A broad Department of Veterans Affairs bill that would have expanded benefits for former service members and repealed a military pension cut for future troops was rejected in the Senate on Thursday. The measure, sponsored by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), did not garner enough Republican votes to waive a VA spending limit established under the budget Congress and President Obama approved in December.
These are comments from some of our political leaders and citizens:
“I don’t know how anyone who voted ‘no’ today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote,” said Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion. “Our veterans deserve more than what they got today.”
“We have veterans dying from long waits for basic, necessary tests like colonoscopies,” Burr said Thursday. “Veterans waiting for their disability claims to be processed know all about frustrations and delays at the VA, and adding more individuals to an already broken system doesn’t seem wise.”
3/1/2014 6:22 AM EST
Where is the national media coverage on this??? GOP blocks Veterans' bill due to budget concerns? Are you freaking serious??? Every Veterans organization in the country supported this bill. The same Republicans were not concerned with the budget when they voted to send us to Iraq. Now, $1 trillion later, they blocked a $21 billion Veterans bill due to budget concerns? Unconscionable!!! I really can't believe this!!! GOP BLOCKS VETERANS' BILL BECAUSE IT WOULD BE A BUDGET BUSTER !!! GOP doesn't give a damn about Vets, only sending them to war!!!
2/28/2014 8:17 PM EST
24 Veterans associations backed the bill. The GOP/TEA said NO! Our armed forces can fight and die to protect most of the reps who have never served. How pathetic! Just ask them and they will tell you about their patriotism and point to the flag on their lapel.
2/28/2014 12:31 PM EST
For anyone that wants to blame one political party over the other....don't you really think there is enough blame to go around? Show me ANY of them that will truly stand up for a Vet....
2/28/2014 9:02 AM EST
24 years of war, and the republicans par for the course don't want to help fund veterans care. Remember this next time the republicans say they are for the troops. All but two voted against this bill, and they all voted against raising COLA for our vets. Why? Well they seem to want to create more vets by marching us along the road to a war with Iran, or it could be because Republicans in general don't think we owe our vets anything, or it could be their corporate owners told them not to.
I saved the best for last. I share these sentiments of OReilly, Gsc
Sean OReilly Gsc
2/28/2014 4:44 AM EST
Those who praise war but never serve are really not qualified nor fit in this vets opinion, to sit in judgment of those who provided the blanket of security and freedom under which this nation lives and sleeps. Truthfully, we are far more concerned with you and the safety of this nation than we are a COLA point. Both parties fail us, and we fail ourselves and this nation by not better educating ourselves and our kids in the founding articles of our freedoms and exercising the only true equal right that we really have; our right to vote, Less than 30% have ever even read the US constitution or understand the beacon of hope it has been in an unjust world. As a result you voice opinions, conjecture and you point fingers at one another. All indicative of a national ignorance and you demonstrate a serious lack of understanding of what our freedom means. Less than 1% of you serve the nation, which is not bad in and of itself but when you ended the draft you removed the visceral connection between the citizen and the soldier and now, none of you, nor most of congress, understand how the military really works or even care.
To those who say we are free loaders or that we should be happy with the bond of trust that has been broken. I can only shake my head in wonder. We who served you are only able to rain down upon the enemies of our American freedom with a swift and awful hand of doom because we believe that while we fight and die for you overseas, you will have our backs here at home.
I urge you all to educate yourselves before it's too late to save this great nation and get back to leading the world instead of fighting like spoiled brats in the back seat of the car.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Thursday, January 30, 2014
UPDATE TO: HR 1288 “WW II MERCHANT MARINERS SERVICE ACT” 24 Jan. 2014
…………AND THE MAZE IT IS TREADING………….
HR 1288 was introduced in the 213th Congress and rapidly gained 94 cosponsors as a standalone bill with a CBO score of DeMinimis, meaning costs were not relevant. This is a feat that I have been told is extremely rare. Bills simply do not reach that level or success from an individual without significant support from Veteran Service Groups or strong political clout. It happened and with very limited support beyond the sponsors of HR 1288. It takes a great deal of sacrifice, a lot of hard work, determination and dedication. It cannot be done with a simple request and set back to wait for an answer. Apply due diligence and remove the word no from the table.
In July I received some pleasant news that on 23 Jul, Senators Murphy, D-CT and Blumenthal, D-Ct and Senator Collins, R-ME would introduce S 1361, a carbon copy of HR 1288.
In August I was notified that HR 1288 was to be incorporated into another bill HR 2086 and within a week, I was again notified that HR 2086 was to be incorporated into an Omnibus bill, HR 2189 that was headed up by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-FL, and Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. This bill passed the House on a called vote with only 1 dissention. It moved to the Senate Floor and is awaiting Senate approval or review.
In October, I was notified that S 1361 was to be incorporated into an Omnibus bill S 1581. Shortly afterward I was informed that they had gutted the wording of S 1361 and reduced it to performing a Review. This is the new wording:
SEC. 812 of S 1950: REVIEW OF DETERMINATION OF CERTAIN SERVICE OF MERCHANT MARINERS DURING WORLD WAR II.
