S.S. LANE VICTORY – A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK

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e-mail ejevaheins@knology.net

Letter to the Editor, printed in Charleston, SC’s "The Post and Courier" May 22, 2004

Merchant Mariners

This Maritime Day, May 22, it is only fitting to remember the mostly "forgotten service", the U.S. Merchant Marine of World War II.

Charleston has a long maritime history and when the U.S. entered World War II many South Carolinians from 16 year olds to men in their 70s volunteered and joined the Maritime Service. Merchant mariners provided the greatest sealift in history between the production army at home and the fighting forces scattered around the globe. The Charleston Navy Yard rapidly expanded during the war years and was a busy hub of shipping as thousands of cargo ships called at the port for war materials. They "delivered the goods" – but not without cost. Over 1,500 ships were sunk and 8,400 mariners, or one 1 out of 26, never made it back home.

In addition over 1,800 U.S. Navy Armed Guards manning merchant ships lost their lives. The World War II mariners had the highest casualty rate of any service yet they were not recognized as veterans after the war and received no benefits. Only in 1988 did Congress grant them veteran’s status and a "watered down" GI bill, mostly just allowing them the right of a flag on their graves.

This January congressman Bob Filner of California introduced bill "H.R. 3729" the "Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act". It would provide certain benefits to the surviving merchant mariners and their widows. The average age of the few surviving merchant marine veterans is 81 and many have outlived their savings. Many congressmen from other states are co-sponsoring this bill, but unfortunately none yet from South Carolina.

As president of the East Coast Chapter of the national organization "U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans WW II", I am asking South Carolinians to celebrate Maritime Day by remembering our U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans of WW II and writing to our SC congressmen to co-sponsor H.R. 3729.

To learn more about this bill and the merchant marine, see www.usmm.org

E.J. HEINS, JR.

1328 N. Relyea Ave.

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