U.S. Merchant Marine Casualties during World War II

Mariners suffered the highest rate of casualties of any service in World War II, but unfortunately, the U.S. Merchant Marine had no official historians and researchers, thus casualty statistics vary. Revised 08/26/06

Mariners died "direct result of enemy action or as POW on American flag ships" according to U.S. Coast Guard, 1950 (excluded Army Transport and U.S. owned foreign flag ships) 5,662
Mariners died compiled by Captain Arthur Moore ("Careless Word" 1998 edition) 6,847
Mariners died compiled by www.USMM.org 8,421^

^Additional 1,100 died of wounds later according to testimony before Congress.

Comparison of Merchant Marine casualty rate to other services

How many U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Army Transport Service casualties were there in World War II? We may never know the exact count, because the U.S. government never kept accurate records as it did for other services. The best previous accounting has been by Captain Arthur R. Moore, an independent researcher, in his great work, A Careless Word -- a Needless Sinking: A History of the Staggering Losses Suffered by the U.S. Merchant Marine, both in Ships and Personnel, during World War II, American Merchant Marine Museum, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, N.Y., 1983 to 1998. Captain Moore's book lists approx. 990 ships. www.usmm.org list includes 1,600 ships.

 Service Number serving   War Dead  Percent   Ratio
 Merchant Marine 243,000* 9,521** 3.90% 1 in 26
 Marines  669,108  19,733  2.94%  1 in 34
 Army  11,268,000  234,874  2.08%  1 in 48
 Navy  4,183,466  36,958  0.88%  1 in 114
 Coast Guard  242,093  574  0.24%  1 in 421
 Total  16,576,667  295,790  1.78%  1 in 56

*Number varies by source and ranges from 215,000 to 285,000. War Shipping Administration Press Release 2514, January 1, 1946, lists 243,000
**Total killed at sea, POW killed, plus died from wounds ashore

Mariner Prisoners of War

  POWs Died as POW
Prisoners of War, Coast Guard 610 37
Prisoners of War, compiled by Captain Arthur Moore 663 66
Prisoners of War, compiled by www.USMM.org 712 97

Mariners in National Cemeteries Overseas

Mariners buried or commemorated in American Battle Monuments Commission National Cemeteries overseas: 595

Mariners buried ABMC not found on Coast Guard or Capt. Moore lists: 482

Mariners Wounded

Wounded, testimony in Hearings before Congress: 12,000

Wounded, partial list compiled by www.USMM.org: 1,078

Died from their wounds in Public Health Hospitals and Allied military hospitals abroad, testimony in Hearings before Congress (Estimated -- records apparently destroyed): 1,100

Mariner and Armed Guard Casualties by Year

An average merchant ship had a crew of 42 mariners, thus 1,614 ships sunk or damaged involved approx. 68,000 men of a total force of 243,000 of whom 8,400 died immediately and an additional 1,100 died later of their wounds.

Note that 35% of the sinkings/damage to ships and 52% of the mariner deaths occurred in 1942. Graphs showign sinkings by year and month

Late in the war, a typical Armed Guard crew comprised 27 men, but in 1942 there were few guns and few Armed Guard aboard. It took time to train, assign Armed Guard, and to arm the ships. As late as August 1942, some ships had no Armed Guard aboard (California shelled August 13, West Celina torpedoed August 18, Arlyn torpedoed August 27). The number of Armed Guard assigned to a ship during 1942 was quite low - for example, the American Leader (Capt. George Duffy's ship) had 9 Armed Guard aboard in Sept. 1942. Syros, sunk in Convoy PQ 16, had 2 Navy signalmen aboard. The ships of Convoy PQ 17 (July 1942) had 2 to 15 Armed Guard aboard.

  Ships Sunk-Damaged Mariners Aboard (approx.) Mariners Died Armed Guard
1940 7 294 13 0
1941 96 4,032 331 0
1942 571 23,982 4,363 622
1943 374 15,708 2,053 1,007
1944 332 13,944 929 423
1945 183 7,686 479 141
1946 46 1,932 64 0
1947 5 210 4 0
Year Unk.     185  
Total 1,614 67,700 8,421 2193^

^Includes some U.S. Navy passengers.


Mariner Casualties by Month in 1942

bar graph Mariner Casualties by Month in 1942
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec


Armed Guard Casualties by month in 1942 (Total 622)

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
9 21 8 20 34 52 57 38 104 110 102 67


U.S. Owned or Chartered Ships Attacked Before Pearl Harbor
At least 243 mariners were killed in action before Pearl Harbor.

