Merchant Marines

Leonard Kowalczyk

When we think about remembering our service men and women this weekend, we think of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  But there is one unit that had more casualties than the four traditional branches of service, this unit was denied veteran status four times by the Civilian Review Board run by the Air Force.  Finally, some were granted veterans status on January 19, 1988, more than 40 years after they had served.

What unit was this?  The Merchant Marines.  The Merchant Marines is not to be confused with the branch of service – Marines.  These men were mariners, seafarers, whose job was to transport bombs, gasoline, shells, ammunition, guns, vehicles, planes, medicine, food, and other materials for warfare that our troops on the fronts depended on.  Their casualties were higher than any other branch of the service – 1 in 26.  Compared to Marines – 1 in 36; 1 in 48; Navy – 1 in 114 and Coast Guard – 1 in 421.  (The Air Force became a separate branch after WWII – 1947.)

So as we honor those who served this week-end, let’s not forget those who also served behind the scenes, as well as those who are serving today.
As for the handsome young man in that photo, that would be my Dad, who served as a Merchant Marine, taken in 1944!