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World War II U.S. Navy Armed Guard
World War II U.S. Merchant Marine

In Memory of Tom Bowerman



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© 2009-2014 Dale E. Carlson

What's New: Items of interest recently added to the Armed Guard website

Thomas R. "Tom" Bowerman, founder and original webmaster of this website, died December 16, 2007, in Anniston, Alabama, after a long illness. He was 85 years old. Rest in peace, sailor. [December 16, 2007]

Read this interesting magazine article on the World War II Liberty shipbuilding program, Ugly Ducklings & Steaming the Way to Victory in WWII. [January 29, 2014]

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans will receive two 3"/50 caliber guns and a memorial plaque that have stood for years at the former site of the New Orleans Armed Guard Center. The AG Center site has been used before and since World War II by other naval commands, most recently the Naval Support Activity (NSA) New Orleans. Because of this the guns and plaque previously have been known only to those living or working on the base. The transfer of these items to the National World War II Museum means the public will have an opportunity to learn about the often-overlooked story of the Armed Guard. Read about it here:

The website of the National World War II Museum is at [September 26, 2011]

The June - September 2011 issue of The Pointer is now online. [September 19, 2011]

On September 11, 2001, hundreds of thousands of people ran for their lives from the area of the World Trade Center in New York City. Thousands ran south, to discover the only way off Manhattan that day was by water. Two videos tell the story of how members of the U.S. Merchant Marine, the U.S. Coast Guard, and private sailors, in an unplanned, spontaneous effort, used their vessels to help evacuate people from lower Manhattan and to bring first responders and emergency supplies back to the World Trade Center site. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated by sea that day - the largest evacuation by sea in the history of the United States.

See: Boatlift, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience, and

Rescue at Water's Edge: The U.S. Merchant Marine Response to 9/11. [September 16, 2011]

Albert Wilder and his twin brother, Arthur, now age 93, both survived infamous Convoy PQ-17, while on different ships. They went on to long careers as merchant captains. See A Merchant Marine Sailor Looks Back. Published by, Ocala, Florida, on August 15, 2011. [August 16, 2011]

The December 2010 - February 2011 issue of The Pointer is now online. [December 6, 2010]

Read about the wartime experiences of Armed Guard veterans Michael Jacullo of West Caldwell, New Jersey, recently published in the Newark [New Jersey] Star-Ledger; and Jack Hillier of Tilton, New Hampshire, published in the Laconia [New Hampshire] Citizen. [November 18, 2010]

On December 7, 1941, even as Japanese carrier-launched aircraft winged their way toward Pearl Harbor, a small American cargo ship reported it was being attacked by a submarine about halfway between Seattle and Honolulu. After that one cryptic message the humble lumber carrier CYNTHIA OLSON and her crew vanished without a trace, their disappearance all but forgotten as the mighty warships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet burned.

Though long relegated to footnote status in Pacific War histories, the story of CYNTHIA OLSON's mid-ocean encounter with the Japanese submarine I-26 is both a classic high-seas drama and one of the most enduring mysteries of World War II. Did Commander Minoru Yokota of I-26 disregard orders and sink the freighter before the attack on Pearl Harbor began, running the risk of alerting the Americans to the impending assault? Did master mariner Berthel Carlsen and his 34-man crew survive their vessel's sinking only to drift away into the vast Pacific, or were they machine-gunned in their lifeboats at the orders of Yokota, who after the war became a devout Christian? Was CYNTHIA OLSON the first American casualty of the Pacific War, and could her SOS have changed the course of history?

Based on years of research, Voyage to Oblivion explores both the military and human aspects of the CYNTHIA OLSON story, bringing to life a complex tale of courage, tenacity, hubris and arrogance in the opening hours of America's war in the Pacific.

