MAY 24, 1945
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—Yesterday was set aside to commemorate the part played by the Merchant Marine in the war, I am glad to know that an organization called "The Merchant Marine Veterans' Foundation" has been formed for the purpose of aiding permanently injured and retired veterans of the American Merchant Marine.
The maritime unions on the East and West coasts, to which men in the Merchant Marine belong, have often been considered our most radical unions. This arises out of the fact that in the old days working on our merchant ships was probably the hardest job of any that a man could hold. Conditions over the years have greatly improved, but you still have to be hardy and adventurous to go to sea in the Merchant Marine.
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There have been rather fantastic stories of pay and bonuses on dangerous trips during the war, but people forget that a man receives no pay when ashore. He is not included under the regular social security program, nor does he receive many of the benefits for himself or his family which men in the Navy receive.
A member of the Merchant Marine, as a result of a law passed by Congress, is cared for in Public Health Service hospitals if he is injured. The men give high praise to these marine hospitals, which are located in most of the larger ports and several of the interior cities. There are, however, certain limitations to this service. If a man is discharged from the hospital and does not return for treatment within a period of two months, he no longer has any right to this care, for after two months without treatment he is presumed to be cured of any injury connected with the war.
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Many a Merchant Marine crew has been torpedoed more than once in the course of the war. They have gone on trips to every part of the world. The Navy crews who operate the guns on merchant ships and the protection given convoys by our naval ships and planes have been greatly appreciated, but they have not been able to prevent enemy attacks and heavy losses at times. There has often been a sense among the sailors who operated the guns that their lives were harder than those of the merchant seamen. But I think in the long run the average Navy man has as much for his family and himself in the course of a year as the merchant seaman can make and provide for his family.
Without our Merchant Marine this war could not be won, and it is greatly to our interest to make the life of our merchant seamen a worthwhile existence in the future, because I believe we are going to need our ships to sail the seven seas.