Date Ship Type Cause Result Location Deaths
10/09/39 SS City of Flint Hog Island freighter Capture by pocket battleship Deutchland Released NAtlantic None
06/12/40 Exochorda Freighter Shelled Slight damage Med-Black Sea None
11/09/40 City of Rayville Freighter German mine Sunk Australian coast Crew 1
12/21/40 Charles Pratt Tanker (Panama) Torpedo Sunk SAtlantic Crew 2
05/21/41 Robin Moor Hog Islander Torpedo & Shelled Sunk Caribbean None
08/11/41 Iberville Freighter  Aerial mine from German aircraft Damaged Red Sea  None
08/17/41 Longtaker [former Danish Sessa] Freighter (Panama) Torpedo & Shelled Sunk NAtlantic Crew 24 (3 survivors)
09/05/41 Steel Seafarer Freighter Bombed by German aircraft Sunk Gulf of Suez None
09/11/41 Arkansan Freighter Shelled Damaged Indian-Red Sea None
09/11/41 Montana [former Danish Paula] Freighter (Panama) Torpedo Sunk North Atlantic Crew 26
09/19/41 Pink Star [former Danish Landby] Freighter (Panama) Torpedo Sunk North Atlantic Crew 13
09/27/41 I. C. White Tanker (Panama) Torpedo Sunk South Atlantic Crew 3
10/16/41 Bold Venture [former Danish Alssund] Freighter (Panama) Torpedo Sunk North Atlantic Crew 17, (17 survivors)
10/19/41 Lehigh Freighter Torpedo Sunk ApproachMed None
11/05/41 Montrose Freighter Collision Unknown North Atlantic Unknown
11/11/41 Meridian [former Italian Dino] Freighter (Panama) Torpedo Sunk North Atlantic Crew approx. 38
11/14/41 Crusader [former Danish Brosund] Freighter Torpedo Sunk North Atlantic Crew approx 33; German POW 1
11/16/41 Turecamo Boys Tug Unknown Sunk North Atlantic Crew 9
11/19/41 Del Pidio Unknown (Philippines) Mine Unknown Philippines Crew 6
11/19/41 Edridio Mindoro (67 ton) Mine Sunk Philippines Unknown
12/02/41 Astral Tanker Torpedo Sunk NAtlantic Crew 37
12/03/41 Sagadahoc Freighter Torpedo Sunk ApproachMed Crew 1
12/07/41 Cynthia Olson Steam Schooner Torpedo Sunk Pacific Crew 33; US Army 2



33 United States Flag Merchant Ships That Vanished
(Confirmation of attacks came after World War II from German records)

SS Albert F. Paul SS Lake Osweya SS Norlavore^^
SS Astral SS La Salle SS Norvana
SS Azalea City SS Louisiana SS Robin Goodfellow
SS C. J. Barkdull SS Louise Lykes SS Robert Gray
SS Coamo SS L.J. Drake SS Samuel Heintzelman
SS Cynthia Olson SS Major Wheeler SS Sumner I. Kimball
SS Edward B. Dudley SS Margaret SS Sunoil
SS Esso Williamsburg SS Mariana SS Tillie Lykes^^
SS Frances Salman SS Meridian SS West Ivis
SS James McKay SS Meriwether Lewis SS West Portal
SS John Winthrop SS Muskogee SS Wichita

^^Not due to enemy action

Names of Mariners killed during World War II

We are extremely grateful to Perry and Barbara Adams of San Carlos, CA who did much of the data entry for the following names of mariners, and who graciously provided their list. Thank you!

The names of about 300 mariners are listed as "Unknown" at this time. We know only that a certain number of persons were lost when ships such as the Cieba, or Olympic when down. This is particularly true for Panamanian flag ships which were U.S. owned and controlled by the War Shipping Administration to carry supplies and raw material for the war effort.

Thank you all who have written with corrections and additions.



U.S. Naval Armed Guard Casualties During World War II

The Most Dangerous Positions for Mariners during WWII
Analysis of casualties by position.

Where Deceased Mariners Made their Homes during WWII
Analysis of State or Country of next of kin of mariners

Merchant Marine Casualties WSA Press Release 2293 (W) June 13,1945

Ships Sunk or Damaged in World War II

Allied Merchant Ship Losses 1939 to 1943

Battle of the Atlantic Statistics

Merchant Marine in WWII


Lists of Ships



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