WWII Coastwise Merchant Mariners torpedoed by Congress


What the German U-boats couldn’t do in WW II, our US Congress accomplished in one single stroke.  They torpedoed the chances of some 30,000 WW II Coastwise Mariners to gain recognition as veterans.  This action sends the hopes of these mariners down the tubes and scuttled all chance for the future through Congressional efforts.  Congress had no problem taking care of undocumented immigrant workers in this country.  They did so with great fanfare.  Yet, our coastwise mariners have been sent to Davey Jones’ Locker for no good reason. Some of our citizens sailed without proper documentation; or because our own government destroyed/denied necessary documents now required proving service. Many were denied their credentials due to their age, gender or disability. They performed the same services, received the same wages, paid the same taxes and experienced the same dangers as others.

Recent actions revealed that all efforts to have some 30,000 coastwise mariners from WW II gain recognition as veterans have been torpedoed and we have lost the battle.  Our own congress did what the enemy couldn’t do to our mariners.  They turned their backs on their own citizens and scuttled all efforts to obtain their due recognition. This was also done behind closed doors and via staff efforts (through salaried staffers and not elected officials) vice on the Senate/House floor for all to see.

What can be said about those that stand up for our country when they were needed; only to be scuttled by those that purport to support them?  What can be said about those that use the veteran platform, with all types of promises on their journey to congress, only to cut them adrift after they launch their career?  What can be said of those who use misinformation to state their reason to not support them and use the same info to sink us when we do have a chance to make it out of congress?  What can be said when they destroy the chance of some 30,000 mariners to gain recognition as veterans at no cost to our government?  The CBO had declared this issue to be DeMinimis, meaning little or no costs.

This just happened to our Congressional bill, “WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act” that was amended into the House National Defense Authorization Act and a proposed Senate amendment to the Senate National Defense Authorization Act.  Both were sent for review; and through a backdoor staff committee action from both House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees.

Information received indicates that some committee staff members objected to language contained in the bill and decided against it.  Perhaps that was the language describing the necessity to use alternative methods of recognition to assist these mariners to obtain their due recognition as veterans.  Or the language to replace documents destroyed/denied by predecessors of the Agencies these staffers represent. The use of nonmilitary records, recommended and accepted by our own government specifically for this use, requires expanding to augment the loss of this information..

Some 30 thousand mariners and the many tens of thousands of their descendants will not find closure for their loved ones that our Congress had in their hands to make available but failed to deliver. This travesty will not even make the history books and will be lost to oblivion as these mariners seemed to be.  A shame I hope many will know, bare and remember.


J. Don Horton


WWII Coastwise Merchant Mariners

By Professional Mariner Staff