For purchasing information see [November 12, 2010]

Read about the wartime experiences of Armed Guard veteran Warren Fike of Ramona, Kansas, published in the Marion County [Kansas] Record. [November 10, 2010]

Read about the wartime experiences of Armed Guard veteran Art Stolt of Eugene, Oregon, published in the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs "Vets News," September/October 2010, by Mike Allegre (see pages 1 and 4). [October 18, 2010]

Read the experiences of Armed Guard veteran Melvin Kahn of Cranston, Rhode Island. [October 1, 2010]

The June - August 2010 issue of The Pointer is now online. [June 15, 2010]

Rick Pitz has completed another transcription project that may be of interest to anyone who sailed in the North Atlantic during World War II in the areas of Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland. See "The Administrative History of The U.S Atlantic Fleet In World War II, Volume II, Commander, Task Force 24," at

Thanks once again, Rick, for your valuable contributions. [June 11, 2010]

It is now possible to make an online donation to support the World War II Armed Guard/Merchant Marine website. Donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated. [May 27, 2010]

Read a newly published book on the Armed Guard, Frozen Fury: The Murmansk Run of Convoy PQ-13, by John L. Haynes. The title pretty much says it all. [May 24, 2010]

Armed Guard veterans may be interested in an Armed Guard pin available for purchase at the G.I. Memories website; see and The pin apparently is 3 cm. (slightly over one inch) in diameter. The website also has some merchant marine merchandise, including hats, patches and a pin; see Since the Armed Guard website supports no commercial enterprises, please note that this is not an endorsement of the G.I. Memories website but is for information only. [April 15, 2010]

Read a biography of Armed Guard Warren Johnson, posted on the website. [April 15, 2010]

The January - May 2010 issue of The Pointer is now online. [March 30, 2010]

As a present for your children or grand-children consider ordering the book, "Maritime Tales of the Sea," a collection of stories by World War II merchant marine and Armed Guard veterans. Contact the author, Al D'Agostino - Skipper, SS Stephen Hopkins Chapter, U.S. Merchant Marine Veterans Association, 4029 Appian Way, Arlington, TX 76013, telephone 817-299-0833, e-mail Soft cover $25.00 + $5.00 shipping and handling, or hard cover version $35.00 + $5.00 shipping and handling. [December 14, 2009]

The August - December 2009 issue of The Pointer is now online. [December 8, 2009]

Read the biography and wartime diary of Armed Guard Nicholas DiSano, by his son, Dennis DiSano. Click on "Dad's WWII Diary.pdf" for the complete story. This is a very large file and may be slow to load. [November 19, 2009]

Read about the wartime experiences of Armed Guard John Calvin Graves. [November 12, 2009]

Read a number of Veterans' Day newspaper articles highlighting the lives and recollections of Armed Guard and merchant marine veterans. Follow the links below. These links will likely expire before long so read them while you have a chance. [November 12, 2009]

Tigard/Tualatin/Sherwood (Oregon) Times
Beaverton Valley (Oregon) Times
Catonsville (Maryland) Times
Savannah (Georgia) Morning News
South County (Oregon) Spotlight
Bucks County (Pennsylvania) Courier Times (Canandaigua, NY)
Forest Grove (Oregon) News-Times

World War II-era merchant mariners won their long struggle for official recognition as veterans only in 1988. Among them were several thousand merchant sailors who served on ocean-going tugs and barges, especially along the East Coast of the United States, transporting critical domestic cargoes to factories and refineries. While they did not cross the seas as did many of their fellow merchant mariner and Armed Guard colleagues, these men nonetheless found themselves in harm's way, sometimes being attacked and sunk by German U-boats. Many died. Now the few remaining survivors of these tug and barge crews find that they often cannot establish their eligibility for veteran status, through no fault of their own. Documentation that would verify their service was not maintained in the first place, or was lost or destroyed many years ago. Don Horton, whose brother was one of those who died when his tug was sunk in 1942, is trying to rectify this situation. If you share his concern, contact Don at for further information and to learn how you can help. [October 7, 2009]

