Merchant Seamen

On the Water - Merchant Seamen Section Header

The seamen of the Merchant Marine kept open a lifeline of supplies to fighting forces overseas.

During World War II, U.S. shipyards turned out cargo vessels faster than the ships could be supplied with crews. Recruiters urged men to join the Merchant Marine, and volunteers came from across the country. Some had never seen the ocean and others came out of retirement. Merchant seamen ran the ships that carried supplies and men through dangerous waters in the North Atlantic and the Pacific. Thousands paid with their lives. By war’s end, some 290,000 men had served in the Merchant Marine.


But for the lives that were lost on these ships...we wouldn’t have our freedom today.
—Capt. Frank Medeiros, USMS (Ret.)


Teamwork Wins: You Build ’Em, We’ll Sail ’Em, 1943

People and ships to win the war was the theme of posters produced by the United States Maritime Commission, the government agency responsible for the nonmilitary maritime war effort.

Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

You bet I’m going back to sea, 1942

U.S. Merchant Marine War Shipping Administration