisan Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019 has secured the 290 cosponsors necessary to receive a mandatory vote in the House of Representatives. The bill will move to the Consensus Calendar, which hosts legislation that’s typically passed unanimously by the House.

“Throughout the Second World War, our armed forces relied on the Merchant Marine to ferry supplies, cargo and personnel into both theaters of operation, and they paid a heavy price in service to their country,” said Garamendi. “The Merchant Marine suffered the highest per capita casualty rate in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. An estimated 8,300 mariners lost their lives, and another 12,000 were wounded, to make sure our service members could keep fighting. Yet, these Mariners who put their lives on the line were not even given veteran status until 1988.”

“Last year, I got the chance to meet with three World War II Merchant Mariners: Charles Mills of Texas, age 97; Eugene Barner from Kansas, age 92; and Robert Weagant from Illinois, age 92,” Garamendi continued. “These mariners put their lives on the line for this country, braving German and Japanese submarines in their Liberty Ships as they delivered critical supplies to our servicemembers in the European and Pacific theaters. Unfortunately, their sacrifice is commonly overlooked. A Congressional Gold Medal would give them the recognition they deserve, and that’s why I’ve introduced this bill: to give these veterans and their families the honor and respect they are owed. I’m pleased that this bill will receive a vote in the full House of Representatives and is in an excellent position to become law,” Garamendi concluded.

“The time has come for our nation to provide a well-deserved thank you and honor the remaining Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII with a Congressional Gold Medal. This group of unsung heroes nobly served our country by operating the ships that transported critical supplies to front lines of the war, and in doing so suffered a casualty rate higher than any other branch of the military. In fact, one out of every 26 casualties during WWII was a volunteer Merchant Mariner. America would not be the great nation it is today without their valiant service of yesterday. I urge Congress to support this important bill and recognize this dwindling group of Merchant Marine Veterans from WWII that have served our nation so admirably,” said Christian Yuhas, Vice President of American Merchant Marine Veterans and a Chief Engineer Merchant Marine.

The Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act was introduced in the Senate simultaneously by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) are the original cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

Click HERE to visit Rep. Garamendi’s website.

2019 “Storm the Hill” Report

Storm the Hill gang at the office of Rep. Steve Scalise

The 2019 “Storm the Hill” was led by WWII Merchant Marine Veteran & AMMV Government Affairs Co-Chair Charles A. Mills, with Eugene Barner and Gerard Driscoll being the other Vets on the team. Sheila M. Sova returned to serve as the Team Coordinator. The group was rounded off with Laura Johnson Riddle, Cindy Driscoll-Komlos, and AMMV D.A.R. Chapter President Dennis Ng; all are children of WWII U.S. Merchant Mariners. This 2019 Storm the Hill was once again sponsored by the Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies (MITAGS) and the International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots (IOMPP), who graciously provided room & board and travel to/from D.C.

In previous years, the team concentrated on meeting with the Congresspersons and Senators in person. What was learned is that the real decision makes are the staffers, behind the scenes. The politicians were usually short on time, opting for photos rather than meaningful discussion.

This year the STH team was armed with a letter from the American maritime industry in support of the WWII Merchant Mariner Congressional Gold Medal legislation H.R. 550 & S.133. The letter has been signed by over 100 maritime and affiliate groups from all over the country. Copies were provided to all the offices visited by the team.

STH Veterans Barner, Driscoll, & Mills

Note: Each of the Veterans were wearing a faux Gold Medal as a symbol to Congress that WWII Merchant Mariners deserve the recognition that would be bestowed upon them with passage of the legislation.

On Monday, May 20th, the Senate Hart Building was the destination. The goal was to target Senators who cosponsored WWII MM Congressional Gold Medal legislation in the 115th Congress (previously S. 2127), and those Senators with seats on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Additional Senate offices were also visited as time permitted. In total, the following offices were visited and/or had materials dropped off: Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) (S. 133 Sponsor); Senator Tim Scott (SC); Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD); Senator Elizabeth Warren (CA); Senator Jon Tester (MT); Senator Mike Rounds (SD); Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ); Senator Doug Jones (AL); Senator Diane Feinstein (CA); Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH); Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV); Senator Robert Menendez (NJ); Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL); Senator Mark Warner (VA); Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT); Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI); Senator Tina Smith (MN); Senator Brian Schatz (HI); Senator Gary Peters (MI); Senator Jack Reed (RI); Senator Dick Durbin (IL); Senator Tom Udall (MN); Senator Jeff Merkley (OR); Senator Steve Daines (MT).

