by Johnathan Thayer, Archivist
With the first full year of United States involvement in the war complete, Admiral Emory S. Land, Chairman of the War Shipping Administration, reported that 3,200 seamen had either been killed or gone missing at sea during 1942. The merchant marine suffered a 3.8% casualty rate, a full three percentage points higher than any branch of the American armed service.
The merchant marine faced continued danger at sea as the war raged from 1943–1945. At the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI), the Women’s Council knitted thousands of sweaters, socks and other woolen articles for seafarers, as donations of toiletries and overcoats poured in from around the country. East Coast shipyards launched two Liberty ships named for SCI staff members—the SS JANET LORD ROPER and the SS ARCHIBALD R. MANSFIELD—adding to America’s growing fleet of war-ready merchant vessels.
On the beaches at Normandy, the Allied merchant fleet played an essential role in the D-Day invasion. As the war escalated in the Pacific, the merchant marine faced threats from Japanese submarines and planes. Finally, V-E and V-J days inspired massive celebrations in New York, and the seafarers and staff at SCI’s 25 South Street took to the roof of the building to take in the festivities happening along the City’s waterfront.
Part three of the Digital Exhibit “SCI and the Merchant Marine during World War II” looks at the crucial years 1943–1945 during which the merchant marine solidified its role as an essential component of the Allied fight against the Axis powers.
Click here to explore the third and final part of a digital exhibit detailing the role of SCI and the merchant marine during World War II.