AMMV supports efforts of the Battle of Atlantic Memorial

The Battle of the Atlantic Memorial (BOAM) is a United Kingdom fundraising campaign to build a national memorial to the Battle of the Atlantic on Liverpool’s waterfront. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest campaign of WWII, which saw 3,500 merchant ships and 175 warships lost, featured 100 convoy battles, and covered 3,000 square miles.

In addition to commemorating the Battle and all of its participants and contributors, the Memorial will have an educational role, informing the public – particularly young people – about the Battle of the Atlantic and its vital significance.

Representing the BOAM at the AMMV 32nd National Convention in St. Louis was Commodore Martin Connell, an attaché from the British Royal Navy. Commodore Connell discussed the organization’s goals and timeline in regards to constructing the monument in Liverpool that will honor, along with other groups, the Merchant Navies and Merchant Marine of all Allied nations of WWII.

Commodore Connell shakes hands with WWII Merchant Marine Veteran Jim Coley.

Links:

BOAM website 

BOAM on Twitter

Battle of Atlantic Memorial campaign to tour United States

“Storm the Hill” gang to reunite for 2018 efforts

On the week of National Maritime Day 2017, a crew led by Past AMMV President Morris Harvey visited Congress and attended a ceremony at the Department of Transportation building. These “Storm the Hill” efforts were designed to educate members of Congress in the importance of passing H.R. 154: The Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2017, introduced by Congressman Al Green of Texas. A previous STH had been done in 2015 in support of similar legislation.

The 2017 team (pictured below in front of the D.O.T. building) included (L to R): Morris Harvey (Ocala Chapter); Robert Weagant (Midwest Chapter); Sheila Sova (AMMV Special Projects & Veterans Outreach); Charles A. Mills (Lonestar Chapter); Laura Johnson Riddle (Member-at-Large); and Eugene Barner (Member-at-Large). The 2018 group will be led by Charles Mills and is comprised mostly of the same members.

This time around, in addition to promoting H.R. 154, the group will also be asking for support of S. 2127: The Merchant Mariners of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. S. 2127 had not yet been introduced at the time of last year’s STH efforts.

Please tune in to AMMV’s official Facebook and Twitter platforms for timely coverage of the 2018 Storm the Hill.

WWII MM Vet Robert Weagant shakes hands with Rep. Brian Mast of Florida.

A case to support H.R. 154: The true story of WWII Merchant Mariner Leonard Blake

Leonard Row was just a 15-year old boy when he was turned away by a U.S. Navy recruiter because of his age. However, he was advised that the Maritime Service would happily accept him. Leonard then signed-up to train at the Catalina Island facility, which prepped young men to crew the merchant vessels that carried food, ammunitions, and other vital supplies to Allied forces worldwide.

Leonard was serving on the Mary A. Livermore early in his seagoing career when an incident occurred that changed his life forever. On May 28th, 1945, while anchored near Okinawa, a Kamikaze crashed into the Livermore. Eleven men died and seven were severely injured, including Leonard. One of the dead was his close friend, Robert E. Blake.

S/S Mary A. Livermore following Kamikaze attack

Leonard’s legs were completely shattered and part of one foot was missing. The doctors wanted to amputate his legs but Leonard pleaded against this. It would be a long road to only partial recovery, as he walks with a limp and a cane to this day.

Upon returning to the states, Leonard was released from military care and turned over a public health hospital; the U.S. military would no longer assist. He was essentially on his own.

Leonard recalls one incident when his peers kicked out his crutches and called him a “draft dodger”. Ironically, this seems to have been common public perception of the WWII Merchant Marine

Names of those lost from the Livermore, etched into the Walls of Honors at the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial in San Pedro, CA.

Eventually, Leonard was adopted by the parents of his lost friend and shipmate Robert Blake. The Blake family helped Leonard pay his medical bills, and Leonard Row became Leonard Blake.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, during signing of GI Bill on June 22, 1944, stated, “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.”

It was 43 years later in 1988 when our U.S. Merchant Mariners of WWII were finally granted Veteran status. There were no benefits in the interim, and by this point in time these men were at or near retirement age, unable to capitalize on any of the watered-down benefits now bestowed upon them. Leonard Blake served his county honorably and was not afforded the care or recognition that was intended by Roosevelt. Thousands of other surviving Merchant Mariners had their own unique stories.

Legislation has been around for several sessions of Congress with the intent of righting this injustice by providing our Merchant Marine Veterans some form of monetary payment to compensate for this lifetime of loss. The current bill is H.R. 154: The Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2017. If enacted, this would provide our seagoing heroes with a lump sum payment of $25,000.

Please ask your Congressperson to support H.R. 154. It’s time.

Click HERE to print out a form letter to mail to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs asking for support of H.R. 154.

Click HERE to help Leonard Blake gain recognition.

 

Will U.S. Merchant Mariners who served in support of the Korean Conflict obtain Veteran status?

Will U.S. Merchant Mariners who served in support of the Korean Conflict obtain Veteran status?

AMMV Government Affairs Co-Chair Michael Helbig has been working diligently for over two full years on compiling a group application to submit to the Civilian/Military Service Review Board (C/MSRB) with the end goal of obtaining Veteran status for American Merchant Mariners who served in support of the Korean Conflict.

