Death Stalked American Merchant Marine World War Two

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Death Stalked American Merchant Marine World War Two

8,300 Merchant Mariners killed at sea world war two
Death Stalked the us Merchant Marine

Liberty ship SS John W. Brown (USNA). Out of almost 2,800 Liberty ships that were built only two remain operational, the SS John S Brown above being one.

 

“About 8,300 mariners were killed at sea, 12,000 wounded of whom at least 1,100 died from their wounds, and 663 men and women were taken prisoner. (Total killed estimated 9,300.)” These statistics are from the official website of the US Merchant Marine which you find here:   OfficialUSMMWW2site

 

Someone talked!
 1942.  us Office of War Information.

Although the figures were kept secret for years, “1 in 26 mariners serving aboard merchant ships in World WW II died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. services. ” Even more unsettling, 37 US merchant ships disappeared.

 

This poster repeats a common theme of posters throughout the war both in the US and Great Britain and that is don’t talk about anything associated with war work. The poster of a ship sinking with the legend “someone talked” is repeated in endless variations.

Since there were no German spies in America which had not been turned by the US Intel Agencies, this was done to create a certain paranoia, which it did with neighbors reporting on each other particularly those who live along the coast. But this message was still important because it gave people the sense that we were in a war.

I can’t think of a single instance in which a German U-Boat was able to sink a ship because someone in the US told someone where a ship was going and when. Much more dangerous was the German B-Diesnt or radio intelligence service who broke the British code used to communicate information about convoys, where they were forming up, when they were leaving, and what routing they were taking.

 

We built thousands of ships such as the famous “Liberty ships” of which we built 2,751. These were manufactured in pre-fabricated sections, shipped by rail to shipyards, and welded together by men and women hired from all over the country. We needed these ships and needed them immediately and so they were mass produced and turned out like cars.

An interesting appeal for all ethnic and religious groups to unite for victory. Nowadays, the message from the President is the opposite.

The record for building a Liberty ship from laying the keel to launch was 4 days 15 ½ hours (fitting out and other post-launch work remained to be done to the ships after launch). Other types of merchant ships were built this way as well.

 

 

Recruitment of huge numbers of landlubbers was required by the demands of the US Merchant Marine. The men were not treated especially well, part of the long tradition of animosity between ship owners and crew. After the war their dangerous and often heroic service wasn’t recognized until the 1990s.

 

About the Author:

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/