By Editor in Chief Johnas Presbyter
We've had quite a bit of chatter on Twitter and some E mails concerning how one goes about obtaining medals and awards for American Merchant Mariners who have operated in close combat support of U.S. naval or Military Forces, especially those who served during WWII. Not long ago the Federal Government passed legislation making certain Merchant Mariners from the WWII era military veterans eligible for certain VA benefits. This has brought up the issue of military decorations and awards for such service. Many of the eligible veterans who applied for the Veteran's status received honorable discharges upon acceptance of their applications from the military authority that chartered their vessels such as the Navy or Army Transportation Corps. Many whose vesels were not on long term charter from the military but were engaged in military logistics were issued discharges from the U.S. Coast Guard. This has brought up the issue of eligibility of wounded or heroic Merchant Mariners being eligible for military decorations from the service issuing their discharge.
We have no definitive answer to that question due to the variance in criteria for the many awards given in WWII. But we do know that throughout the war and even to this day the MAritime Administration and War Shiping organizations of the era provided a number of mariner specific awards. The most confusion seems to be surrounding the Purple Heart. Merchant Mariners wounded in WWII were, and if not yet awarded are eligible for the Mariners Medal the criteria of which reads "The Mariners Medal is awarded to a mariner who, while serving from December 7, 1941 and July 25, 1947, was wounded or suffered physical injures as result of an act of an enemy of the United States." This is the equivalent of the better known "Purple Heart ". Any WWII mariner injured in combat is eligible. Some who actually received this medal do not know what it was for and have been applying for the Purple Heart through t he service that recently provided their discharge for Veterans Benefits purposes. Merchant Mariners are always eligible for the decorations and awards provided by the Maritime Administration for remarkable service but are clearly not eligible for awards redundant with the equivalent Maritime Administration award. Some awards such as the Silver and Gold Life Saving Medals are awarded directly by the Coast Guard and with a bit more timeliness than similar or related Maritime Administration awards. In such cases the mariner may be denied the Maritime Administration award if it is considered redundant with the Coast Guard issued medal. In other cases where a Merchant Mariner has been issued a military discharge, and has performed actions for which a military award is appropriate and no similar award is offered by the Maritime Administration the relevant military service may make the relevant decision. Ther are no hard and fast rules for such situations that we re aware of.
THE MARITIME ADMINISTRATION PUBLISHED ITS POLICIES REGARDING THE WWII DECORATIONS ALONG WITH INFORMATION ON HOW TO OBTAIN BELATED AWARDS IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER IN 2015. This information ios available on line at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/05/21/2015-12088/policy-announcement-merchant-marine-awards-and-flags-program
Below the greater part of the information from this Federal Register Notice is reprinted and highlighted:
A. The Merchant Marine Awards and Flags Committee Responsibilities
1. Receive nominations, through the Director, Office of Ship Operations, from any individual or entity, including individual members of the Committee, that properly addresses award evaluation criteria; and
2. Review nominations and make recommendations to the Maritime Administrator with respect to giving or loaning Merchant Marine flags to any qualifying organization and the award of any awards, medals, decorations, etc., authorized to be issued by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) by Public Law 84-759, and 46 CFR part 350.
B. Awards—The Issuance of Medals, Decorations and Citations
CRITERIA FOR ISSUANCE
1. Gallant Ship Unit Citation Award may be awarded to any United States vessel or to any foreign vessel (merchant, Coast Guard, Navy, or other), crew of that ship or other individuals or organizations participating in outstanding or gallant action in marine disasters or other emergencies for the purpose of saving life or property when the following circumstances are present:
(a) The vessel itself should move to the rescue and not be simply the platform from which crew members perform a rescue operation;
(b) The operation should encompass the maneuvers of the vessel and a substantial part of the personnel;
(c) The operation should involve either the use of the lifeboats by the crew taking to the water to effect a rescue with the vessel in some danger; or the vessel itself, by reason of perilous circumstances, should be in considerable danger;
(d) The conditions should be such that danger to the vessel or the lifeboat or the crew members is present; and
(e) The operation of the ship, its equipment, and personnel should favorably reflect efficiency, discipline and expertness.
2. Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal may be awarded to any person serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine for meritorious act, conduct or service in line of duty when the following circumstances are present:
(a) A Master of a U.S. merchant ship (without separate action) when that vessel is granted the Gallant Ship Award;
(b) An act of heroism, bravery, devotion to duty involving extreme danger (actual or perceived);
(c) The act, if it involves lifesaving, should be generally one performed while the vessel is at sea and not in a harbor, at the dock, or otherwise idle;
(d) The act may be at sea or in port if it involves an effort directed toward saving the vessel or the cargo; and
(e) The act should be one not directly entitling the individual to other medals such as the Carnegie Medal, the Coast Guard Medal for Lifesaving, etc. Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal may be awarded to any person serving in the U.S. Merchant Marine who distinguished himself or herself by outstanding act, conduct, or valor beyond the line of duty when the following circumstances are present:
(f) Extreme peril to the life or safety of the individual attempting the rescue action;
(g) It must be considered as going beyond the call of duty;
(h) It must involve the activity of the Merchant Marine so that it is distinguished from a saving of life or property where the vessel is solely a platform from which the individual moved or upon which the individual acted; and
(i) The accomplishment or the attempt must involve human lives or something of considerable worth either actual or considered so in the mind of the individual performing the action.
