It was just about this time in the morning a certain amount of months ago that I stood on the deck of a ship and looked back at the land that was quickly becoming more and more difficult to see. I don’t remember exactly how I felt that morning, dear; the excitement inside everyone was too great to allow an evaluation of emotions. But I can think back to it now with some sort of comprehension, and it seems to me my reactions must have been a mixture of adventure on the one hand – and a terribly strong desire to be back on land with those I loved and whom I knew I wouldn’t see for a long long time. I must have thought about you – and very hard, too, for as I remember it you were constantly in my mind – as I’m sure my letter to you, written on the ship, must have implied. I must have wondered, darling, what would happen to our affair, because I admit that at that time I felt that I just hadn’t quite had enough time to win you. How glad I am that I was wrong!
The trip, as I wrote you afterward, was uneventful – but everyone was artificially keyed up. We needn’t have been, as matters turned out, but the combination of moving pictures, newspaper stories and radio reports in the months preceding couldn’t help but have some effect on all of us. I remember visiting the men of our outfit and giving them short talks on various subjects with a view towards relaxing the mind, where my own, dearest, wasn’t entirely relaxed itself.
It’s interesting to think back on things and analyze one’s feelings of the past. In the months to come, sweetheart, I hope to be able to look back on this particular interlude just as calmly. With God’s help, I know I will.
Well, well, well – how did I get around to reminiscing like that? It’s not the past I should be thinking about – but the future. I do plenty of that though – and as I wrote you before – I skip the details of the immediate future in my mind’s eye, and I find myself back home with all those I love, either getting ready to marry you, sweetheart, or when I really splurge – already married to you. Heavenly days! and that’s just what it will be, too. I knew I loved you when I left, darling, but my love has matured immeasurably since then. Your constancy and sincerity have made me love you more than I thought possible considering I’ve been away. Just think how much I’ll be able to love you when I get back!
Darling, I’ll have to stop now. I’m in a pleasant mood right now – and when I finish this I’m just going to sit back and dream awhile. There’s been no mail for 3 days now but I expect there ought to be some soon. My love to the folks, sweetheart – and remember, dear that I love you very strongly and that I’ll continue to love you forever.
The purpose of the United States Maritime Service was to enlist and train those who would serve in the U.S. Merchant Marine and the U.S. Army Transport Service. The following document was issued on 17 May, 1944, lowering the age of those training for the Merchant Marine to 16 with parents' consent:
WAR SHIPPING ADMINISTRATION
Cleared and Issued Through Facilities of the Office of War Information
The War Shipping Administration announces that, effective immediately, the United States Maritime Service will enlist young men between the ages of 16 and 17 1/2 years for training for service in the Merchant Marine of the United States, with their parents' consent. Six weeks training is required for service as messmen and utility men in the stewards department, and 13 weeks training for service in the deck and engine departments. Upon completion of training, men will be assigned to merchant vessels within a few weeks. No men are being enrolled between the ages of 18 and 26 except those classified by Selective Service in any F or L classification or in 1-C, but all qualified men over the age of 26 and less than 35 1/2 for the deck and. engine departments, or less than 50 1/2 for the stewards department, are eligible for enlistment for training.
A career at sea has always been attractive to young men. The Merchant Marine is playing a vital part in winning the war. Without it, supplies, equipment, and troops could not be transported to our battlefronts. Gen. Eisenhower, Gen. McArthur, Gen. Montgomery, Admiral King, and Admiral Nimitz have recognized the merchant seamen as part of our fighting team.
Here is a way young men can volunteer for a part in the winning of the war, before they reach the age of registration under Selective Service.
In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, realizing that winning the war would require many ships to carry war supplies to the fronts, ordered mass-production of Liberty ships. He also established the U.S. Maritime Service (USMS) to enlist and train the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine and the U.S. Army Transport Service needed to operate these ships and troop ships. The USMS was first established under the Coast Guard and later supervised by U.S. Navy. Many of its first recruits were from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and many others were sent to the USMS by U.S. Navy and Coast Guard recruiters. The USMS was the only racially integrated service of the time.
The USMS took over 250,000 raw recruits and turned them into fighting mariners. They taught them operation of anti-aircraft guns and cannon. They taught navigation, engine operation and maintenance, and deck operations aboard training vessels that operated in hazardous waters subject to mines and attack by submarines. Men at the fronts depended on the trained mariners for bombs, gasoline, shells, ammunition, food, guns, vehicles, planes, medicine, and other materials for warfare. In fact, 1 in 25 mariners serving aboard merchant ships died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. services. Casualties were kept secret during the war to keep information from the enemy and to attract and keep mariners at sea.
Thousands of active and retired mariners, Navy, and Coast Guardsmen were pressed into duty to serve as administrators and instructors in the U.S. Maritime Service. They believed then, and still believe today, they joined a uniformed, armed service. However, many of these were cheated out of service and retirement time. The USMS Training Bases were disbanded in 1954, the servicemen sent home with a "release from duty" to be all but forgotten by the country they served. Merchant Seamen returned without veteran status. They received no travel pay expenses, mustering out pay, state and/or federal pensions, disability benefits, or other federal veterans benefits. They did not receive home loans at a reduced interest rate, G. I. Loans, on the job training with journeymen's wage scale, paid college education with living expenses, or medical and dental payments which other veterans received.