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US Merchant Marine EmblemFor The Sailors-By John Masefield (1878-1967)

Even in peace, scant quiet is the sea, In war, each revolution of the screw, Each breath of air that blows the colors free,
May be the last moment known to you.
Death thrusting up or down, may disunite body from spirit, purpose from the hull, with thunder bringing leaving of the light.
With lightening letting nothingness annul.
No rock, no danger, bears a warning sign, No lighthouse scatters welcome through the dark, above the sea, the bomb; afloat, the mine; beneath the gangs of the torpedo shark.
Year after year, with insufficient guard, often with none, have you adventured thus?
Some reaching harbour, maimed, battle scared,
Some never more returning, Lost to us.
But if you escape, tomorrow you will steer to peril once again, to bring us bread,
To dare again, beneath the sky of fear, the moon-moved graveyard of your brothers dead.
You were salvation to the army lost, trapped, but for you, upon the Dunkirk beach, Death barred the way to Russia, but you crossed; to Crete and Malta, But you succored each.
Unrecognized you put us in your debt, Unthanked, you entered or escaped the grave;
Whether your land remembered or forgot,
You saved the land, Or died to try to save.
And those who never returned to a safe harbor,
And noted only in the hearts of those left behind,
You lie unmarked in your watery tomb,
with no grave stone on the sea to mark your rest.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Merchant Marine Emblem, Medals and Ribbons

Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal - The Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal is awarded to any Seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine who, on or after September 3, 1939, has distinguished himself during the war by outstanding conduct or service in the line of duty. Not more than one medal shall be issued to any one seaman, but for each succeeding instance sufficient to justify the award of a medal, there will be awarded a suitable insignia to be worn with the medal. [Designed by Paul Manship.]

Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal - The Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal is awarded to Seamen of any ship operated by or for the War Shipping Administration who is commended by the Administrator for conduct or service of a meritorious nature, but not sufficient to warrant the Distinguished Service Medal. [Designed by Paul Manship.]

Mariner's Medal - The Mariner's Medal is awarded to any seaman who while serving in a ship during the war period is wounded, suffers physical injury, or suffers through dangerous exposure as a result of an act of enemy of the United States. In the event any such seaman dies from the wounds or injuries before the award can be made to him, the medal may he presented to the person named in the War Risk Policy as his beneficiary. [Designed by Paul Manship.]

Prisoner of War Medal - Awarded to World War II merchant marine veterans held prisoners of war during the period December 7, 1941 to August 15, 1945. The medal recognizes the special service prisoners of war gave to their country and the suffering and anguish they endured while incarcerated.

Distinguished Service Medal

Distinguished Service Medal

Distinguished Service Medal

Distinguished Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal


Prisoner of War Medal

Atlantic War Zone Bar - For service in the Atlantic zone, including the North Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Barents Sea, and Greenland Sea.

Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Bar - For service in the Mediterranean-Middle East zone, including the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean west of eighty degrees east longitude.

Pacific War Zone Bar - For service in the Pacific zone, including the North Pacific Ocean, South Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean east of eighty degrees east longitude.

Victory Medal - Awarded to members of the crews of ships who served 30 days or more during the period December 7, 1941 to September 3, 1945. [Designed by John R. Sinnock.]

Merchant Marine Defense Medal - Awarded for service in the U.S. Merchant Marine prior to Pearl Harbor. It may be worn by all merchant seamen who served as members of the crews of U.S. merchant ships from September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941.

Distinguished Service Medal

Distinguished Service Medal

Pacific War Zone Medal

Victory Medal 

Defense Medal

Atlantic War Zone Medal 

Middle East
War Zone Medal

Pacific War Zone Medal 

Victory Medal 

 Defense Medal

Gallant Ship Citation Ribbon - Awarded to officers and seamen who served on a ship which at the time of service, was cited for gallantry by the Maritime Administration. The bronze plaque is awarded to the ship. [9 awarded for World War II service. 8 awarded between 1956 and 1965. Designed by Jo Davidson. ]

Gallant Ship Plaque 

 Gallant Ship Ribbon 

Gallant Ship Plaque 

Gallant Ship Ribbon 

Combat Bar - The Combat Bar is issued to seamen who serve in a ship which, at the time of such service, is directly attacked or damaged by an instrumentality of war. There is further prescribed for issuance a star (to be attached to such bar) to seamen who are forced to abandon ship when so attacked or damaged. For each additional abandonment, an additional star is attached.