Read about the wartime and post-war merchant marine career of Otto W. Thiele, who served as both an unlicensed seaman and as an officer. [September 18, 2009]

The May - July 2009 issue of The Pointer is now online. [August 3, 2009]

Read this newspaper article, and view five short videos, about the experiences of Armed Guard sailors during World War II, published in the Cleveland, Ohio, Plain Dealer. [July 1, 2009]

Watch three YouTube videos, about seven minutes each, about the Murmansk Run including infamous Convoy PQ-17. The videos can be found here: video #1, video #2, video #3. [June 25, 2009]

Read this newspaper article about Armed Guard hero ENS Kopl Kay Vesole, who was mortally injured in the German attacks on Bari, Italy, in December 1943. Some say he deserves the Medal of Honor. Originally published in the Quad Cities Times, Davenport, Iowa. A detailed history of the Bari raid is found on the Armed Guard website. [May 26, 2009]

Read about the experiences of World War II merchant marine officer James Philip Grant, in an article published in The Daily News of Batavia, New York. [May 7, 2009]

A new book, PACIFIC EXPRESS - The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II, by William L. McGee, examines the vital but little-appreciated value of logistics in waging and winning World War II in the Pacific theater. Chapter 5 of the book is devoted to the role of the U.S. merchant marine and the Naval Armed Guard. [May 4, 2009]

Rick Pitz has finished the transcription of "Amphibious Operations, Invasion of Northern France, Western Task Force, June 1944." As Rick notes, although this is not directly about the Armed Guard, it provides interesting insights on the massive planning effort that went into the landings, which were, of course, supported by Naval Armed Guard units. Thanks again, Rick. [April 21, 2009]

Read about the war experiences of Armed Guard veteran Sherwood Franks, for which he earned a Bronze Star, in a two-part series in the Apex (North Carolina) Herald. The two articles are found here and here. Your webmaster is trying hard to overlook the fact that the reporter used the term "knots per hour" to describe the speed of a Liberty ship. Aaaugh! [April 20, 2009]

U.S. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) has suggested arming merchant ships as a deterrent to piracy. He urges the federal government to deploy military personnel to provide security aboard U.S. flagged vessels operating along the Somali coastline. Coffman specifically refers to the Navy Armed Guard as a model to follow in the current situation. Read about it here. [April 16, 2009]

Armed Guard veterans who served on ships that participated in operations bringing war supplies to the Soviet Union, including but not limited to "the Murmansk run," may be eligible for a commemorative medal awarded by Russia. See this page on the Armed Guard website for details. [April 1, 2009]

The February - April 2009 issue of The Pointer is now online. [March 12, 2009]

Our friend Rick Pitz has completed work in transcribing History of the Eastern Sea Frontier, related to naval operations on the U.S. East Coast. He has now turned his attention to transcribing "Amphibious Operations - Invasion of Northern France, Western Task Force, June 1944," which concentrates on the D-Day landings, from the view point of the Navy. Rick is performing an invaluable service in making available these historical documents. Thanks, Rick. [March 10, 2009]

Read about Armed Guard gunner's mate Fred Greeno, who was recently able to find, contact and thank the captain of a British corvette who saved Greeno's life by rescuing him from the North Atlantic after his ship was torpedoed. For a description of the action in which Greeno's ship was lost, see The Battle For Convoy ONS 5. [March 10, 2009]

Rick Pitz has completed work on transcribing "Anti Submarine Warfare in World War II." His next project is transcribing "History of the Eastern Sea Frontier." Thanks, Rick! [February 4, 2009]

The October 2008/January 2009 issue of The Pointer is now online. Inside: a long article on the Murmansk Run, among many other items of interest. [December 11, 2008]