(a) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security and such military historians as the Secretary of Defense recommends, shall review the process used to determine whether an individual performed service under honorable conditions that satisfies the requirements of a coastwise merchant seaman who is recognized pursuant to section 401 of the GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977 (Public Law 95–202; 3. 8 U.S.C. 106 note) as having performed active duty service.
(b) REPORT.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives a report detailing any findings, actions to be taken, or recommendations for legislative action with respect to the review conducted under subsection (a).
This past week I found from my own investigation that another Omnibus bill S 1950, introduced by Senator Sanders, I-VT and Chairman, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, will incorporate S 1581 with the wording pertaining to the Process Review. Action on S 1950 has only had a first reading is awaiting Senate action. It is my understanding that if S-1950 clears the Senate; it will have to be reviewed with HR 2189 that still contains the complete wording of HR 1288.
The WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners oppose this Review as it serves no purpose other than additional delay, added costs and having more seafarers leaving our ranks without their due recognition as veterans. The process is already there and simply needs additional steps to include allowance for lost, destroyed and/or denied documentation and an avenue of recognition for those who were discriminated against due to age, gender or disability. Today we are standing by awaiting action.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Inclusion of HR 1288 WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners Service Act Within HR 2189....Establishing Commission or Task Force to Evaluate the Backlog of Disability Claims
Mr. Speaker, I rise to celebrate the passage of H.R. 2189, a bipartisan bill that among many things will finally recognize the valiant service of Merchant Mariners that operated domestically during World War II. It has been my honor for the past three Congresses to introduce legislation that would recognize these brave Americans and correct an injustice that has remained for over 70 years.
The Merchant Marine were private citizens employed by freight shipping companies. In an effort to support the American war effort during World War II, those same freight shipping companies and their employees became an auxiliary to the United States Navy. Their mission was to transport bulk war materials including food, clothing, weapons, and even troops to all areas of conflict and coastal installations here at home.
During the World War II war effort, many of these mariners were tasked with the critically important role of transporting materials along the U.S. coast using tugboats and barges. Although these mariners did not sail across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans into areas of conflict, they still encountered the enemy while delivering cargo that kept the war effort moving forward. One tugboat, the Menomonee, operating just off the coast of Virginia on March 31st, 1942, was sunk by German U-Boat 754 tragically killing several members of the crew.
This tragic story has been the impetus for the legislation I have introduced in the past three Congresses to finally honor this small group of unsung heroes. In fact, a North Carolinian, Don Horton, whose brother William Lee Horton, Jr. was on that tugboat and lost his life aboard the ship that rescued him from the ocean and debris, has been the driving force behind this legislative effort. William Lee Horton, Jr., was 17 at the time of his death while bravely serving his country. Many members of Don Horton's family served on these tugboats and barges during World War II in support of the war effort. Don Horton has become the foremost expert on this forgotten segment of the World War II Merchant Marine, and has worked tirelessly to see mariners like his brother gain the recognition as veterans that they rightly deserve and earned through service to their country.
The ranks of these coastwise tugboats and barges were not solely operated by men, but also women, as in the case of the Horton family. Don Horton's mother and sister, along with many other women, served alongside their male counterparts, but were never issued formal documentation for their service aboard these vessels because of an order by the War Shipping Administration. Many male Merchant Mariners that operated domestically were also never issued formal documentation or the documentation that was issued is extremely hard to find today because many of these documents were ordered destroyed by the U.S. Government.
Currently, a certificate of shipping and discharge forms, continuous deck or engine logbooks, and shipping company records that indicate the vessel names and dates of voyages are the only documents that are considered acceptable to determine an individual's service in the Merchant Marine. In fact, by order of the Coast Guard Commandant, captains of tugboats and seagoing barges were relieved of the responsibility of submitting reports of seamen shipped or discharged. The deck or engine logbooks were turned over to the War Shipping Administration and were ordered destroyed because they were too ``voluminous to maintain, costly to keep, and rarely used for research.'' Shipping company records that indicate the vessel names and dates of voyages likely never existed because written communication relating to the movement of supplies and troops was strictly forbidden by U.S. military commanders.
After 70 long years, the passage of H.R. 2189 finally offers these mariners a chance to receive the recognition they deserve. H.R. 2189 expands the acceptable forms of documentation used to determine eligible service in the Merchant Marine. The bill allows Social Security Administration records, validated testimony by the applicant or closest living relative, and other official records that provide sufficient proof of service.
Mr. Speaker, estimates show that there are fewer than 2,000 of these mariners surviving today. It's time to finally recognize these mariners for their service to our country. I want to thank my colleagues in the House for supporting these brave men and women that served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, and I implore my colleagues in the Senate to consider this legislation as quickly as possible and support its passage.
