Sunday, May 30, 2010

All those who serve

The PG leads it's Memorial Weekend Sunday edition with coverage of the efforts to allow veterans of the US Merchant Marine equal status with their uniformed brethren of WWII.  The story was mostly about a new merchant marine memorial in Butler.   The Trib covered the forthcoming dedication ceremony on Thursday. It's not a new story by far and on the bigger story of benefits the mariner-veterans are not getting I remember this PG story from 2004.

So I admit more than a great deal of sympathy for the ongoing battles the mariners still fight.  My father served as a member of the US Armed Guard, which were gun crews placed on merchant ships in WWII to defend them when they were almost inevitably attacked.  Thus he served in the Navy itself and would be a veteran without any doubt. Yet in reality he served side by side with the same merchant marine crewman who continue to fight to be recognized even as veterans.  There is this thing about ships in combat.  It's not really any safer to be the guy behind the gun or the wiper deep in the engine room.  To put it in perspective, the US Merchant Marine in WWII suffered a greater proportion of deaths than any other service.

If the dangers of torpedoes and diver bombers seem like ancient history, there is the more recent story of mariners in the pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alaska last year.  But below is the best picture explaining what the Merchant Marine continues to do today.  Click on the pic to get the higher resolution version which really comes closer to explaining what the sea is like in what was really a spring squall in the Med.   It's hard to imagine what merchant marine crews of WWII convoys routinely went through braving things like winter storms in the North Atlantic; often in mass produced, let alone much smaller, Liberty ships bolted together in days. No weather satellites or GPS to help them navigate the storms either. 

MV Cape Texas in the Mediterranean Sea in March 2003. On the deck is equipment of the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division.


Anonymous johnnyg said...

Hear, hear. There is a book out there whose title I cannot remember that recounted a slightly fictionalized story of a 16 year-old stowaway on a Liberty ship making the transit from New York to Russia (Murmansk or Archangel) during WWII. I found it in the library as a pre-teen. The story was harrowing, and sticks with me to this day. Recognition should be a no-brainer.

Good read this weekend in the Weekend Journal portion of the WSJ recounting how the US military has made it a sacred honor to bring our war dead home.

Which makes me wonder, where are the Memorial Day remembrances in Pittsburgh--city or suburbs. Growing up in a small town, everyone turned out for the parade, the program at the war monument in the central park (originally built to commemorate the Civil War dead) including the reading of the Gettysburg Address and General Logan's Memorial Day proclamation, and then retired to the American Legion Hall to share Navy Bean Soup.

Given that we have an active, two-front war going on, it deeply troubles me that Memorial Day has become just the opening of the summer season.

Sunday, May 30, 2010 10:07:00 AM  

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