Tuesday, July 22, 2014

WW II Coastwise Mariners Still Struggle for Recognition as Veterans


Although America advocates strong support for our veterans,  an estimated 1,000 surviving World War II U.S. coastwise merchant mariners continue their battle with  Congress to collect benefits they were promised but have been denied for decades, including burials in the country’s 120 national cemeteries.

The WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners implores our Senators to expedite passage of The World War II Merchant Marine Service Act. It is a provision of H.R. 4435 -- the National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 22, 2014.  The WW II Merchant Mariners  Service Act is also a provision of S 2410 – the National Defense Authorization Act that is awaiting Senate approval.

In October, 2013, the Merchant Marine Act was passed as part of H. R. 2189, a bill to improve the processing of disability claims by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Act was drowning in the Senate without action since it was sent to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  Eventually, it failed.

Amidst the current uproar and active investigation of the entire Veterans Affairs Department, these Acts have received little attention.    Now that they are provisions of the National Defense Authorization Acts there is renewed hope for passage.

These last remaining WWII merchant heroes, who dodged Hitler’s Nazi U-Boat torpedoes and Japanese Kamikaze missions, while delivering bulk war materials to defense plants that manufactured the supplies for our U.S. troops, may all be gone before they receive the benefits they rightfully earned, if the matter continues to tread water in the Senate.

The 2014 bills will make it easier for World War II coastwise merchant marine veterans to qualify for VA benefits. While the 1977 Act recognized WWII merchant mariners as combat veterans, the criteria for benefit qualifications, including documentation of actual service, are difficult to meet. The 2014 Acts reduce the amount of documentation necessary to prove World War II service to Homeland Security officials.

These required documents were lost, denied or never issued during the 1942 recruitment rush that included youngsters, seniors, women and even partially disabled mariners that did not qualify for the armed forces but did meet merchant marine standards.

During World War II, thousands of Americans stepped forward to serve as an extension of our armed forces when our nation was in great need.   These brave men and women for far too long have been denied the proper recognition of their service.   The Senate must pass this bill so these fine Americans can finally receive the distinctions they deserve.


Help us make this happen by signing and sharing this petition requesting our US Senators to step up and get the job done to have these few remaining coastwise mariners recognized for their services. @:    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/ww-ii-merchant-mariners

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Letter to Missouri Senators with one to all US Senators

WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners
J. Don Horton, President                                                                         252 336 5553                                                                              jdonhorton@embarqmail.com
104 Riverview Ave, Camden, NC 27921                                                                                                                                                       http://usmmv.blogspot.com
                                                                                                                                                                               18 Jul, 2014

The Honorable Claire McCaskill, D-MO                                              The Honorable Roy Blunt, R-MO
Member US Senate                                                                              Member US Senate
506 Hart SOB, Wash. DC 20510                                                        260 Russell SOB. Wash. DC 20510

Dear Senators McCaskill and Blunt,

On behalf some 30,000 WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners and their families, we urge you to support S-1361, the World War II Merchant Mariner Service Act. Its companion legislation in the House, HR 1288, had over 93 bipartisan cosponsors, and has been incorporated into the NDAA. S. 1361 has been amended and incorporated into S. 2410, the NDAA.

This legislation would significantly help World War II Merchant Mariner gain their overdue status as veterans for services to our country.  Historians estimate that between 250,000 to 410,000 Mariners served, yet only 91,000 have been recognized as veterans.  This gap is partly caused by the difficulty in meeting verification requirements for Mariners, which include certificates of shipping/discharge, discharge books, logbooks and company letters showing vessel names and dates of voyages. A 1987 court order bestowed veteran status, but required documentation are almost impossible for many Mariners to acquire; the CMDT USCG Order of 20 March 1944 relieved masters of tugs, towboats, and seagoing barges of the responsibility of submitting reports; the War Shipping Administration (WSA)  kept continuous discharge books, which were destroyed in the 1970s. Two of the three acceptable forms of documentation for eligibility are simply not available to many of the mariners.  Cost is no issue as CBO states it as DeMinimis.

