During the national Memorial Day concert May 28 on the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Public Broadcasting Service and Capital Concerts will honor more than 9,500 U.S. Merchant Marine men and women who were killed in action during World War II.
WWII Merchant Marine veterans, representing the American Merchant Marine Veterans organization, will be honored in a special segment of the concert.
He said this nation does not realize there have been Merchant Marines since the colonization of the East Coast.
He said America was of necessity a mercantile nation, and in all wars, ships manned by civilian sailors carried supplies wherever needed.
The Merchant Marines were a heroic group, and I am proud to have been one of them, he said.
"WWII needed thousands of men to man supply ships," Palmer said. "Boys and men who had been classified as 4-F stepped up not knowing this group had the highest risk factor of any of the services. No benefits were offered or received."
David Yoho, a WWII Merchant Marine veteran, will be a featured spokesman during the Concert.
He will give a vivid and heartfelt interview about America’s fallen heroes and the value of the Merchant Marine that has been recognized by U.S. Presidents and America’s senior military leaders. Yoho’s moving description of his wartime experience as a teenager and his respect for all his Merchant Marine shipmates will be a highlight of the show.
To stream the event, click here.
In addition to Yoho’s interview, four Merchant Marine WWII veterans, William Balabanow, John Laughton, Charles Mills and George Worsham, will honor their fallen shipmates during the show. In particular, Laughton and Worsham survived enemy attacks that sank their ships and killed many of their fellow Merchant Mariners.
On September 14, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It seems to me particularly appropriate that Victory Fleet Day this year should honor the men and management of the American Merchant Marine. The operators in this war have written one of its most brilliant chapters. They have delivered the goods when and where needed in every theater of operations and across every ocean in the biggest, the most difficult and dangerous transportation job ever undertaken. As time goes on, there will be greater public understanding of our merchant fleet's record during this war.”
More than 240,000 U.S. Merchant Mariners served during WWII. They faced torpedoes, bombings, kamikaze attacks, ice, and storms to deliver millions of troops and the necessary military goods for the Allies’ war effort.
According to the U.S. War Shipping Administration, the U.S. Merchant Marine suffered one of the highest casualty rates of any service during WWII. Officially, a total of 1,554 merchant ships were sunk due to war conditions. Also, more than 1,800 U.S. Naval Armed Guard shipmates were killed or missing in action during WWII, while manning guns on merchant ships.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York honors 142 cadet midshipmen who died during WWII. Because of their supreme sacrifice, Kings Point is the only one of the Nation’s five federal service academies authorized to carry a Battle Standard flag as part of its Color Guard.
Capt. Dru DiMattia, president of American Merchant Marine Veterans, said he appreciates the decision to honor U.S. Merchant Marine WWII casualties during the national Memorial Day concert.
"This is a historical event for the U.S. Merchant Marine and our country. Our organization is honored by support from President Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, the Department of Defense, the Maritime Administration, the National Park Service, and the Friends of the National WWII Memorial,” DiMattia said.