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Maritime Day 2015

May 21, 2015

Two days ago I started a long-term sub job for a middle school math teacher who took paternity leave to help his wife after her C-section. I will finish out the year for him. Let’s just say that this is in the middle of standardized testing and these students have already taken their respective math tests. AND THE INMATES ARE RESTLESS! Even with lesson plans (sadly many students mistakenly believed they were getting 17 days of free-for-all) I do have some time to fill … so I thought about my annual Maritime Day public service announcement. But this is a math class… how could I make it fit the subject? USMM.org and proponents of the merchant marine receiving veteran status have always touted that the MM had the highest casualty percentage of any service in World War II (though prior to 2006 this claim was always tempered with “2nd only to the Marine Corps”). In my search for casualty numbers and total in service I learned through usmm.org that recent research has found more data on the merchant vessels and crews lost. So I have amended my article and created a cross-multiply math problem (you could of course just simple divide the numerator by the denominator and move the decimal point over two to get the percentage…) and yes, T2 had to explain to me how it was done. (Why they thought it was a good idea to hire me, I don’t know!)

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, over 1,000* American vessels were sunk, and over 9,500** merchant seamen and officers were lost as a result of enemy action and war-related causes. Members of Congress, leaders from maritime labor and management, and government all participate in this memorial service.

*A Careless Word — a Needless Sinking: A History of the Staggering Losses Suffered by the U.S. Merchant Marine, both in Ships and Personnel, during World War II, American Merchant Marine Museum, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y., 1983 to 1998. Captain Moore’s book lists approx. 990 ships. http://www.usmm.org list includes 1,600 ships.

**Total killed at sea, POW killed, plus died from wounds ashore

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 144 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. Fredericksburg began as a colonial shipping port. 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.

***************************************************

Merchant Mariners do not automatically have veteran status. In fact the Secretary of the Air Force (not even its own branch of service until after WWII) blocked granting veteran status and rights four times!

From usmm.org:

The judge ordered the Board to reconsider their denial and the Board granted veteran status to most WWII mariners on January 19, 1988. Mariners who went to sea after August 15, 1945, serving in wartime in hazardous waters, got veteran status on November 11, 1998.

One of the arguments against granting status is the civilian nature of their job. “They get paid more.” One argument for veteran status is the hazardous conditions of war time seafaring and the disproportionate casualties the merchant marine suffered during WWI and between Aug. 1945 and Dec. 1946 (as well as other conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars).

To support this reason for veteran status, compare casualty numbers to the total number of personnel per branch to determine the percentage lost during WWII.

Service Number serving   War Dead
 Merchant Marine 243,000* 9,521**
 Marines  669,108  19,733
 Army  11,268,000  234,874
 Navy  4,183,466  36,958
 Coast Guard  242,093  574
 Total  16,576,667  295,790

*Number varies by source and ranges from 215,000 to 285,000. War Shipping Administration Press Release 2514, January 1, 1946, lists 243,000 **Total killed at sea, POW killed, plus died from wounds ashore

THE ANSWERS:

Service Number serving   War Dead  Percent   Ratio
 Merchant Marine 243,000* 9,521** 3.90% 1 in 26
 Marines  669,108  19,733  2.94%  1 in 34
 Army  11,268,000  234,874  2.08%  1 in 48
 Navy  4,183,466  36,958  0.88%  1 in 114
 Coast Guard  242,093  574  0.24%  1 in 421
 Total  16,576,667  295,790  1.78%  1 in 56

*Number varies by source and ranges from 215,000 to 285,000. War Shipping Administration Press Release 2514, January 1, 1946, lists 243,000 **Total killed at sea, POW killed, plus died from wounds ashore

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5 comments

  1. Great info, and nice to hear from you, although I don’t envy you your substitute position at the end of the school year!


    • I am truly stunned by the behavior of some of the students, especially former scouts or teammates. I have threatened to facebook several parents. I will be probably asking the VP to come in and remind them, especially the 8th graders, that there can and will be consequences. 3 days down and 14 to go. BTW, I will probably be having more surgery for a ruptured L4/L5 before the Chief gets home… but I have a 3rd/4th opinion next week.



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