The United States Merchant Marine comprise
the civilian merchant ships that are used to transport both imports and exports
during peace time. During times of war, dating back to the American Revolution,
Merchant Marines serve as an auxiliary to the United States Navy to transport
both troops and supplies to the military, usually by convoy and often under
combat conditions. During WWII the Merchant Marines sailed and took orders from
U.S. Naval officers. Though considered "civilian volunteers", some
Merchant Mariners were uniformed, and many were trained in combat defense of
While statistics vary on Merchant Marine
casualties during World War II, the number ranges
from more than 5,500 to nearly 10,000, the highest casualty rate by percentage
of all the military services. The Merchant Marines are authorized their own
distinctive Distinguished Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and
Mariner's Medal, but are also eligible for award of the Bronze Star, Purple
Heart and Prisoner of War Medal, under the same conditions as other branches of
Just prior to the beginning of World War
II (October 9, 1939), Navy Reserve Officer Lieutenant Commander Joseph A.
Gainard was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions as commander of the S.S.
City of Flint when his vessel was boarded by German sailors at sea. During
World War II John A. Mattson, Master of the S.S. Coast Farmer was
awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Medal for his daring voyage to
re-supply Army forces on Bataan. Merchant Mariners were also awarded the Navy
Marine Corps Medal in World War II, as well as various campaign ribbons.
One member of the U.S. Merchant Marines
was awarded the Silver Star by the U.S. Navy.