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Archive for the ‘The Merchant Marine Experience’ Category

The U.S. wartime merchant fleet constituted one of the most significant contributions to the winning of the Second World War, by means of carrying supplies, equipment and men.  Merchants faced danger from submarines, mines, armed raiders, destroyers, aircraft “kamikaze”, and the elements.  One in 26 mariners serving aboard merchant ships in World War II died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other services.

This is an account from the experience of one of those brave men, my stepfather First Mate John J. Diehl, sailing on one of the 36 victory ships in the dangerous North Atlantic waters, under the protection of a convoy trying desperately to defend the merchant ships and their cargo.  While on the Murmansk Run, they were being attacked relentlessly in the dark of night, outnumbered and outmaneuvered by German U-boats (Wolf Packs).

At that time, the fleet was delivering Lend Lease supplies to Soviet Russia.  It was the most perilous route for convoys in July 1942, as only 11 of the 36 merchant men ships in Convoy PG17 reached Murmansk.  My stepfather was one of the lucky 11 to reach his destination, and after the war ended he studied and earned the title of captaincy in the Merchant Marine.  Later taking part in the Korean Campaign, he was given the “King Neptune Ceremony” aboard his ship, which describes his having sailed all seven seas.

Submitted by Beverly Brand, Quincy

To find out more about the experience of Merchant Mariners during World War II, check the library catalog for this recent oral history on the topic.

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