The challenge this burden creates for female WWII mariners is even greater.  As the WSA, Adm. Emory S. Land, declared that there was no place in the Merchant Marine for women, the US Coast Guard did not document women or schoolchildren who served. Many served anyway and did what was asked of them and without any recognition for their work. They served in every position on board.  They performed the same duties and experienced the same dangers other documented seafarers faced from the enemy German U-boats menacing our Coastal waters. They were paid salaries and Social Security taxes were taken from their wages, yet they will not receive the recognition they earned unless S.1361 is passed via the National Defense Authorization Act, S-2410.

We seek your support as cosponsors to S-1361 and S-2410 in easing the burdens for our World War II Merchant Marine veterans.  It is the right thing to do.  Thank you for your support
Very Respectfully,
J. Don Horton

J. Don Horton. President                                                     Fax To:          202 228 6326 & 202 224 8149 

Lost/Denied Records Prevent WW II Merchant Mariners from Gaining Recognition as Veterans.

LOSS OF RECORDS FOR VETERANS STILL CONTINUES
Our American veterans are continually denied recognition and benefits for their services due to lack of records to verify eligibility of service.  More often than we care to believe it is not the fault of the veteran.  Current regulations place the responsibility upon the veteran to prove eligibility of service.  The veteran relies on the US Government processes to compile and maintain those records.  Legislation is in place to insure those records are contained and protected but there have been too many veterans denied rights because records do not exist to prove their eligibility for benefits and recognition.

Oversight inspections at various agencies continually reveal discrepancies in the maintenance of records for our veterans in all military services including the merchant marine. A press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) dated 16 October, 2008 revealed the VA inspector general earlier this month found problems with documents improperly marked for disposal at benefits offices in four cities: St. Petersburg, Detroit, St. Louis and Waco. While the IG continued, the VA began a separate inquiry that found nearly 500 documents improperly placed in shredder bins in about two thirds of the agency’s 57 benefits offices. 

Generally the Inspector General conducts an inspection of their facilities just once every three years.  In this incidence, one inspection brought forth a report that about 67% of one agency’s offices were discovered to be in the process of destroying  pertinent official veterans’ records crucial to receiving benefits or recognition for services.  This finding would suggest that potential for widespread loss of valuable veteran records is exceedingly high and could transcend across all agencies.  If this finding is considered that it occurred on only one day at one activity, then, using this calculation as a yardstick for measure, it is conceivable that it is happening at approximately 67% of all activities on 67% of all work days, and for 67% of all years that records have been required to have been retained. This amounts to staggering numbers of records lost to the veteran when they need them for support of their request for service and recognition.  It appears we have let the veteran down considerably after they have done their part with their service to our country.  They deserve better than this and we are required to provide better than this on their behalf of what they have done for us.

Again, this is just another incident of careless handling, by persons who have been given the responsibility of preserving records of our nation’s veterans. The destruction of those records would very well result in the veteran’s loss of eligibility of deserving benefits the way the system is currently viewed.  Many veterans’ request for eligibility has been denied due to lack of records that verify their service.  A large portion of those denied would have had no problem being certified had the proper authorities simply complied with existing requirements.  In other cases those in authority had little foresight in how important these service documents would be when it comes to gaining recognition for the sacrifices the veteran has given to gain their eligibility. 

This has been a continuing problem confronting those who have served and have fully earned the right to be recognized for their service. There are many veterans who have been denied their due recognition simply because “there is no evidence in your records that attest to your eligibility for services” being written on their returned DD Form 2168s, request for discharge.  A casual review of records having been made by a government employee and simply returned without benefit of knowledge of or not utilizing an existing  system in use for maintaining accurate and complete records as they pertain to an individual’s service to our country is simply not acceptable.
In addition to the ongoing discoveries by the VA IG, other past losses demonstrate the veteran is at a severe disadvantage in proving his eligibility for recognition and benefits:

(1)   The GAO Audit, GAO-06-1010, Sept 2006, cited several deficiencies of the joint services in gathering, obtaining and reporting information relative to the casualty information processing. GAO recommended closer support of agencies and working with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to insure the Veteran received the best service possible.  Still, two years after, the mishandling of documents continues. 

