United States Maritime Service: Excerpts From Sheepshead Bay Heaving Line Newsletters

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Admiral Telfair Knight stated during the dedication of Sheepshead Bay:
In recognition of the vital part which this and other Maritime Service Training Stations are playing in the winning of the war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt has sent to you the following words of greeting, which I take pleasure in reading:

"It is with a feeling of great pride that I send my heartiest congratulations and best wishes to the officers and men of the new U. S. Maritime Service Training Station at Sheepshead Bay, New York. Ten thousand apprentice seamen in training at one station is a magnificent achievement, and the entire country joins me in wishing you every success and in paying tribute to you men of the Merchant Marine who are so gallantly working and fighting side by side with our Army and Navy to defend the way of life which is so dear to us all."


"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."

President Roosevelt's comment during the signing of the GI Bill in 1944


Heaving Line, March 17, 1945

Straight from the Bridge


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, December 30, 1944

Georgia Brown Henry receives the Mariner's Medal for son Alphonso A. Henry, JrMrs. Georgia Brown Henry receives the Mariner's Medal from Captain John Beebe, USNR, Superintendent, USMSTS Sheepshead Bay, on behalf of her son Alphonso A. Henry, Jr., a former trainee at Sheepshead Bay. U. S. Merchant Marine Mariners's medalHenry, 19, enrolled here July 26, 1943 and subsequently went to Cook & Bakers School. On Sept. 30 of that year before finishing C & B, he shipped out as a messman, because of the urgent need for men, and was assigned to the tanker "S.S. Pan Pennsylvania", which was torpedoed by an enemy submarine in the Atlantic, March 25, 1944 resulting in Henry's death.

Heaving Line, March 24, 1945

Twenty-Eight Sheepshead Graduates Receive Mariner's Medal In February
U. S. Merchant Marine Mariners's medalTwenty-eight former enrollees of the Sheepshead Bay Maritime Service Training Station were the recipients of the Mariner's Medal during the month of February, 1945, according to the records of the War Shipping Administration.

Four of the men were from Pennsylvania, three each from Illinois, Massachusetts and Ohio, two each from California, Rhode Island, Indiana and Michigan, and one each from Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey and Texas.

The Mariner's Medal, awarded to any seaman who while serving in a ship is wounded, suffers physical injury or suffers through dangerous exposure as a result of enemy action, was given posthumously to the beneficiaries of 19 of the Sheepshead Bay men honored. 9 of the men received the Medals personally.

Of the men honored, 6 took deck training, 9 engine, 7 were messmen and 6 were purser-hospital corpsmen. Nineteen received advanced training. Following are the names, sections and residences of the group:

Byrl V. Taylor, Brea, California, Sect. 693.
George Taylor, San Francisco, Cal., Sect. E120.
George B. Barton, Chicago, Ill., Sect. D28.
William Morris, Brighton, Mass., Sect. D213.
Gerald S. Bumgardner, Hillsboro, Or., Sect. D125.
M. J. Mordas, Pawtucket, R. I., Sect. 261.

Awarded Posthumously
(Beneficiaries Address)

Don D. Page, Montrose, Col., Sect. E120.
James Chase, Downer's Grove, Ill., Sect. DH75.
Guiseppe N. Tangora, Rockford, Ill., Sect. D116.
George M. Murphy, Indianapolis, Ind., Sect. E13.
Donald R. Stith, Clinton, Ind., Sect. E117.
Francis G. Sullivan, Portland, Me., Sect. S12.
Robert B. Thomas, Philadelphia, Pa.
Anthony Vitacco, Mt. Carmel, Pa., Sect. S15.
Peter P. Zigerelli, Monaca, Pa., S4.
Paul E. Wheeler, Baltimore, Md., Sect. S7.
John J. Lynch, Somerville, Mass., Sect. 476.
Gerald J. Mitchell, Leominster, Mass., Sect. S83.
Edwin B. Baggott, Belleville, Mich., Sect. D6.
Walter Wujcicki, Detroit, Mich., Sect. S8.
John G. Main, Kansas City, Mo., Sect. E84.
Antoni Paskowski, Vineland, N. J., Sect. S176.
Benjamin T. Brooks, Columbus, Ohio, Sect. DH80.
Harold E. Pfenneger, Chardon, Ohio, Sect. E69.
William R. Roth, Solon, Ohio, Sect. E10.
George W. Hutton, Jeannette, Pa., Sect. E53.
Charles Ptak, Pawtucket, R. I., Sect. D12.
Leslie A. Patton, Montgomery, Texas, Sect. E60.


