Opening Statement of Hon. Michael F. Doyle, a Representative in Congress from the State of Pennsylvania
The United States has always been a maritime nation. From the beginning of the original 13 colonies, the people of this land have depended heavily on sea travel and maritime commerce for their existence. Britain’s colonies in North America all depended upon the mother country in the 17th and 18th centuries as the primary market for their products – and as a source of manufactured goods and, of course, much-needed new immigrants.
The U.S. merchant marine played an even more important role in our nation’s fortunes in the 20th century. U.S. merchant ships played a critical role in World War Two. Without U.S. ships, it’s almost certain that Great Britain would have succumbed to the Nazi onslaught, and it’s not clear that the Soviet Union could have triumphed over Germany on the Eastern Front. And – needless to say – without the United States merchant fleet, our armed forces could never have carried out the island-hopping campaign that eventually brought about Imperial Japan’s surrender.
The United States Merchant Marine provided the greatest sealift in history. And it paid a correspondingly significant price.
U.S. merchant ships faced danger from submarines, mines, aircraft, and the elements. One in 26 mariners serving aboard merchant ships in World WW II died in the line of duty, suffering a higher percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. services. It’s no wonder, then that during World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt and many military leaders labeled the U.S. Merchant Marine the "Fourth Arm of our Defense."
I’m sorry that my schedule conflicts with another hearing, so I won’t be able to stay for the entire hearing, but I want to close by saying that our World War II merchant mariners deserve more than just our recognition and our thanks. They also deserve the same benefits as other veterans of World War II. That’s why I thank Chairman Filner for his tireless work on this bill and why I’m proud to cosponsor of the “Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act.”