Merchant Seamen's War Service Act (1945 and 1947)

"Truth crushed to earth will rise again."
Congressman Schuyler Otis Bland

"We're all in the same boat, Brother!, . . .
the good things we want for the future aren't just going to fall into our laps.
We know we are going to have to work for them."
American Veterans Committee, MAST Magazine, 1946

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
signed the first GI Bill, called the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, June 22, 1944 with these words:
I trust Congress will soon provide similar opportunities to members of the merchant marine who have risked their lives time and time again during war for the welfare of their country.

The U.S. Merchant Marine of World War II was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt upon the start of his presidency in 1933. National Maritime Day was first declared in that year. Then the Merchant Marine "Magna Carta," the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 was passed stating:

"The United States shall have a merchant marine...[to] serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency...[and] should be operated by highly trained and efficient citizens of the United States and that the United States Navy and the Merchant Marine of the United States should work closely together to promote the maximum integration of the total seapower forces of the United States... and maintain a voluntary organization for the training of citizens of the United States to serve on Merchant Marine vessels of the United States to be known as the United States Maritime Service... The ranks, grades, and ratings for personnel of the United States Maritime Service shall be the same as... for the personnel of the United States Coast Guard.

The United States Maritime Service, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard, in 1938 began training men at Hoffman Island, New York. Gunnery instruction was part of the training. Soon other USMS Training Stations were established.

Admiral Emory Scott Land, USN (ret.), was named head of the War Shipping Administration (WSA.) Admiral Land is the genius who put together the ship production, training of the men in the USMS, and operation of the vast fleet. The WSA was created by President Roosevelt because of the concern that the Army and Navy wanted to control shipping. Interservice rivalry was thereby avoided.

In 1942, the U.S. Coast Guard was relieved of the administration of the U.S. Maritime Service. The USMS then was administered by U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and Merchant Marine mariners who transferred over into the U.S. Maritime Service. [Many of these officers and men lost their USMS time for retirement purposes after WWII.]

When President Roosevelt signed the GI Bill in 1944 and said he wanted the similar benefits for the U.S. Merchant Marine, he was fully aware of their essential and critical role during the War, and that they were an "Armed Force."

When Robert P. Patterson, Acting Secretary of War, asked in the March 4, 1943 Memo, "Is it your desire that, for the purpose of awarding decorations, the War Department consider officers and members of the crews of ships of the Merchant Marine as members of the armed forces?" the President answered, "Yes."

Yet, in 1945 and 1947, in his testimony at Hearings for the Seamen's Bill of Rights legislation, Patterson, then Secretary of War, called the U.S. Merchant Marine "civilian." The Secretary of the Navy was also told by FDR that the Merchant Marine were members of the armed forces, and also testified in 1945 and 1947 that the Merchant Marine was "civilian."

General Omar N. Bradley, Head of the Veteran's Administration, also referred to the Merchant Marine as civilian. Bradley obviously was unaware of what his WWII boss, General Dwight D. Eisenhower's tribute on V-E Day, May 8, 1945 after Germany surrendered: The truly heroic man of this war is GI Joe and his counterpart of the Air, Navy, and Merchant Marine.

The members of Congress who wrote the Seamen's Bill of Rights legislation in the 1945 and 1947 versions mistakenly referred to the U.S. Merchant Marine as civilian. According to International law they were military since their ships were armed and they had gunnery training. This was a grave error that cheated those who served their country. U.S. Merchant Marine vessels faced the enemy as soon as they left their U.S. ports, and indeed before in the case of mines laid in places such as Chesepeake Bay by German U-boats.


JUSTICE TO ALL August 1944

Admiral Land's Seven Point Program Goes To Congress September 1944

Merchant Seamen's Bill Of Rights Gains House Support September 1944

Post-War Benefits: Admiral Emory S. Land asks for a Seamen's Bill of Rights October 1944

Bland's "G. I. Bill of Rights" for Seamen to Congress October 1944

OPINION: Impressions of Seamen's Bill of Rights? November 1944

National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Statement December 1944

Merchant Marine Bill Of Rights Introduced In Congress March 1945

PUBLIC SUPPORT: Gallup Poll August 1945

Acute need for mariners after August 15, 1945: WSA Press Release, Sept. 1945

Benefits To Merchant Seamen: Hearings, 79th Congress on H. R. 2346, October 1945

WSA appeal for trained merchant marine personnel: NY Times, January 1946

Merchant seamen urged to stay aboard ship WSA Press Release, Sept. 1946

Boys Urged To Stay In Merchant Fleet: New York Times, May 1946

President Harry S Truman Maritime Day Reminder 1946

Eleanor Roosevelt speaks out June 1946

American Veterans Committee On Seamen' s War Service Bill September 1946

FAIR PLAY: Plea for justice by Congressman Schuyler Otis Bland October 1946

Editorial: The MAST Magazine October 1946

Seaman's Wartime Service Bill HR 2346 on House Calendar - Early Consideration November 1946

Seaman's War Service Act HR 2346 Expected to be reintroduced next Congress - December 1946

Seaman's Bill of Rights HR 476: Hearings, 80th Congress, Feb., May, June 1947

Merchant Seamen Ask Defense Post: Equal Status to the Army, Navy and Air Forces, New York Times, September 15, 1947



President Roosevelt's recommendation, upon signing the "GI Bill of Rights," that Congress enact legislation providing similar unemployment insurance and educational benefits for men of the Merchant Marine. will receive hearty seconding from Americans generally. No casualty list for the Merchant Marine has been made public. It should be. Those men fought the enemy when they did not have to fight. They fought on valorously when this nation entered the war. Nor have their efforts since been confined to convoy work -- now relatively free from danger.

