The War Dead of WW2 You Don’t Know

It is said an army marches on its stomach, meaning without food, the army is effectively dead in its tracks. This is true for the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Marine Corps.

Logistics – This is the keyword. In military parlance, logistics means the branch of military science and operations dealing with the procurement, supply, and maintenance of equipment, with the movement, evacuation, and hospitalization of personnel, with the provision of facilities and services, and with related matters.

The veterans you never hear about were the Merchant Marines.

merchant marine emblem

The United States Merchant Marine provided the greatest sealift in history between the production army at home and the fighting forces scattered around the globe in World War II. The prewar total of 55,000 experienced mariners was increased to over 215,000 through U.S. Maritime Service training programs.

burning tanker Merchant ships faced danger from submarines, mines, armed raiders and destroyers, aircraft, “kamikaze,” and the elements. About 8,300 mariners were killed at sea, 12,000 wounded of whom at least 1,100 died from their wounds, and 663 men and women were taken prisoner. (Total killed estimated 9,300.) Some were blown to death, some incinerated, some drowned, some froze, and some starved. 66 died in prison camps or aboard Japanese ships while being transported to other camps. 31 ships vanished without a trace to a watery grave.

Newspapers carried essentially the same story each week: “Two medium-sized Allied ships sunk in the Atlantic.” In reality, the average for 1942 was 33 Allied ships sunk each week.

1 in 26 mariners serving aboard merchant ships in World WW II died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. services. Casualties were kept secret during the War to keep information about their success from the enemy and to attract and keep mariners at sea.

Source: U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II website

Merchant Marines suffered a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. Services

Merchant Marines were true veterans of WW2 as true as any member of the armed forces. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Pilots knew the risks they faced. Merchant Marines did not. The government intentionally kept secret the risk to their lives.

H.R.23 – Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2007 provided benefits to certain individuals who served in the United States merchant marine (including the Army Transport Service and the Naval Transport Service) during World War II.

H.R.2992 – Merchant Marine of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 recognized the Merchant Marine dedicated and vital service during World War II.

I urge all Americans to know the role of the Merchant Marines in WW2 and to honor them on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018.

John White
Rockwall, Texas

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