WW II Coastwise Merchant Mariners
J. Don Horton, President 104 Riverview Ave, Camden, NC 27921
The Honorable Bernie Sanders, Chairman
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
412 Russell SOB, Washington, DC 20510-6050
Dear Senator Sanders,
As an update to my 07 Nov, 2013, I have just discovered that your bill S 1950 “A Bill to Improve the Provisions of Medical Services and Benefits to Veterans, and for other Purposes.” was read on the floor and that some of the provisions of S 1581 are incorporated within. Without knowing precisely which bills are included, I respectfully request your consideration to include S 1361 “WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act” within S 1950. This bill contains provisions to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to accept additional documentation when considering the application for veteran’s status of an individual who performed service in the merchant marine during World War II.
The contents of S 1361 will allow for the first time ever an opportunity for some coastwise seafarers who are unable to gain veteran status. This is because of government actions that destroyed official documentation and/or denied some mariners the proper credentials now required to prove service.
We are quickly running out of time to recognize the few remaining Americans that stood up for our country by serving as a Merchant Mariner when it needed them the most during World War II. Without weapons or formal training, many risked their lives, and tragically too many gave their lives in defense of our great nation during the Second World War. For those that are lesser known but still contributed significantly to the WW II war effort, we must not let their efforts go unrecognized while we still have a chance. The few remaining coastwise mariners and the few surviving families need your support.
Recommendations to conduct a study, replacing the true wording, has been offered via another bill , S 1581 but is not necessary, considering the official documentation that supports this need notwithstanding adding cost to a bill that was scored DeMinimis by the CBO. I strongly recommend against this action, causing additional delay and poor use of limited funding; not mentioning having more seafarers leave us without ever gaining their due recognition. This is an unacceptable maneuver.
Please allow me to use your statement within my plea. “Let me conclude by saying we give a lot of speeches about the respect we have for the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this country” I take that you mean we do a lot of talking the talk and now we need to walk the walk. Therefore I respectfully request that you add the provisions of S 1361 to your bill, S 1950.
J. Don Horton
J. Don Horton, President FX: 202 228 0776
Friday, January 10, 2014
“WW II COASTWISE MARINERS”
ALTERNATIVE METHODS OF RECOGNITION
Findings (1): Some US Merchant Marine Seamen of WW II gained veteran status under a court ruling via Schmacher, Willner, et al, V. Secretary of the Air Force Edward C. Aldridge, Jr 665 F Supp 41 (D.D.C 1987) The USCG later required they meet certain eligibility requirements.
Findings (2): Some 10,000 to 30,000 coastwise seagoing barge and tug merchant seamen have been or may be denied recognition upon application because actions taken by government agencies (prior to P. L. 95-202) have removed required eligibility records from being available to the veteran.
Findings (3): Commandant, USCG Ltr 5739 Ltr of 09 Apr 2010 states, “The US Government did not issue mariner credentials to females during the World War II.”
Findings (4): USCG Information Sheet #77 (April 1992) identifies acceptable forms of documentation for eligibility meeting the requirements pursuant to Schmacher V. Aldridge, 655 41(D.D.C 1987)
a. Certificate of Shipping/Discharge (Form 718A)
b. Continuous Discharge Books (ship’s deck/engine logbooks)
c. Company letters showing vessel names and dates of voyages
Findings (5): Commandant USCG Order of 20 March, 1944 relieves masters of tugs, towboats and seagoing barges of the responsibility of submitting reports of seamen shipped or discharged on forms 718A. This action removes item (a) from the eligibility list in Findings 4.
Findings (6): USCG Information Sheet # 77 (April, 1992) further states “Deck logs were traditionally considered to be the property of the owners of the ships. After World War II, however, the deck and engine logbooks of vessels operated by the War Shipping Administration were turned over to that agency by the ship owners, and were destroyed during the 1970s”. This action effectively eliminates item (b) from the eligibility list in Findings 4.
Findings (7): Company letters showing vessel names and dates of voyages are highly suspect of ever existing due to the strict orders prohibiting even the discussion of ship/troop movement. Then consider item (c) of Findings 4 should be removed from the eligibility list. USCG Info Sheet # 77, page 2 refers
Findings (8): Excerpts from Pres. Roosevelt’s fireside Chat 23: On the Home Front (Oct. 12, 1942):“In order to keep stepping up our production, we have had to add millions of workers to the total labor force of the Nation. “In order to do this, we shall be compelled to use older men, and handicapped people, and more women, and even grown boys and girls, wherever possible and reasonable, to replace men of military age and fitness; to use their summer vacations, to work somewhere in the war industries.” Underage combatants had served in all of America’s wars from the time of the Revolution. The unknown number who served in the Second World War perpetuated that legacy. They served with distinction and valor, and indisputably demonstrated that, despite their age, they could serve as well as those around them.