The Merchant Marine has participated in virtually every -- perhaps every -- "combined operations" landing by the Navy in the Pacific. Those men should be given, and speedily, the legislation which the President has requested. Nor should loose, silly talk of fancied "enormous pay" to Merchant Mariners be allowed to slow the enactment. No such sums as popular conversation pictures ever were paid those men. They received soldiers' wages; they were subject to the draft all the while; and they continually faced danger as hazardous as war can offer.

To include them in the limited benefits now granted service men, would be but common justice.

MAST Magazine, U.S. Maritime Service, August 1944 [Reprinted from San Antonio, Texas "Express"]


Admiral Land's Seven Point Program Goes To Congress:
Mustering Out Pay, Re-employment Aids, and Loans to Seamen

A seven-point legislative program designed to meet what was described as the "inadequacy" of existing rights of American seamen and their dependents in wartime has been recommended to Congress by the WSA, it was disclosed by WSA over the week-end.

The program, which has been drawn up to protect the health as well as the economic status of merchant seamen, embraces hospitalization and medical care on a larger scale, educational opportunities, training and re-employment aids, readjustment allowances after mustering out, more liberal insurance allowances and disability payments.

In a letter to Chairman Otis Bland of the House Merchant Marine Committee, to which the program has been submitted with the recommendation that it be enacted by Congress, WSA Admiral Land described the program here outlined as a minimum.

"Eligibility for these benefits is suggested only on the basis of the task merchant seamen have performed in the war and in terms of the inadequacy of their existing rights, and those of their dependents, to meet the misfortunes of the war," Admiral Land said. On the subject of readjustment allowances, Admiral Land pointed to the likelihood of an extensive personnel turnover in the merchant marine after the war, and pointed out that merchant seamen are not eligible for mustering-out pay and added that it was suggested that they should be.

"But if periods of involuntary unemployment occur during the period of readjustment," he said, "a system of unemployment benefits, for a limited number of years, should he extended to the merchant marine."

He also suggested that as an aid to those seeking to return to shore jobs there should he extended "a system of loans for farms, small business, homes and so on." In addition, he said, facilities should be maintained for the continued training of men who desire to continue to go to sea.

Maritime Murmurs, U.S. Maritime Service Training Station, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, September 15, 1944


Merchant Seamen's Bill Of Rights Gains House Support:
House Committee Favors GI Bill of Rights To Include Seamen

A "Bill of Rights" for merchant seamen has supporters on Capitol Hill today in the wake of a plea from the WSA for postwar protection of youths who left school to serve their country in the Merchant Marine.

Members of the House Military Affairs, Merchant Marine and Invalid Pensions Committee expressed belief it was a "great mistake" not to include merchant seamen in the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Representative Kelley, member of the House Invalid Pensions Committee, said: "The men of the Merchant Marine are certainly offering a great service to their country and, therefore, should be entitled to the same expression of appreciation as other men of the armed forces."

In backing legislation to give more benefits to merchant seamen, spokesmen for the WSA emphasize that more than 80 per cent of the men recruited for the Merchant Marine since April 1 are under 18.

Vice Admiral Land, stressed that point when he wrote the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries that "thousands of young men have interrupted their normal education to enter the service of their country in the Merchant Marine. Adequate provisions should be made for their education.

Maritime Murmurs, U.S. Maritime Service Training Station, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, September 27, 1944


Post-War Benefits: Vice Admiral Emory S. Land asks for passage of
legislation to give seamen wide benefits approximating GI Bill of Rights

A series of recommendations for legislation to provide greater rights and privileges for Merchant Seamen has been presented to Chairman Schuyler Otis Bland of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries by Vice Admiral Emory S. Land, War Shipping Administrator. The suggested legislation is designed to grant greater recognition of the war service rendered by seamen.

To protect the health, aid in employment, provide educational and business opportunities and alleviate wartime hardships on Merchant Seamen, the plan would feature hospitalization and medical care for Merchant Seamen and their dependents through the United States Public Health Service; provision for continuing the interrupted education of young seamen, particularly those in the 16-18-year-old group; job counseling, retraining, rehabilitation and placement of seamen wishing to return to shore occupation; continued training of men who desire to remain at sea; loans for farms, small businesses and homes to aid seamen in readjusting themselves to peacetime activity; allowances to dependents of deceased seamen; disability payments to men partially or totally disabled while serving in the Merchant Marine; and provision for burial of seamen killed at sea.

Regarding the medical care of seamen, Admiral Land pointed out that, although the Public Health Service was established 1798 for the express purpose of caring for Merchant Seamen, others have been granted access to the Service's hospitals until now only 35% of present patients are seamen. Yet the dependents of seamen are not entitled to care in the Marine Hospitals. Admiral Land pointed out that "provision should also be made for institutional care of mental cases and for domiciliary care for disabled and aged Merchant Seamen."

Since the Merchant Marine draws its manpower mainly from the youth of the country (approximately 64% of men trained by WSA have been between 18 and 26; since April, 15,000 between 16 and 18 have been trained). Admiral Land stated it will be essential to provide adequate opportunity for these men to resume the education they interrupted for war service.

Additional education facilities must be provided for retraining, rehabilitation and placement of seamen wishing to return to shore occupations. This service, Admiral Land declared, should include civil service preference, job counseling and information facilities and contact centers throughout the country.

Under the existing insurance program provided by WSA, a seaman is covered by $5000 life insurance against "war risk and certain specified marine risks closely connected with operations of war." This has been construed as broadly as possible to include payment in all cases where war operations have contributed substantially to death. In addition to this insurance seamen and their dependents have certain rights under general maritime law, but, since these rights generally depend upon proof of negligence, their application in time of war is seldom possible. To eliminate the many uncertainties of these forms of insurance, Admiral Land has recommended that allowances be given to dependents of all men who die during war service, regardless of cause. The recommendation also calls for regular monthly payments, rather than a lump sum, to which may be added whatever insurance payments or recoveries at law are received.

