tv World War II Merchant Marines CSPAN November 22, 2021 9:59pm-10:32pm EST
this experience. moreover, i stand before you today representing the united states and the veterans of world war ii. on december 7th, 1941, we were as a nation 130 million people versus the 325 million plus that we have today and we were drawn into world war ii after an attack by the japanese. december 7th, after that brutal attack, germany and its allies
also declared war on us and this begins our story and thus we have been labeled the greatest generation. between 16 million men and women of this population that represented 12.5% in the aftermath 440,000 of us came home wounded in body and spirit. in 1941 i was 13 years of age and then i was close to 15 years of age and i was at that time making a decision as did many others about being part of the
military service. first i was about to be indoctrinated and shipped off and the police told the mother and father that i was a truant and i was only 15. you can imagine it didn't go over very well with my parents but i made this decision and follow it up listening to the u.s. maritime service, the merchant marine. two separate bodies, same purpose. the merchant marine has been in existence since the revolutionary war once allocated
in the government decision to the dominant purpose of supporting the army and the navy world war ii is the example of the nations where the merchant marine was placed under naval discipline and among other regulations prohibited the captains were the crew from surrendering to the enemy. first time. prior to that 1936 president franklin delano roosevelt past of the merchant marine act which you tend to find the need for cargo ships and transports together with appropriate means to recruit and train and manage the merchant marines as he wanted it to be and as an adjunct arm of the military.
what followed is now our history of the merchant marine in world war ii. last thing they established was the maritime service that exists today as under the department of transportation. unlike wartime, we were in the direct direction, at the risk of repeating myself as the u.s. coast guard navy. they opened in kings point new york where is one of the most revered educational centers and it is the same academy as the naval academy of the army in west point so we have that with some unique things that exist today. the opened training centers in florida, one in california and one on the east coast they also
recruited and less than 1800 of us are still alive. if you say that, it rolls easily. and it's my hope that with god's direction, 248,200 lives that are no longer alive and those that are still alive less than 1800 out of the 250,000 recruited. they issued instructions to the merchant marine captains. they manned them with guns and had specially trained people as the division, revered people, the armed guards as the officers. these orders removed what had been up to this point a policy
of defensive posture meaning you didn't fire unless you were fired upon. the orders of 1940 to read as follows. there is no situation where either the captain or the armed guard commanders should delay opening fire on an enemy. in that same year the chief of naval operations sent a message to all the units that henceforth naval discipline and control were to be exercised against any merchant marine crew man and in short like all the other services, the merchant mariners were subject to court-martial and penalty fees for failure to follow the directive of the
navy's and it's what we were called upon to support. the u.s. fought on five, we fought in all five. we were at war and we were manufacturing goods to take to these major combat areas and we served all these areas. however, it was a combination of the industrial production, the japanese made a severe mistake on december 7th. they never took into consideration several things. they left the oilfields in the hawaiian islands and never blew them up. it would never be known as so militarized is doing the things we were about to do. now liberty ships, we created a new kind of ship and this was
just prior only two of them are still around today. these were great vehicles. they had tons of area and they could only go eight or 9 miles an hour with a full load. we had 3,000 vessels and among them was this great ship. as you think about that, they were doing one a day, maybe six a week. i tell you this in all truth nothing is without fault. previous things happen because we do not plan them all but what happened, we lost 200 of those liberty ships and there were others. there were tankers and transportation ships so they
converted the cargo ships to be troop ships. now let me define what the destinations are. these are the historical records. we made and delivered 15 millio, food, ammunition, fuel. 15 million tons to great britain and europe. another 13 million tons we deliver to the pacific. another 8 million to the mediterranean and if you remember when the war ended because of the cold war plus all these things that we delivered
with the combat staging areas then we returned them because president truman asked us to do so. we did what we were asked to do and here's one of the saddest things you will ever read. we had the highest count of any. one out of every 26 of us. thousands more came home physically and emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives. those serving on tankers of which i was one and served in the engine room had a particular story. they were for the group that attacked us but sank the ability for the diesels to move,
anything that needed fuel, aircraft, jeeps, tanks, whatever. so if the enemy could sink one of those. if you're in the military, you get to pay but if you are in the merchant marines for a loop hold it doesn't go on. we were given one dollar a day. some i know very well spent over three years in a prison camp waiting at home and got a check for slightly under $11 million to pay you for three years of your life service. oversight we were also on the g.i. bill which came out in the early part of the war. it was unfortunate they tried to resurface it but the thing that
made america great they had enough money to come home and pay for medical bills and they made it very easy. your parents and grandparents and their parents might have been able to accept that. we come home with common lifetime ailments. now if you look at me and hear me you may think i'm 93-years-old. i was 15 when i went in. i have malaria and in the pacific islands they treated me but it resurfaced after the war so i had to be treated for malaria and i can no longer give blood or a transfusion because.
