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U.S. Merchant Marine
Awards of the Silver Star

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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 their ships.

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 service.

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.


The Navy Cross is presented to Percy H. Hauffman, Master, U.S. Merchant Marines, for extraordinary heroism and outstanding devotion to duty in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the S.S. HILLARY A. HERBERT during the landings of Allied Forces at Anzio, Italy, on 22 January 1943. Master Hauffman showed extraordinary ability and courageous action under fire in landing the S.S. HILLARY A. HERBERT at the beachhead and discharging her cargo of ammunition, gasoline and other vital supplies during a terrific aerial and shore bombardment.

For more information on the U.S. Merchant Marines, visit: American Merchant Marine at War



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