House approves bill to recognize WWII merchant mariners

Liberty Ship At Sea

The following is text of a news release from U.S. Rep. John Garamendi:

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., recently announced that the bipartisan Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019 passed the House of Representatives unanimously.

“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 service members 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 introduced this bill: to give these veterans and their families the honor and respect they are owed. I’m pleased that this bill has passed the House and I will work to ensure it passes the Senate and becomes law.”

“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," said Christian Yuhas, vice president of American Merchant Marine Veterans and a chief engineer merchant marine. "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.”

The Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act was introduced in the Senate simultaneously by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Susan Brooks, R-Ind., are the original co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

The following is text of a news release from the American Merchant Marine Veterans:

H.R. 550 has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. AMMV would like to wholeheartedly thank sponsor Rep. John Garamendi and his staff for their outstanding work in the passage of this legislation. Also to be thanked are the many individual volunteers who voiced their opinions to Congress in the form of emails, letters, phone calls, and social media posts. Finally, AMMV thanks all of the U.S. maritime unions and groups for their various levels of support of our organization and in promoting the Congressional Gold Medal legislation.

The next step is to see the companion Senate bill (S. 133) passed. The bill sits with 31 co-sponsors as of Sept. 18; 67 are needed to send it to the Senate floor. Once passed, the bill will then be signed into law by the president of the United States. S. 133 is currently under the jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. All supporters of this legislation are encouraged to contact their senators as well as the committee holding the bill.

By Professional Mariner Staff