Our friend Rick Pitz continues the invaluable task of transcribing historical documents having important connections with the World War II Navy Armed Guard and merchant marine. He has completed work on War at Sea 1939-1945, Volume II, part of the United Kingdom Military Series, which covers much of the period of U.S. involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic. Rick has now turned his attention to transcribing "Antisubmarine Warfare in World War II" which includes material on submarine encounters with convoys. Thanks, Rick! [October 27, 2008]

The May/September 2008 issue of The Pointer is now online. The front cover honors an old friend of ours, Tom Bowerman. Inside: information on an Armed Guard/Merchant Marine reunion scheduled for May 2009 in Tampa, Florida; pictures from "The Arctic Convoys" conference held in Iceland last month; and articles on the SS HENRY A. BACON and on the Murmansk Run, among many other items of interest. [August 14, 2008]

While the name of the website is misleading, WW2 Cruisers has information on ships sunk during World War I and World War II, including Liberty ships, cargo ships and passenger ships, as well as cruisers and other warships. Pictures of many ships are available, along with at least basic information about ships that were lost, plus stories of specific ships and specific actions (mostly involving warships). If you are searching for information about a ship that was sunk, this may be a useful place to search. [August 14, 2008]

Read about and listen to Armed Guard veteran Alfred Elam and his experiences in the sinking of the Liberty ship SS JAMES K POLK, in an article and video from the Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Illinois. [July 24, 2008]

Photographs and wartime stories of U.S. merchant marine radio operators can be found at the Soldier's Museum website, in the Merchant Marine Gallery. [July 22, 2008]

Gerald Reminick, a college professor in New York, has written a number of books on the World War II Armed Guard and merchant marine. Now he's researching another book, on World War II-era tugboat operations, and is soliciting stories to include in that book. If you have anything you can offer to Gerry, here is more information about what he needs and how to contact him. [July 21, 2008]

Listen to four audio files about the wartime experiences of Armed Guard veteran Michael Louis Molinari, including his recollections of the Murmansk run and the Normandy invasion. These recordings are part of the Collier County (Florida) oral history project, "World War II -- Capture Living History," where the recollections of other veterans are also available. [July 8, 2008]

Read the World War II experiences of merchant mariners Henry Rehder and Cyril Wyche. Their recollections are part of an oral history project, World War II: Through the Eyes of the Cape Fear, sponsored by the University of North Carolina and the Cape Fear Museum. Your webmaster couldn't find any Armed Guard stories in the collection. [June 17, 2008]

The website provides access to a database of passengers arrivals in New York City from 1820 to 1957. Included in this database are the names of Armed Guard and merchant marine crew members whose ships arrived in New York during World War II. This can be an invaluable source of information in tracing individuals or their shipmates. A subscription to is necessary to access this database; subscription information is linked from the homepage. The database of passenger arrivals is found here. Also see this posting on the Armed Guard message board for more information. [May 1, 2008]

On April 15, 2008, the Mediterranean island of Malta re-enacted the award, 66 years ago to the day, of the George Cross to the people of Malta for their bravery and will during World War II. Malta was crucial to the control of the eastern Mediterranean and to the resupply of Nazi forces in North Africa. King George VI awarded the George Cross, the highest British award to civilians for bravery, to the entire citizenry of Malta, to encourage them as they withstood constant attack from Axis forces in 1942. Read about the re-enactment. Supply convoys, including the famed Operation Pedestal, barely kept Malta from falling to the Axis powers; Malta remained under Allied control throughout the war. [April 16, 2008]

Our friend Rick Pitz has finished transcribing the "General Instructions for Commanding Officers of Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships." Rick has now turned his attention to transcribing the portions of the "Administrative History of the Third Naval District" relating to the Brooklyn Armed Guard Center. Thanks again, Rick! [April 10, 2008]

The website Veteran Wireless Operators Association has a new search feature, identifying all radio operators lost at sea during World War II. Most are merchant marine radio officers but Armed Guard radiomen are also listed. While not specifically identified as such, Armed Guard radiomen are distinguishable by their ratings of RM1, RM2 and RM3 (radioman first class, second class and third class, respectively) in each record, while merchant marine radio officers are identified as RO (radio officer). The searchable database is at This is an invaluable tool for anyone searching for information about lost radio operators, either merchant marine or Armed Guard. [April 9, 2008]