Findings (9): Post the Revolutionary War; many Acts of Congress were enacted to provide pensions to those veterans applying for support. Thousands of servicemen were without documented service and remained without any viable means to prove service. Excerpts from documents retained at the NARA provide: Generally the process required an applicant to appear before a court of record in the State of his or her residence to describe under oath the service for which a pension was claimed. This establishes precedence for using certified oaths in conjunction with the Social Security documents as alternative documentation.
Findings (10): US CG Official Shipping/Discharge documents (Forms 718A) were obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration, Wash. DC through the superb support of Mr. Mark Mollan, WW II Senior Archivist, that contained information proving Active Duty (AD) services for some WW II coastwise barge and tug Merchant Mariners. Together with additional information obtained via a FOIA request to the National Maritime Center, research brought forth additional information. Research conducted between June-August 2013, in concert with the NMC, using official records of 1172 coastwise merchant mariners revealed the following:
WW II Coastwise Mariners Listing: Excel Sheet #1
1172 Mariners identified via official USCG Shipping/Discharge Forms 718A
84 Mariners may be women according to their feminine sounding names; OR 7.2%
1058 Mariners’ ages were specified. Ages ranged from 10 to 78.
583 Mariners identified within draft age and included those in 4F status; OR 55.1% of known ages.
525 Mariners identified at over the draft age of 37; OR 49.6% of known ages.
114 Mariners with age not specified; OR 09.7%
47 Mariners who served were under the age of 17; OR 4.4% of known ages.
16 Mariners KIA with 1 receiving DD Form 1300.
National Maritime Form DD 214 Listing: Excel Sheet #2
794 Mariners were identified on NMC Coastwise Mariners listing identifying AD services.
291 Mariners on NMC listing had no USCG MMLD numbers listed; OR 36.6%
85 Mariners issued DD Form 214 from NMC listing, OR 10.7% of NMC; OR 7.2% of WW II CMM
National Maritime DD Form 1300 listing: Excel Sheet #3
348 Mariners listed on NMC DD 1300 file as having received DD Form 1300 from overall estimated number of approximate 9500 Mariners KIA, OR 3.7%
1 Mariner in NMC DD 1300 files as having received Form DD 1300 yet 16 identified on WW II CM listing
68 Mariners listed on NMC listing do not appear on USCG MM Personnel Casualty Summary Report of 1950
Findings (11): The USCG cannot provide a true estimate of merchant mariners serving in WW II. GAO/HEHS-97-196R refers. Estimates range from 250,000 to 410,000 from (3) recognized historians. None of these historians were aware of these 10,000 to 30,000 coastwise merchant seamen where many served without proper credentials and were not included in above estimates. Some were elderly handicapped; others women and some were school children who served in billets, drew wages and paid taxes. They served on the same vessels in the same hostile war zones and performed the same services alongside others who were documented. Yet, only about 91,000 merchant mariners have been recognized as veterans with just 1192 of these veterans in receipt of compensation or pension benefits the VA refers. This is a vast disparity in ratio of the other service branches.
Findings (12): DOD and NARA Agreement N1-330-04-1 of Jul, 08, 2004 puts in place a procedure to transfer military personnel files of individuals from all services, (including civilian personnel or contractual groups who were later accorder military status under the provisions of Schmacher, Willner, et al, V. Secretary of the Air Force Edward C. Aldridge, Jr 665 F Supp 41 (D.D.C 1987). This agreement affects military personnel records of individuals 62 years after separation from service. Action has taken place for all except the US Merchant Marine IAW above court order. This inaction by the Department of Homeland Security via (COMDT USCG) has caused many of the mariners to have gone unrecognized for their services. There are no estimates on how many thousands of boxes of Shipping/Discharge documents are stored at the NARA district office and NMC yet to be transferred to the National Archives in Branson, Missouri. Many have passed without ever gaining recognition or benefits and soon all will be History. NMC cites about 91,000 out of 250,000 having received recognition as veterans with many unable to gain access because of age and health condition requiring assistance for others outside family. If compliance had taken place, these records would have been available to all and provided the mariner a chance to be recognized many years ago and enjoying the benefits awarded to them via court order.
Findings (13): An article titled “” by Peter Sleeth, Special to ProPublica, May 20, 2013, Congressmen to Hagel: Where Are the Missing War Records? Referring to more recent issues of lost records.
The top Republican and Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs are demanding more information from defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about lost Army field records from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the last year. In an sent Friday to Hagel, Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Michael Michaud, D-Maine, said the Defense Department’s response to an earlier request about why records are missing — and what the military is doing about it — didn’t go far enough. “Congress must have a clear understanding of the extent of the lost records in order to safeguard the best interests of our service members and veterans,’’ the letter says.
Findings (14): In her opening statement to Congress on June 12 2013, regarding a single source IT for all of DOD service records, VA Committee House Chairwoman, Senator Murray stated, ““I think everyone in this room is concerned you spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars – and thousands of staff hours over the last few years –trying to create an integrated IT platform with the VA only to announce you were unable to come to a solution” indicted again that studies have already been conducted regarding service records with specific efforts being dismantled after much money and effort spent.