at 16 years of age it was run by the government and i paid for that at the age of 62 determined i didn't have ulcers all the time. i had something those in the medical profession would recognize as i had an infection in my system and then i worked in the pikes in the room that were covered with asbestos and so i have a spouse uses and for me because of my lifestyle i have asbestos coating my lungs that become plated. that's what the physicians tell
me. but finally, the unnamed disease that a high percentage face and we don't want to talk about it is something called posttraumatic stress, but that's not its name. it's posttraumatic stress disorder. and over 1 million hospital beds were filled with those and no one wanted to admit they had it because of the word disorder and it could contaminate employment later. we also paid taxes on everything earned. the average on a $1,500 deduction. i don't dislike anybody. i don't dislike my government. i like my government and my country. i don't like the way that it's run at times. they make mistakes and we pay for it the g.i. bill in 1998
because 43 years later, and don't forget i was 16 and if you hadn't enough to take care of yourself, you were in real trouble in this country. seventy-five years after world war ii also they are giving us a great honor. they issued upon us but we haven't gotten the metal yet the congressional gold medal for our efforts to be received in about five days i'm going to be speaking to the convention and that maritime service and armed guards and they will be receiving a copy of what it looks like and sometimes after we receive that gold-medal. in the early years because a lot
of people took up the case and said this isn't fair, this isn't right, i can't go through my life speaking for others saying i didn't get to this or that, i can't succeed. i've done very well in my life. if you know about me, look me up and you will see that i've done very well. but i did pen a part of that letter and here's why i said the congress and the united states do you, can you, will you ever understand that we gave up our youth when we held up our hands and swore to do what we were asked to do and then at the bottom of this i wrote about these epitaphs. we won't go away.
if you've ever seen the movie saving private ryan, you will see what i'm going to be talking about. in that movie there is a scene that happens at a cemetery in europe and france. there's an old man kneeling before across supposedly the private ryan of today. he says did what we did count, did what i did and what i was asked to do, was i worth it, can you tell me and yet the unspoken words if you have friends that are veterans, they don't want to talk about it. get it out of the way and move
on. i want to take you to what we call the second pearl harbor it happened december 2nd, 1943 in italy, a beautiful little country spot today but in 1943 it was a harbor where ships brought in tools and because it was 43 and the war would go on for almost two more years but in december of 1943, there was a ship that was carrying explosions that were unnamed at the time but in general bernard montgomery positioned these bombs and one of them carried 100 tons of mustard gas bombs
although outlawed after world war i and the american logic we were never to use mustard gas. general montgomery had a requisition shipped to him in case the germans he was fighting would take advantage of us. 100 tons of mustard gas bombs and about 330 in the afternoon that report having 30 ships in the harbor normally when you see them lined up to unload they line up right next to the dock. it was so loaded there were 30 ships in the harbor and only one of them had this on it and when they came in they dropped the bomb on the uss john harvey which exploded. no, no, not exploded, but with
100 tons one on each side and at the end of the day 1,000 military including u.s. allies and merchant marines were killed on that first day and then the cloud of smoke rises out of this and defeats your ability to breathe. now there were a total of 17 allied ships that sunk that afternoon. eight that nothing could be recovered on them and why haven't you heard about it? because in the list of the government at the time they said it's not a good thing for people. it will take down the morale. i don't judge them on that. i do tell you it happened and you can find out about it today. look it up. december, 1943 we call it the
invasion and a second pearl harbor and i will leave you with one more thought before i go. if you have the opportunity to do so, please visit the world war ii memorial. it's a sacred place for my friends but also for you. it holds our history. on one side it lists all of the battle fronts. it's in a part of russia that's very close and if you look at that, here's russia and here is the c and overhears the scandinavian peninsula. norway was owned and controlled at that time they defeated the norwegian government and occupied the country and they had housed in the harbor some of
the great ships. late in june 1942 and after it started we recognized the need to ship goods and they put together the largest convoy tell me how many of your schools will tell you what i tell you now. no condemnation. fact. they had a billion dollars worth of material. that's about $5 million bound. thirty-five merchant ships, 24 military ships including cruisers and destroyers, air support, submarines and cargoes
in the uk and we had charge of that part of the worst space although we were in russian water. on the belief which was the largest effective battleship in the world was house there in the belief that was going to come out and attack ships admiral pound ordered all of the support away from this convoy so in a matter of hours in five days from the court where they were sailing to this convoy was -- 34 ships, 11, count them 11 ships
went through and the rest were sunk. you can make it in for five minutes in the ships can't stop and they can't stop and pick you up and in the end 120 u.s. allied men died. most were killed immediately when they hit the water and those that survived came out crippled, maimed and emotionally scarred for life. he remains one of the saddest shameless episodes of the war. but again we are dealing with human beings. when that war ended i was in the pacific ocean. i was on a ship that was destined to be in the invasion of the canal and i was on a tanker often called a fleet oiler.
when that war ended august 15, 19474 days later i became 17 and people asked me what was it like to be a kid? we were kids when the u.n. and that the day you go in and the day you go on duty if you aren't a man you don't make it and you don't cut it. i often weep as i think of these young men my brothers, my friends, my associates, veterans who hit that water and knew that they were going to die and they weren't going to make it. this is why we so revere this great country of ours. it is a great country. this is still the greatest country in the world. do they make mistakes? it's natural and normal to make mistakes. now i would hope that you
carried with you something from my message. i bear no guilt feelings for what was done. they did try to make reprimands and hopefully it sits well in the position with those who are still alive. i am going to be speaking five days from now in maryland to the american merchant marines and the maritime. i'm going to be there because they are honoring us with the dedication of the metal which we are soon to receive the congressional gold medal. i salute my brothers and my sisters in arms. i say if you are moved by anyway -- and anyway they would have told you the merchant marines have kept us alive
because there aren't enough members left. so as i rap this up i will say if you have any questions i will answer most of those except dealing with my age and verly. my final word service, when you are with others will you tell them about us and we asked them to visit the world war ii memorial in washington d.c.? or some distance away. tune in to find out. and then say to whoever you're talking do we gave up our yesterdays for their tomorrow's. god bless the united states of americaistory for more of the