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"Short documentary shows how U.S. merchant seamen were trained in seamanship, signaling, gunnery and radio operation."
Public domain film from the US National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
The United States Merchant Marine is the fleet of U.S. civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. 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, and other waterborne craft on the oceans, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals, harbors, and other waterways.
As of 2006, the United States merchant fleet numbered 465 ships and approximately 100,000 people work on U.S. flag merchant ships. Seven hundred ships owned by American interests but registered, or flagged, in other countries are not included in this number.
The federal government maintains fleets of merchant ships via organizations such as Military Sealift Command and the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In 2004, the federal government employed approximately 5% of all American water transportation workers.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, various laws fundamentally changed the course of American merchant shipping. These laws put an end to common practices such as flogging and shanghaiing, and increased shipboard safety and living standards. The United States Merchant Marine is also governed by several international conventions to promote safety and prevent pollution...
The first wartime role of an identifiable United States merchant marine took place on June 12, 1775, in and around Machias, Maine. A group of citizens, hearing the news from Concord and Lexington, captured the British schooner HMS Margaretta...
Word of this revolt reached Boston, where the Continental Congress and the various colonies issued Letters of Marque to privateers. The privateers interrupted the British supply chain all along the eastern seaboard of the United States and across the Atlantic Ocean. These actions by the privateers predate both the United States Coast Guard and the United States Navy, which were formed in 1790 and 1775, respectively.
19th and 20th centuries
The merchant marine was active in subsequent wars, from the Confederate commerce raiders of the American Civil War, to the assaults on Allied commerce in the First and in the Second World Wars. 3.1 million tons of merchant ships were lost in World War II. Mariners died at a rate of 1 in 24, which was the highest rate of casualties of any service...
Merchant shipping also played its role in the wars in Vietnam and Korea. During the Korean War, the number of ships under charter grew from 6 to 255. In September 1950, when the U.S. Marine Corps went ashore at Incheon, 13 Navy cargo ships, 26 chartered American, and 34 Japanese-manned merchant ships, under the operational control of Military Sea Transportation Service, participated.
During the Vietnam War, ships crewed by civilian seamen carried 95% of the supplies used by the American armed forces. Many of these ships sailed into combat zones under fire. The SS Mayaguez incident involved the capture of mariners from the American merchant ship SS Mayaguez.
During the first Gulf War, the merchant ships of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) delivered more than 11 million metric tons...