(2)   During WW II similar situations occurred that made recognition for services near impossible for some veterans of the US Merchant Marine.  On March 20, 1944, the Commandant of the US Coast Guard issued an order to relieve the masters of tugs, towboats and seagoing barges of the requirement for submitting reports of seaman shipped and discharged on the same form now required to prove his employment for eligibility; affecting many seamen.

(3)   A search of the NARA  at  the Modern Military Records Branch in College Park, MD to retrieve information from ships’ logs for evidence of  employment  brought forth this report, “After World War II, the deck and engineering logbooks of vessels operated by the War Shipping Administration were turned over to that agency by the ship owners, and were later destroyed, by the Maritime Administration, in 1970 on the grounds that they were voluminous, costly to house and service, and very seldom used for research”.

There will always be incidents of human failure be it by inexperience, shortsightedness, inefficiency, or disregard.  Even with the various oversights in place to prevent mishaps, conditions will still exist denying the veteran his recognition for his service unless action is taken to improvise and adapt for the loss of documentation from the fault of others than the veteran.  To date the officials who are responsible for the issuance of eligibility, maintain the responsibility for recognition is that of the veteran.  However, without those documents that are being consistently destroyed by those who are responsible for their safekeeping, the veteran simply cannot prove his position. Measures must be taken to allow for these mishaps and allowances for other means of recognition must be accepted if the veteran is to gain his rightful and well earned recognition for his services and benefits owed to him by our country.  Restrictions on some of those requirements for eligibility must be relaxed and latitude for proof of eligibility must be offered by some means of substitution or other improvising.

The authors of Public Laws 95-202 and 105-368 had good intentions to right a wrong that was unjustly levied on those merchant seamen that served during World War II; but they were never privy to these serious errors that have been committed regarding the maintenance of those records that are now necessary to prove one’s eligibility. If so, provisions would have been made to rectify those thoughtless actions.  Now those authors must be made aware of the problems to satisfy the criteria maintained by the National Maritime Center (NMC) in recognition of services.  As far as can be determined, the NMC does not comply with the instructions specified within the DODI 1300.18.  They rely on their own archaic record keeping and ill-informed personnel to prepare the two most revered documents the services produce, DD 214 and DD 1300.  There are systems in place that would supplement the required information in recommendations within the GAO report GAO 06-1010 if they were implemented.  The SSA can provide necessary information regarding employment dates and names of employing companies for the veteran that will certify employment.  The NMC should adopt the DODI 1300.18 as their implementing instruction for the Casualty Affairs Program, if they are not already required to do so.  Alternative measures are necessary to replace the lost documentation conducted under the auspices of governmental dictate.
A petition is available below to help these mariners gain their overdue and well earned status as veterans. Please sign and share with your friends.
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/ww-ii-merchant-mariners