Seamen have been sensitive about their in eligibility for use of the national flag at burial. This symbol of service to the nation during time of war should be provided, as well as a minimum burial fee, transportation of the remains, and the privilege of burial in national cemeteries.

Present allowances for disability are limited to $5,000 (except in a few cases where an additional $2500 is allowed). Admiral Land stated that, while a bill passed by the House and now pending in the Senate would provide for continued payments in certain urgent cases of permanent total disability, steps should be taken to provide adequate payment in all such cases.

The MAST Magazine, United States Maritime Service, October 1944


Bland's "G. I. Bill of Rights" for Seamen to Congress:
Merchant Seamen Benefits Patterned After Veteran's Bill

Washington. Rep. Schuyler Otis Bland, chairman of the House Merchant Marine Committee, who is taking part in the hearings on postwar economic planning, described a "G.I. Bill of Rights" for merchant seamen which is nearly ready for submission to Congress. The benefits prepared by the WSA for approximately 160,000 men are more limited in scope, but generally patterned after those for service veterans.

The benefits would include hospital care, with travel allowances and a minimum allotment for clothing during institutional care, the test for eligibility for permanent hospitalization and disability to be war service.

Adequate provision for resumption of education would be made for boys of 16 to 18 who left school to enlist. Retraining, rehabilitation and job placement facilities would be provided with unemployment benefits for a limited number of years after the war.

Loans would be made for the purchase farms, small businesses and homes and disability payments for injuries sustained in war services, up to $5,000 and in some cases, $7,500 would be made.

Life insurance to protect dependents above and beyond the existing system of war risk compensation would be granted. Use of the flag at burial, now denied merchant seamen, a minimum burial fee, transportation of the body and interment in national cemeteries are also in the plan.

Maritime Murmurs, U.S. Maritime Service Training Station, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California, October 13, 1944


OPINION: "What are your impressions of the Seamen's Bill of Rights recommended recently to Congress by Vice Admiral Land?"

CORNELIUS J. DUFFY  CORNELIUS J. DUFFY - 17 Years Old, Scotch Plains, New Jersey
"A bill like Admiral Land suggests is just what we need. My parents are just about making ends meet at home and if one of them took sick it would really be a drain on the family bank account. According to the bill they'd be taken care of by the U. S. Public Health Service. After I go back to Scotch Plains and finish high school I'd like to go to college and get a degree so I could teach mathematics. I won't be able to do that unless Congress gives us the Seamen's Bill of Rights."
 THOMAS WILLIAMS - 23 Years Old, Akron, Ohio
"There are two types of men that have entered the Maritime Service . . . the older, more mature men and the younger fellows. These young kids have given up a lot . . . most of them left high school to go to sea and Admiral Land is perfectly correct in wanting to provide for continuing their education after the war. I'm a veteran myself and will be covered by the G.I. Bill of Rights but I'm also in favor of the Seamen's Bill of Rights."
JOHN S. ROBINSON  JOHN S. ROBINSON - 28 Years Old, Pitcairn, Pa.
"The aid the Merchant Marine is giving to the war effort is spectacular. Admiral Land's recommendations to Congress would help every seaman. After the war I'm planning to buy about 10 acres in Virginia and raise chickens. Under the recommended Seamen's Bill of Rights the government would loan me some money to do that. In addition, my family would have medical care if one of them got sick while I was at sea . . . that means a lot."
 STANLEY ADAMS - 29 Years Old, Washington, D.C.
"The Seamen's Bill of Rights is a good thing and every congressman owes it to his country to support it. All the seamen are back of Admiral Land in his recommendation to Congress to draft this bill. Even civilians and servicemen who have heard about it are for it . . . they all think the men of the Merchant Marine deserve it. As for myself I was in the printing business before I went into the Merchant Marine and this bill would help me to reorganize my business and give me a job after the war."
MERLE MILTON  MERLE MILTON - 16 Years Old, Connersville, Indiana
"I'm planning to stay at sea after the war. Right now I'm shipping out as an ordinary seaman but I don't expect to stay that way for long. After the war I want to go to officers' school and I understand the Seamen's Bill of Rights provides for that. Who knows, maybe I'll get a master's license some day . . . look at Captain Hugh Mulzac on the Booker T. Washington."
 ARTHUR ZIAGOS - 16 Years Old, Linden, N.J.
"Every seaman should write his congressman to get back of a Seamen's Bill of Rights. If a seaman gets killed all he has to support his family is the $5,000 policy. Admiral Land wants to give the seaman's family regular payments after the $5,000 runs out. Another thing, I want to go back to school and a Seamen's Bill of Rights would take care of that."

MAST Magazine, U.S. Maritime Service, November 1944


National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Statement

Joseph James, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, stated: "this handful of valiant men, whose blood stained the seas in the bitter fighting in the pre-United Nations days deserve a Bill of Rights no less than do the GIs. We enthusiastically support the Seamen's Bill of Rights and urge its early passage."

San Francisco Call-Bulletin, December 5, 1944


New Merchant Marine Bill Of Rights Introduced In Congress

HR 2346 introduced February 26, 1945, by Representative J. Hardin Peterson of Florida is a bill "To provide aid for the readjustment in civilian life of those persons who rendered war services in the United States Merchant Marine during War II, and to provide aid for the families of deceased war-service merchant seamen."

The bill provides that the Act is to be cited as "Merchant Seamen's War Service Act." This bill was referred to the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries.

