The United States Merchant Marine


What is the Merchant Marine?

The United States Merchant Marine is a sea service of the United States which consists of the fleet of U.S. civilian and federally owned merchant vessels, operated by either the U.S. government itself or entities of the private sector and the personnel who serve both aboard those vessels and ashore. These vessels and personnel are engaged in the commerce and transportation of goods and services upon navigable waters world-wide as well as U.S. maritime interests ashore. The Merchant Marine is responsible for transporting cargo and passengers during peacetime. In time of war, the Merchant Marine is capable of being an auxiliary to the Navy, and can be called upon to deliver military personnel and materiel for the military. The Merchant Marine, however, does not have a role in combat, although a merchant mariner has a responsibility to protect cargo carried aboard his ship.

Merchant mariners move cargo and passengers between nations and within the United States, and operate and maintain deep-sea merchant ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, excursion vessels, charter boats and other waterborne craft on the oceans, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals, harbors, and other waterways.

What do you call people who are in the Merchant Marine?

Mariners. Seamen. Seafarers. Sailors. Never marines! Only members of the United States Marine Corps carry the title of Marine. Mariners is the preferred designation, just like the Seattle professional baseball team. The term Merchant Marines is incorrect.

U.S. Maritime Service or U.S. Merchant Marine?

The United States Maritime Service was by law the official training organization for the U.S. Merchant Marine. It trained men for the U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Army Transport Service to transport supplies and personnel in the largest fleet of freighters, tankers, and transports in history to bases all over the world for U.S. and Allied forces. Men at the fronts depended on this important service for bombs, gasoline, shells, ammunition, food, guns, vehicles, planes, medicine, and other materials for warfare. When training ended the person was "released from active duty" in the Maritime Service and went to sea in the Merchant Marine. Today the Maritime Service exists only in the Maritime Academies.

Which came first, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, or U.S. Merchant Marine (in war service)?

The Merchant Marine was first. On June 12, 1775, a party of Maine mariners, armed with pitchforks and axes, inspired by the news of the recent victory at Lexington, Massachusetts, used an unarmed lumber schooner to surprise and capture a fully armed British warship, HMS Margaretta, off the coast of Machias, Maine. The men used the captured guns and ammunition from the ship to bring in additional British ships as prizes. American privateers soon disrupted British shipping all along the Atlantic coast.

The Revenue Cutter Service was founded on Aug. 4, 1790, by Alexander Hamilton as a fleet of cutters to prevent smuggling and that is the usual date used for the beginning of the United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is made up of several "component" services: the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lifesaving Service, and the Lighthouse Service. The name Coast Guard was not used until the 20th Century, when the components were combined. However, the other two components were around long before 1775, especially the Lighthouse Service.

The Continental Navy was founded in 1775, but ended operation at the end of the Revolutionary War. The last warship was sold in 1785 and the Navy disbanded. The launching of the United States in 1797 marked the birth of the United States Navy.

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