House Companion of Murkowski Bill Honoring WWII Merchant Mariners to Become Law

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) applauded the Senate passage of the House companion legislation to her bipartisan, bicameral bill – the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act, sending it to the President to be signed into law. The legislation would award a Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian honors, to the Merchant Mariners who helped protect America during World War II. Introduced by Senator Murkowski in January 2019, with Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Angus King (I-ME), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) as original cosponsors, Murkowski worked to gain broad support of this legislative effort, gaining a total of 73 cosponsors. Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) led the bill in the House of Representatives with Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) as cosponsors.

“Merchant Marines are the unsung heroes of WWII. During one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever seen, they served alongside many American military members as civilian volunteers, risking their lives for the sake of our freedom. Their selfless service, no doubt, supported America in her ability to prevail,” said Senator Murkowski. “I thank my Senate colleagues for supporting me in this effort, and I hope that this legislation to honor the brave Merchant Mariners, who risked their lives to keep America’s Allied troops armed, fed, and fortified, will swiftly be signed into law.”

“Each day, we meet children and grandchildren of WWII USMM who tell us of their veteran and how they survived two or three torpedo attacks. Others tell stories of the Murmansk Run. They post photos of very young men (some looking like boys) dressed in merchant marine uniforms or news clippings of their grandfather who was lost at sea. Each and every one of these photos has a story to tell and it is up to us to tell them,” said Sheila Sova a daughter of WWII U.S. Merchant Mariner and volunteer with American Merchant Marine Veterans organization. “My Father, Orville Lee Sova, left me with determination to see this recognition through.”

For text of Senator Murkowski’s Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act, click here.

Background: The U.S. Merchant Marine transports soldiers and supplies for our nation’s military through commercial, non-naval ships. During WWII, the Merchant Marine provided crucial services such as transporting soldiers, tanks, airplanes, ammunition, fuel, and food rations to aid soldiers on the front lines.

It is estimated that around 8,300 Merchant Mariners died or went missing during WWII. As many as 12,000 were wounded, and more than 600 became prisoners of war. Despite their patriotic services and commitment to the United States, our WWII Merchant Marines were not awarded their veteran status until 1988, nearly 40 years after the war had ended.

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