3. The Mariners Medal is awarded to a mariner who, while serving from December 7, 1941 and July 25, 1947, was wounded or suffered physical injures as result of an act of an enemy of the United States. Editor's note : This is the MErchant MArine Equivalent of the Purple Heart.
4. For World War II mariners who sailed in various war zones: Editor's Note: These are the equivalent of the naval campaign and threater ribbons
(a) The Atlantic War Zone Medal and bar are awarded for service in the Atlantic war zone, including the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea, during the period from December 7, 1941 to November 8, 1945;
(b) The Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Medal and bar are awarded for service in the zone including the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean west of 80 degrees east longitude, during the period from December 7, 1941 to November 8, 1945;
(c) The Pacific War Zone Medal and bar are awarded for service in the Pacific War Zone, including the North Pacific, South Pacific and the Indian Ocean east of 80 degrees east longitude during the period from December 7, 1941 to March 2, 1946;
(d) The Merchant Marine Combat Bar is awarded to Merchant Mariners who served on a vessel which at the time of such service was attacked or damaged by an instrumentality of war from December 7, 1941 to July 25, 1947. A star is attached if the mariner was forced to abandon ship. For each additional abandonment, a star is added;
(e) The Victory Medal with bar are awarded to members of the crew of vessels who served for 30 days or more during the period from December 7, 1941 to September 3, 1945; Editor's Note: THis is the exact equivalent of the various Victory Medals issued by all of the Armed Services in WWII
(f) The Honorable Service Button is awarded to members of crews of vessels who served for 30 days during the period from December 7, 1941 to September 3, 1945;
(g) The Merchant Marine Emblem is an identifying insignia that was issued to active Merchant Mariners for service from December 7, 1941 to July 25, 1947;
(h) The Presidential Testimonial Letter signed by President Harry S. Truman was awarded to all active Merchant Mariners of World War II; Editors note: This is not considered the equivalent of a "Presidential Unit Citation" which when issued to military units carries a ribbon bar. This is unique to the Merchanat Marine. If a merchant Mariner served on a ship that was part of a convoy , squadron, or flotilla that was awarded a "presidential Unit Citation" he or she may possibly be due the associated ribbon bar.
(i) The Government of the Philippines authorized the Philippine Defense Medal/Ribbon and Philippine Liberation Medal to members of crews of vessels who served in Philippine Start Printed Page 29386waters. The Philippine Defense Medal is awarded to members of crews who served in Philippine waters for not less than 30 days from December 8, 1941 to June 15, 1942. The Philippine Liberation Medal is awarded to members of crews who served in Philippine waters for not less than 30 days from October 17, 1944 to September 3, 1945; and
(j) The Soviet Commemorative Medal was awarded to Merchant Mariners who participated in convoys to Murmansk during World War II . EDITOR's Note: We have no information on the current status of posthumos or delayed awards from foreign governments.
Editor's Note: AFTER WWII MANY MERCHANT MARINERS BECAME INVOLVED IN COMBAT SUPPORT OPERATIONS EVEN UP TO THE PRESENT DAY. SOME OF THE MORE RECENT DECORATIONS FROM THE MARITIME ADMINISTRATION ARE DESCRIBED BELOW:
5. Korea Service Medal and bar: For Merchant Mariners who sailed during the Korean War, the Maritime Administration has authorized the Korean Service Medal and bar to be awarded to mariners who served in the Merchant Marine in waters adjacent to Korea between June 30, 1950 and September 30, 1953.
6. Vietnam Service Medal and bar: For Merchant Mariners who sailed during the Vietnam conflict who served in the Merchant Marine at any time from July 4, 1965 to August 15, 1973 in waters adjacent to Vietnam.
7. Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal: Established in 1990 to recognize U.S. Merchant Mariners who served on U.S.-flag ships in support of U.S. military and allied forces. This medal was first for service in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. The medal is also authorized for mariners who served in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
8. Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement: The Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement is an award given to mariners or other individuals making a significant contribution to the U.S. Merchant Marine or the maritime industry of the United States. The medal may be awarded by the Maritime Administrator for any activities that he/she finds to be an outstanding maritime achievement. For example, the medal may be awarded to recognize mariners or other individuals for maritime activities of a humanitarian nature. The medal also may be awarded to recognize those individuals in the maritime industry and educational community for their outstanding achievements and contributions to the U.S. Merchant Marine or the maritime industry of the United States. Individuals making significant contributions to fostering, developing and promoting the U.S. Merchant Marine or the maritime industries of the United States also are eligible for the award.
