Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Fotos (August 30, 2013) -- A Presidential Testimonial Letter

My father is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point.  I have previously posted about his WWII service here on The Prism.

Most people are not aware that during World War II the Merchant Marine suffered higher casualty rates per capita than any other uniformed service.  The Germans targeted merchant ships because they were transporting critical war materiel and fresh troops.  The awful loss of merchant ships and their crews was actually kept quiet by the media at the time because the government did not want the Germans to have any success by their targeting campaign confirmed and because the government still needed more men to sign up for service.

Despite the promise of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that the mariners of the U.S. Merchant Marine and the Army Transport Service would be granted veteran status and a Seaman's Bill of Rights for their WWII service, the promise died with the President.  In the immediate aftermath of WWII, Merchant Marines received little recognition and no veteran benefits for their service.  In fact, it took the Department of Defense more than four decades after the war to allow honors such as service medals and the right to be buried in military cemeteries to be granted to veteran Merchant Marines!  Among the special medals, awards and other recognitions of service finally authorized and allowed pursuant to the Merchant Marine Decorations and Medals Act of 1988, 46 App. USC 2001, et seq., was the tenth listed "Other original recognition of service" for service in the U.S. Merchant Marine during WWII.  That recognition was as follows:

          (10) Presidential Testimonial Letter, signed by President Harry S Truman, to all active
          merchant seaman who sailed during World War II; 

The letter shown above is the document that was finally issued to my father more than 60 years after his WWII service in the U.S. Merchant Marine. 

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Presidential testimonial letter from the collection of the author.

For more information and at least one view on the treatment of WWII Merchant Marines go here

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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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