Read the recollections of World War II merchant seaman Leonard E. Varnam, recently contributed by his daughter. [March 13, 2008]

Read this article about the "Murmansk run" and the destruction of convoy PQ-17, which was originally published in World War II magazine. [March 10, 2008]

Read an interesting article on Armed Guard and merchant marine sailors who served on foreign-flagged ships during World War II. Yank Sailors on Foreign Flag Ships was originally published in Sea Classics Magazine. [March 5, 2008]

Why Me, Lord? by William A. Carter is a book detailing the experiences of a U.S. Navy Armed Guard officer who survived the infamous convoy PQ-17 on the "Murmansk Run" during World War II. Of 36 ships in that convoy, 25 were lost after their armed escorts were ordered away and the convoy was told to scatter. The book is available from the publisher. [February 27, 2008]

Tell your story! The American Folklife Center of the U.S. Library of Congress sponsors a Veterans History Project by which veterans or family members may contribute stories of wartime service. You may contribute personal narratives, correspondence or visual materials. Among the holdings are contributions from 129 Armed Guard veterans and 259 merchant mariners. Read additional information. [February 27, 2008]

The Honor Flight Network honors America's veterans for their service by flying them, free of charge, to Washington, DC to visit the World War II Memorial. Top priority is given to the most senior veterans those from World War II along with other veterans who may be terminally ill. If you or a loved one would like to take advantage of this opportunity, visit the Honor Flight Network website for information. [February 20, 2008]

A newspaper article in the Albany (New York) Times-Union refers to a Congressional resolution recognizing the members of the World War II Navy Armed Guard. The article states that "...Armed Guard Service veterans are now entitled to receive a congressional Certificate of Appreciation. Veterans can obtain a certificate by writing and sending a copy of their DD-214 discharge document to their congressman or woman or senator." You may wish to contact Arthur Fazzone, 3936 Albany Street, Schenectady, NY 12304-4371, phone 518-374-5377, or Peter Falasco, 49 Monroe Ave., Latham, NY 12110, phone 518-785-7890, for additional information. They are members of the Capital District Chapter of the U.S. Navy Armed Guard and Merchant Marine Association, in the Albany, New York area. [February 6, 2008]

Here's another newspaper article, from the Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor, in which Armed Guard veteran Bob Davis shares his memories. [January 31, 2008]

Rick Pitz continues to find and transcribe official U.S. Navy documents related to the Armed Guard. These documents are lengthy, detailed and absolutely invaluable. Here are the documents that he has transcribed to date:

Administrative History Arming of Merchant Ships and Naval Armed Guard Service in World War II

History of the Naval Armed Guard Afloat

History of Convoy and Routing

Anti-Submarine and Escort of Convoy Instructions

He is currently working on "General Instructions for Commanding Officers of Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships" which should be completed shortly. Thanks, Rick! [January 8, 2008]

A hero page has been added for George Winters at the request of his son Gary. [December 5, 2007]

This article in the New York Post from December 2006 gives a brief but excellent overview of the U.S. Navy Armed Guard. [November 15, 2007]

Hero pages have been added for Junior Dillmore and Jesse Ramella. [November 15, 2007]

Read about U.S. Navy Armed Guard veteran Joseph Pauro, who survived the sinking of two ships, the SS Henry Knox on June 19, 1943, and the SS Juan De Fuca on Dec. 31, 1944. Despite those experiences, he says his one regret was leaving the Navy. Originally published in the Courier-Post, Cherry Hill, New Jersey. [November 13, 2007]

Read this story, originally published in the Hickory (North Carolina) Daily Record about U.S. Navy Armed Guard veteran John H. McDonald. [November 8, 2007]

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