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Celebrating National Maritime Day May 22


The Merchant Marine has a long history in the United States, starting all the way back during the Revolutionary War! They play a huge role in our country’s shipping expeditions as

a group of civilian vessels that import and export goods to other countries.

A U.S. Merchant Marine helps transport goods into and out of the United States. The U.S. transports up to 75% of their goods by sea, so many members of this group are called “mariners.” However, mariners can also be pilots, captains, seamen, or mates. Regardless of what position a mariner is in, they play an important role in the timely and safe travel of commercial vessels. The Merchant Marine is technically not a part of the military; they’re managed by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD), but they often assist with military operations.

As the shipping industry in Europe grew, the United States shipping industry wanted to join them. During the Revolutionary War, the Merchant Marines captured a British ship: the HMS Margaretta. News of this spread to Boston, and the mariners were issued Letters of Marque, meaning they were officially licensed to attack and capture enemy ships. This began the history of the Merchant Marine.

These seafaring merchants also played an important role in the Civil War and both World Wars. For the Merchant Marines, WW2 was a big time but also an unkind time for them. The mariners were given Navy guns to defend their ships, even though gunnery and combat training was neglected for them. Sadly, 3.1 million tons of merchant ships were lost in WW2. Mariners died at a rate of 1 in 26, making it the highest casualty rate of any service at the time.


After WW2, the Merchant Marines teamed up with many other branches of the military, such as the Marine Corps and the Navy. Though the Merchant Marine might not be as well known as something like the Navy, they still play a huge role in serving our country.

How to become a Merchant Marine: https://www.mitags.org/become-merchant-marine/

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