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National Maritime Day honors U.S. Merchant Marine

National Maritime Day honors U.S. Merchant Marine

Today, National Maritime Day, we commemorate the courage, service, and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Merchant Marine, who since the founding of our republic have played crucial roles ensuring our nation’s security and expanding our economy.

Photo of officials saluting the sacrifice of U.S. merchant mariners

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called American merchant mariners our nation’s “fourth arm of defense,” and with good reason. During World War II, more than 215,000 Americans served in the U.S. Merchant Marine—transporting troops and equipment overseas, and maintaining the vital supply lines necessary to liberate our allies from tyranny.  Often sailing into harm’s way, the Merchant Marine never wavered. In 1945 alone, the U.S. Merchant Marine delivered an average of 17 million pounds of combat-related cargo every hour.

Just like members of our nation’s Armed Forces, many merchant mariners made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  In accomplishing the global logistics effort to support our troops during World War II, the U.S. Merchant Marine had one of the highest casualty rates of any service.  Nearly one in 30 merchant mariners did not survive the conflict, including 142 midshipmen from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Today, the U.S. Merchant Marine continues to serve in support of the Department of Defense —delivering more than 90 percent of the cargo needed to support military operations and reconstruction efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

While America’s merchant mariners remain vital to our national security, at the same time they continue to support our economy. During times of peace, merchant mariners have reliably crewed U.S.-Flag vessels to carry American imports and exports to and from our shores. With more than 75 percent of our international trade goods currently moving by water, merchant mariners are a fundamental facilitator of modern American life.

Through unceasing service, the U.S. Merchant Marine has enabled American prosperity and security for more than two centuries. On National Maritime Day, we recognize this critically important American asset, remember their sacrifice, and renew our commitment to the merchant mariners who have provided--and continue to provide--so much for our country.

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