World War II could not have been won without the U.S. Merchant Marine. Crewed by civilian seamen in peacetime and carrying much of the nation's ocean-borne commerce, the Merchant Marine became the "fourth arm of defense" in wartime, providing vital support for beachheads in all theaters of operation. Twenty World War II Merchant Marine veterans are featured in this oral history. Most had at least one ship torpedoed, bombed, shelled or mined out from under them--some of them two. Some became prisoners of the Japanese for the duration of the war, working on the infamous River Kwai Bridge. Many spent time on lifeboats or flimsy rafts under harsh conditions; one--Donald Zubrod--endured 42 days in a lifeboat with several others before their eventual rescue, close to death. American merchant mariners suffered a casualty rate that was a close second to the Marine Corps during the war.
A World War II merchant seaman, John Bunker takes a thorough look at the American merchant marines' significant contributions to the war effort. There are plenty of fascinating facts about their extensive supply operations, but the focus of the book is on the men and their often-heroic actions. Bunker draws from his own experiences to describe the action at sea and also includes the personal stories of many other civilian participants. It is a engaging portrayal of the courage, bravery, and ingenuity demonstrated by these merchant seamen. All theaters of operation using U.S. merchant ships are covered, and in addition, Bunker provides information on events before the country entered the war when efforts were being made to build more ships and to recruit the men necessary to crew the huge fleet.
World War II could not have been won without the U.S. Merchant Marine. Crewed by civilian seamen in peacetime and carrying much of the nation‘s ocean-borne commerce, the Merchant Marine became the “fourth arm of defense” in wartime, providing vital support for beachheads in all theaters of operation. Twenty World War II Merchant Marine veterans are featured in this oral history. Most had at least one ship torpedoed, bombed, shelled or mined out from under them—some of them two. Some became prisoners of the Japanese for the duration of the war, working on the infamous River Kwai Bridge. Many spent time on lifeboats or flimsy rafts under harsh conditions; one—Donald Zubrod—endured 42 days in a lifeboat with several others before their eventual rescue, close to death. American merchant mariners suffered a casualty rate that was a close second to the Marine Corps during the war.
“An interesting story about an interesting man, told in a most entertaining fashion. A real page turner” Dr Bob Allota, coauthor, “The Last Voyage of the SS Henry Bacon” In Waves Astern, E. Spurgeon Campbell recalls eight decades of adventures to exotic and sometimes isolated destinations while serving his country. At 20, Campbell was a radio operator in the Merchant Marine during World War II, later surviving enemy attacks and the sinking of the Henry Bacon whose “cargo” was a group of Norwegian refugees. Campbell recalls the February night in a lifeboat in the Arctic filled with terrified refugees, his efforts to send SOS signals in gale-force winds, and of their miraculous rescue. Decades later, he and the survivors were reunited when he was honored by the Norwegian government. Campbell’s odyssey includes “Cold War” episodes in Eniwetok and Thule, Greenland and a 20-year career with Radio Free Europe.
On March 7, 1942, in the midst of WWII, a British merchant ship fled Burma (now Myanmar) only minutes ahead of the invading Japanese army. This vessel, the last ship from Rangoon, acts as the starting point for an engrossing account of escape, suspense, hope and courage. In this period largely undocumented by American literature, fear and desperation invade the lives of British Merchant seamen as violence threatens their welfare, their ships, and their livelihoods. Last Ship from Rangoon recounts a harrowing tale of 132 seamen’s arduous efforts to return to England; imprisoned by the Senegalese, these men must flee from an inescapable French prison and hack their way through dense jungle toward the English colony of Gambia. Based upon the story of a retired British Merchant Marine seaman, whom he met whilst traveling in South East Asia, John Van Wyck Gould has crafted a tale of adventure, courage, hardship, and survival.
During World War II nearly 150,000 Americans served in the U.S. Naval Armed Guard protecting merchant ships and their precious cargoes around the globe, yet this branch of the Navy and its significant contributions to the war effort are little known to the public. As gunners, radio operators, signalmen, and medics assigned to some six thousand merchant ships, the guardsmen helped get desperately needed supplies to their destinations. Often working under horrendous conditions, they frequently engaged the enemy in the U-boat-infested Atlantic, on the deadly Murmansk Run, and in the Mediterranean Pacific, and Indian oceans. To tell their story Justin Gleichauf spent five years gathering material and interviewing more than one hundred Naval Armed Guard veterans. This dramatic narrative history draws heavily on their interviews, and the veterans' lively accounts are supported by an authoritative analysis of their activities. The result is a complete picture of life aboard an astounding variety of vessels, including the famed liberty ships, and a moving tribute to the wartime service of these so-called stepchildren of the U.S. Navy.