Were mariners paid when their ships sank?


Captain Gibson states “One such myth surrounding alleged callous
treatment During WW II of American Merchant Mariners by the government.
I specifically reference here the erroneous assertion that once a
merchant ship was lost due to enemy action or marine casualty the pay of
its crew members stopped, thereby denying these crews compensation while
in the lifeboats and/or as involuntary guests of the enemy.”

THAT IS NOT A MYTH. The Navigation Laws of 1940, which were in force for
the entire period of WW II, and for a considerable period of time after
the War states otherwise.


Wages Terminate on loss of vessel: Transportation to Place of Shipment

R. S. 4526 (46 U. S. C. 593) In cases where the service of any seaman
terminates before the period contemplated in the agreement by reason of
loss or wreck of the vessel, such seaman shall be entitled to wages for
the time of service prior to such termination, but not for any further
period. Such seaman shall be considered a destitute seaman and shall and
shall be treated and transported to port of shipment as Provided in
sections 4577 and 4578 of the revised statutes of the United States.

The law above most certainly states a merchant seamen’s pay stopped when
the ship was lost.

I sailed in 1943 as a Kingspoint Cadet/Midshipman and in 1944/1945 as a
Licensed Deck Officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine. I continued to sail
in the Merchant Marine for almost forty one years. Captain Gibson is the
first person I ever heard claim Merchant Seamen’s pay continued after
their ships went down. The understanding during the period of WW II was
the crews pay stopped when the order to abandon ship was given, or the
ship sank. Whichever came first.

Merchant mariners were treated very badly in WW II. They were constantly
told they were not entitled to various benefits because they were
civilians. Then they were sharply criticized because they acted like

I, along with my classmates was commissioned Ensign in the Naval Reserve
upon graduation. But because Merchant Ships loaded with cargoes that
were vital to the war effort were being held up at the dock for lack of
officers, the navy permitted Maritime Academy graduates who were reserve
officers to sail in the Merchant Marine to keep those ships moving.
Military Commanders apparently did not understand one of the ways the
German High Command intended to win the war was to keep supplies from
reaching their destination. Military units could not fight for long in
the field without resupply of ammunition, fuel and food.

I also note Captain Gibson states disabled seamen received $200 a month
up to $5,000. Permanently disabled seamen received an extra $100 a month
for an additional twenty five months. Service Personnel did not have a
time limit or monetary cap on their disability payments, they were made
for the length of time they were disabled. Captain Gibson should also
note that permanently disabled servicemen were paid benefits for life.

Navy personnel on the same sunk ship were given a complete set of new
uniforms and gear and a months leave with pay  after being declared fit
for duty. Merchant Mariners received $100. for lost gear. Nothing else

Captain Gibson stated families of Merchant Seamen killed in action
received $ 5,000. I call to his attention, Service personnel’s families
received $10,000 in death benefits.

He is apparently making an attack on the Just Compensation Committees
attempt to get Senate Bill S-961 passed. It really is not necessary, I
will be 85 this year and most of of the WW II Merchant Marine Veterans
have already crossed the final bar. All they have to do is stall for a
few years more and we will all be gone.

My personal background;
Graduated Kingspoint 23 JUN 44
41 years in the Industry
Unlimited Masters License 45 years
20 Years  as Master Commanding
12 of the great President Liners

By Professional Mariner Staff