PortSide Veteran's Day update on forgotten merchant mariners of WWII

Don Horton's mother on a barge during WWII

Don Horton's mother on a barge during WWII

Last Veteran's Day, we covered the subject of a class of largely-forgotten maritime veterans, the women, children, elderly and disabled mariners who served during WWII.

Below, we provide an update on the cause to finally get recognition for all of them, thanks to info provided by Don Horton who first brought this story, and cause, to our attention. Don Horton was one of those child mariners, serving on a barge with his mother, father and siblings.

Our post from Veteran's Day 2013

Our 9/15/14 interview with Don Horton during his visit to Red Hook, Brooklyn where we took him to various sites that were strongly stamped in his memory.

What you can do for this cause

You can write /call your respective US Senator and ask that they co-sponsor Senate Amendment Sa-3548.  This is the amendment that can provide the avenue to allow for alternative methods of recognition for WW II coastwise mariners.  It is a copy of S-1361, WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act.  Background and Alternative Methods of Recognition, July 2014

The following info is from Don Horton

The bills before Congress

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate offered bills in in support of these veterans, HR 1288 and S-1361, WW II Merchant Mariners Service Act.  HR 1288 was amended in to HR 4435, 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and this bill cleared the House with the amendment intact and is awaiting Senate action for comparison with the Senate  NDAA S 2410.

S -1361 was introduced by Senator Chris Murphy, D-CT back in March, 2014.

In May of 2014, Chairman Senator Levin and Ranking Member Senator Inhofe of the the Senate Committee on Armed Forces selected a large block of amendments for possible inclusion in what is commonly referred to as a Manager’s package.  This package includes certain Bills and amendments that are generally favored by specific groups or members of the Senate. S 1361 was not included within that group. 

Shortly afterward in July, Senator Murphy introduced Senate Amendment Sa-3548. but after the offering of the ”Managers Package”. 

We are awaiting the Senatorial debate on the floor to see if they will consider any more amendments or not.  With this late bit of information, we immediately set about to reach out to all cosponsors of S 1361 (5) and request they come aboard Sa-3548 as cosponsors.  Next we asked each member of the Senate Committee of Armed Forces to become Cosponsors and finally we are asking the remainder of the Senate to become cosponsors to Senator Murphy’s Amendment.

It is our hope to obtain sufficient co-sponsors to bring attention to the exhaustive efforts to have these mariners be given their promised recognition, by court order and many congressional speeches, proclaiming full and unequivocal support for our veterans.

I received an email from the Fleet Reserves that states the Senate version S 2410 of the NDAA may be brought to the floor and may allow debate and issuance of additional amendments.  This is a departure from past Senate actions and good news for us.  Congress is scheduled for convening on 12 November. I attempted to have this confirmed by Senate contacts but was unable.  They neither confirmed nor denied.  

How many mariners are we talking about?

Don Horton at work on a barge during WWII.

Don Horton at work on a barge during WWII.

No one knows either how many served or how many were lost.  GAO asked the Coast Guard to identify how many served during WW II and they could only tell them how many credentials were issued during 1939 to 1946, about 840,000, but stated they had no idea how many served in enemy contested waters.  Historians settled on about 250,000 serving who may be entitled to veteran recognition.  To date about 91,000 have been recognized as veterans.  
 
No one can state how many were lost and presumed dead.  Numbers range from around 5200 to about 9500.  We have documentation that demonstrates that New York lost about 1300 of the numbers of 5200.  That is an eye opening figure for anyone to digest.  I have provided names of those from New York who were lost and the very few who have been recognized as veterans.

Mayor de Blasio announces new park equity plan & funding

Photo and caption from article today in New York Times:  Saratoga Ballfields, Brownsville, Brooklyn. Photo by    Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Photo and caption from article today in New York Times:  Saratoga Ballfields, Brownsville, Brooklyn. Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

News & Background

Park Equity News from Gotham Gazette

Park Equity News from New York Times

Valentino Park Comfort Station proposed Parks Department plan. This became so large, in part, due to FEMA requirements that a new building in coastal flood zone be elevated.

Message to Red Hook

Dear Red Hook:

Thinking of the Valentino Park and Coffey Park discussions, above is info about citywide discussions about ‪#‎parkequity‬ to get funding to underserved neighborhoods. Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce a new plan today with $130MM in funding to go to 35 parks.

This is encouraging news in and of itself (we support more going to communities that have less) and seems like a good time to bring to citywide level one of the issues that our Valentino Comfort station has brought up, eg, how to keep costs down.

$130MM will not go far if 4 toilet stalls cost $2.4MM.

Let's find ways to engage constructively in a citywide discussion about how to improve parks for all. Better, cheaper, smaller potties for us could be the start of something bigger for all. All word play intended.

It would be good for Red Hook to bear in mind, that though many feel this community was slighted for years, by now Red Hook has revitalized so much we are NOT as underserved as places like Brownsville are.

Thanks to NYS Senator Daniel Squadron for his work on #parkequity and to Councilman Carlos Menchaca for bringing the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to the community table for meetings about waterfront parks in Red Hook and Sunset Park.