The American Maritime History Project proudly offers this book as a tribute to the men who died in World War II while serving as U. S. Maritime Commission (USMC) Cadets, Cadet Officers, Cadet-Midshipmen, or as officers on merchant ships after finishing any of these training programs. Collectively they were known as Kings Pointers, although not all of them ever stepped foot on the Academy grounds at Kings Point, New York. Some were USMC cadets before Kings Point was conceived, some were graduates of state maritime academies who enrolled in the USMC cadet officer program; others attended regional U.S. Merchant Marine officer training schools at Pass Christian, Mississippi, or San Mateo, California, and at Kings Point, NY. This latter group of men was sent to sea as cadets to complete three or more months of training and they were expected to report to Kings Point for their final training; unfortunately many made their final voyage to rest in a watery grave.
While this project specifically honors the Kings Pointers who died, we will never forget nor minimize the estimated 243,000 men and women who served in the merchant marine during WWII and the estimated 9,521 who were killed at sea, killed as prisoners of war and who died from wounds later ashore. According to usmm.org, there was a casualty rate of 3.9%. Kings Point records indicate that the youngest Cadet-Midshipman to die was 17 years and 11 months of age; the eldest was 24 years and 10 months, The average age of the deceased Cadet-Midshipmen was 20.5 years of age. The last two Cadet-Midshipmen to die in WW II were John Artist and Dante Polcari on April 9, 1945 as a result of a collision on board the SS Saint Mihiel a tanker carrying aviation gas.
Because of their supreme sacrifice, the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy is privileged among the nation’s five federal academies to be the only institution authorized to carry a Battle Standard pennant as part of its color guard. The proud and colorful battle standard perpetuates the memory of 142 Kings Point Cadet-Midshipmen who died during World War II. Kings Point is the only federal academy that sends its students into ‘harms way’ during their training.
The names of the Cadet-Midshipmen and graduates who died are remembered in monuments at the Academy. Since war time record-keeping is never exact, it was not an easy task to come up with the precise number and the names of the men who constitute the 142 Cadet-Midshipmen and the many USMC and Kings Point graduates who died. Thus there are a few inaccuracies on the monument. In this tribute to the deceased Cadet-Midshipmen and graduates, the authors have researched as many documents as possible to tell the story of each young man on those lists and monuments.
Some Cadet-Midshipmen died in training accidents or from illnesses while in the United States; others died of accidents ashore or afloat while serving on their ship during the war. The authors have determined that some graduates also died of non-battle related accidents ashore or afloat, and three may have died from a self-inflicted wound, not unlike the same tragedy that has occurred during the extreme stress of every war. There may be more cadets who died of accidents or illnesses while in training during World War II whose names may not be included here because of poor war-time record keeping. Others as Cadet-Midshipmen became naval officers and never returned to the Academy; we do not know if any of them died in the War.
German and Japanese submarines and aircraft and mines sunk, damaged, captured or detained 1,768 ships during the war (usmm.org). Many sailors including Cadet-Midshipmen survived. The Kings Point survivors, over 400 Cadet-Midshipmen, formed an exclusive club called the TIN FISH Club when they returned to the Academy to continue serving their country, but they did not forget their lost shipmates.
The end of the hostilities of World War II did not end the continued contributions of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduates to their country. Many Kings Pointers continued to serve in all branches of the military services in peacetime, and in the wars that have followed—Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Other graduates and Cadet-Midshipmen served on merchant ships in these war zones. Since 1947, eight Kings Point graduates serving in the Air Force, Marines and Navy died in aircraft accidents in training or while teaching others to fly. Eliot See, class of 1949, a member of the NASA space program, died in 1966 when his T-38 jet trainer crashed. He was scheduled to be the prime pilot on Gemini 9 space capsule.
Six graduates died as military officers in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Two graduates died while serving as merchant marine officers during the Vietnam War. Two graduates were killed when terrorists flew commercial jets into the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. Academy Cadet-Midshipmen and graduates continue to serve their country today just as they served in World War Two and their service is recognized and honored.
