Congressman John Garamendi

Representing the 3rd District of California
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Congressman John Garamendi Introduces the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019

January 15, 2019
Press Release

Garamendi meets with WWII Merchant Marine Veterans and family members of deceased veterans in Washington, DC (Link to full-res photo available here)

WASHINGTON, DC- Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City), introduced the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act with Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) joining as original cosponsors. This legislation would award a Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest honors in the United States, to Merchant Mariners who sustained our armed forces during World War II.

“Throughout the Second World War, our armed forces relied on the Merchant Marine to ferry supplies, cargo and personnel into both theaters of operation, and they paid a heavy price in service to their country,” said Garamendi. “The Merchant Marine suffered the highest per capita casualty rate in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. An estimated 8,300 mariners lost their lives, and another 12,000 were wounded, to make sure our servicemembers could keep fighting. Yet, these Mariners who put their lives on the line were not even given veteran status until 1988.”

“Last year, I got the chance to meet with three World War II Merchant Mariners: Charles Mills of Texas, age 97; Eugene Barner from Kansas, age 92; and Robert Weagant from Illinois, age 92. These mariners put their lives on the line for this country, braving German and Japanese submarines in their Liberty Ships as they delivered critical supplies to our servicemembers in the European and Pacific theaters. Unfortunately, their sacrifice is commonly overlooked. A Congressional Gold Medal would give them the recognition they deserve, and that’s why I’ve introduced this bill: to give these veterans and their families the honor and respect they are owed.”

“The time has come for our nation to provide a well-deserved thank you and honor the remaining Merchant Marine Veterans of WWII with a Congressional Gold Medal. This group of unsung heroes nobly served our country by operating the ships that transported critical supplies to front lines of the war, and in doing so suffered a casualty rate higher than any other branch of the military. In fact, one out of every 26 casualties during WWII was a volunteer Merchant Mariner. America would not be the great nation it is today without their valiant service of yesterday. I urge Congress to support this important bill and recognize this dwindling group of Merchant Marine Veterans from WWII that have served our nation so admirably,” said Christian Yuhas, Vice President of American Merchant Marine Veterans and a Chief Engineer Merchant Marine.

The Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act was introduced in the Senate simultaneously by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The bill is currently awaiting action by the House Financial Services Committee.