Norman, Our Merchant Marine

“In the end, people just want to be heard, and to know that what they said matters”

                        ~ Oprah Winfrey


On Veterans Day we are reminded of all those who served our country.  Several years ago, we had a gentleman come and tell his story as a POW pilot in WWll.  It was a riveting story and we later pummeled him with questions and enjoyed looking at his pictures.  A big thank you to Mr. Moser for sharing his story with us.

 Today before lunch, our resident, Norman announced that he would like an hour to share his story about when he was in the merchant marines.  We were honored to hear about his life and his service to our country.  We wanted to write this blog to remind us of his story and share with others how truly remarkable every life is.

 In 1942 Norman graduated from High School and in 1943 he started going to the merchant marine academy.  He graduated top of the class but humbly added that it was a very small class. 

 Norman wanted to serve his country but just couldn't see himself killing someone.  So he chose the merchant marines.  We learned about the important role the merchant marines helped with in winning the war by supplying the troops all around the world with everything from pins, buttons, and zippers to food, ammunition, tanks and planes.  The merchant marines not only supplied the troops with everything they needed, but they also brought back important materials from around the world back to the US. 

 After the academy, Norman was given the rank as an officer of the first ship he was on.  In his own words, “I was wet behind the ears trying to be in charge of seamen that had years of experience and knowledge.” 

 Norman was only seasick once as the ship pulled out of New York harbor for the first time.  But it seems as if he found his sea legs quickly and never was sea sick again.  We learned that when the seamen ate, they used a wet table cloth to keep plates and things from sliding as the boat rocked and rolled during meals.  The tables had a lip on them so if the plates did slide, they wouldn’t land in the sea men’s laps.

 On one July 4th, Norman’s ship was in the Persian gulf and was experiencing 104 degree weather.  The sleeping conditions were small and cramped so the addition of 104 degree heat made it feel as if they were slowly being cooked in a “crockpot”! 

 Norman explained that when the ships left US harbors, they left in big brigades.  He showed us pictures of this and it was amazing to see how many ships were a part of this vast brigade.  Norman explained that these merchant ships were enemy targets and it often felt as if they were just sitting ducks waiting to be torpedoed.  One time his ship was torpedoed by the enemy.  Fortunately, the ship had been unloaded and was not weighed down deep into the water.  Because of this, they were saved as the torpedo missed the hull of the ship and passed right under. 

At night when we wish Norman a goodnight and tell him we will see him in the morning, he always replies, “ I hope so”.  Now we understand why.  Norman explained that he never knew if during the night they would get torpedoed and he would find himself, “swimming with the fishies”.

 Norman has been all around the globe in the line of duty.  Thank you Norman for serving your country with such courage and bravery.