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National Maritime Day

May 19, 2011
A United States World War II recruiting poster...

Image via Wikimedia Commons

NATIONAL MARITIME DAY

May 22

Our nation has a little-known national holiday this week: National Maritime Day—a day set aside to honor those civilians who gave their lives for freedom upon the high seas. Because members of the U.S.-flagged Merchant Marine are civilians, most Memorial Day celebrations only give cursory mention of these heroes. As a result, National Maritime Day is their day.

            Established by a joint resolution of Congress on May 20, 1933, National Maritime Day is May 22 of each year. The day was selected to honor the first successful trans-Atlantic crossing by a steamship, S.S. Savannah, which set sail from the United States on May 22, 1819. The president of the United States issues a proclamation each year, calling for observance of the holiday. Each U.S.-flagged vessel is sent the proclamation, acknowledging the continued service of the men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine. On April 4, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation adding that observances of National Maritime Day include flying the American flag on homes and all government buildings.

            The U.S. Maritime Administration, a branch of the Department of Transportation, holds a memorial service—the only national memorial service that honors those American seafarers who lost their lives in service to their country. American seafarers have been involved in defense of the nation since 1776 to the present. In World War II alone, 733 American vessels were sunk, and nearly 6,000 merchant seamen and officers were lost as a result of enemy action and war-related causes. According to MARAD, the number of sunk vessels is doubled and gives the merchant marine the highest casualty rate of any of the services in WWII. Members of Congress, leaders from maritime labor and management, and government all participate in this memorial service.

            The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y., sends an honor guard and the academy’s Battle Standard to participate in the Memorial Service. USMMA lost 142 midshipmen in World War II. Since the academy’s founding in 1943, midshipmen have been involved in every major military action, including today’s war on terror. This makes the academy unique among the nation’s five service academies.

            The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command holds a wreath-laying ceremony also on National Maritime Day. The ceremony honors the civilian seafarers who gave their lives manning U.S. Navy vessels involved in the transport of vital supplies. It also honors the Navy Armed Guards who sailed on merchant vessels, an oft-overlooked group of servicemen.

            Civilian seafarers helped to build and defend the United States. Shipping commerce is vital to our country’s economy. In time of war gallant seafarers have come to the aid of our armed services—delivering troops, equipment, and food, often putting themselves in grave and mortal danger. As we celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day, please remember those who served along with our Soldiers, Pilots, Sailors, and Marines. And fly the flag proudly on May 22 each year in observance of National Maritime Day.

Related article: Maritime Executive published a great article today about National Maritime Day and the current state of our U.S.-flagged fleet.

**And Thanks, DH for catching my error!

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One comment

  1. […] also encourage you to reread my posting on National Maritime Day. I will post official links tomorrow. Rate this: Share […]



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