Philippine Defense Ribbon Awarded to members of crews of ships who served in Philippine waters for not less than 30 days from December 8, 1941 to June 15, 1942. [Designed by Juan Nakpil.]

Philippine Liberation Ribbon - Awarded to members of crews of ships who served in Philippine waters for not less than 30 days from October 17, 1944, to September 3, 1945. [Designed by Juan Nakpil.]

Guardian (DoT 9-11) Medal and Ribbon - Awarded to individuals serving in any capacity with the Department of Transportation, Merchant Marine, or to other civilians for acts or service that contributed to recovery from the attacks of September 11, 2001; force protection following the attacks; or, for efforts that directly contributed to the increased infrastructure security effort between September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2002.

Combat Bar 

 Philippine Defense Ribbon

 Philippine Liberation Ribbon

9-11 ribbon

Combat Bar 

 Philippine Defense Ribbon

Philippine Liberation Ribbon 

9-11 Ribbon

Honorable Service Button - Awarded to members of the crews of ships who served for 30 days during the period December 7, 1941, to September 3, 1945.

Merchant Marine Service Emblem - The Merchant Marine Service Emblem is prescribed as an identifying insignia to be issued to all seamen.

 Merchant Marine Service Emblem 

Honorable Service Button 

Merchant Marine Service Emblem 

 Honorable Service Button

Korean Service Medal - Awarded for Merchant Marine service during the Korean Conflict awarded for service between June 30, 1950 and September 30, 1953, in waters adjacent to Korea.

Vietnam Service Medal - Awarded for service between July 4, 1965 and August 15, 1973, in waters adjacent to Vietnam.

Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal - Awarded to Merchant Mariners who served on vessels in the Persian Gulf in direct support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm between August 2, 1990 and December 31, 1991.

 Korean Service Medal 

 Vietnam Service Medal 

 Merchant Marine Expeditionary Award 

Guardian( 9-11) Medal

Korean Service Medal 

Vietnam Service Medal 

Merchant Marine Expeditionary Award 

( 9-11) Medal

Service flag and Service Lapel button - A Merchant Marine Service flag and a service lapel button are prescribed for display by members of the immediate families of seamen serving in the American Merchant Marine during the war period. If the seaman symbolized is killed, or dies while serving, the white star will have superimposed thereon a gold star of smaller size so that the white forms a border. The service lapel button is of enameled metal, and its design a miniature of the service flag. It may be displayed by members of the immediate families of seamen serving in the American Merchant Marine during the war period.

A family member might wear a "son in service" pin that family members would wear to show support for a son,
brother, or husband serving in the Merchant Marine during WWII.

Service flag

Son in Service pin
Son in Service pin

Order in which Ribbons are worn:


Distinguished Service


Mariner's Medal

Purple Heart

Atlantic War Zone

Distinguished Service

Navy Cross

Gallant Ship

Atlantic War Zone

Pacific War Zone

Distinguished Service

Meritorious Service

Gallant Ship

Mariner's Medal

Combat Bar

Defense Bar

Atlantic War Zone

Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Bar

Pacific War Zone

Mariners earned the following medals: awarded for World War II service.



WW II Service

Service 1956-1968

Distinguished Service Medal

Service beyond the call of duty



Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious conduct or service (in WWII)



Mariner's Medal, World War II

Dead or wounded



Atlantic War Zone

Service in Atlantic War zone



Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone

Service in Mediterranean-Middle East War zone



Pacific War Zone

Service in Pacific War zone



Combat Bar, World War II

Under enemy attack



Defense Bar World War II

Service in war zone



Victory Medal 

Service in war zone



Korean Service

Service in war zone



Vietnam Service

Service in war zone



Laws Establishing Merchant Marine Medals

In 1944 Walt Disney Studios created a Merchant Marine Emblem

To find out about medals and decorations earned
For information about medals earned, make a written request to

Patricia Thomas
Medals and Decorations
U.S. Maritime Administration, Room 7302
Department of Transportation
Washington, DC 20590

Wartime Memos: U.S. Merchant Marine an Armed Force
President Franklin D. Roosevelt states U.S. Merchant Marine is an Armed Force eligible for war medals and decorations

Places to buy Merchant Marine medals:

Gallant Ships of World War II Merchant Marine
Citations for Distinguished Service Medal
Citations for Meritorious Service Medal

