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They delivered - and were forgotten | Merchant Marine left out

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council
    http://www.mpnnow.com/news/x255179166/They-delivered-and-were-forgotten They delivered - and were forgotten By Denise M. Champagne, staff writer Fairport-ER
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 26, 2009
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      They delivered — and were forgotten

       
      By Denise M. Champagne, staff writer
      Fairport-ER Post
      Posted Nov 11, 2009 @ 07:26 AM
      Last update Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:30 AM
      Perinton, N.Y. —

      They delivered during World War II — in so many ways, yet were forgotten or ignored after the war ended.

      After so much of the American naval fleet was destroyed Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, the government relied heavily on non-military Merchant Marines, who    transported supplies, equipment and troops around the world in commercial ships, suffering heavy casualties.

       By the numbers
      250,000
      Civilians served as Merchant Marines
      6,236
      Ships carried them all over the world
      6,600-plus
      Lost their lives
      731
      Ships were sunk
      465
      The number of merchant ships as of 2006.

      “We had a larger death rate proportionately than any other branch of the service,” said Bill Huten of Pittsford, who served from 1944 to 1946, signing up when he was just 17.

      “I was on the Atlantic (Ocean), went to the Mediterranean and Middle East. If it wasn’t for the Merchant Marines, they wouldn’t have won the war, really.”

      Huten, who also lived in East Rochester for 20 years, served on freighters, making about three trips to Europe and another to India, getting smashed up in 1945 on the way back from India.

      “I was on two or three different ships,” he said. “We were in the English Channel one night. There were about 16 (enemy) subs all around us. You could hear them torpedoing ships. Many people died. You didn’t have much chance when you got torpedoed.”

      Huten counts himself among the lucky ones, having survived, although he was in grave danger a number of times. More than 6,600 Merchant Marines died, some brutally slaughtered by enemy soldiers after their ships were sunk or captured. They were sometimes referred to as America’s “fourth arm of defense,” alongside the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. They didn’t carry guns, but trained on guns and often took over the guns of their fallen mates.

      But when they returned home, they were denied military benefits. Their enlisted counterparts went to school under the GI Bill. They went to work, often having to find a new job because their positions weren’t kept open.

      “It was pretty rough,” Huten said. “We weren’t recognized at all. We didn’t get the GI Bill or anything. We’ve been trying to get compensation from the government.”

      He believes Merchant Marines would have been acknowledged much sooner, had President Franklin D. Roosevelt not died shortly before the end of the war. Instead, it wasn’t until 1988 that President Ronald Reagan granted them veterans’ benefits.

       One person who didn’t forget the Merchant Marines was Lyle Dupra of Perinton, who’s spent much of the post-war years fighting to get them due recognition, along with members of the Navy Armed Guard, which he considers other “unsung sailors of World War II.”

      Dupra served on a liberty ship, S.S. John Alden, alongside merchant seaman as a member of the Armed Guard, seeing first hand their valiant efforts to deliver weapons, troops, food and water for the government. He said the Armed Guard of World War II was established before the war to train men to serve aboard the poorly armed Merchant Marine ships, which were often in peril on the winter seas or at the hands of a brutal enemy.

      “We helped them with everything we could,” Dupra said. “They were our friends. Our government was short of real good men. We were running the gauntlets and fighting between ships. We slept in the same ship, ate the same food, fought the same war and loved the same country.”

      When the Armed Guard was dissolved in 1945, Dupra was again sent overseas, this time as part of the regular Navy, for which he served for the duration of the war. He said his worst battle was the invasion of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, the largest naval battle of the war.

      “We had kamikazes (Japanese suicide planes) coming at us all day,” Dupra said. “The Japanese were coming in to annihilate us. They had a huge fleet. We all shook hands and did our best.”

      They didn’t expect to survive, but Adm. William Halsey’s Third Fleet came to their rescue. Dupra said when the war ended, Congress made the Merchant Marines stay in service until the end of 1945, while other troops were sent home.

      “That was a hell of a bad blow,” he said. “Here, they get back home and they can’t see their loved ones.”

      Dupra, who served four years in the Naval Reserve after the war and then aboard a minesweeper during the Korean War, has traveled more than 30,000 miles, speaking in many large cities, in his quest to get the sailors recognized. He has written many articles and authored the book: “We Delivered! The U.S. Navy Armed Guard in World War II,” published in 1997.

      Dupra, who has lived in Perinton with his wife, Theresa, for more than 25 years, has also received many honors, including the Purple Heart, numerous other medals, ribbons and battle stars, a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation Bade and signed letters from presidents and high-ranking military officers. He worked at Kodak for 20 years, retiring in 1980.