In the definitions, "Maritime war service" means (2) an enrollee in the United States Maritime Service on active duty; or
"(3) an enrollee or student in any maritime school or institution, including basic training schools and academies of the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, and any State maritime academy under the jurisdiction or supervision of the War Shipping Administration, but no service under this paragraph shall be deemed to constitute "maritime war service'' if the individual fails to complete successfully the course of instruction, unless such failure is determined by the Chairman to have been for a justifiable reason."

Other legislation for benefit to merchant seamen includes S. 644 -- introduced February 26, 1945, by Senator Elbert D. Thomas, Utah, "To provide for the education and training of members of the merchant marine and certain members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, after their discharge or conclusion of service, and for other purposes." The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce.

Those persons eligible under this Act would be entitled to education and training in much the same manner and under the same conditions provided for persons who served in active military or naval service, under the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944.

Heaving Line, USMS Training Station, Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. March 17, 1945


By George Gallup
Director, American Institute of Public Opinion

The weight of opinion in the country today is overwhelmingly on the side of including the members of the United States Merchant Marine under the G.I. bill of rights -- a proposal embodied in a bill which has the support of Admiral Emory S. Land, USN (Ret'd), Administrator of the War Shipping Administration, and now before Congress.

This would provide educational benefits, business loans, mustering out pay, and other advantages to men in the merchant marine service just as it now does to the members of the Army and Navy. The dangers of the service are indicated by the fact that a total of 5,579 merchant marine crew men have been reported dead or missing to date in the war, and 1,554 merchant ships have been sunk.

The public has always had a rather hazy idea of the relation between the merchant marine and other branches of service in war-time. A survey by the Institute shows, for instance, that about one person in four believes that the merchant marine is actually a part of the armed forces today, and nearly one in five believes that the G. I. Bill of Rights already applies to men in the merchant marine service, whereas neither of these two things is the case.

When the opinion of "informed" voters is analyzed -- that is, voters who know the status of the merchant marine in relation to the other forces and who know that the G. I. Bill of Rights does not apply to the men of the merchant marine now -- they are found to be in favor of extending the bill of rights to include them. The vote is:

"Should the G.I. bill of rights be extended
to include all men in the merchant marine?"

Yes  60%
No  33%
Undecided   7%

People supporting the proposal give many reasons, of which the following are typical: "Men who deliver the goods of war deserve just as much as men who have to fight. . . Those men on the high seas go through just as much danger as any man in the armed forces... The merchant marine boys aren't going to have any easier time than the rest in finding jobs after the war. . . Battle casualties are very high in the merchant marine. . . They've risked their lives for their country, and they're volunteers, too!"

Polaris Magazine, U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, August, 1945


Benefits To Merchant Seamen: Hearings Before the Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House Of Representatives, Seventy-Ninth Congress: First Session on H. R. 2346: 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

H. R. 2180: A Bill to Provide Federal Government Aid for the Re-adjustment in Civilian Life of World War I and World War II Merchant Marine Veterans
H. R. 2449: A Bill to Amend Title III of The Merchant Marine Act, 1936, as amended, to Provide Certain Rights for Members of the Merchant Marine Serving During World War I
H. R. 3500: A Bill to Extend The War-Risk Insurance On Seamen to Cover Death from any Marine Risk, and for other purposes

PART I: October 18 and 19, 1945

Note: Testimony during the above Hearings are available from the Library of Congress and some libraries designated as U.S. Government Document repositories. Listed as J61 M5, 79th, volume 2. There are 482 pages of information.


New York Times, January 8, 1946.
War Shipping Administration director Capt. Hewlett R. Bishop makes new appeal for trained merchant marine personnel.


New York Times, May 17, 1946. Boys Urged To Stay In Merchant Fleet
War Shipping Administration Administrator Granville Conway urged all 18 and 19 year old merchant seaman to stay on their jobs aboard ship... because there is still "a big job ahead for the merchant marine," "We must continue our supply our occupation troops and keep up the flow of essential supplies... to millions.. throughout the world." Failure to complete service will prevent... receiving the discharge emblem authorized by the President and will bar him from receiving other benefits which may accrue under the pending merchant seaman's war service bill.


President Harry S Truman Maritime Day Reminder 1946
During the black years of War, the men of the Merchant Marine did their job with boldness and daring. Six thousand were killed or missing in carrying out their duties. In memory of those men, and in the interest of our Nation, the United States must carry out the bold and daring plan of Franklin D. Roosevelt for a Merchant Marine of the best designed and equipped passenger and cargo ships, manned by the best trained men in the world.

MAST Magazine, U.S. Maritime Service, May 1946


Eleanor Roosevelt

SOS for Seamen
by Eleanor Roosevelt
From her daily newspaper column, MY DAY

There is one thing I have been meaning to write about for a good many days. It is the Bill of Rights before Congress to extend to the men of the Merchant Marine certain rights, that now belong exclusively to the men in the naval service.

It seems unfair that these Merchant Seamen, who were all volunteers and who, in proportion to their numbers, lost more men in the war -- than any other branch of our fighting services, should not have the same benefits that sailors in the regular Navy enjoy. Over 1500 merchant ships were lost and over 6000 Merchant Seamen were lost or taken prisoner during the war.

According to a poll taken by Dr. George Gallup, I understand that, on the whole, the voters are in favor of doing more for the Merchant Marine men. One of the reasons they gave was: "The Merchant Marine boys are not going to have any easier time than the rest in finding jobs after the war." And again: "They risked their lives for their country, and they are volunteers, too."

