US Merchant Marine Oral History Project Launches

Nov 12, 2012

by Johnathan Thayer, Archivist

A new initiative to capture the stories of the merchant marine via recorded interviews launches on the SCI Digital Archives website.

The Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) American Merchant Marine Oral History Project, a new initiative launched by SCI’s Archives department, seeks to document the history and experiences of the merchant marine by conducting interviews with retired or veteran mariners. Starting with New York City’s Edwin J. O’Hara chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans Association (AMMV), the project has recorded interviews with ten mariners and port workers, including five veterans of World War II.

The captured stories reflect the hard work and heroism of careers spent at sea. Dick Weir, a veteran of World War II and the dreaded Murmansk Run, survived an incident in which his ship hit a mine and all hands abandoned into life boats. Tomás Vazquez sailed for several decades before surviving an explosion on the tanker SS American Eagle in 1984 that killed several of his crewmates and ended his career. Ed Flynn spent years in the Arctic bringing supplies to Army bases and interacting with native Inuit. Stories like these are now documented and preserved in SCI’s archives as part of its institutional history.

Providing pastoral care and outreach to retired mariners is an essential part of SCI’s ministry. In addition to working with the Edwin J. O’Hara chapter of the AMMV, SCI will welcome the Dennis A. Roland chapter from New Jersey to our Port Newark Center for their monthly meetings starting this winter.

Click here to explore the project and hear the stories of the merchant marine.

If you or someone you know is interested in recording an interview for the American Merchant Marine Oral History Project, please contact Johnathan Thayer at jthayer@seamenschurch.org.