U.S. Rep. Susan W. Brooks, R-Ind., introduced legislation last week awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Merchant Mariners that served during World War II. 

House Resolution 2992, the “Merchant Marine of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act,” will present the World War II merchant mariners with the highest civilian award Congress can bestow for their heroic efforts in providing critical supplies of war to U.S. troops by sea.

“The brave actions of the Merchant Marine during World War II proved instrumental in securing victory for the Allied powers,” Brooks said. “These loyal and courageous men put their lives on the line for the cause of freedom, and selflessly answered their nation’s call to duty. Unfortunately, their sacrifice is commonly overlooked, and there are fewer surviving Merchant Mariners every year. It is time for Congress to honor their service before we miss the opportunity to properly recognize these heroes.”

During wartime, merchant mariners serve as an auxiliary to the Navy and are responsible for the transoceanic transport of military and civilian personnel as well as combat equipment, fuel, food, commodities and raw materials. During World War II, risking their lives to provide the needed supplies for battle, merchant mariners bore a higher per-capita casualty rate than any other branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. In total, hundreds of merchant mariner ships and thousands of men were lost to enemy combatants during the course of the war.

Congresswoman Brooks met with merchant mariners at the American Legion Post in Fishers last October. Gene Taylor, a member of the Indiana Chapter of the U.S. Merchant Marine, served as a World War II merchant mariner in the South Pacific from 1944-1945. Taylor trained with the U.S. Coast Guard at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, and served primarily in the South Pacific during the war.

“I would like for my grandchildren to realize that I fought for our freedom as well as any U.S. service did,” Taylor said.

Congresswoman Brooks is also a cosponsor of H.R. 563, “Honoring Our WWII Merchant Mariners Act of 2015” introduced by Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif. The bill would provide surviving World War II merchant mariners with a one-time $25,000 benefit. Merchant mariners never received full veteran benefits. The legislation will provide modest benefits to the nearly 5,000 surviving World War II merchant mariners.

“Recognizing the World War II merchant marine veterans is one of my highest priorities,” Hahn said. “I applaud Congresswoman Brooks for introducing legislation to honor these unsung heroes with the Congressional Gold Medal and am happy to cosponsor her legislation. I also appreciate her co-sponsorship of H.R. 563 legislation I introduced to give long overdue compensation to the merchant marine World War II veterans.”

View the bill HERE.