Heaving Line, February 3, 1945

First Sixteen-Year Old Grad Now In South Pacific

U.S. Maritime Service first 16 year old graduateFireman Walter E. Roberts, first 16-year-old boy to be processed for training at Sheepshead Bay, recently observed his 17th birthday while on convoy duty in the South Pacific.

Roberts has seen a lot of action since graduating from the base. After leaving Sheepshead Bay in June, 1944, he was sent to San Francisco, California. He subsequently shipped out on a tanker, which was torpedoed and later sunk. After drifting for several days, young Roberts was picked up by a Naval destroyer, and was taken to Honolulu. Next, he was taken by plane to Pasadena, Calif., where he was hospitalized.

Roberts is again out in the Pacific with the merchant marine, delivering the goods, and is serving on his first love, a tanker.

Incidentally, Walter's dad is also in the service of his country, serving in the U. S. Navy; which leaves only his mother at home. She's not sitting this war out, either, being actively engaged by working at an Army base in Brooklyn. Truly, this is an All-American Family.


Gunnery --- a fascinating Subject U.S. Maritime Service
Gunnery --- a fascinating Subject
U.S. Maritime Service Booklet, 1944

Heaving Line, March 17, 1945


Heroism of merchant seamen, Navy gunners and even the master's Boston terrier, "Skipper," helped save the American war freighter Alcoa Pioneer from destruction during violent encounters with Japanese planes off Leyte, the War Shipping Administration reported. The commander of the Navy armed guard and four of his men were killed, and nine Navy gunners and five members of the ship's crew, including the captain, were wounded.

The vessel was anchored in San Pedro Bay when a formation of three enemy fighter planes approached at 6,000 feet. The fire of the ship's guns caused two planes to crash in the water and one plane was set afire.

The bombs from one plane fell on the bridge deck of the Alcoa Pioneer, killing five gunners and wounding others and merchant seamen. The entire bridge and forward deck was immediately in flames, Capt. Andrew Gavin, of N. Y. C., reports.

Fire Near Gasoline

"The three forward holds contained gasoline cargo but our merchant crew soon had the fire under control. Although all hands responded admirably, I wish to especially commend Boatswain Clark C. Smith, of Santa Barbara, Calif., and Maintenance A. B. John R. Peterson, of San Francisco, for their outstanding performance. They seemed to be everywhere. They had all the hoses playing on the forward deck and next were standing on the bridge and had the fire there under control.

"These men worked under extreme difficulties and hazards extricating Chief Officer Daniel J. Noonan, who was seriously injured and pinned under twisted steel plates and beams in his room directly under the spot where a bomb bad exploded.

"As fourteen members of our armed guard were casualties, the senior petty officers remaining asked for volunteers from the merchant crew to man the guns. On the next alert, less than an hour later, all guns were fully manned.

"The crew continued to discharge cargo, many seamen working from 18 to 24 hours straight, and although we were averaging seven or eight alerts or direct attacks day and night, they continued to assist the gun crew in manning the guns."

From Walter K. Neill, one of its representatives in the Southwest Pacific, the War Shipping Administration has learned of the part played by "Skipper," Captain Gavin's Boston terrier. He reports: "Two days before the vessel was attacked, the dog had been severely reprimanded by Captain Gavin for entering his cabin without permission. He even installed a screen door to keep "Skipper" out.

"When the bombs fell on the ship the ensuing explosion knocked the master unconscious, broke a rib and inflicted other injuries. The dog also received a shrapnel wound in the back and the explosion blew him through the screen door and into the cabin, where the Captain lay. Despite his own wounds, 'Skipper' proceeded to lick Captain Gavin's forehead, reviving him. "Skipper" is permitted to visit the master's quarters at all hours and without special permission."

The explosions inflicted extensive damage on the midship section of the freighter. The decks were torn up, the stack almost demolished and all navigation equipment either damaged or destroyed. Temporary repairs made by the officers and crew enabled the vessel to return to the United States under her own power for complete overhaul.