Whereas: (1) By court order, Schumacher v. Aldridge 665 F Supp 41 (D.D.C. 1987) provided for veteran status to certain US Merchant Marine seamen during WW II (07 December, 1941 to 31 December, 1946) with the same benefits accorded all veterans as administrated by the Veterans Administration. There were no provisions for the elderly handicapped, women or schoolchildren to even be considered for their services as mariners serving anywhere within the US Merchant Marine providing an avenue to veteran status.
Whereas: (2) The USCG Information Sheet #77 of Apr. 1992 identifies specific criteria to be used to prove active duty performed by an individual seaman for the purposed of attaining veteran status and findings (5), (6) & (7) identified specific official government actions that removed these particular documents from the reach of the mariner and clearly identifies the requirement to put in place a method of utilizing alternative documentation and other approved methods to take the place of specific documents removed from use by the government actions cited in this document.
Whereas: (3) Women were removed from ships at the onset of WW II and not allowed to serve in any capacity by direction of the War Shipping Administrator, Admiral Emory S. Land. The Captains of the Ports (USCG COTP) were given specific directions to deny official USCG maritime credentials to any woman requesting them. They served but without official credentials in every capacity on most vessels. Families were the sole crew on many barges throughout the WW II and afterwards. Companies welcomed this arrangement because critical crew replacements were reduced considerably and allowing those barges to move the bulk war materials more quickly and freed the more abled bodied seaman and provided the opportunity to man the larger seagoing ships taking vital supplies to troops on all the fronts, keeping the enemy from our doors. A win win situation vital to war defense. To date there is no law or other avenue that will recognize women as veterans of the US Merchant Marine during WW II.
Whereas: (4) President Roosevelt’s speech of 12 Oct, 1942 puts in place the use of elderly and handicapped individuals, school children and women in an effort to support war efforts by replacing men of military age and fitness, and in stepping up our production of war materials for those on the front lines. Women, the elderly disabled and schoolchildren entered the varied war defense plant services in droves and many found their way into the coastwise barge and tug trades as well.
Whereas: (5) DOD & NARA Agreement N1-330-04-1 of July 08, 2004 provides for the transfer of military records to the National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO for use as archival records, open to the public. But inaction by the DHS for the mariner in over 9 years has caused the veteran loss of due access of his records that may have accorded him recognition as a veteran. Under aged individuals served this nation in every war.
Whereas: (6) Previous bills HR 1288, now HR 2189 and S-1361 provides for alternative records to be used in place of records lost, destroyed or denied for coastwise seamen affected and allowed women and school children be recognized for their services rendered for the first time ever. To date, No laws are in place to allow for resolution.
Whereas: (7) The elderly disabled, children and women have served in every war this nation has ever known. Most have served without recognition but history is replete with actions of young children stepping up to serve, some receiving our highest honors and others serving in our highest ranks of service, congress and the presidency; e.g. President Andrew Jackson (age 13); America’s first Admiral, David Glasgow Farragut was appointed a midshipman at age 9 by President James Madison; Willie Johnson (age 11) was a recipient of the Medal of Honor; Albert Cohen of Memphis TN who enlisted at age 11 & KIA age 15. History is laced with children defending this nation and Coastwise Mariners had their fair share of them, also.
Whereas: (8) Although they served gallantly and with honor, actions taken against those that were elderly and disabled, school children and women by denying them official credentials during WW II is considered discrimination today.
Whereas: (9) Statements of our Political leaders demonstrate the need of support for our veterans as they come home from the wars and expect to receive the promises made by so many of our leaders as reflected herein:
a. Barak Obama, President, USA… statement on 12 Nov, 2013…….”In the life of our nation, across every generation, there are those who stand apart. They step up, they raise their hands, they take that oath. They put on the uniform and they put their lives on the line. They do this so that the rest of us might live in a country and a world that is safer, freer, and more just. This is the gift they’ve given us. This is the debt that we owe them”. President Obama also reminded Americans that our obligation to our troops isn’t only supporting them during wartime, but it is also up to us to care for them when they finally come home. “This is how we’ll be judged. Not just by how well we care for our troops in battle, but how we treat them when they come home…..”
b. Senator Harry Reid D-NV: ……Senate Majority Leader.… “I have long fought to ensure that our service members, veterans, and their families receive the retirement and health care benefits that they were promised and deserve. We can never fully repay our veterans for their service”.
c. Senator Bernie Sanders I-VT….Chairman, Senate VA Committee statement on 12 Nov. 2012..… ”Today gives us another opportunity to thank them for their honorable military service, but words are not enough. If we are sincere about our gratitude, we must also keep the promises made to our veterans and their families in terms of benefits and services. While we have a long way to go in fulfilling those promises….”