9. The Administrator's Professional Ship Award is intended to recognize National Defense Reserve Fleet (“NDRF”) vessels, crews, ship managers, general agents and related contractors and other related personnel that achieve the highest degree of readiness, performance, efficiency, reliability, productivity and safety, or that have distinguished themselves through outstanding accomplishment or significant mission contribution in connection with NDRF missions;
(a) Each vessel, individual, or other entity approved for this award will receive a commendation letter from the Maritime Administrator and a certificate. The certificate will be inscribed with the name of the ship and the operation or other activity for which the award was earned and signed by the Administrator;
(b) With respect to an award given to an NDRF vessel, the certificate will be framed and forwarded to the appropriate Ship Manager/General Agent to be mounted in the master's office or other appropriate area on the vessel; and
(c) Awards will be based on demonstrated and sustained superior performance in fulfilling the vessel's assigned mission. Information will be considered from all sources (e.g., reports from program sponsors, Gateway Offices, operational commanders, MARAD surveyors' observations, etc.).
10. Additional awards:
(a) The Maritime Administrator may determine to create award categories in addition to the awards set forth above.
(b) The Awards Committee may recommend to the Maritime Administrator such additional award categories as it deems appropriate.
(c) Any recommendation and establishment of a new award category shall contain the following:
i. A specific title for the award;
ii. A description of what would be awarded; (i.e. medal, plaque, certificate)
iii. Detailed criteria as to what is necessary to qualify for such award; and
iv. A determination by the Office of Chief Counsel that such an award category is within the authority under Public Law 84-759 and 46 CFR part 350 or this MAO.
(d) All such new award categories shall be published in the Code of Federal Regulations and on MARAD's Web site.
(e) In any case of a proposed award or citation to a foreign vessel or to a master or person serving aboard such vessel, such award or citation shall be subject to the concurrence of the Secretary of State.
C. Other Recognition—The Donation or Loan of Merchant Marine Flags
In times of war and national emergency, the Merchant Mariners of the United States have played a critical role in the transportation system that supports and serves with the armed forces of the United States. Termed the “fourth arm” of defense by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the mariners of the United States provide vital transportation of critical personnel and materials to the appropriate locations in support of the national defense and emergency response efforts of the United States.
MARAD receives requests for Merchant Marine flags and logos from organizations that wish to honor the historic and continuing contributions of Merchant Mariners to the United States. MARAD also has received requests for Merchant Marine flags and logos from various educational organizations that perform maritime training.
Honoring the historic and continuing contributions of Merchant Mariners supports MARAD's mission. Providing these flags, and displaying them with the flags of the U.S. Armed Forces, recognizes the role Merchant Mariners have played and continue to play in the national defense of the United States. In recognizing the achievements and importance of the service of U.S. Merchant Mariners, the displays will enhance public awareness of the United States Merchant Marine as a career path for citizens of the U.S. and focus individuals considering such careers on the importance and value of the work they would do as Merchant Mariners. This recognition will serve to underscore the dignity and significance of the U.S. Merchant Marine as a whole. In addition, such flags will remind those training to be Merchant Mariners that they are part of a long tradition and profession whose mission goes beyond individual gain in support of the highest principles of public service.
Merchant Marine flags are neither gifts nor awards for individuals. Their purpose is to recognize and memorialize the past and continuing role and contribution of the Merchant Mariners of the United States.
The Merchant Marine Awards and Flag Committee will make recommendations to the Maritime Administrator regarding which groups satisfy the criteria set forth below and whether it should receive either the donation or a loan of the Merchant Marine flag and under what terms and conditions.Start Printed Page 29387
CRITERIA FOR THE DONATION OR LOAN OF MERCHANT MARINE FLAGS
Merchant Marine flags may only be donated or loaned to the following groups:
1. Public entities, or civic organizations in the United States qualified under United States Code, Title 26, section 501(c)(3), which at the location in which the Merchant Marine flag would be displayed have, at the time of application, at least 100 members and host visits by at least 2,500 other members of the public annually in that location; and, at the time of application, publicly display the United States flag and the flag of at least one United States military service.
2. Educational institutions providing maritime training that would lead to a career in the United States Merchant Marine.
3. Institutions qualified to receive donated property under 46 U.S.C. 51103.
4. Non-profit organizations as defined by Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501(c)), memorial/museum ships, and public bodies that:
(a) Are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organization;
(b) Are open to the public, or have and will display the flags in publicly accessible areas; and
(c) Possess an educational, maritime, or civic mission.
5. Federal, State or local government entities that will display the flags in publicly accessible areas.
6. Cemeteries or other locations at which U.S. Merchant Mariners are buried and where the Merchant Marine flag will be displayed with the flags of at least one other of the Armed Forces of the United States.