Heaving Line, March 17, 1945

Merchant Marine Digest


A "sailor's life" for the fair sex in the postwar era, when women may be included in ship's crews of passenger vessels, is not above the realm of possibility, according to Robert Patchin, vice president of the Grace Lines, in a talk before the Women's National Press Club on postwar possibilities for the American merchant marine. "There is no reason why women shouldn't eventually be skippers and run ships," he added.

Seconding this suggestion bewhiskered Capt. Simeon Shaw, 47, of the American Merchant Marine, who has skippered his Liberty ship through the Seven Seas, is convinced he can sign on women as half of his crew and make a successful voyage. He received from Admiral Land a letter saying, "We are interested in the suggestions you have made, and appreciate your comments."

Life's Darkest Moment cartoon recruit waiting for injection
"Life's Darkest Moment"
Heaving Line, January 6, 1945


(HEAVING LINE , Sheepshead Bay, May 19, 1945)

Words to remember

In case you missed it in the excitement of the day, this is what General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower said in tribute to you after Germany surrendered: "The truly heroic man of this war is GI Joe and his counterpart of the Air, Navy and Merchant Marine."

Yes, you are on the first team. Stay on until Japan surrenders.



Armed Forces Join Merchant Seaman Tribute at Station On Maritime Day

The battlefront partnership of the Merchant Marine and the armed forces will be emphasized when representatives of the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard join in National Maritime Day ceremonies at this station on May 22.

The exercises, starting at 10:00 A.M. on Wauchope Field, will be witnessed by shipping line executives, civic leaders, and other guests. More than 500 other persons are expected to attend. A feature of the ceremonies will be a formal review of more than 5,000 white-clad Maritime Service apprentice seaman, contingents of enlisted men and SPARS from the Manhattan Beach Coast Guard Training Station, sailors from the Navy Armed Guard Center, and soldiers from Governors Island.

Speakers include: Commodore F. G. Reinicke, USN, (R.), Port Director, Third Naval District; representing Rear Admiral Monroe Kelly, USN, commanding officer of the district; Col. E. C. Lasher, USA, Transportation Officer of the Second Service Command, representing Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Terry; Capt. J. S. Baylis, USCG, commanding officer of the Manhattan Beach Coast Guard Station; and Mr. Frank Taylor, president of the American Merchant Marine Institute.

Captain John L. Beebe, USNR, Superintendent of the Maritime Service Station, will speak also, and award several mariner's medals on behalf of the War Shipping Administration.

Following the field ceremonies, the guests will witness training and demonstrations, and at 12:00 noon, a wreath will be cast on the waters of Rockaway Inlet in honor of the more than 6000 merchant seaman lost in action during the war. The military, naval and shipping officials will be guests of the superintendent at a luncheon.

The guests will be escorted on a tour of the station, by station personnel. In the swimming pool building, a special demonstration will be given of safety seamanship; on physical fitness trading on the obstacle course; and abandon ship construction at the peers.

Regular trading activities will resume at 1400. In the event of foul weather, a special program has been arranged to be held in Bowditch Hall, on a time schedule similar to that outlined for the outdoor ceremonies.


Coming so soon after V-E Day, Maritime Day this year will help to emphasize the part that the American Merchant Marine will play in the final phase of the war against the last of the fascist aggressors -- Japan. Although the United States has built and manned most of the cargo ships that are carrying supplies today, with Stars and Stripes flying over two-thirds of the world's merchant fleet, the war of supply in the Pacific will call for the ever-increasing efforts of our Merchant Marine to transport troops and material to the East.

The record of achievement and that brought our merchant fleet to its present proportions is a proud one, and reviewing and briefly might serve to demonstrate that while the task ahead is a difficult one, it can be overcome. This is how America and did that job:

  • The Merchant Marine Act, creating the Maritime Commission, was passed by Congress in 1936.
  • In 1939, the first of a modern fleet of cargo ships was delivered. At the end of 1940, 46 of these were at work.
  • By the time of Pearl Harbor, 50 more had been added, and shortly thereafter the first Liberty ship, the Patrick Henry, was delivered for service.
  • The Commission was directed by President Roosevelt in 1942 to build a 8 million tons of shipping. The goal was succeeded.
  • Sixteen million tons was the mark set for 1943. More than 19 million tons were delivered.