d. Senator Richard Burr R-NC…Minority Leader on Senate VA Committee… statement on Vet’s Day of 11 Nov, 2013….Veterans Day is a time when we look back and reflect on the service and sacrifice of our nation’s service-members and veterans. These individuals selflessly give of themselves to defend our freedoms, and we are constantly humbled by their strength and courage. While we may never repay the debt borne by those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we must never waiver in our commitment to honor their memory by caring for those who continue the fight…
e. Congressmen Jeff Miller R-FL...Chair House Veterans Affairs Committee and Michael Michaud Ranking Member of HVA Committee D-ME ….state jointly in bipartisan letter to Sec. Defense Hagel on 20 May, 2013…. “Congress must have a clear understanding of the extent of the lost records in order to safeguard the best interests of our service members and veterans,’’
Whereas: (10) The proposed Senate Bill S 1581 will only review the process used to determine whether an individual performed service under honorable conditions that satisfies the requirements of a coastwise merchant seamen who is recognized as having performed active duty service under the court ruling via Schmacher, Willner, et al, V. Secretary of the Air Force Edward C. Aldridge Jr 665 f Supp 41 (D.D.C.1987). There are no considerations in any existing legislation that provides for women who served, under aged schoolchildren or elderly handicapped seaman any avenue to attain veteran status. Nor is there a current avenue to use alternative methods of recognition or other actions that have proved effective in past wars for use in lieu of documents that were denied and/or destroyed by several specific official government actions.
Whereas: (11) A review of 90 additional days can only conclude that in order to correct this significant oversight, legislation will still be required to allow for alternative documentation and other actions that will lead to recognition as veterans for these WW II coastwise merchant mariners. By the time the study is over the 113th congress will have expired and all is lost and back to the beginning; thereby again losing precious lives who may gain recognition if S 1361 is allowed to move forward.
The following actions are recommended:
(1) Initiate Senate action to: Keep S-1361 (with wording as is intact) moving ahead as a separate bill to insure all coastwise barge and tugboat mariners who honorably performed active duty during WW II (regardless of age, gender or disability) are recognized as veterans in accordance with conditions set forth in: court ruling via Schmacher, Willner, et al, V. Secretary of the Air Force Edward C. Aldridge, Jr 665 F Supp 41 (D.D.C 1987,
A History of Coastwise Barges and Tugs during WW II
J. Don Horton
J. Don Horton
The United States Merchant Marine has been largely viewed by the general population as large ships sailing across oceans and seas carrying exotic cargo from one country to another. Little information to what actually takes place within the service is known or understood by the public. Most citizens have little knowledge that our Merchant Marine was established before our United States Navy or Coast Guard, and many do not know that during our nation’s wars our Merchant Marine is looked upon as the Fourth Arm of Defense.
The United States’ effort to fight and win the greatest war in history was comprised of a coalition of civilians and service members from the greatest generation this nation has ever known. There were three major components in that coalition, our fighting forces overseas, the civilian production machine here at home and, the link was the United States Merchant Marine.
Our Merchant Marine has proven itself time and again in every war we have encountered. History has consistently noted the brave seamen who crossed oceans carrying our troops and war materials in every war, and who often encountered enemy actions that sent many of those brave souls to the bottom of the seas. Stories have been written about their heroic efforts to keep our shipping lanes open while losing ships to enemy hostilities right here on our own shores during World War II. Early on during WW II, we were losing our ships faster than they could be built. The commanders of the German U-boats considered the waters off the East coast to be a shooting gallery because of our lack of security and adherence to keeping our shoreline dark. The bright lights from the various amusement parks and residential areas along the coastal beaches provided the perfect backdrop for German U-boats to pick our ships off at will.
We fought World War II on a global scale, with major fighting on three fronts. Logistics for this war in terms of supplies reached a scale never since matched. The supply lines to our front lines stretched across both oceans. They were very vulnerable, especially at the very start of the war. Our nation was caught off guard by the magnitude of the logistical effort required to maintain our front lines. Every effort was made to keep our troops adequately supplied by working around the clock in our defense plants. Every able bodied person, rather it be man, woman or child stood up to do their part. This nation came together like no other time to produce the supplies required to keep that war effort moving forward. This effort has not been matched since, and probably will never be again.
The task of transporting our troops and the majority of materials overseas fell to our Merchant Marine. The United States had a very small inventory of ships that could carry our troops and supplies, and the German U-Boats were sinking them faster than we could build new ones. Enemy submarine successes threatened the outcome of the war in the first few years. In fact, the loss of shipping along our coastline during the first part of the war was so great that our own government had to step in and instruct our news outlets not to give out the number of ships lost. There was fear that our seamen would refrain from shipping out, thereby creating critical manpower shortages. This would have caused shipping delays and quite possibly could have placed our chances of winning the war in jeopardy. Had it not been for the gallant efforts of merchant seamen manning vessels against threatening odds, the war could have ended much differently.
