September 9, 2009 Veterans History Project Spotlights Vets of the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine
Press Contact: Jeffrey Lofton, (202) 707-6432; Tom Wiener (202) 707-0977
The Veterans History Project (VHP) at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center spotlights the interviews of United States Coast Guard and Merchant Marine veterans in “They Also Served,” a website feature that comprises a dozen first-person accounts of those who went to sea to transport troops, deliver vital supplies, protect our shores, and patrol enemy waters. These one-of-a-kind stories can be found at www.loc.gov/vets/.
“The service and sacrifice of the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine veterans are often overlooked,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “Having their recollections among the over 65,000 individual stories in the VHP collection enriches our archive for researchers and scholars, and these personal accounts are never forgotten.”
Among the stories in “They Also Served” is that of Merchant Mariner William Chambers, who was 18 years old when he entered the Pennsylvania State Nautical School in October 1939, shortly after World War II broke out in Europe. Chambers was en route to Hawaii on a cargo ship when his captain announced news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He recalled many dangerous journeys during his career, none worse than a 1942 trip to Russia, during which he lost three ships to torpedoes or mines. At the war’s end, he was still at sea, carrying supplies for the invasion of Japan.
Also featured is Irwin “Rocky” Robinson, who earned his nickname as an amateur boxer. Robinson was a shipping clerk when he enlisted in the Coast Guard—sweet-talked into that branch by a clever recruiter who saw him standing in a long line to join the Navy. Robinson became a Pharmacist’s Mate aboard the convoy’s lead ship, which had the only doctor for miles and miles. Their patients included a German prisoner with whom the Jewish Robinson, was able to communicate in Yiddish. He saw action in North Africa, where he attended services in a historic temple during the High Holy Days; in Sicily; and in the Pacific, where he and his comrades dodged Japanese kamikazes.
The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s website, www.loc.gov, and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized website at myLOC.gov.
The Veterans History Project was created in 2000 by Congress to record, preserve, and make accessible the first-hand remembrances of American wartime veterans from World War I through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Approximately 65,000 individual stories comprise the collection to date. The project relies on volunteers to record veterans’ remembrances using guidelines accessible at www.loc.gov/vets/. Volunteer interviewers may request information at [email protected] or the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.