United States Maritime Service
The United States Maritime Service, abbreviated as USMS, was established in 1938 under the provisions of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936
Merchant Marine Act of 1936
The Merchant Marine Act of 1936 is a United States federal law. Its purpose is "to further the development and maintenance of an adequate and well-balanced American merchant marine, to promote the commerce of the United States, to aid in the national defense, to repeal certain former legislation,...

. The mission of the organization is to train people to become officers and crewmembers on merchant ships that form the United States Merchant Marine
United States Merchant Marine
The United States Merchant Marine refers to the fleet of U.S. civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. The Merchant Marine is...

. Heavily utilized during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the USMS has since been largely dissolved and/or absorbed into other federal departments, but its commissioned officers continue to function as administrators and instructors at several maritime academies.

Current role

The U.S. Maritime Service falls under the authority of the Maritime Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation
United States Department of Transportation
The United States Department of Transportation is a federal Cabinet department of the United States government concerned with transportation. It was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, and began operation on April 1, 1967...

. The Commandant of the United States Maritime Service is the Maritime Administrator, and also serves as the Director of the National Shipping Authority and the Chairperson of the Maritime Subsidy Board. The Secretary of Transportation
United States Secretary of Transportation
The United States Secretary of Transportation is the head of the United States Department of Transportation, a member of the President's Cabinet, and fourteenth in the Presidential line of succession. The post was created with the formation of the Department of Transportation on October 15, 1966,...

 may determine the number of individuals in the service, set the rates of pay, prescribe the service's uniform, and create and issue awards for the service. By law, the U.S. Maritime Service's rank structure must be the same as that of the U.S. Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

, but uniforms worn are those of the U.S. Navy
Uniforms of the United States Navy
This article examines dress uniforms, daily service uniforms, working uniforms, special situations, and the history of uniforms of the United States Navy...

 with distinctive USMS insignia and devices.

The Maritime Service is a "voluntary organization" and is not one of the seven uniformed services of the United States
Uniformed services of the United States
The United States has seven federal uniformed services that commission officers as defined by Title 10, and subsequently structured and organized by Title 10, Title 14, Title 33 and Title 42 of the United States Code.-Uniformed services:...


Superintendents or presidents of the seven maritime academies in the U.S. are frequently commissioned in the U.S. Maritime Service, such as the Superintendent of the United States Merchant Marine Academy
United States Merchant Marine Academy
The United States Merchant Marine Academy is one of the five United States Service academies...

. Additionally, some administrators and instructors at the maritime academies may be assigned rank in the Maritime Service. Those with U.S. Maritime Service rank indicate that by listing their rank and name, followed by "USMS".

History of the U.S. Maritime Service

The merchant marine in the United States was in a state of decline in the mid-1930s. At that time few ships were being built, existing ships were old and inefficient, maritime unions were at war with one another, ship owners were at odds with the unions, and the crews' efficiency and morale were at an ebb. Congress took action to fix the problems in 1936. The Merchant Marine Act
Merchant Marine Act of 1936
The Merchant Marine Act of 1936 is a United States federal law. Its purpose is "to further the development and maintenance of an adequate and well-balanced American merchant marine, to promote the commerce of the United States, to aid in the national defense, to repeal certain former legislation,...

, approved on 29 June 1936, created the U.S. Maritime Commission "to further the development and maintenance of an adequate and well balanced American merchant marine, to promote the commerce of the United States, and to aid in the national defense."

The commission realized that a trained merchant marine work force was vital to the national interest. At the request of Congress, the chairman of the Maritime Commission, VADM Emory S. Land
Emory S. Land
Vice Admiral Emory Scott Land was an officer in the United States Navy, noted for his contributions to naval architecture, particularly in submarine design. Notable assignments included serving as Chief of the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair during the 1930s, and as Chairman of the U.S...

 worked with ADM Russell R. Waesche
Russell R. Waesche
Russell Randolph Waesche, Sr. . Waesche served as the eighth Commandant of the United States Coast Guard from 1936 to 1946, overseeing the service during World War II. He also holds the distinction of being the longest serving Commandant, serving ten years in command of the United States Coast Guard...

, Commandant of the Coast Guard
Commandant of the Coast Guard
The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard is the highest ranking member of the United States Coast Guard. The Commandant is normally the only four-star Admiral in the Coast Guard and is appointed for a four-year term by the President of the United States upon confirmation by the United...

, to formulate a training program for merchant-marine personnel. Called the U.S. Maritime Service, the new training program was inaugurated in 1938. It used a combination of civilian Maritime Commission and uniformed Coast Guard instructors to advance the professional training of merchant mariners.

As with the other military services, the entry of the United States into the Second World War necessitated the immediate growth of the merchant marine and the Coast Guard. The Maritime Commission spawned the War Shipping Administration
War Shipping Administration
The War Shipping Administration was a World War II emergency war agency of the US Government, tasked to purchase and operate the civilian shipping tonnage the US needed for fighting the war....

 in early February 1942. This new agency received a number of functions considered vital to the war effort, including maritime training. Several weeks after the creation of the new agency, however, the Maritime Service was transferred again to the Coast Guard (on 28 February of that year, under Executive Order 9083; the marine safety aspects of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (BuMIN) were also transferred to the Coast Guard at this time). The transfer allowed the War Shipping Administration to concentrate on organizing American merchant shipping, building new ships, and carrying cargoes where they were needed most.

