"[Mariners] have written one of its most brilliant chapters. They have delivered the goods when and where needed in every theater of operations and across every ocean in the biggest, the most difficult and dangerous job ever undertaken. As time goes on, there will be greater public understanding of our merchant's fleet record during this war [World War II]."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
This is a personal July fourth message about some of the greatest heroes of World War II a group that includes my father Moshe Mendel ben David. My dad spent much of the war as a sitting duck, operating a radio in a little metal box perched atop a liberty ship filled to the gunwales with some of the most dangerous cargoes ever carried by seagoing transport. In fact the Merchant Marine as a service, sustained the highest mortality rate of all services in World War Two. One trip it was high octane aviation fuel the next it was munitions. He sailed in convoy through the Mediterranean, the North Sea and the vast Pacific never knowing what enemy submarine or dive-bomber was stalking his ship. Other than infantrymen and bomber pilots, this was the most hazardous duty in the war.
When he got back, he was not accorded any of the veterans’ benefits that the other branches of the armed forces enjoyed. Had President Roosevelt lived, it might have been different. He (see above) had an appreciation for the sacrifices and contribution of the Merchant Marine. He was even on record as predicting that there would be a greater recognition. Roosevelt passed away before the end of the war however and it was not until a few years ago that the surviving Mariners were finally accorded veteran status.
My dad, as most of his comrades, never complained- he didn’t really talk about it at all. Now, to attempt a redress of the terrible neglect of this group of heroes, a bill has been introduced into congress to give a token Thank You to those hearty survivors of the Merchant Mariners of World War II. My dad is ninety-one years old and most of his fellow WWII Mariners are over eighty. I’d like to urge everyone who reads this post to please visit the web page of the sponsors of the bill. On it you will find a state by state guide to the congress and how they are lining up on this bill. If your congressional representative is not a sponsor of this bill please, for the sake of justice and the conscience of the nation, urge them to join the supporters on the bill.