Butterfield Seeks Recognition for WWII Merchant Marines

Apr 1, 2011
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman G. K. Butterfield filed bipartisan legislation that would make deserving World War II U.S. Merchant Marines eligible for veterans’ benefits.

“The Merchant Mariners have long and rightly been known as the fourth arm of defense,” Butterfield said. “We need to make that deserving World War II Merchant Marines can receive the benefit they earned through their service.” 

Butterfield’s World War II Merchant Marine Service Act, H.R. 1288, seeks to expand which documents can be accepted in determining Merchant Marines’ eligibility for veterans’ benefits. The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Renee Elmers (R-N.C.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).

Butterfield explained that during World War II, U.S. Merchant Marines contributed directly to the war effort. These contributions took place while their private employers were under contract or direction of the U.S. military or government, or due to their participation in military activities such as the defense of wide geographic areas, including Guam and Bataan.

After several failed attempts, Congress eventually approved legislation that made U.S. Merchant Marines with active oceangoing service during World War II with eligible for veterans’ benefits. 

While many Merchant Marines are eligible for benefits, Butterfield said that it is often extremely difficult to meet the documentation requirements. Currently, the only documents accepted are certificate of shipping and discharge forms, continuous deck or engine logbooks, and shipping company records that indicate the vessel names and dates of voyages.

“The fact is, many of these documents never existed or are all but impossible to obtain,” Butterfield said.

The World War II Merchant Marine Service Act bill would allow several alternatives means of documentation, Butterfield said. Under the bill, acceptable forms of documentation would include Social Security Administration records, validated testimony by the applicant or closest living relative and other official records that provide sufficient proof of service.  

Today, there are fewer than 10,000 World War II Merchant Marines.

“Time is running short for a lot of deserving veterans,” Butterfield said.

Butterfield filed a similar bill in July last year.