At the time, the United States, in addition to the three main branches of service there were the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine. The Coast Guard played a role in the recruitment of the United States for World War II, although they did not have to directly face the ferocious enemy as the other branches of service. The merchant marine, like many naval vessels, was active at the forefront of the war, but they are often easily forgotten by history.
On February 19, 1941, with the final approval of the U.S. Congress, the Coast Guard Reserve (Coast Guard Reserve), which had been a civilian volunteer unit, was officially renamed the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Although this auxiliary detachment did not even have a uniform until May 1942, it completed the initial build for Coast Guard recruiting and training. The Coast Guard’s recruiting and training routines were also patterned after those of the Navy.
Given the nature of the Coast Guard’s work, the upper age limit for enlistees is as relaxed as possible, with all U.S. citizens under the age of 40 eligible to apply, and some clerical and service jobs appropriately relaxed to 55. Recruits will first be sent to the Coast Guard Training Center in CapeMay for two months of basic training.
To guard against possible spy infiltration in naval ports, the Coast Guard formed the Volunteer Port Security Force in February 1942, which was perhaps the Coast Guard’s greatest contribution during World War II. In addition, the Coast Guard followed Britain’s lead and launched the “Beach Patrol” program in October 1942, assigning specially trained Coast Guardsmen (and some local residents who volunteered) to patrol sea conditions along the east and west coastlines of the United States.
In contrast to the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, like many Navy ships, was active on the front lines of the war, but they are often easily forgotten by history. Throughout World War II, the Merchant Marine suffered a high casualty rate, and its transportation efforts were described by Churchill as “one of the most tragic maritime operations of World War II.
Under the Merchant Marine Act, passed in late June 1936, the U.S. Federal Maritime Administration formally established the Merchant Marine Cadet Corps in March 1938 to meet the staffing needs of the future large number of newly built merchant ships. Subsequently, the Maritime Administration built three seafarers’ training schools across the country, and the recruitment conditions were very lenient.
The original plan of the Maritime Administration was to train at least 35,000 seamen by 1942, but after the United States became involved in World War II, it became clear that this number could not meet the staffing needs of the merchant marine; therefore, the training cycle for seamen was reduced to eight weeks. In addition, the Marine Cadet Corps training was transferred to the Coast Guard in February 1942, but this was soon transferred to the War Shipping Administration seven months later. In the meantime, two additional schools were established by the Maritime Administration in order to increase the number of cadets as quickly as possible.
But the training of the merchant fleet was put to the test in the period 1942-1943: internally, the U.S. demanded that production of Liberty ships be accelerated, and the corresponding shipping bureaus had to ensure that the training of the required personnel was completed in the time it took to build an average Liberty ship. Externally, the 15 months from March 1942 to May 1943 were undoubtedly the most costly period for the merchant fleet, especially for those supporting the British and the Soviet Union, which were attacked in turn by German submarines and raiders. The combination of internal and external factors caused the training cycle of the crews to be repeatedly compressed.
The training of armed personnel and crews on merchant ships was done separately. As early as October 1941, the U.S. Navy Department formed the Navy Armed Guard specifically for the self-defense of 1,375 U.S. merchant ships and began a three-week gunnery training program the following month. However, the training period and the simultaneous increase in numbers were clearly detrimental to the U.S. merchant fleet in the short term, and at the time many merchant ships had an average of less than 12 gunners, and the shortage of men caused the merchant ships to suffer more serious casualties in the months that followed. This passive situation did not fundamentally improve until after the Allies committed anti-submarine carrier formations and long-range anti-submarine patrol aircraft around May 1943, but over the next two years or so, more than 2,400 crew members and more than 900 armed defenders were still tragically killed in the line of duty.
By the end of World War II, the U.S. Merchant Marine had trained 215,000 crew members and 145,000 armed defenders who contributed immeasurably to the ultimate victory of the Allies. But the chilling thing is that these unsung heroes of World War II were not recognized as combatants by the U.S. government until 1988, so for more than 40 years after the war, they were denied the Government Compassionate consolation money to other veterans or families of fallen service members.