The following statement was issued by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) on June 6.
On June 6, 1944, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy to liberate the people of Europe and end the murderous tyranny of Nazism. Just as the men on the beaches fought and died to relight the flame of freedom for the world, so too did another band of brothers on the sea: the U.S. Merchant Marine.
As the New York Times reported at the time: “D-Day would not have been possible without the merchant marine…the part played by these intrepid civilians, whose deeds for the most part have gone unsung.” The U.S. Merchant Marine suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of the service during World War II. As many as 9,300 men who went to sea never returned ashore. Particularly in the Atlantic, merchant mariners endured torpedoing and strafing, just like those in the Navy, but while travelling in largely unarmed ships.
Seventy-five years have now passed since D-Day, but one fact remains true: the U.S. military cannot sustain the fight through an extended deployment without the support of its civilian volunteer merchant mariners. Yet, today, the number of U.S.-flag ships and American mariners sailing falls short of the requirements for military sealift should the United States become engaged in a large-scale military conflict. To guard our freedom and that of our allies around the world, and to continue to secure the liberties these men fought to guard so long ago, we need a robust and growing merchant marine.
As the Times expressed back then: “Undaunted by the threat of air attacks, sea mines, surface fire, submarines or coastal batteries, they fulfilled their mission…that was the backbone of one of the world’s greatest war efforts.” Today, seventy-five years after D-Day, let us remember the sacrifice of the U.S. Merchant Marine, honor the service of all our veterans, and better prepare our merchant marine to protect our Nation and to guard the freedom that they helped secure.
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