Excerpted letters from Governors in answers to letters from Mr. Joseph Sweat, National Director, National Maritime Union of America; and statements from Members of Congress
EXECUTIVE OFFICE, STATE HOUSE, Phoenix, Ariz., February 23, 1945.
I am happy to join with President Roosevelt, Admiral Land, and other American leaders in paying tribute to the American merchant marine for the role which it has played in the freeing of the world from military aggression and the servitude of latter-day satraps.
It is my hope that the American Congress will take Steps to extend the advantages of the GI bill of rights to our merchant seamen, either through amendment to the GI bill or through the passage of supplementary special legislation as the Congress sees fit. I am bringing this matter to the attention of Arizona's congressional delegation, urging their earnest consideration of this matter.
Arizona has sent patriots out to sea in the merchant marine service some of them never to return. They have lived up to the best traditions of your important branch of the service. I should he remiss in my obligation to them if I did not do everything within my power to see to it that our returning merchant seamen are adequately taken care of following the war.
SIDNEY P. OSBORN, Governor.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, April 18, 1945.
After studying this House resolution and knowing of the excellent job which the merchant seamen have done and are doing, I think that this act in their behalf should be enacted.
THOS. L. BAILEY, Governor.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT, EXECUTIVE CHAMBERS, Hartford, February 15, 1945.
Governor Baldwin has asked me to acknowledge your letter of February 10. He has asked me to tell you that Connecticut, in its 1943 legislature, passed a law which includes all the members of the merchant marine in any benefits which the State of Connecticut renders to returning veterans. He felt that this would indicate Connecticut's stand regarding a seamen's bill of rights.
HENRY B. STRONG,
STATE OF UTAH, Salt Lake City, April 18, 1945.
I shall be happy to permit you to use my name as a supporter of H. R. 2346, known as the Merchant Seamen's War Service Act.
HUBERT B. MOW, Governor.
STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, Columbia, March 15, 1945. You have my hearty endorsement of this bill and I hope it will pass National Congress.
RANSOME J. WILLIAMS, Governor.
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS, Providence, April 12, 1945.
The merchant marine certainly has been doing an outstanding job, and I do hope that Congress will enact legislation extending the GI benefits to the members of this very fine service.
J. HOWARD MCGRATH, Governor.
STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Pierre, S. Dak., March 10, 1945.
Nevertheless, I will say that in a general way, it is my opinion that the merchant seamen should receive some consideration just the same as the actual combat troops are receiving under the GI bill of rights. The seamen have per-formed a very valuable and necessary service in aid of the war effort and probably many of them would much have preferred to go into the actual Army, Navy or Air Forces but they were willing to work where they would do the most good. I can see no reason why they should not be given very careful consideration as a part of the Federal plan for postwar readjustment the same as is being done for our actual military forces. It seems to me that this is one of your strong arguments and I think it will have considerable effect with the National Congress.
M. Q. SHARPE, Governor.
STATEMENT OF HON. THOMAS J. LANE OF MASSACHUSETTS
MEN OF THE MERCHANT MARINE
They were the first to fight-- and the first to die. Their sacrifices are shrouded in the deep silence of the oceans. They, above all others, saved England when she stood alone against Nazi aggression and was but a few weeks away from the starvation which meant certain defeat. Running the gantlet of ceaseless enemy attacks by sub and plane on the terrible Murmansk route, they brought the sorely needed materials which enabled Russia to stay in the war and become, in time, a major factor in the allied victory.
In those dark days, the merchant marine was our last and only hope. On these men we depended to get the stuff through-to gain for us and our allies the precious time needed to bring ourselves from the poverty of unpreparedness to the abundant strength that was required for survival.
They went down to the sea in ships, matching their skill and courage against the bombs and torpedoes which searched them out. Theirs was a constant, nerve racking vigil against enemy ambush that was frequent, swift, and deadly. Many ships went down-with many men. But the line never faltered. The cargoes had to get over. Space was too important to be sacrificed to guns and protective armor. The merchant marine was expendable.