The great loss of ships caused our nation to call upon another group of vessels that had generally been placed out of service. Our country had some 250-300 old wooden hulled barges that were rarely used. Most had long passed their effective life span. Some were built around the middle of the nineteenth century and their condition was poor. Many barges began their life as sail schooners in the mid-1800s. There was a short-lived belief that sails would help propel these barges and give the tugboats towing them a little help. By the turn-of-the-century most had their masts removed and extra hatches added to the hulls to carry more cargo. These barges had reached a stage of maintenance neglect that the fears of many came true just as soon as they were placed back into service. The caulking, placed between the planking to keep them from severely leaking, was lost to both the rough seas before being placed into a stage of storage and from rot afterwards had place them in grave condition and subject to sinking with the slightest bit of neglect. The companies were not about to expend funding to correct this problem. Thy were often referred to as floating coffins. Yet the mariners stepped up and manned them.
There were some seventy companies that conducted business in the coastal trades, and about 700 barges or schooners were recorded as actively participating. Records indicate the first wooden hulled barge was built around 1856 and maybe the last around 1923. They ranged in sizes in tonnage from 600 to 2400 tons. During World War II there may have been a little more than a few hundred barges remaining to carry out this tradition.
After the turn of the 20th century, companies began to send the barges out into larger bodies of waters. Soon the coastwise trade for barges was where the money was for companies. A tow of three barges could carry more payload of, say coal, than several locomotives could carrying 300 coal cars or 600 trucks carrying the same payload and at a fraction of the cost.
Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, it became apparent that we needed every possible source of commerce to keep our supplies lines open. These barges were quickly called back into service even in their very old and primitive conditions. It was not uncommon to see ten or twenty tugs and their barges moving cargo up and down the coast on any given day. As demand for commerce grew the barges began playing a larger role in the defense of our country. After all, no other mode of transportation could offer the benefits at lesser costs. They were by far the most economical means to move product around the country.
The German U-boats sank our ships faster than we could build them. Larger and faster ships were needed to keep our shipping lanes open and to keep our troops overseas supplied with badly needed materials. Here at home, every available means of moving war materials to our defense plants became a necessity, regardless of the risk.
These barges kept alive a tradition dating back before the birth of this nation. Our forefathers brought this lifestyle with them when they landed here to establish this country. Families were traditional on some of the barges. This emanated from the river barges that traveled the major tributaries of our nation for as long as this nation has existed. Our major source of commerce came by river throughout our country. Often the crew that manned some of these barges during the summer school breaks were comprised solely by families. Companies owning these barges looked favorably on those that were manned by families. They believed families would remain on board more so than single seamen because of the primitive living conditions generally found on most barges. Families tend to adapt more easily.
Barge seamen endured a life that was extremely primitive as most barges were without the average necessities found ashore. There was no electricity, running water or the usual bathroom conveniences. Heat came from a simple coal stove that was used for cooking as well. Light from kerosene lamps was the norm. This life was hard and it left its mark on you. With the ever present German U-boats, young seamen matured fast. This was a far cry from a young man’s dream of sailing the 7 seas.
These coastwise barge seamen were a small, dedicated and mostly unknown group who served in the US Merchant Marine. They made little news but played a very important role during World War II. They moved bulk cargo and war supplies to the various defense factories and power plants along the East Coast. Minimal news or entries in history were made as most gave little attention to them. They were considered by many as insignificant. Historians wrote limited information and they would only make news if something disastrous happened. Storms would cause sufficient damage and some would make the news if fatalities occurred. History passed them by and carried their records along with it.
The role these coastwise seamen played in WW II has slipped past most historians and history books and it needs to be identified. If one can imagine what is required to build some of the war materials used to fight a war then perhaps one may understand their role. Everything from a simple safety pin to a large locomotive engine and everything in between from the food to clothing to medicine to the actual fighting equipment such as guns, ammunition, tanks, airplanes, bombs, fuel to operate all the vehicles manufactured to move the troops and equipment and so many other materials and equipment manufactured by the defense plants. The plants required fuel to operate their machinery and power the plant itself. All the raw/bulk materials had to be shipped to those plants. The barges were the primary vessels used to transport the bulk war materials to the defense plants. Without the materials a war could not have been fought much less won. Without the barges we would not have had sufficient materials to fight a war on three fronts and win it to keep our shores free from the enemy and we would not be enjoying the freedom we now take for granted. These barges and the people who manned them played a major role in WW II and history has passed them by without the slightest mention anywhere throughout our history books today.
Since the younger and more able-bodied seamen preferred the large more modern ships, barges were more or less left to others less traditional crews. Some elderly seamen came back to the sea and brought their families to serve as members of the crew. This brought forth a resurge in the traditional use of barge families. Many women who were refused opportunities to work on the larger vessels came aboard these coastwise vessels as crew as well. Some of the seamen that came to work on the barges were without the credentials now required to prove service on these vessels. They worked alongside those with credentials and were paid the same wages with the same taxes withheld. They performed the same work and were exposed to the same threats as the certified seamen were. Yet, today, many of the seamen that operated tugs and barges cannot prove their service because they do not have the proper documents that others others were provided. Many were directly denied documents because of their age, gender or disability. Today we call this discrimination.