Monday, July 14, 2014

Giving Merchant Mariners their due

Giving Merchant Mariners their due

Published July 13. 2014 4:00AM
A year after World War II ended, the government reported the death toll for each of the armed forces during the war and the numbers ranged from 318,274 for the Army to 1,917 for the Coast Guard.
Listed separately were the 5,662 killed in the Merchant Marine, along with 4,780 others missing, but presumed dead. This amounted to one in 24 merchant seamen killed in action, higher than the mortality rate of any of the regular armed forces. Many of them were killed aboard the hundreds of vessels sunk by German submarines.
The Merchant Marine dead were segregated from the other forces after the war because their ships carried war cargo but did not have what they called an official combat mission. As a result, their crews were not recognized as veterans until a federal court ruled they were in 1988 - if they could prove they had served in the war.
And therein lies the problem. Some of these veterans never had records of their service from the ships they sailed on or they misplaced them over the years. Many of the government records concerning those who served on merchant ships were lost in a fire in the 1970s.
The lack of records is especially a problem for merchant mariners who served aboard the tugs and barges that carried supplies for the war to along the coasts of the United States. These seamen - and women and sometimes children - were a motley crew. A group of more than 1,000 from these barges and tugs was identified by a Merchant Marine advocacy group and found to include 84 with women's names, 47 under the age of 17 and 525 over the draft age. They were men rejected by the draft for physical disabilities. They ranged in age from 10 to 78.
Tug boats and barges were often operated by members of a single family in peacetime and the practice continued during the war, which accounts for the many crew members disqualified for normal military service or the draft by virtue of their age and gender or physical disability. But this didn't prevent them from risking - and sometimes losing - their lives in their country's service.
They were the people cited by President Franklin Roosevelt in a Fireside Chat during the first year of the war when he warned, "We shall be compelled to use older men and handicapped people and more women and even grown boys and girls wherever possible." He later said those on merchant ships had "the most difficult job ever undertaken."
Now the few hundred surviving crew members with inadequate credentials are trying to gain the recognition long denied a a few benefits that include care in a veterans' hospital, eligibility for medals and the right to be buried in military cemeteries.
A bill introduced in the Senate last year by Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy and Republican Susan Collins of Maine and in the House by 2nd District Congressman Joseph Courtney and others from both parties would allow these elderly men and women to qualify through time logs, Social Security records and affidavits from those who witnessed their service.
A 2011 bill, passed by the House, would also award these survivors $1,000 a month for the rest of their lives, mainly because they are no longer likely to use benefits like education or home loans that were available to other veterans for decades.
The bills haven't passed because relatively few pieces of legislation have been acted upon in this polarized Congress. There is some opposition from veterans groups who argue the merchant seamen and women who operated the barges along the coast didn't fight, but that's also true of 38 percent of the all the World War II members of the military who served in essential, rear echelon jobs. And the sinking of a merchant ship off Fishers Island, with the loss of a dozen crew members on May 5, 1945, three days before the war in Europe ended, indicates service along the coast also came with risks.
"When final victory is ours," Gen. Dwight Eisenhower wrote at the height of the war, "there is no organization that will share in its credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine."
It's time for the last of them to share in that credit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WW II Merchant Mariners Refused Memorial Day Benefits


Monday, May 26, 2014

May 23, 2014

WWII Merchant Mariners Refused Memorial Day Benefits

SS John W. Brown, one of two surviving operational Liberty ships, photographed in 2000

As America memorializes its fallen service men and women this weekend, the estimated 10,000 surviving World War II U.S. merchant marines continue their battle with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Congress to collect benefits they were promised but have been denied for decades, including burials in the country’s 120 national cemeteries.

The International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, the world’s oldest preeminent professional merchant marine union, implores Senators returning to Washington after the Memorial Day recess to expedite passage of The World War II Merchant Marine Service Act. It is a provision of H.R. 4435 -- the National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 22, 2014.

The provision is authored by North Carolina Democratic Congressman G. K. Butterfield who has pursued legislation for three years that empowers World War II U.S. Merchant Mariners with eligibility for veterans’ status and benefits.  The bill now heads to the Senate.

In October, 2013, the Merchant Marine Act was passed as part of H. R. 2189, a bill to improve the processing of disability claims by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Act was drowning in the Senate without action since it was sent to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, according to MM&P. Eventually, it failed.

“Amidst the current uproar and active investigation of the entire Veterans Affairs Department, the Act has received little attention,”  says Captain James Staples, MM&P’s Senior Advisor. “Now that it is a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act there is renewed hope for passage.”

He continues, “These last remaining WWII merchant heroes who dodged Hitler’s Nazi U-Boat torpedoes and Japanese Kamikaze missions, while delivering supplies to U.S. troops, may all be gone before they receive the benefits they rightfully earned, if the matter continues to tread water in committee.”

