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Merchant Marine (U.S.)

Last modified: 2021-06-26 by rick wyatt
Keywords: united states | merchant marine |
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[U.S. Merchant Marine flag] image by Dan Horodysky, 25 May 1999

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On May 24, 1994, Maritime Administrator Albert J. Herberger unveiled a flag designed to honor America's civilian seafarers who have supported the Nation's armed forces in times of war and carried its commerce in peacetime.

The commemorative flag was first displayed at the annual U.S. Merchant Marine Memorial Service at the Nation's Capitol in Washington, D.C. The event honors the thousands of merchant seafarers killed during wartime.

Key components of the flag's design are an eagle, perched on a red, white and blue shield, and a fouled anchor. The eagle's wing tips follow the contour of the U. S. Merchant Marine emblem below the words "In Peace and War." The year 1775 is also included in the design in recognition of the early contributions of the U.S. merchant marine to the Nation's history.

"America's merchant marine and civilian seafarers have put themselves at risk to support our armed forces throughout our history," Herberger said. "It is most appropriate that this symbol of America's appreciation to American merchant mariners be presented today."

A total of 733 American cargo ships were lost to enemy action during World War II and more than 6,000 civilian American seafarers lost their lives as the result of enemy action.

The American merchant marine also provided strong support to the Nation's armed forces during subsequent conflicts, including those in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

Most recently, the merchant marine and armed forces combined in support of humanitarian efforts to relieve the suffering people of Somalia, and to restore democracy in Haiti. The flag was designed by the U.S. Army's Institute of Heraldry.
Submitted by Dov Gutterman, 25 January 1999

USMM is not legally a uniformed service. Officers are volunteers, and flag officers are generally superintendants at the federal or at state maritime academies. The US Code does mandate that ranks be identical to those in the Coast Guard.
Dave Fowler, 10 April 2021


Convoy Commodore flag

There is a convoy commodore flag--white with a blue cross--that is used by the senior officer of a convoy under naval escort. That is usually a senior merchant or retired naval officer who is in charge of keeping the convoy properly organized, and so on.

Some shipping companies designate their seniormost master as the commodore of the line and have a special flag for his use, in lieu of the house flag. The one's I've seen have been broad pennant-shaped (i.e., swallow-tailed) versions of the house flag.
Joe McMillan, 18 February 2003