MAST Magazine, United States Maritime Service, June 1946


American Veterans Committee On Seamen' s War Service Bill

The American Veterans Committee, in a letter to House of Representatives members when the Merchant Seamen's War Service Bill was under consideration, asked support of the bill, charging that the seamen's war service has been "gravely misrepresented in an attempt to deny them benefits they clearly earned." Chet Paterson, AVC's legislative representative, said that seamen occupy a peculiar status in that "as civilians they did not have the privileges or protections of those employed in civilian industries. Yet, at a tremendous cost of life," he continued, "they provided the vital link between the millions engaged in production and the millions fighting all over the world."

Pointing out that the question of compensation during service is "not pertinent," he declared that Merchant Seamen received no pay between voyages and no family allowances. "Major generals," he added, "are not denied benefits of the GI Bill because they received more pay than privates."

MAST Magazine September 1946

Note: The American Veterans Committee (AVC), according to ads in MAST Magazine, was organized in 1943 by "veterans of World War II exclusively." It was apparently organized to counter the two giant so-called "veteran service organizations" which then and still dominate the American scene.

A March 1946 ad in MAST Magazine entitled "We're all in the same boat, Brother!," states, . . . that the good things we want for the future aren't just going to fall into our laps. We know we are going to have to work for them. And another thing we have learned in the past couple of years is the value . . . the downright necessity . . . of working together: soldiers, sailors, marines and merchant marines [sic] -- with no holds barred as to race, color or religion. We know that's how the war was won; we know it's the only way the peace will be won. . . . AVC helped bring about the shakeup in the Veterans Administration; AVC played a leading role in the campaign to have the GI Bill of Rights revamped and liberalized; AVC has done a two-fisted job of obtaining housing for veterans and their families. And that's just the beginning!

It is not run by veterans of World War I. It is strictly a World War II outfit. It is a national veterans organization with over 90,000 members in only two years!

"AVC is the only Veterans Organization that admits the Maritime Service to membership!

WHO BELONGS TO AVC? On the Armed Forces Advisory Committee of AVC are Commodore H. H. Dreany, Assistant Commandant of the U. S. Maritime Service; Colonel Evans F. Carlson, USMC, of "Carlson's Raiders" fame; and Lieut. Commander Oren Root, USNR. Active members include Bill Mauldin, author of Up Front; Philip Willkie, son of Wendell Willkie; Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. . . . "AVC wants you as a member. When we say we want to work together, we mean just that: All branches of the armed service, all races, colors and creeds!"



FAIR PLAY: A factual plea for justice for the war-service Merchant Seaman
by Schuyler Otis Bland, Representative from Virginia

IN THE grim days of 1942 and 1943 when the world's freedom rested upon our ability to keep the men and materials flowing across the Atlantic, the necessity of a large, efficient, capably manned Merchant Marine was indelibly imprinted on the minds of all our citizens. Those of us whose job it was to foster such a Merchant Marine were looking ahead to the postwar shipping problems while doing all within our power to speed the war job at hand.

The postwar job was twofold. We had to put the shipbuilding and ship-operating industries on a sound footing and we had to provide for the misfortunes of war heaped upon the seamen, aid in their postwar readjustments, and further the maintenance of a well-trained corps to man the postwar fleet. Congress has enacted ship-sale legislation which will provide for the orderly transition from wartime to peacetime operations. The Maritime Commission, under the authority of the 1936 act, is proceeding with the reestablishment of the American flag on essential trade routes.

In regard to the problem of postwar readjustment of seamen, little more than a beginning has been made. Minimum provisions to meet this problem have been incorporated in H.R. 2346, the Merchant Seamen's War Service Act. This bill was reported favorably by the Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries on June 20, 1946, but has been lost in the shuffle to complete the major legislative program prior to adjournment.

It is my intention to revive this issue in the early days of the new Congress and to press for prompt action. Each day of delay subjects our war-service seamen to further injustices and hardships. So that the American people may be accurately informed on this issue it is time to take stock of the work in the seamen's behalf to this date, and to separate fact from fiction.

The Merchant Seamen's War Service Act does not grant veterans status to men who saw war service in the Merchant Marine. Nor does it confer the rights, benefits, and privileges of veterans of the armed forces upon Merchant Seamen. It is a bill tailored to meet the problems raised by wartime service in the Merchant Marine. The benefits it would confer are essentially civilian in nature and limited in extent.

This is a point which needs strong emphasis because H.R. 2346 has been carelessly described and misinterpreted in newspaper stories and press releases.

An important stimulus to the present measure was a statement made by the late President Roosevelt on the occasion of the signing of the GI bill of rights. President Roosevelt said: "I trust that Congress will also soon provide similar opportunities to members of the Merchant Marine who have risked their lives time and again during this war for the welfare of their country." This statement was made on June 22, 1944.

On August 23, 1944, the War Shipping Administrator, Admiral Emory S. Land, submitted "general recommendations for the grant of recognition to Merchant Seamen for war service." Admiral Land summarized his recommendations as follows: "The program here outlined is considered as a minimum. It is designed primarily to protect the health, to aid in the employment, to provide educational and minimum business opportunities. and to alleviate insofar as possible the contingencies of death and disability resulting from war service of members of the Merchant Marine."

REPRESENTATIVE J. Hardin Peterson drafted and introduced on February 26, 1945, a bill -- H.R. 2346 -- embodying the program envisaged by Admiral Land. The Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries held extensive hearings on October 18 and 19, November 29 and 30, and December 4 and 5, 1945. Reports and testimony were had from ten different Government agencies, as well as the Bureau of the Budget. Representatives of various seamen's organizations, the American Veterans Committee, and several members of Congress also testified. The committee received hundreds of letters and resolutions from all parts of the country and petitions containing in excess of 50,000 signatures.