The Maritime Service was later transferred to another agency, while marine inspection and licensing continued to be Coast Guard missions. The need for administering the merchant marine during wartime was demonstrated during the First World War. Commerce warfare, carried on by submarines and merchant raiders, had a disastrous effect on the Allied merchant fleet. With the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917, U-boats sank ships faster than replacements could be built. The United States intended to meet this crisis with large numbers of mass-produced freighters and transports. When World War II loomed, the Maritime Commission began a crash shipbuilding program utilizing every available resource. The experienced shipyards built complicated vessels, such as warships. New shipyards, which opened almost overnight around the country, generally built less sophisticated ships such as the emergency construction Liberty ship
Liberty ship
Liberty ships were cargo ships built in the United States during World War II. Though British in conception, they were adapted by the U.S. as they were cheap and quick to build, and came to symbolize U.S. wartime industrial output. Based on vessels ordered by Britain to replace ships torpedoed by...

s. By 1945 the shipyards had completed more than 2,700 "Liberty" ships and hundreds of Victory ship
Victory ship
The Victory ship was a type of cargo ship produced in large numbers by North American shipyards during World War II to replace shipping losses caused by German submarines...

s, tankers and transports.

Former training centers and schools

All of these new ships needed trained officers and crews to operate them. The Coast Guard provided much of the advanced training for merchant marine personnel to augment the training of state merchant marine academies. The Maritime Commission requested that the Coast Guard provide training in 1938 when the Maritime Service was created. The Maritime Service established several training centers throughout the United States:
  • Port Hueneme, California
    Port Hueneme, California
    Port Hueneme is a small beach city in Ventura County, California surrounded by the city of Oxnard and the Pacific Ocean. The name derives from the Spanish spelling of the Chumash wene me, meaning "Resting Place". The area was discovered by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in the mid 16th century...

  • Avalon, California
    Avalon, California
    Avalon, or Avalon Bay, is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island of the California Channel Islands, and the southernmost city in Los Angeles County. Besides Avalon, the only other center of population on the island is the small unincorporated town of Two Harbors...

  • Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York
    Sheepshead Bay Maritime Service Training Station
    The United States Maritime Service Training Station at Sheepshead Bay was opened on September 1, 1942. It closed on February 28, 1954.The station was the largest maritime training station during World War II and was equipped to train 30,000 merchant seamen each year. The site is now occupied by...

  • Hoffman Island, New York
    Hoffman Island
    Hoffman Island is one of two small artificial islands in the Lower New York Bay, off South Beach, Staten Island. A smaller island, known as Swinburne Island, lies immediately to the south....

  • Government Island, California (1938–1943)
  • Gallups Island, Massachusetts
    Gallops Island
    Gallops Island, also known as Gallups Island, is an island in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, situated between Georges Island and Long Island and just over from downtown Boston. The island has a permanent size of , plus an intertidal zone of a further , and is composed of one...

  • Huntington, New York
    Huntington, New York
    The Town of Huntington is one of ten towns in Suffolk County, New York, USA. Founded in 1653, it is located on the north shore of Long Island in northwestern Suffolk County, with Long Island Sound to its north and Nassau County adjacent to the west. Huntington is part of the New York metropolitan...

They also established two officers' candidate schools:
  • Fort Trumbull, Connecticut
    Fort Trumbull
    Fort Trumbull refers to a fort in New London, Connecticut and to a nearby neighborhood.-Neighborhood:The neighborhood of Fort Trumbull was demolished as part of plan for the economic development of New London. The plan was appealed in a case that reached the US Supreme Court, Kelo v...

  • Government Island, Alameda, California (1943–1954)

Training ships manned by the Coast Guard included the maritime-commissionned American Mariner. Licensed and unlicensed merchant marine personnel enrolled in the service. The ranks, grades, and ratings for the Maritime Service were based on those of the Coast Guard. Training for experienced personnel lasted three months; while inexperienced personnel trained for six months. Pay was based on the person's highest certified position in merchant service, and new students received cadet wages. American citizens at least 19 years old, with one year of service on American merchant vessels of more than 500 gross tons, were eligible for enrollment. Coast Guard training of merchant mariners was vital to winning the war. Thousands of the sailors who manned the new American merchant fleet trained under the watchful eyes of the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard only continued the administration of the Maritime Service for ten months after the United States entered the war. Merchant marine training and most aspects of merchant marine activity transferred to the newly created War Shipping Administration
War Shipping Administration
The War Shipping Administration was a World War II emergency war agency of the US Government, tasked to purchase and operate the civilian shipping tonnage the US needed for fighting the war....

on 1 September 1942. The transfer allowed the Coast Guard to take a more active role in the war and concentrated government administration of the merchant marine in one agency. However, just as the transfer removed the merchant marine training role from the Coast Guard, the service assumed the role of licensing seamen and inspecting merchant vessels.

External links

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