By the time we were back in the Philippines more than 4,000 cargo ships built in the wartime in U.S. shipyards were at work for the United Nations. Officers and men of the Merchant Marine numbered about 55,000 in 1941. In December 1944 there were 200,000 men sailing our ships.

Big Job Ahead

The immensity of the task was emphasized by Lt. Gen. Brehon Somervell, Commander of the Army Service Forces in a press conference shortly after the surrender of Germany. General Somervell pointed out that where England is only 3,000 miles from the USA and 30 miles from the continent, Manila is 6,200 mi. from San Francisco and 14,000 miles from the major European ports. Instead of being 30 miles from the shores of Japan, Manila is 1,700 miles from Tokyo.

"The supplies and ground crews for our Air Forces, the gasoline and housing and the cement for runaways and the bulldozers to bill them cannot be transported by air. They lumber across the Pacific on cargo boats gasoline and lubricant requirements will be tremendous," General Somervell said. His figures for overall supply requirements are 6 tons per man per initial shipment of equipment and approximately 1 ton per man per month for maintenance before actual combat.


Special events in honor of National Maritime Day will carry the story of the U.S. Maritime Service and American Merchant Marine into every city, town and hamlet of the nation on Tuesday.

The slogan of the day is "It's Your Merchant Marine."

Programs are to take place in more than 50 cities. Vice Admiral Emery S. Land, War Shipping Administrator, will keynote today's activities with an address at Mobile, Ala., which will be broadcast at noon over the NBC network. Captain Edward Macauley, USNR, Deputy Administrator for Training, WSA, and Commodore Telfair Knight, USMS, Maritime Service Commandant, will speak at ceremonies on the West Coast, and Captain H. H. Dreany, USMS, the Assistant Commandant, will appear at functions in the Midwest. Other ranking officials of WSA, the U. S. Maritime Commission and the U. S. Maritime Service will speak in other cities.

Captain John D. Bosler, USMS, the Atlantic District Operations Officer, will participate in Philadelphia's observance of the day. Sheepshead's Bay Executive Officer, Capt. J. von Snyder, USMS, will speak at the luncheon of the American Legion in Memphis, Tenn., on May 21st, and will broadcast over WMC, the NBC station in Memphis on May 22.

Trainees to parade

New York, largest port in the world, will be the scene of a number of special programs in addition to the celebration at the station. Commissioner Thomas M. Woodward of the Maritime Commission will deliver an address at a noon hour program on the steps of customs house at Bowling Green. The program has been arranged by the American Merchant Marine Institute. The ceremonies will be preceded by a parade down Broadway from City hall. Five hundred trainees Sheepshead Bay will march with 350 cadet-midshipmen from the New York State Maritime Academy and the rifle team from the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.

During the afternoon, programs will be given at Kings Point and by United Seaman's Service at the Andrew Furuseth Home. In the evening, the New York Propeller Club will hold a dinner-dance at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Many of the program will feature the awarding of Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medals and Mariner's Medals.

National hookup

Approximately 40 network radio shows, including comedy, variety, dramatic, news and religious programs will honor merchant seaman during the week. Special prayers, submitted by Lt. Comdr. J. V. Hart, USMS, station Catholic chaplain and Lt. Joshua Kohn, USMS, station Jewish chaplain, will be used respectively on the National Catholic Hour over NBC and the Eternal Light program on CBS. Comdr. C. F. Bee, USMS, Administration Officer, will appear on the Stan Lomax WOR-Mutual show, May 21, and Lt. Comdr. Benny Leonard, USMS, Recreation-Morale officer, on the Sam Taub broadcast over WHN, May 20. In addition, 500 stations will broadcast a 15-minute transcription prepared by the training organization, featuring the Sheepshead Bay Band.

Training ships at New York, Baltimore, St. Petersburg and Avalon will make special cruises in conjunction with the Seventh War Loan. The American Mariner will be tied up at the battery, North River, and the Cape Frio in Brooklyn Heights for public inspection from a 18th through 22. A number of display window exhibits will be featured by large stores and corporations in New York. Other tributes to the Merchant Marine will include magazine and newspaper features.

