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The U.S. Merchant Marine

 

The merchant marine is collectively those civilian crewmen and officers sailing a fleet of commercial, non-naval ships that carry cargo,  passengers or provide maritime services.  Merchant mariners move between nations and within the United States, and operate and maintain deep-sea merchant ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, excursion vessels, charter boats and other waterborne craft.

During World War II the ships and men of the United States merchant marine transported vast quantities of war materiel, supplies, equipment and troops needed to fight and win that war. The Pacific Ocean was a major strategic battle zone during World War II and when Japan declared war on the US, the West Coast offered easy pickings of merchant ships. The men of the U.S. merchant marine were civilian volunteers who nonetheless died in numbers that rivaled or exceeded any branch of the uniformed military.   A total of 51 ships were damaged or sunk in Alaskan waters alone.  Like the U.S. Navy Armed Guard with whom they sailed, the men of the U.S. merchant marine helped make possible the Allied victory in World War II.

 

 



 


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