On June 30, 1946, the committee reported H.R. 2346 favorably after substantial revision. Whereas the bill as originally introduced contemplated administration by the Maritime Commission of all benefits and contained benefits which were patterned after, although not identical to, certain veterans' benefits, HR. 2346, as reported, places administration under the appropriate existing civilian agencies and recasts and pares all benefits so as to provide minimum benefits to meet the specific requirements of the Merchant Marine.

What are the benefits proposed in H.R. 2346?

First. Death and disability benefits:
Serious gaps in the system affording compensation to disabled seamen and to the dependents of deceased war-service seamen are met by the extension and liberalization of existing benefits. Disabilities incurred in or aggravated by war service and deaths resulting therefrom are compensated for under the United States Employees' Compensation Act. Since all Merchant Seamen were in a direct sense employed by the United States Government, it is simple justice to afford them the benefits accorded other Government employees.

This title will provide for the continued payments to survivors of seamen lost in the war effort. At the present time these survivors are entitled to $5000 from war-risk insurance coverage. It is obvious that this sum is inadequate to carry a family more than a few years. Many of the families of seamen lost early in the war effort have reached the end of their financial resources and are being subject to deprivation and hardship.

This title will also permit the payment of benefits to a number of disabled seamen suffering from tuberculosis, heart disease, and other illnesses and injuries to survivors of seamen who were washed overboard or died of what is believed to have been natural causes while rendering war service. At the present time these cases are not compensable.

These benefits are in no way similar to veterans' pensions. They are in essence what the Government does for any of its civilian employees. Surely this program has the support of the American people.

SECOND. Hospitalization and medical care:
Existing rights of seamen to medical care and hospitalization at marine hospitals are extended to give lifetime coverage for service-connected disabilities, and for war-service seamen with non-service-connected disabilities who are unable to defray the expenses for necessary medical care.

At the present time seamen are entitled to medical care and hospitalization up to 60 days after the termination of a voyage. It is obvious that this right is inadequate to protect the seamen whose war-incurred illness may not manifest itself until months or years later or the seaman whose war-incurred disability reoccurs at some later period.

Marine hospital rights have been common to the maritime industry since 1798, and the benefits established by H.R. 2346 are in no way similar to veterans' benefits. A technical change in the existing vocational rehabilitation program for war-disabled civilians is made in order to enable the war-disabled seamen to come under the program in any State rather than solely in the State of his permanent residence. This change is necessary because the nature of the industry frequently carries seamen far from the State of permanent residence.

THIRD. Education and training:
This title alone bears resemblance to the rights provided for veterans of the armed forces. The basic outline of this title was advisedly patterned after the veterans program on the counsel of the United States Office of Education, the Veterans Administration, and other governmental agencies which cautioned against adding to the heavy burdens now upon our educational institutions by the creation of a new system. The program is to be administered by the Federal Security Administrator. The subsistence allowances are somewhat lower than those paid under the GI bill of rights. Emphasis in the educational program is laid upon maritime training so that our postwar Merchant Marine will have the well-trained and efficient personnel contemplated by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936.

The Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries in urging the adoption of this title was fully conscious of the fact that these benefits were similar to those granted to veterans of the armed forces but felt that the facts and the welfare of the Nation justify them. The report of the committee states: "The war-time maritime labor force was substantially drawn from the youth of the country. Of the more than 150,000 men trained by the training organization of the War Shipping Administration, approximately 65 percent were between the ages of 16 and 26. It is thus evident that a larger percentage of these young men had their education interrupted, delayed, or interfered with than was true of the members of the armed forces. It is further apparent that, in view of the youth of those trained for the Merchant Marine, a greater proportion of these men were drawn from secondary schools. In view of the value of an educated citizenry, it is to the interest of the Nation, as well as to the individuals, that provision for education should be made for those who served their country in the United States Merchant Marine."

THIS is the full extent of the readjustment aids contained in H.R. 2346. To those familiar with its provisions and with the justice of the ease the commonly held misconception that this is a measure which grants veterans' status to Merchant Seamen, a misconception which has done much to delay the enactment of this vitally needed legislation, seems unfortunate indeed. Those who have misconstrued the intent and provisions of this measure should, in fairness to a heroic group of men, familiarize themselves with this measure and lend their voices to correct the misinformation.

In addition to commonly held misconceptions concerning the nature of the Merchant Seamen's War Service Act, there are certain misconceptions about conditions of wartime maritime service interrelated with this subject which should be corrected.

ONE SUCH misconception is that Merchant Seamen were covered by a policy of $5,000 without cost, but it provided protection solely against war risk. Such coverage had been negotiated through collective bargaining prior to the governmental requisitioning of the fleet and was carried into the wartime governmental program. The war-service seaman did not receive any regular life insurance which would cover him in ease of death or injury from causes other than those attributable to the war.

Mr. Edward E. Odum, solicitor of the Veterans' Administration in his testimony before the committee pointed out that members of the armed forces were afforded similar war-risk protection free. He said, "I do not need to tell you what the Merchant Seamen have by way of free coverage, and some contrast has been made to that with respect to those in the service having to pay for their own insurance. That is not literally correct. Those in the service pay premiums for coverage which is not due to war risk. In other words they pay for an unloaded premium based upon the American Experience Table of Mortality, the Government assuming the administrative cost and assuming all of the cost of the war hazard, so that no person in the service pays any premium for any war risk.

Unfortunately more of the debate on the Merchant Seamen's War Service Act both in Congress and out has centered on a comparison of Merchant Marine and Navy pay than on the more pertinent issues. A very constructive note in the discussion was hit by Mr. Odum, who told the committee: "I also said that I did not think the question of pay was the sole criterion, or even a very important one, on which to determine what additional benefits, if any, these persons (the seamen) should have. It seems to me that it entirely goes beyond that."