      Huten’s been married for 53 years to Marjorie (Dorfer) Huten, originally from Victor. They have three grown children and 10 grandchildren. He later served as a fireman in the Navy, performing duties similar to those on the merchant ships. He is also a member of the American Merchant Marine Veterans, which has tried to get the Merchant Marines recognized. He gave out the music to the Merchant Marines’ song, “Heave Ho My Lads,” to several bands, but the only one to play it is the Pittsford Fire Department Band.

      Huten was pleased in May when the East Rochester American Legion Post 1917 added a Merchant Marine recognition plaque to its World War II monument at the Station of Heroes in Edmund Lyon Park in East Rochester.

      “It was nice of them,” he said, noting he educated Commander Richard Bird.
      “I hope it encourages other communities to recognize them as well,” said Bird. “To give them the recognition and honor they deserve for making our country the greatest in the world, with our freedoms and to help keep the world safe for democracy.”


      http://www.dailyastorian.info/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=65863&SectionID=23&SubSectionID=393&S=1

      Letter: Merchant Marine left out
      On a page honoring veterans (Kid Scoop.com The Daily Astorian, Nov. 10), one member of the services was again bypassed: the U.S. Merchant Marine.

      Their ships took supplies to North Africa. From 1942 to 1943, our merchant fleet devoted 41 percent of capacity to U.S. Army cargo and 13 percent to the U.S. Navy. The armed services were at all times the No. 1 customer of the Merchant Marine. They were at Anzio and Naples Harbor in Italy and at the beaches of Normandy in France in 1944. They were at the Marshall Islands, and the merchant fleet helped carry the invasion to Southern France Aug. 15, 1944. They were more than a spectator at bloody Iwo Jima. Merchant ships did heavy duty in the major assault on Luzon in the Philippines.

      On Sept. 19, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt honored the men and the management of the American Merchant Marines. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz said on April 23, 1944, that the Merchant Marine service has repeatedly proved to be considered as an integral part of our fighting team.

      Douglas MacArthur said on Oct. 14, 1945, that the Merchant Marines have brought us our life blood and paid for it with some of their own. Harry Truman said in 1951 that the Merchant Marines did their job with boldness and daring.

      Five thousand seven hundred of them died from enemy torpedoes, mines, bombs or bullets since zero hour at Pearl Harbor. The New York Times, on June 9, 1944, said D-Day would not have been possible without the Merchant Marines.

      Yes, I could go on with a lot more facts and figures, but as the wife of a merchant seaman, I can say I'm proud of the job my husband did. In name only, they have been made part of our fighting forces and I, for one, will honor his name.

      ROSEMARIE PETERS THOMPSON
      Warrenton

    • usaseapower
      November 26 I posted a comment at Mrs. Thompson s letter. http://www.dailyastorian.info/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=65863&SectionID=23&SubSectionID=393&S=1
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 30, 2009
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        November 26 I posted a comment at Mrs. Thompson's letter.

        http://www.dailyastorian.info/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=65863&SectionID=23&SubSectionID=393&S=1

        Phelps
        __________________________________________

        --- In PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com, "Pacific Merchant Marine Council" <pmmc@...> wrote:
        > --------------------------------------------------------------------
        > http://www.dailyastorian.info/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=65863&SectionID=23&SubSectionID=393&S=1
        >
        > Letter: Merchant Marine left out
        > On a page honoring veterans (Kid Scoop.com The Daily Astorian, Nov. 10), one member of the services was again bypassed: the U.S. Merchant Marine.
        >
        > Their ships took supplies to North Africa. From 1942 to 1943, our merchant fleet devoted 41 percent of capacity to U.S. Army cargo and 13 percent to the U.S. Navy. The armed services were at all times the No. 1 customer of the Merchant Marine. They were at Anzio and Naples Harbor in Italy and at the beaches of Normandy in France in 1944. They were at the Marshall Islands, and the merchant fleet helped carry the invasion to Southern France Aug. 15, 1944. They were more than a spectator at bloody Iwo Jima. Merchant ships did heavy duty in the major assault on Luzon in the Philippines.
        >
        > On Sept. 19, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt honored the men and the management of the American Merchant Marines. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz said on April 23, 1944, that the Merchant Marine service has repeatedly proved to be considered as an integral part of our fighting team.
        >
        > Douglas MacArthur said on Oct. 14, 1945, that the Merchant Marines have brought us our life blood and paid for it with some of their own. Harry Truman said in 1951 that the Merchant Marines did their job with boldness and daring.
        >
        > Five thousand seven hundred of them died from enemy torpedoes, mines, bombs or bullets since zero hour at Pearl Harbor. The New York Times, on June 9, 1944, said D-Day would not have been possible without the Merchant Marines.
        >
        > Yes, I could go on with a lot more facts and figures, but as the wife of a merchant seaman, I can say I'm proud of the job my husband did. In name only, they have been made part of our fighting forces and I, for one, will honor his name.
        >
        > ROSEMARIE PETERS THOMPSON
        > Warrenton
        >
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