Seamen in the Merchant Marine came from all corners of American society. Recruiting standards differed from those of the armed forces, so thousands of men excluded by the military served their country aboard merchant ships. They ranged in age from 16 to 78. Some men had weak hearts, poor vision, or other disabilities, but their service was essential to the war effort. The Merchant Marine was more racially integrated than any of the branches of the service.
Young men trained as ships’ officers at the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, established in 1938 at the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York. By the end of the war, 6,000 new officers had been trained.
Free Time on a Liberty
Like other sailors in downtime at sea, Liberty ship crews played cards, read, and tried to distract themselves from the intensity of wartime service. The crews included members of the Armed Guard of the U.S. Navy, shown here in navy uniforms, who manned the guns aboard ship.
Courtesy of the U.S. Maritime Commission