The Merchant Marine Story

Merchant Marine Right there with us!!!

Presidential Statement in Memory of 
Richard G. Matthiesen 

On January 4, 1946, President Harry S. Truman 
and the United States Maritime Commission posthumously 
awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service 
Medal to Able Seaman Richard G. Matthiesen.

The following statement was given by President 
Truman in the presentation of the special war medal.

           For heroism beyond the call of duty.

During the initial invasion of the Philippine 
Islands at Tacloban, Leyte, the SS Marcus Daly, 
on which Matthiesen was serving, carried troops 
and vital war materiel and, with two other vessels, 
afforded the principal defenses of the port for 
several days. During six days and nights of incessant 
fighting, while troops were being disembarked and her 
cargo safely discharged, the vessel was at times the 
only fire power defending the vital Leyte docks. 
Matthiesen volunteered and served as a member of gun 
crew which distinguished itself during countless 
attacks by repulsing the enemy and bringing down 
many planes. 

Two months later, on a subsequent arrival in the 
Philippines, this same vessel was again attacked 
by enemy bombers. Again Matthiesen served as a 
volunteer member of the forward gun crew during the 
engagement in which his ship shot down several Japanese 
aircraft.

One of these bombers after being hit, crashed and 
exploded under the forward gun platform where 
Matthiesen was serving. Despite injuries and severe 
burns, he escaped from the platform, but realizing 
that two members of the Navy gun crew remained behind, 
he returned through the intense heat and rescued them 
from the flames. The following morning Matthiesen 
died from the resulting burns and other injuries.

His indomitable courage and unselfish impulse to go to 
the aid of shipmates in peril were in keeping with 
the highest traditions of the United States Merchant 
Marine.

Date of Action: December 5, 1944
Matthiesen was 18 years old.

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I wish to commend to you the valor of the merchant 
seamen participating with us in the liberation of 
the Philippines. With us they have shared the 
heaviest enemy fire.  On this island I have ordered 
them off their ships and into fox holes when their 
ships became untenable targets of attack. At our side 
they have suffered in bloodshed and in death. The 
caliber of efficiency and the courage they displayed 
in their part of the invasion of the Philippines 
marked their conduct throughout the entire campaign 
in the southwest Pacific area. They have contributed 
tremendously to our success. I hold no branch in higher 
esteem than the Merchant Marine service.                   
General Douglas MacArthur
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