However, the issue of comparative pay has been injected into the debate. Therefore the facts must be set right. Frequently wild statements about seamen earning $300 and $350 a month are contrasted with the $50 monthly pay of an apprentice seaman in the Navy. Fairness requires that nothing less than the full story be told.

The American Veterans Committee recently pointed out "that men in the Merchant Marine received no pay between voyages, that they likewise received no allotments or allowances for their families, and that they did not have the benefit of retirement pay, mustering-out pay, or similar benefits extended to veterans.

A true comparison requires a contrast between the average earnings of Merchant Seamen and average earnings of servicemen in comparable ratings. Thus it must be recognized that a Merchant Seaman is only paid while on an actual voyage and receives no pay while awaiting ship, in rest homes, while ill, or while on furlough. The Merchant Seaman, on the average, receives nine or ten months' pay per year, while the serviceman is paid for the full year.

Similarly it is not fair to take an isolated case of a particular seaman or group of seamen on a particular voyage in the maximum bonus areas and to use these figures to characterize wartime earnings of Merchant Seamen. Since the seaman did not know where his ship was going, but signed on to do the job anywhere on the face of the globe, and since his higher earnings in maximum bonus areas on one trip were offset by lower earnings on other trips, any true comparison must be on the basis of averages.

IT IS also unfair to pair the Merchant Seaman against the $50-a-month apprentice seaman in the Navy. The lowest rating in a Navy gun crew was a seaman first-class. In addition to his base pay of $66 he received a sea-pay allowance of $13. We must also take into account the average allotment which, according to official Navy release, was $51 per man per month over and above the amount deducted from the serviceman pay. We must also take into account the larger income-tax deductions and the many other benefits which accrue to members of the armed forces.

Data compiled by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and the United States Maritime Commission and inserted into the record of hearings on H.R. 2346 show the wartime earnings of an able seaman in the period of highest war bonuses as follows:

Average annual earnings from wages, bonuses, all other sources $2,596
Minus income tax 411
Net income $2,185

Comparable ratings aboard Navy-manned Liberty ships are boatswain's mates, first class, or quartermasters, first class, both of whom had the following earnings:

Monthly base pay $114   
Monthly sea pay 23   
Monthly average allotment 51   
Total monthly earnings $188   
Annual earnings   $2,256 


BECAUSE the monthly serviceman's allotment is tax free, only about $10 in income taxes are due on the annual earnings of the Navy man. Thus the facts show that the men in comparable ratings in the Navy and in the Merchant Marine had similar net annual earnings.

Even if one compares an able seaman in the Merchant Marine, a rating which normally requires three years of sea service, with the lowest rating in the gun crew aboard merchant vessels, the difference in annual earnings is far less than commonly believed.

The earnings of the lowest-paid man in the Navy gun crew are:

Monthly base pay  $66  
Monthly sea pay  13  
Monthly average allotment  51  
Total monthly earnings  $130  
Total annual earnings    $1,560

Because the seaman, first class, has virtually no income taxes, the difference in annual net earnings is approximately $600. The real difference is much less than the monetary difference in view of the fact that Merchant Seamen do not get free clothing, have additional expenses in awaiting ship in port, and pay full fares in traveling between ship and home.

ANOTHER example will further prove how very small is the difference in earnings of the Merchant Seaman and the Navy man. According to official Bureau of Labor Statistics and Maritime Commission data, the wartime earnings of a messman are:

Average annual earnings from wages, bonuses and all other sources  $2,335
Minus income taxes 344 
Net income $1,991 

The earnings of a comparable rating aboard a Navy-manned Liberty ship, a stewards mate, first class, were:

Monthly base pay $78   
Monthly sea pay 16   
Monthly average allotment 51   
Total monthly earnings $145    
Total annual earnings   $1,740 

Because the allotment is tax free, the Navy man is not subject to income tax and the actual difference in net earnings is only $250 per year. This difference is more than overbalanced by free clothing, no work-connected expenses, and furlough train fares.

Thus a rounded and complete comparison of the earnings of Merchant Seamen and servicemen indicates that the annual income of the former was by no means far in excess of those of the servicemen. Once the facts are made known this issue should be ejected from discussion on the merits of a Merchant Seamen's War Service Act. As the American Veterans Committee states: 'The question of compensation is not, however, pertinent where wartime service is involved. Major generals are not denied the benefits of the GI bill of rights because they received more pay than privates."

The Merchant Seamen's War Service Act has received broad support through out the land. The State Legislatures of Washington, Oregon, and California have petitioned Congress to enact this measure. The State of Connecticut has included members of the Merchant Marine in its State GI bill of rights.

THE Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries has received communications from Governor Osborn, of Arizona; Governor Warren, of California; Governor Baldwin of Connecticut; Governor Arnall of Georgia; Governor Gossett, of Idaho; Governor Tobin, of Massachusetts; Governor Ford of Montana; Governor Edge of New Jersey: Governor Snell of Oregon; Governor Williams, of South Carolina; Governor Sharpe, of South Dakota; Governor Wallgren, of Washington; and Governor Meadows of West Virginia, endorsing the measure. In addition, innumerable city councils, mayors, and other local officials have urged favorable action.

Editorial support for H.R. 2346 has come from dozens of newspapers. Charles Hurd, veterans' editor of the New York Times, in a column entitled "Adequate and Fair Provisions Urged for Veterans of Merchant Marine," states: "At least there should be an effort to recognize the dignity of the service and give to thousands of disabled Merchant Marine veterans some distinction from members of the civilian population who have taken no risk and suffered no injury connected with the war."

