U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) issued the following statement on May 17.
IN RECOGNITION OF THE UNITED STATES MERCHANT MARINERS AND THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS TO VICTORY IN WORLD WAR II
HON. MIKE KELLY
in the House of Representatives
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Mr. KELLY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, today I recognize the United States Merchant Mariners and their vital contributions to the victory of the Allies in World War II. This year, 72 years after our victory in that war, is a fitting time to recognize the contributions of our merchant mariners to the war effort.
There were more than 250,000 men serving in the Merchant Marine during WWII, all volunteers. They had the distinction of being the only non-segregated service. The Merchant Marine was critical to the mission of our military service members around the world during the war.
Many of the important contributions of the Merchant Marine are not well known, including the fact that they had the highest rate of casualties in the Armed Services. More than 700 merchant ships were sunk and more than 8,000 U.S. Merchant Mariners were killed during the war. The losses suffered are even more remarkable given that the U.S. Merchant Marine was not considered a military branch and was composed of volunteers classified by the government as civilians. Every invasion during the war involved the Merchant Marine. They suffered tremendous casualties during the Battle of the Atlantic, the Murmansk Run, D-Day, and as an integral part of every island invasion in the Pacific Theater. As we come close to Memorial Day, it is fitting to pause and remember their heroism and sacrifice.
The United States built nearly 6,000 merchant vessels and naval auxiliaries in 16 shipyards with over 650,000 workers. This was an economic and military feat of enormous scale. As part of a government effort to encourage more American participation in the war effort, ships were named after famous American counties and cities. 150 colleges and universities also had Victory-class merchant ships named for them. Many of these institutions of higher education supported important military training programs on their campuses. I am proud that 13 of these Victory-class ships were named for institutions in Pennsylvania, including three in the third district: Allegheny College, Grove City College, and Westminster College.
I am sure all my colleagues join me in taking great pride in the history of the United States Merchant Marine and the special place in our nation’s history associated with their ships and the men who sailed them. They have helped preserve our freedom and they deserve our gratitude.
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