STH group with Rep. Lee Zeldin

Two meetings were scheduled on Tuesday, May 21st. The first was with Congressman Steve Scalise (LA) in his office at the U.S. Capitol. (AMMV member Captain Ron Campana arranged this meeting.) A short meeting with Congressman Scalise and photo opportunity took place while our Veterans explained the discrimination that the USMM had to endure in WWII. Secondly, a meeting was held in the Russell Senate Building at the office of Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), in which the group met with the Senator’s Deputy Military Legislative Assistant, Aaron M. Strickland.

While at this location, the team took advantage of visiting the offices of Senators who are members of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which is holding S.133. Stops included the offices of Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV); Senator Richard Burr (NC); Senator Christopher Coons (DE); and Senator Deb Fisher (NE).

WWII MM Veteran Gene Barner w/ Capt. Richard Phillips

That evening, the three WWII Veterans were invited by Retired Rear Admiral Wendi Carpenter, Executive Director of Captain Richard Phillips – Lane Kirkland Maritime Trust, to a special fundraising dinner at The Kimpton George Hotel in D.C. Present were special guests Captain Richard Philips and Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL).

STH Veterans with “Rosie the Riveter”

On National Maritime Day (Wednesday, May 22nd) the STH gang attended the annual ceremony held at the U.S. Department of Transportation building. Following the ceremony, they were guests at a luncheon hosted by the Kings Point Alumni Group of D.C. Dave Gardy of Maritime TV interviewed all members of the team. Click HERE to access these interviews.

STH gang with author William Geroux

An event jointly sponsored by the American Maritime Congress and the U.S. Navy League was held in the Rayburn Building. Author William Geroux was featured, who had just released his second book about the WWII Merchant Marine, titled “The Ghost Ships of Archangel”. In attendance were H.R. 550 sponsors Rep. John Garamendi (CA) and Rep. Don Young (AK). This particular function proved to be very important to our cause as several other Congresspersons attended, and the U.S. Navy League presented each with a USMM plaque intended for display in their offices. For more info on The Ghost Ships of Archangel, visit: www.williamgeroux.com.

While still at Rayburn, the group visited other Congresspersons. This included a meeting with Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY), which was arranged by Rita Cosby; they also met with the staffer of H.R. 154 sponsor Rep. Al Green (TX) to discuss why the compensation bill is not moving forward. The reasoning and purpose of the H.R. 154 were explained in greater detail by members of our group.

The Rayburn Building was visited again on Thursday, May 23rd. The following offices were strategically targeted with the goal of educating about how the USMM of WWII were never segregated and included many women mariners. Office visited included: Rep. Maxine Waters (CA), Chairperson of the House Financial Services Committee which holds H.R. 550; Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Rep. Karen Bass (CA), Chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Michael McCaul (TX); Rep. Rob Wittman (VA); Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ); Rep. Jim Jordan (OH); Rep. Mo Brooks (AL); Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY); Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA); Rep. David McKinley (WV); and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX).

Note: Points of discussion during these visits included the stories of Clara Gordon Main (first American female POW) and Carmen Quinonez, torpedoed from the SS Jacinto. Both women were from New York; Quinonez was a Hispanic.

Inside of N/S Savannah

On Friday, May 24th, the group received a private tour of the nuclear ship Savannah. The ship is docked near the SS John W. Brown and is now being maintained by MARAD. However, if a new owner is not found in the distant future, the ship could be scrapped. The Savannah features a 1960’s themed interior.

Click HERE to view all photos from the 2019 Storm the Hill week.

Click HERE to contact your Congressperson & Senators to support the WWII Merchant Mariner Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019.

American Maritime Industry Rallies to Support WWII Merchant Marine Legislation

In advance of National Maritime Day and AMMV’s “Storm the Hill” efforts, the American maritime industry has united to sign a letter urging Congress to pass the WWII Merchant Mariners Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019 (H.R. 550 & S. 133).

Over 100 maritime or affiliated groups have signed the letter, including private companies, partnerships, unions, non-profits groups, schools, etc. AMMV recommends including a copy of the letter when contacting your Senators or Congressperson via email or “snail mail”. It is also recommended to include the letter when addressing the committees holding each version of the bill.

Below are two versions of the letter. Use the “Senate” version when contacting your Senators or the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which currently is holding S. 133. Likewise, use the “House” letter when contacting your Congressperson or the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, which is holding H.R. 550.

Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
534 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee
2129 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Click HERE to download the “Senate” (S. 133) American maritime industry support letter

Click HERE to download the “House” (H.R. 550) American maritime industry support letter