Army & Navy Medals to Mariners in WW II
Laws Establishing Merchant Marine Medals
Men and Ships of WWII


Merchant Marine War Service Awards, Seamen's Service Awards Committee, U.S. Maritime Commission, War Shipping Administration, General Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1945
United States Merchant Marine Insignia and Honor Awards, U.S. Maritime Commission, War Shipping Administration, General Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1944?
Insignia and Honor Awards of the United States Merchant Marine, The United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, War Shipping Administration, Training Organization, 1944
U.S. Merchant Marine Medals and Decorations, U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, undated poster.
U.S. Merchant Marine Decorations and Awards, Edited by Irwin R. Abraham, 1966
Illustration of Prisoner of War medal courtesy Captain George Duffy
Illustration of "Son in Service" pin courtesy Eric Lewallen
Coast Guard


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The Most Rev. Brain Marsh, Presiding Bishop


The Most Rev. Brain R. Marsh, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in America, is asking all parishes to include in their Masses and services annual prayers for all seafarers and those who make their living on the waterfront.  The Church, which has a long history of ministry to seafarers, recognizes the closest Sunday to National Maritime Day on May 22nd each year as Sea Sunday on which prayers should be offered.  The Presiding Bishop is asking all parishes to remember those who have given their lives at sea, in peace and in war, as well as praying for those who are at sea today that they will be safe in their journeys.

"Our seafarers are often forgotten as well as the vital role they played in the building of this nation and their sacrifice in time of war," said Bishop Marsh.  "The United States Merchant Marine, recognized by President Roosevelt as America's fourth arm of defense, suffered the second highest per capita casualty rate during World War II with over 6,000 sailors and hundreds of ships lost at sea."

The book of Common Prayer contains a historic prayer for seafarers that the bishop is asking be included in the prayers during the service:

O ETERNAL God, who alone spreadest out the heavens, and rulest the raging of the sea; We commend to thy almighty protection, thy servants, for whose preservation on the great deep our prayers are desired. Guard them, we beseech thee, from the dangers of the sea, from sickness, from the violence of enemies, and from every evil to which they may be exposed. Conduct them in safety to the haven where they would be, with a grateful sense of thy mercies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"There are no grave stones at sea so we remember them and their families in our parishes, also asking God to keep those at sea who face war, piracy and bad weather safe," the Bishop concluded.  

National Maritime Day
By the President of the United States of America
An Annual  Proclamation

Our commercial maritime tradition dates back to the founding of our Nation; and it continues to play an important role today, moving passengers and freight, protecting our freedom, and linking our citizens to the world.

Merchant mariners have served America with distinction throughout our history, but especially at critical moments. Before World War II, they made dangerous and difficult voyages carrying vital supplies to Europe. During that war, more than 700 United States merchant ships were lost to attack, and more than 6,000 merchant mariners lost their lives. Merchant mariners played a vital role in the Korean Conflict, especially in the rescue of 14,000 Korean civilians by the SS MEREDITH VICTORY. During the Vietnam War, ships crewed by civilian seamen carried 95 percent of the supplies used by our Armed Forces. Many of these ships sailed into combat zones under fire. In fact, the SS MAYAGUEZ incident involved the capture of mariners from the American merchant ship SS MAYAGUEZ.

More recently, during the Persian Gulf War merchant mariners were vital to the largest sealift operation since D-Day. And after the tragic attacks of September 11th, professional merchant mariners and midshipmen from the United States Merchant Marine transported personnel and equipment and moved food and supplies to lower Manhattan. Their efforts enhanced rescue operations and helped save many lives.

Today, the men and women of the United States Merchant Marine and thousands of other workers in our Nation's maritime industry continue to make immeasurable contributions to our economic strength and our ongoing efforts to build a more peaceful world. We must ensure our maritime system can meet the challenges of the 21st century. As cargo volume is expected to double within the next 20 years, a viable maritime network will help our country compete in our global economy.

Accordingly, my Administration is working with government agencies, the shipping industry, labor, and environmental groups to ensure that our waterways remain a sound transportation option that complements our overland transportation network.

In recognition of the importance of the U.S. Merchant Marine, the Congress, by joint resolution approved on May 20, 1933, as amended, has designated May 22 of each year as "National Maritime Day," and has authorized and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation calling for its appropriate observance.

Joint Resolution of Congress Designating May 22 as National Maritime Day passed May 20, 1933

73d Congress, Session I, 1933
S. J. Res No.7

JOINT RESOLUTION Designating May 22 as National Maritime Day.