Staples is a 35-year deep ocean vessel captain and amongst the world’s foremost maritime industry experts often appearing on national news channels and in major daily newspapers. “In 1977 passage of the GI Bill Improvement Act deemed WWII merchant mariners as combat veterans entitled to healthcare and disability benefits, presentation of medals and ribbons and flagged-draped casket and 21 gun salute funerals.”

Congressman’s Three Year Effort For Passage

According to Congressman Butterfield, “The 2014 bill makes it easier for World War II merchant marine veterans to qualify for VA benefits. While the 1977 Act recognized WWII merchant mariners as combat veterans, the criteria for benefit qualifications, including documentation of actual service, were difficult to meet. The 2014 Act reduces the amount of documentation necessary to prove World War II service to Homeland Security officials.”

According to the Congressman, “These required documents were either lost, stolen or never issued during the 1942 recruitment rush that included youngsters, seniors, women and even partially disabled mariners that did not qualify for the armed forces but did meet merchant marine standards.”

During World War II, thousands of Americans stepped forward to serve as an extension of our armed forces when our nation was in great need,” says Butterfield.  “These brave men and women for far too long have been denied the proper recognition of their service.  With the help of my colleagues, I hope the Senate passes this bill so these fine Americans can finally receive the distinctions they deserve."

If the Act passes the Senate, these veterans, many 85 or more years-old, might still be able to enjoy the few benefits they can actually use, which even includes such minor privileges as retail and travel discounts for veterans, according to Staples.

World War II Merchant Mariners

From 1941 to 1945, American private industry-owned cargo, vehicle transport and tanker vessels transported armaments, fuel, supplies and troops to the European and Pacific theaters. These so-called Liberty ships were lightly armed, voyaged in convoys, sometimes with destroyer escorts; they were easy enemy prey, especially when a solo ship wandered -off course in fog or was unable to maintain speed, according to Staples, a 35 year veteran ship captain and president of OceanRiver Maritime Consulting.

“Among the most widely publicized attacks that terrorized many Americans was the July 8, 1942  sinking of the Tanker MS J. A. Moffett. It was attacked by Nazi U-571 off the coast of the Florida Keys while heading to a Port Arthur, Texas refinery, returning from delivering fuel to the Port of Baltimore,” recalls Staples.

According to the now-defunct U.S. War Department, There were more than 3,000 merchant marine Liberty Ships. More than 200,000 merchant mariners serving during World War II. More than 9,000 merchant marine men and women were killed in action. More than 15,000 were seriously injured.

World War II Recruiting

While the Army, Air Corps, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines had physical and age requirements for enlistees and recruits, the U.S. Maritime Service did not.

People eager to serve but unqualified for the armed forces found solace in the U.S. Merchant Marine Service. It officially accepted 16 year old boys; unofficially accepted youngsters and even senior citizens, including retired ship masters in their 70's. Often overwhelmed Navy recruiters intentionally denied qualified candidates; insuring plenty of merchant mariners.

Merchant Marine vessels were known as Liberty Ships

Hollywood popularized the Merchant Marine in 1943 with the release of "Action on the North Atlantic" starring Humphrey Bogart. Enlistments increased substantially.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What is a Friend-------What is a Patriot

What is a friend?
A friend is someone who is close, an acquaintance, an ally, an advocate, a supporter, patron, or someone who you trust and who stands up for/with you, according to the dictionary. What is a friend according to Facebook? It must not be one of the above. I have reached out to my Facebook friends in hopes some would be friends as stated in dictionary. Boy was I fooled.

What is a Patriot?
The dictionary says it is a proud supporter or defender of his or her country and its way of life. How about Facebook? Could it be near the same as the dictionary? I don’t think so. I reached out to my Facebook friends for support and boy was I fooled.

