Byron's Babbles

United States Merchant Marine: The Link To American Victory

Each year I try to do a Memorial Day post honoring those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms I love, and do not take for granted. This past week I had the opportunity to visit and tour the nine decks of the SS American Victory Ship in Tampa, Florida. I already blogged some about my visit in Where Is Your Leadership Engine Order Telegraph Set? While on the ship, which one deck serves as the museum, I stood in the wheel house, walked the deck, saw the radio and gyro rooms, sat in the mess hall, looked in crew cabins, experienced the captain’s quarters, walked the engine room deck, and so much more.

Even as eye opening as all this first hand experience was, I really learned a lot from the attendant who took time to have a long conversation with me about the United States Merchant Marine. I have to admit I was very ignorant about this important part of our military support. The Merchant Marine is also crucial to our economy as well.

Merchant Mariners are not part of the military but do support our armed services, particularly the U.S. Navy, with cargo, fuel, personnel, and other cargo. The Merchant Marine fleet is small and includes privately owned and government owned. The SS American Victory was and still owned by the U.S. Navy. The SS American Victory saw service at the end of World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam.

The United States Maritime Administration, under the Department of Transportation, handles programs that administer and finance the United States Merchant Marine. This includes supporting the United States Maritime Service, which helps to train officers and crew on merchant ships.

Additionally, there is legislation being considered in the 116th Congress, HR 550 and S133, called the Merchant Mariners Of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act Of 2019. This legislation would award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the United States Merchant Mariners of World War II, in recognition of their dedicated and vital service during World War II.

After spending time on this ship, learning of the sacrifices, I, certainly on this Memorial Day morning, believe passing this legislation would be appropriate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was Supreme Commander Of the Allied Forces during World War II, recognized what an important part the Merchant Marines played in winning the war when he said, “through the prompt delivery of supplies and equipment to our armed forces overseas, and of cargoes representing economic and military aid to friendly nations, the American Merchant Marine has effectively helped to strengthen the forces of freedom throughout the world.” Upon reflection, we would not have successful without this crucial link to equipment, fuel, ammunition, and the many other supplies needed.

According to statistics the Merchant Marine suffered the highest rate of casualties during World War II. Another thing my host shared was a story of American ingenuity. Before the Victory Class ship there was the much slower Liberty Class. The Liberty Class could only travel at approximately 8 knots. This was not fast enough to outrun the 12 knots of the German U Boats. We then redesigned and came up with the Victory Class that could run at 17 knots. This would allow for outrunning the U Boats. Even in war we were having to innovate and make improvements. It still amazes me to think that the SS American Victory was built in 55 days. We need to also take a moment and honor the civilians, many of who were women, for making sure everything was being taken care of back home, including getting our ships built quickly.

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to learn about the United States Merchant Marine and their part in securing our freedom. Today, on Memorial Day, we should all pause and give thanks for the ultimate sacrifice paid by so many for our freedom.