It is one thing to fight weapons with weapons. It is another matter to repeatedly run the risk of armed ambush, having nothing with which to fight off the attacks which often broke through the convoys; nothing, that is, except skill and daring and heroism of a very high order. The men of the merchant marine knew the great odds they faced, but they didn't quit. They won-the first, the critical, the all-important battle of supply.
They were in action even before our Navy formally entered the fight. They served long and bravely. They suffered death and disability. Their contribution to victory has never been fully recognized by our people. The Englishman knows. The Russian knows. But they are not here -- in this Congress -- to speak for the men of the merchant marine.
Their war service, constantly exposed to enemy action, was indispensable to victory. Like others who fought, they ask only that we make some provision for their adjustment in civilian life.
The Merchant Seamen's War Service Act, H. R. 2346, provides for death benefits for surviving dependents; disability benefits; education and training; employment rights; and loans for the purchase or construction of homes, farms, and business property.
Some of these men are survivors of several sinkings. At sea, they slept In their clothes, for there was no telling when they might be torpedoed or how long they might be adrift in open boats, in Arctic seas. They suffered from hunger and exposure. Some were horribly burned in the oil from tankers that spread around their lifeboats and was set aflame by U-boat skippers.
Rescued, they went back to the sea and the cargo ships and the stern job of "delivering the goods"-come hell or high water.
They served well-these men of the merchant marine.
Now it is our turn to serve them.
By earnest consideration of H. R. 2346, the Merchant Seamen's War Service Act.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES A. BUCKLEY, OF NEW YORK
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries, I am honored to have this opportunity to appear before you today as a fellow Congressman and to state my views in connection with H. R. 2846, a bill to provide aid for the readjustment in civilian life of those persons who rendered war service in the United States merchant marine during World War II and to provide aid for the families of deceased war-service merchant seamen. I wish to congratulate Representative Peterson, the sponsor of this bill, the chairman of this committee as well as the members thereof, the distinguished majority leader, and the other Representatives for their splendid effort on behalf of the boys in the merchant marine. This bill provides death benefits to surviving dependents, disability benefits, hospitalization, and medical treatment for war-service seamen and their dependents, education and training, employment rights, and loans for the purchase of construction of homes, farms, and business property. In other words, this is a GI bill of rights for those gallant men of the United States merchant marine.
The men of the merchant marine contributed greatly to our victory over the enemy. At first, they supplied the lifeblood to Great Britain and Russia, for it was by their efforts that the desperately needed materials to enable Russia and England to stay in the war were brought to them. Also, it was due to their courage, sacrifice, and efforts that food reached them. We have not forgotten that in the very beginning our ships sailed without armed convoys and, in many instances, without even the necessary guns to protect themselves.
Submarines were roaming the seas; and in the face of this constant danger, our ships plied the seas, carried the supplies, and reached their objectives. These men risked their lives without any fanfare or hope of glory, and in many instances they were attacked by submarines and planes of the enemy. I remember seeing a motion picture showing the terrible conditions existing for these men plying the Murmansk route on their way to Russia, and I am sure that that movie portrayed to a small degree what actually occurred on the runs to Russia.
I wish to state from personal experience, having met hundreds of these men in the merchant marine, that they are of the finest type, moved by patriotism, and although assembled from all walks of life, have demonstrated to the world that our merchant marine is the finest that ever sailed the Seven Seas.
It is our duty to express to them some measure of appreciation. They suffered; they were injured; they died; and it was because of them that our invasions were the great successes we experienced, and it is because of them that this war was won. We, recognizing this, feel that H. R. 2346 is a fair and meritorious bill and should be made law at the earliest possible moment. I am sure that my colleagues in the House will immediately, upon receipt of this bill on the floor, overwhelmingly pass it and again show that this Government does not forget the men who have actually fought in combat and made victory over our common foe a reality.
[U.S. House: Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, Hearings, 79th Congress, J61 M5, 79th, v.2,
USGPO, Washington, 1946]
Merchant Seamen's War Service Act
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