Many seamen were considerably older than the required draft age and often disabled. Many were missing a leg, arm or an eye. School age children manned the crew positions as well as any other seamen. They proved their mettle. These barges carried the bulk raw war materials to the ports that fed the defense plants that built war supplies and equipment for our troops overseas. The use of these barges freed our larger merchant fleet to concentrate on the vital necessity of transporting supplies and equipment to our troops on the front lines. This was not a small task.
At the start of the war, women tried repeatedly to join the US Merchant Marine. They were thwarted by the War Shipping Administrator (WSA), Admiral Emory S. Land who declared that there was no place in the Merchant Marine for women. It would be too immoral. By this order from the WSA, the US Coast Guard refused to document women who served. Women served anyway and performed every duty asked of them, without any formal recognition their work. They served on barges and other vessels, mostly as cooks and messmen. They were paid salaries and Social Security taxes were taken from their wages. They performed the same services as those with proper credentials on the same vessels and did it well. They deserve to be recognized for their service to our country.
Efforts to gain status as seamen by the women were met with stern denials from the Captains of the Port (COTP) stationed at the various coastal ports. I was present in June of 1942, when the COTP of New York denied my mother and sister their official documentation as seamen. Instead he issued an official US Coast Guard Identification Card to my mother and told her my sister did not need one as she was below the age of 16. Children could move about freely through the security checkpoints on the docks if accompanied by a parent. He stated by order of the WSA, he was directed to deny official seaman’s papers to women upon application.
Thousands of other women were denied official documentation for service in the Merchant Marine. To this day, there has been no way for these women to gain their due recognition as seamen of the United States Merchant Marine and thus gain veterans status of this nation. A letter from the US Coast Guard dated 09 Apr, 2010, states, “The US Government did not issue mariner credentials to females during World War II.”
Recent research of 29 barges and tugs brought forth over 1150 seamen who served between 1942 and 1943. From that group there were 87 seamen with traditionally female names who served aboard those vessels. That transmits to a ratio of almost 9 percent of the work-force being women, if one could use this finding to be an approximate ratio of seamen who served on coastwise vessels. In today’s military service, where women are recognized for their service, the ration is placed at 14%. This finding provides an astounding proportion of women serving during World War II in the Merchant Marine that have never been officially recognized as seamen and veterans. This is wrong and it needs to be corrected. Providing alternative documentation and methods would remedy this shameful situation.
Other research has brought forth two additional actions that have prohibited seamen who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II from seeking recognition as veterans. The Commandant of the US Coast Guard’s order of 20 Mar 1944 relieved the masters of tugs and seagoing barges of the responsibility of issuing shipping and discharge papers to seamen. Then, the US Maritime Administration issued orders to destroy ship’s deck and engine logbooks in the 1970s. A US Coast Guard Reference Information Paper #77 dated April, 1990 refers to these actions.
World War II brought about the advent of women in the military and they proved themselves. They earned some of our country’s highest honors for their service. However, the women who served in the US Merchant Marine in World War II were denied their Official Mariner’s credentials and have never been able to achieve what they most gallantly earned, veteran status. Those of us who hold this status perceive it as one of our most honored possessions.
On 21 March, 2013, US Representatives G. K. Butterfield, Walter Jones, Mike McIntyre & Mark Meadows of North Carolina and 37 other Representatives introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that may help these coastwise seamen and women gain what has been denied them for more than 67 Years. H.R. 1288, the World War II Merchant Mariner Service Act would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to allow other forms of documentation to prove service in the World War II Merchant Marine. Official Records were withheld, destroyed, or denied, thus preventing somewhere between 10,000 to 30,000 coastwise merchant seamen from gaining their rightful place as veterans of our country. We now have 94 cosponsors. On 02 August, 2013 HR 1288 was incorporated into to the floor pending a final vote, where it passed with a 404 to 1 majority and was sent on to the US Senate and is awaiting further action.
Together we can make a difference as these brave seamen did for us during WW II. They stood up for us and in doing so they kept th. is country free. The very least we can do is repay them with the recognition they have most graciously deserve. Let’s stand up for them and make it possible for them to gain their rightful position as veterans. Will you help make it happen?
The reason I am interested in gaining recognition for the men and women who manned the barges during WWII is that I was one of them and I know we deserve and have been overlooked after giving so much for the war effort and Freedom. The tugboat Menomonee was sunk off the coast of Virginia on 31 Mar., 1942 at 37’ 34” N, 75” 25” by the German U-boat 754, with the loss of my brother, William Lee Horton, Jr. at the age of 17, while serving his country.
HR 2189 could help some gain recognition as a veteran. This legislation can correct a travesty that has gone unnoticed or ignored for such a long time. Costs associated with this bill have been deemed to have an insignificant impact on direct spending by the CBO so cost should not be an issue. This bill stands alone in helping these coastwise merchant seamen gain recognition that they have been deprived of due to records being withheld, destroyed, or denied. This needs to be corrected and soon.