World War II merchant mariners receive Congressional Gold Medal

(WASHINGTON) — The American Merchant Marine Veterans (AMMV) on Wednesday commended the 10 veterans of the U.S. merchant marine awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service during World War II.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress. The veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol on behalf of the approximately 1,500 remaining merchant mariners of World War II.

“The bravery demonstrated by the U.S. merchant mariners to keep Allied forces supplied during World War II is second to none,” said Dru DiMattia, president of the American Merchant Marine Veterans. “In the face of targeted attacks by German submarines and U-boats, the unarmed merchant mariners met the moment with resilience and courage, and serve as an inspiration for all of American maritime.”

Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. American Maritime Partnership photo

In 2020, Congress unanimously passed the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act thanks to the advocacy of Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The bill was promptly signed into law though the official award was delayed due to the global pandemic.

About the World War II merchant mariners:

• There were 243,000 mariners that served in the war.
• 9,521 perished while serving – a higher proportion of those killed than any branch of the U.S. military.
• Roughly 4 percent of those who served were killed.
• Merchant mariners experienced some of the earliest action of the war due to German submarines attacking British merchant ships in the Atlantic, disrupting supply chains to America’s allies.
• These mariners were not provided veteran status until 1988.

102-year-old Charlie Mills of Pearland, Texas. American Maritime Partnership photo

The American Merchant Marine Veterans (AMMV) is a not-for-profit, pro-American organization established to gain recognition for what the American merchant marine has accomplished for the U.S. in war and peace. The group’s key purpose is to celebrate the accomplishments of the American-flagged merchant marine and to assist the veterans of the American merchant marine, and all veterans of the military of the United States, and their families, by providing counseling to veterans, and their widows and orphans, to assist them in legal, financial, and emotional matters resulting in connection with service to our country, and to provide information regarding benefits and services available to them.

– American Maritime Partnership

By Rich Miller