With over 700 friends/family on my Facebook accounts and over 35,000 members of 10 Tugboat Groups who are my extended mariner family, I would expect a bit more support than what has been shown for a specific cause that deals with our veterans from WW II. I have asked that my “friends” and “extended family” both sign and share a petition I have circulating on the Facebook that is located at the Navy League of United States website. I have asked that my “friends” and “extended family” to stand up for our WW II Coastwise Mariners and help me get legislation passed that will afford them an opportunity to gain their due status as veterans. I have asked my “friends” and “extended family” to be a patriot with me and stand up for those that stood up for us in WW II and played a very important part in preserving our freedom we take for granted today. SAD TO SAY MY “FRIENDS” and “EXTENDED FAMILY” has not stood up for this cause. Only 15 have done so as of today. WHERE do you stand?

Please help me get those few remaining women, children and elderly disabled seafarers recognized. Please sign and share the petition located at:http://cqrcengage.com/navyleague/app/write-a-letter?9&engagementId=53252

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Merchant Seamen Struck firs Blow for US Independence

July 03, 2014

Merchant Seamen Struck First Blow for U.S. Independence

On July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually involve France's intervention on behalf of the Americans.

Privateers and Mariners in the Revolutionary War

The 13 Colonies, having declared their Independence, had only 31 ships comprising the Continental Navy. To add to this, they issued Letters of Marque to privately owned, armed merchant ships and Commissions for privateers, which were outfitted as warships to prey on enemy merchant ships. Merchant seamen who manned these ships contributed to the very birth and founding of our Republic.

On June 12, 1775, near Round Island on Machias Bay the patriots crashed into the British armed schooner Margaretta and engaged in hand to hand combat. The British crew was disheartened when their captain was mortally wounded and lost the one hour long battle. 25 of the combatants were killed or wounded. The victors claimed "four double fortified three pounders and fourteen swivels" and some smaller guns.

This was considered the first sea engagement of the Revolution and the start of the merchant marine's war role.

Because of British policy regarding import of gunpowder, the colonists did not have enough to repel the third British charge at Bunker Hill. A survey by George Washington at the time showed army stockpiles were sufficient for 9 rounds per man. By 1777, the privateers and merchantmen brought in over 2 million pounds of gunpowder and saltpeter. 

Privateer John Manley captured the Nancy, supplying the American army with 2,000 muskets, 31 tons of musket shot, 7,000 round-shot for cannon, and other ammunition. Captain Jonathan Haraden from Salem, Massachusetts, who captured 1,000 British cannon, was considered one of the best sea-fighters, successfully taking on three armed British ships at the same time. Privateers captured countless British reinforcements and over 10,000 seamen, keeping them out of the British Navy.

In 1777, there were 11,000 privateers at sea intercepting British shipping in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and even between Ireland and England.

Together, the Continental Navy and privateers captured 16,000 British prisoners, a substantial contribution in comparison with the 15,000 prisoners taken by the entire Continental Army before the surrender at Yorktown. The crew of the privateers were well paid for their hazardous work, earning as much as $1,000 for one voyage, while average pay at the time was $9 per month.

About 55,000 American seamen served aboard the privateers. When captured by the British Navy, they were given a choice: join the British Navy or prison. The conditions of captivity aboard the prison ships, mostly abandoned ships moored in New York harbor, were inhuman. The most infamous of these was the HMS Jersey. About 11,000 privateers died of disease and malnutrition, their bodies dumped onto the mud flats of Wallabout Bay, where Brooklyn Navy Yard now stands.

These Mariners lost their lives in the founding of our Nation and were a major factor in the winning of the Revolution.

Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was largely the work of Virginian Thomas Jefferson. The declaration features the immortal lines, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It then goes on to present a long list of grievances that provided the rationale for rebellion. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve a Virginia motion calling for separation from Britain. The dramatic words of this resolution were added to the closing of the Declaration of Independence.

Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by 12 colonies after minor revision. New York, the 13th colony, approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed. 

Many Americans celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and patriotic displays of red, white and blue, just as the founding fathers commemorated the Fourth of July at the end of the Revolutionary War. 

This is a time for us to reflect on how we can best uphold the same ideals that drove our founding fathers to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, which among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."