The San Francisco Chronicle, in a leading editorial, says: "This is a bill intended to correct some inequalities among merchant sailors who, although technically in civilian employment, have performed war service of great hazard. With the support of Admiral Land and others familiar with the situation, the committee should strengthen the bill and report it out favorably."

The Gallup poll shows that a substantial majority of the American people favor readjustment aids for war-service seamen. It is regrettable that the Merchant Seamen's War Service Act was not passed its this session of Congress. This situation must be remedied at the earliest opportunity.

I expect in further remarks to expound these views.

"Truth crushed to earth will rise again."

MAST Magazine, United States Maritime Service, October 1946


Editorial: The MAST Magazine

MOST READERS will agree, MAST thinks, that not least among things to be regretted in fateful days such as these is that masterly performance for the general good too often goes with scant if any notice, while the inept or blatantly false gets the spotlight of publicity.

Close to a perfect example of this, as MAST sees it, fell on August 2, in Washington. A diligent public servant on that day offered the fruits of long labor, to provide his colleagues in the House of Representatives with a precise exposition of a piece of proposed legislation known as the Merchant Seamen's War Service Act.

The public servant was Representative Schuyler Otis Bland of Virginia. With painstaking regard for clarity and accuracy he laid out and analyzed the provisions of this bill, HR 2346. Plainly but without heat he exposed misconceptions and deliberate distortions which had operated or had been used to prevent its becoming law. He brought into rugged foreground its essential purpose: that war-service men of the United States Merchant Marine, and their widows and orphans, receive at the hands of the nation treatment commensurate with the quality of their service and their sacrifice and, so far as could be made practicable, with that accorded those of other services whose heroism and accomplishment, with the Mariners', had gone into the all-out drive to victory.

IN GRASP and array of facts, in clear and cogent interpretation, Congressman Bland's summation of the case for the war-service seamen was, in the most literal sense, a master's effort. Yet it received little if any notice in the news of that day.

It is with a sense of privilege, therefore, as well as of obligation, that MAST Magazine gives leading place in this first available issue for publication of the full text of this eloquently factual plea for equal justice for the heroes of the supply lines, as it was carried as Extension of Remarks in the Congressional Record of August 12, last.

Here, MAST feels certain, will be found answers to questions which have been troubling many who have been confused or left in doubt either by careless and inaccurate reporting on the provisions of the bill and their intent, or by deliberate perversion on the part of some who would, for ignoble reasons of their own, deny simple justice to the Merchant Seamen who offered their all; devoted men who, in larger proportion than in any other war arm, gave it.

Editorial, MAST Magazine, U.S. Maritime Service, October 1946


The Seaman's Wartime Service Bill H.R. 2346,
has been favorably reported out by the Merchant Marine & Fisheries Committee and is now on the House Calendar. Every effort is being made to have this bill called up for early consideration by the Congress.

Reply from Letter to the Editor, MAST Magazine, U.S. Maritime Service, November 1946

Admiral E. S. Land makes plea for mariners to stay at sea

[Source: U.S. House: Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, Hearings, 79th Congress, J61 M5, 79th, v.2, USGPO, Washington, 1946]


The Merchant Seaman's War Service Act, H.R. 2346,
was voted out of committee favorably, but did not reach the floor of Congress for a vote during the past session. It is expected that this bill will be reintroduced at the next session of Congress.

Reply from Letter to the Editor, MAST Magazine, U.S. Maritime Service, December 1946


SEAMEN'S BILL OF RIGHTS: 1947 [reintroduced in the 80th Congress as H. R. 476]: Hearings Before The Ship Construction and Operation and Maritime Labor Subcommittee of The Committee On Merchant Marine and Fisheries House of Representatives Eightieth Congress: First Session on H. R. 476: A Bill to Provide Aid for the Readjustment in Civilian Life of Those Persons Who Rendered Wartime Service in The United States Merchant Marine, and to Provide Aid for Their Families. Note: HR 476 was characterized by its sponsor Congressman H. Hardin Peterson as a watered down version of HR 2346. Mr. Peterson also sponsored HR 2346.

February 18, May 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, June 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 1947


Veterans Association Wants Equal Status to the Army, Navy and Air Forces

New York TIMES, September 15, 1947


JERSEY CITY. N. J., Sept. 14- The Merchant Marine Veterans Association of the United States went on record today at the closing session of its fifth annual convention in favor of making the Merchant Marine a part of the new national defense set-up with a status equal to that of the Army, Navy and Air Forces under an "Under-secretary of Merchant Marine."

The resolution declared that the only way to prosecute a war or any other national emergency efficiently was to give merchant seamen equal status with the other branches of services in the national defense. The resolution was introduced by the New York-New Jersey District of the Association.

Speakers for the resolution expressed the hope that a merger of the Merchant Marine with the other services would give "the veterans of two wars at sea the same rewards given their comrades in the other services." It was pointed out that they were not now eligible for pensions, widows' and orphans' allowances, hospitalization and other benefits available to those who served in the Army and Navy.

The convention also adopted a resolution urging members of the organization not to sail on a ship on which there was a known Communist and to persuade other merchant seamen to follow the same procedure in what was described as a move to drive Communism from the ranks of seafaring men.

The delegates, mostly from New Jersey, New York, Florida and the New England States, elected Patrick F. Aher of Gardner, Mass., as national commander to succeed Lewis M. Doyle of Gloucester, Mass., Albert C. Albrecht of St. Petersburg, Fla., who presided at today's session, was re-elected senior vice-commander.

It was voted to hold next year's convention in Boston at a date to be set later.


Struggle for Veteran Status
Wartime Memos: FDR states U.S. Merchant Marine an Armed Force

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