Tuesday, February 15, 2005

MERCHANT MARINERS SEEK LONG OVERDUE REWARDS

WWII Merchant Mariners Seek Belated Thanks �UPDATED - Thursday February 10, 2005 5:48pm Washington (AP) - The bullets and torpedoes they faced were just as real, but World War II merchant mariners say the government hasn't given them the same treatment as military personnel. When the fighting ended, they got no homecoming parades, "no GI Bill, no nothing," said former � � � � � � WWII Merchant Mariners Seek Belated Thanks �UPDATED - Thursday February 10, 2005 5:48pm Washington (AP) - The bullets and torpedoes they faced were just as real, but World War II merchant mariners say the government hasn't given them the same treatment as military personnel. When the fighting ended, they got no homecoming parades, "no GI Bill, no nothing," said former mariner George Duffy of Seabrook, N.H. Now there's proposed legislation to pay $1,000 monthly to the aged former civilian sailors, who hauled troops, tanks, bombers, fuel and other wartime goods to keep Allied forces supplied. "My bill is a belated thank you," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif. A Navy movement to put them under military control was scuttled during the war by shipping companies that held lucrative government contracts and by the men's union, which didn't want to lose control of the workers, historians say. The rivalry and later general disinterest in the merchant marines' cause conspired to relegate them to second-class veterans. Duffy recalled the disparate treatment he received compared with a friend in the Coast Guard. Captured by the Germans at 20 and delivered to the Japanese, Duffy spent 37 months - exactly 1,119 days, he said - in Pacific prisoner of war camps. He endured scarce food and medicine and his prisoner work detail was forced to build the Japanese a railroad across Sumatra. "I came home after this experience and had no benefits, no (paid college tuition under the) GI Bill, no nothing," Duffy said. His friend got full military benefits after spending the entire war as a clerk in a New York office of the Coast Guard. A little like today's civilian contractors working with the military in war zones, the 1940s seamen got higher pay than military counterparts - though not that much higher. They say the difference was negated once they calculated that they were paid only for time at sea - not shore time like the military - and they didn't get the insurance, health care, lower mortgage rates, preferred employment status and educational opportunities that returning armed forces got. Frank Medeiros said he was paid $3,000 in 1943 for what had been billed as a four-month convoy to supply allied Russian troops at Murmansk. The round-trip run ended up taking 13 months, and two dozen of its three dozen merchant ships were lost to attacks along the way. Now an 83-year-old part-time dispatcher for the union Masters, Mates and Pilots in San Francisco, he says grateful Russians later invited former mariners to visit, awarding them medals. "And I got a letter from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev," said Medeiros. "They called us patriots." Of his own government, he says: "They shouldn't have done what they did to us." A benefits bill was killed in the 1940s - "torpedoed by powerful military lobbyists who influenced congressmen and senators," said author Brian Herbert, who drew from government documents, diaries and survivor interviews to write his 2004 book, "The Forgotten Heroes: The Heroic Story of the United States Merchant Marine." The mariners got veteran status - and therefore some limited benefits - when they sued the military in 1988, by which time some postwar programs had expired. In 2000, Canada approved $34 million for one-time payments of up to $16,400 to its World War II merchant seaman, who also belatedly got veteran status. --- On the Net: Merchant Marine: http://www.usmm.org To look up the bill, H.R. 23: http://thomas.loc.gov ~~~~~ALL MY LOVE,THANKS AND RESPECT TO ALL VETS and active TROOPS and THIER FAMILIES.GOD BLESS YOU ALL &GOD BLESS AMERICA!!! =^.^= ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1 comment:

darlin garlin said...

Funny you should bring this up today as I have just received my fathers records from the Coast Guard. He was in the Merchant Marines during WWII and one of the ships that he was on was sunk over by Japan during one of their runs. He was given no recognition for any of his time. I have had the Coast Guard send his service record to the WWII Merchant Mariner Vetran Section to be reviewed. My father died in 1976 and I would like to have as much information on him as possible.