A Word of Thanks For Job Well Done

Vice Admiral Emery S. Land, USN (Ret.), Chairman, United States Maritime Commission and War Shipping Administrator, dispatched to all Merchant Marine personnel, ashore and afloat, and the WSA employees, the following message:

"The end of organized resistance in Germany brings no lessening of the task of the United States Merchant Marine. Closing of hostilities in European theater means to the Maritime Commission and War Shipping Administration a situation unchanged basically, except for a shift in emphasis in time and places. There will be no lesser demand for ships, or for men to sail them.

"To the men of the Merchant Marine I send my heartfelt thanks and my utter conviction that you will continue your achievements in the days ahead in the same manner."


Out of the battle scarred Pacific comes another tale of heroism involving men who have graduated from Sheepshead Bay. This story involves two in particular, who played prominent roles along with the rest of their crews in "delivering the goods" while under attack -- said feat winning for them an Army general's undying gratitude, and an official citation.

The two men are Ensign Robert J. Burns, who graduated in February 1944, purser aboard the ship, and firemen James P. Campion, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Campion graduated with Section 1 in April of 1944.

Close cooperaion while under air attack aboard Liberty ship Francisco Morazan, between the Merchant Marine crew and Navy Armed Guard, resulted in the vessel suddenly landing 10,000 tons of critically needed ammunition for American forces on Mindoro in the Philippines. The action won an official citation from Brig. Gen. W. C. Dunckel, USA, the commanding general ashore, to whose men the ammunition was consigned.

The Francisco Morazan was the only one of four Liberty ships in a convoy that succeeded in completing the voyage from Leyte to Mindoro several weeks ago without being sunk or damaged. How the feat was accomplished is described by Lt. John J. Hartley, USNR, commander of the armed guard.

Gallant merchant crew

"If it hadn't been for the unceasing alertness of my men and wonderful cooperation from the merchant crew, we could never have made it. We fired an awful lot of ammunition, about 10 tons, all of which merchant seamen passed to us.

"The way I figure is that we just threw some stuff at the Japs they couldn't get through. The men never left their gun positions from the time we sailed from Leyte until we arrived off Mindoro 72 hours later. There just wasn't any chance to relax because we're having an alert practically every hour. On the way we knocked down six planes and hit three others.

"Strangely enough, our closest call came during an "all clear." and the American fighter had shot up a Jap plane, which was in flames and headed straight for us. It certainly looked as if our number was up; if it ever had us we'd have gone up before anybody knew what happened."


From headquarters of the Western VisayanTask Force, Brig. Gen. W. C. Dunckel, USA, sent this citation:

" I desire to commend Captain John J. Brady, his officers and crew of the SS Francisco Morazan for outstanding performance of duty during their stay in this area. The Francisco Morazan, with a cargo of bombs and other ammunition, maintained full efficiency and a well disciplined ship's and gun crew despite its perilous cargo."

Sheepshead Bay Marks V-E Day

Captain John L. Beebe, USNR, the Superintendent, announced the end of the war in Europe to the massed personnel of Sheepshead Bay station at a special ceremony in the Bandshell. The station band played at a municipal program in celebration of the day on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall completing the station's activities in honor the day, the band also broadcast a special program of victory music on the "Its Maritime" show over the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Question: What were your reactions on V-E day?
Location: Heaving Line Office

George Mont, B-1, Newark, N.J.: I thought it was a very foolish for the American people to celebrate when only half the job is finished.
Anton Korecki, B-1, Bayonne, N.J.: We were marching up Broadway. It seems strange to see people whooping it up when we were just starting.
Paul Wendel, B-1, Bryant, Ind: I was very happy it had come at last, when it's seemed as it would never happen. But it's still a long way to go.
Andy Ross, B-1, Morris, Ill.: I was afraid it might lessen our chances to ship out quickly... but they tell us there's a bigger job ahead.
Eugene Roedl, B-1, Eden Valley, Minn.: I was glad it was over, but I didn't have much chance to think about it, since we had just come into the Base.
Bill Bull, B-1, Newark, N.J.: We had just come into the Base, and then we heard the news. I guess the Nazis heard that we had arrived.
Hal Romano, B-3, Brooklyn N.Y.: I felt that it would hasten my brother's return and my own homecoming. It seemed like a miracle had come to pass.


United States Maritime Service

Heaving Line Newsletters courtesy of Bill Kinney of Michigan


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