Braving the Wartime Seas is the final product of the vision of many Academy graduates, but in particular of Eliot Lumbard Class of 1945. Memories of his training period as a Cadet-Midshipman during World War II serving on convoys to the Mediterranean remained embedded in his mind. The shock of the bombing raids on his convoy and his personal observations of the total loss of several ships and the cruel deaths of untold numbers of military personnel and merchant mariners were instrumental in his conception of this book to honor his comrades and other Cadet-Midshipmen and graduates.
Before Eliot Lumbard turned his attention to this tribute, he formed a Board of Directors and solicited contributions to support the publication of two book-length histories—The Way of the Ship, a history of the U. S. Merchant Marine from 1600-2000 and In Peace and War, a history of the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy. The Board also approved the publication of other material of importance to the mission of the Academy. Unfortunately Eliot became ill and was unable to direct the project to its completion.
Eliot engaged Jeff Cruikshank, a noted maritime researcher and co-author of In Peace and War, to spearhead research that was the groundwork for Braving the Wartime Seas. We can not thank Jeff Cruikshank and Chloe G. Kline enough for the research and writing they have done and for Jeff’s cooperation with completing this book.
When the publication appeared to languish without Eliot at the helm, George Ryan Class of 1957 was asked by Captain Warren G. Leback Class of 1944 to assume the Chairmanship of the project. A new Board and Advisory Committee were formed and their names are listed below.
Tom Schroeder Class of 1957 and Jim Hoffman Class of 1944 provided valuable encouragement and research findings on the men who died and their families. Tony Romano Class of 1957 continued on as Treasurer and filed the necessary documents to retain our not-for-profit tax status. Roy Corsa Class of 1957 became Assistant Treasurer, assisted with obtaining and identifying photographs of the Cadet-Midshipmen and graduates and became the project contact at the Alumni Foundation. Bob Aimone Class of 1957 and R.E. (Bob) McDermott Cass of 1973 aided with editing.
In some research we were assisted by Dr. George Billy, Chief Librarian at the Academy, and by Dr. Warren Mazek, Dean USMMA (retired), in other matters too numerous to recount. Thanks are extended to Toni Horodysky, who is responsible for the website usmm.org honoring all the Merchant Mariners who died in World War II.
Of major importance in bringing the project to fruition, Thomas McCaffery, Class of 1976, McCaffery & Associates, Inc., offered to complete the research and to arrange the documents on the fatalities in a way that honors each individual Cadet-Midshipman or graduate with a separate page and photographs. Tom McCaffery and his staff of other Kings Pointers have worked pro bono because of their affection for the Academy and their belief that the men who sacrificed their lives should be honored.
We thank all of these persons for their encouragement and support. Last, but not least, on behalf of the Board of Directors, past and present, I extend heartfelt and profound thanks for the financial generosity of many contributors who made the past publications possible and to now complete Braving the Wartime Seas.
The American Maritime History Project rings up FINISHED WITH ENGINES as this book is published.
George J. Ryan, Chairman
ACTA NON VERBA
Directors, American Maritime History Project
Allen, Virgil R., Class of 1973
Corsa, Roy, Class of 1957
Cushing, Charles R., Class of 1956
Hanley, Edward F., Class of 1985
Herberger, Albert J., Class of 1955
Mazek, Dr. Warren, Former Academic Dean, USMMA
McCaffery, Thomas F., Class of 1976
Romano, Anthony P., Jr., Class of 1957, Treasurer
Ryan, George J., Class of 1957, Chairman
Sherman, Fred S., Class of 1955
Yearwood, Donald R., Class of 1961
Yocum, James H., Class of 1947
Renick, Charles M., Class of 1947
Schroeder, Tom, Class of 1957
Stewart, VADM Joseph D., Ninth Superintendent, USMMA