The C/MSRB is made up of Air Force personnel who are assigned as needed to review cases of civilian groups applying for Veteran status. It is clear that Helbig has his work cut out for him, as “the Board” revised it rules following the successful lawsuit won by the WWII U.S. Merchant Marine group back in 1988. The current eligibility criteria for a Merchant Marine group may be considered somewhat daunting.

Michael Helbig

However, Helbig is a master researcher who refuses to leave a stone unturned. His casework is meticulous, and he has poured thousands of hours of work into this project. In fact, Helbig was recognized with the Harvey-Wichita Award at AMMV’s National Convention in St. Louis. This is the equivalent to a “Man of the Year” award, something that he has certainly earned.

AMMV Judge Advocate Capt. Joseph Byrne is assisting Helbig by reviewing files and providing opinions. Capt. Byrne met with Helbig during the AMMV Convention.

LINKS:

Click HERE for an overview of Helbig’s casework.

Click HERE for an update (March 2018) on Helbig’s work.

The U.S. Merchant Marine were the unsung heroes of the Korean War

 

JONES ACT – THE SHOT ACROSS THE BOW

On October 9, 2017, the following Associated Press article was published in newsprint
from LA to New York, from Miami to Seattle, and from San Juan to Pearl Harbor, to Juneau.

The American Merchant Marine Veterans organization diligently works to preserve the Jones Act and its principles of implementation. For years, the Board of Directors and the Membership have consistently passed resolutions of Jones Act support at our National Conventions.

The following article, posted by the Associated Press is a warning that there (however, well meaning) are dangerous elements in our country who work to undermine our national security. In addition, there were some political interests who aggressively and shamelessly capitalized on the Puerto Rican crisis and the desperation of the island’s leaders and residents. This seeded media coverage and political debate with a fraudulent narrative that the Jones Act was to blame for essential supplies not reaching the people who needed them most.

The Jones Act, (originally passed by Congress in 1920 and then updated in 1936) constitutes the nucleus for our international U.S. Flag fleet. (For those who would like to read the full 1936  — Merchant Marine Act, 1936, CLICK HERE)  These vessels are U.S.-built, -owned and –crewed (volunteer-integrated-civilian). The Jones Act ensures that our country has U.S. merchant mariners available to man U.S. military support vessels. Many of the intercoastal trade ships can be diverted to international use. These ships would deliver materials to our allies and U.S. troops when our National interests are threatened. This fleet of ships also serves as a nucleus for maintaining a base force of trained crew members that can be used to support less trained and less experienced seaman – when necessary to expand the size of our U.S. Flag fleet of ships.        

The Associated Press Article is also an attack on our basic American patriotic enthusiasm – The AMMV opposes foreign flag ships cruising our inland waters and rivers in Puerto Rico and across our United States.

By MATTHEW DALY, ASSOCIATED PRESS ; WASHINGTON — Oct 9, 2017, 5:48 PM ET

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are pushing to exempt Puerto Rico from a federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports. President Donald Trump temporarily waived the Jones Act last month amid criticism that the once-obscure law hindered relief efforts to in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

The 10-day waiver expired on Sunday night and was not renewed. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said an extension was not needed to support relief efforts on the island, adding that there’s “an ample supply” of U.S.-flagged vessels to ensure cargo reaches Puerto Rico.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday that the expiration of the Jones Act waiver added renewed urgency to his push to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from what he called an “archaic and burdensome law.”

“Until we provide Puerto Rico with long-term relief, the Jones Act will continue to hinder much-needed efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria,” he said.

Rep. Nydia Vel?zquez, D-N.Y., said the temporary waiver should be extended for at least a year while Congress debates a permanent exemption for Puerto Rico.

“Significant numbers of Puerto Ricans remain displaced and still lack food, drinking water and electricity,” she wrote in a letter to Trump. “If the Jones Act is reinstated, building supplies will cost significantly more in Puerto Rico, compared to costs on the mainland. This will serve only to slow Puerto Rico’s long-term recovery.”

The Trump administration initially said a waiver was not needed because there were enough U.S.-flagged ships available to ferry goods to Puerto Rico. Delays in getting relief supplies to Puerto Rico occurred because of bottlenecks that resulted from the island’s damaged ports and blocked roads, not a lack of ships, officials said.

Even so, Trump waived Jones Act restrictions on Sept. 28, just as he had done to help ease fuel shortages in the Southeast following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., called the Jones Act “incredibly important to our country’s economy and to the maritime industry,” which she said supports nearly 500,000 jobs and is responsible for more than $92 billion in annual gross economic output.

In Washington state, the Jones Act supports more than 16,000, mostly unionized jobs, Jayapal said. “Without these jobs, our economy would suffer tremendously,” she said.

“To be clear, everywhere in the country where we have Jones Act jobs, they are better jobs, better wages and a better future for our Americans across the country,” Jayapal said last week in a speech on the House floor.

—End of Article—

Use this link to record a position asking Congress not to repeal or revise the Jones Act.
NOTE: While on the NAVY LEAGUE site, look on the right side-bar for the heading “Support WWII Merchant Marine Veterans!” . Click on this title to send a notice to your Congressperson requesting that they Co-Sign HR-154 which recognizes our WWII Merchant Marine Veterans.
Go to the Navy League site