Whereas on May 22, 1819, the steamship The Savannah set sail from Savannah, Georgia, on the first successful transoceanic voyage under steam propulsion, thus making a material contribution to the advancement of ocean transportation: Therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That May 22 of each year shall hereafter be designated and known as National Maritime Day, and the President is authorized and requested annually to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such National Maritime Day by displaying the flag at their homes or other suitable places and Government officials to display the flag on all Government buildings on May 22 of each year.

Approved, May 20, 1933

War Shipping Administration Press Release, Maritime Day 1945
Military Leaders Praise Merchant Marine

Holt Maritime 62

PR 2277 (W) 



Cleared and Released

Friday Afternoon Papers

Through Facilities of the

May 18, 1945

Office of War Information

Radio Release: 7 AM, EWT, Friday, May 18.


Maritime Day tributes from the leaders of American armed forces to the men of the Merchant Marine for delivering the goods to the battlefronts have been received, the War Shipping Administration announced today.

These include statements from General George C. Marshall, U. S. Army Chief Staff; Admiral E. J. King, Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, and Chief Naval Operations; General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander; Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas; and Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandergrift, United States Marine Corps Commandant.

General Marshall commented on the Merchant Marine's participation in war:

"America's Merchant Marine has carried out its war mission with great distinction, and has demonstrated its ability to meet the challenge of redeploying our full power to the Pacific."

The job being done by the Merchant Marine was praised by Admiral King who said:

"The Armed Forces, with the help of the Merchant Marine, have pushed the fighting 5,000 miles west. Together, they'll go the rest of the way."

Devotion to duty by the men at sea was praised by General Eisenhower:

"The officers and men of the Merchant Marine, by their devotion to duty in the face of enemy action, as well as natural dangers of the sea, have brought us the tools to finish the job. Their contribution to final victory will be long remembered."

The role played by merchant mariners over the globe was described by Admiral Nimitz as follows:

"The United States Merchant Marine played an important part in the achievement victory in Europe, and it is destined to play an even more important role in helping to finish off the Japanese. To move great quantities of war materials principal sources of supply across 6,000 miles of ocean to battlefronts in the Far East is the formidable task now confronting our merchant fleet. We are confident it will be done quickly and efficiently in keeping with the high standards of accomplishment set by the Merchant Marine in every war in our history."

General Vandegrift pointed out how the Marine Corps has been aided in its invasions by the Merchant Marine in saying:

"The men and ships of the Merchant Marine have participated in every landing operation by the United States Marine Corps from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima - - and we know they will be at hand with supplies and equipment when American amphibious forces hit the beaches of Japan itself. On Maritime Day we of the Marine Corps salute the men of the merchant fleet."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Maritime Day Message to the American People in 1941

For Release after 1:00 P.M., Thursday, May 22, 1941

Excerpt of Remarks by Captain Macauley, Member of United States Maritime Commission, at National Maritime Day Ceremonies Aboard SS American Seaman, Navy Yard, Washington, DC. May 22, 1941.

"Today, in the western world we face a crisis which depends on the control of our seas for a favorable solution. A heartening and reassuring factor is that the most important figure in this hemisphere has a knowledge of maritime problems and an understanding of those who follow the sea usually possessed only by professionals. Through the medium of a letter to Chairman [Emory S.] Land of the Maritime Commission the President has sent a Maritime Day Message to all Americans. It is my privilege to read it:

'Dear Admiral Land:

'I am glad of an opportunity to send a Maritime Day message to the American people. Today, as never before in our history, our Merchant Marine is vital to our national welfare. I do not mean vital merely in the conventional sense that it makes an important contribution but in the stranger sense that it is a crucially decisive factor in our continued existence as a free people.

'If we are going to keep away from our shores the forces that have convulsed the Old World and now menace the New, the job will be done in large measure by the ships and the sailors of the Merchant Marine and by the working men who build the ships and supply them. If they fail, the whole effort fails. And earnest, hardworking Americans, who spend the best part of their lives providing for the security and happiness of those they love, know that precious security and happiness depend exactly on the success of that effort.

'I know the effort will not fail; that more and faster ships will be built, manned by trained American seamen, and that they will carry through the open waters of the Seven Seas implements that will help destroy the menace to free peoples everywhere.

Very sincerely yours,

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt

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