Merchant Marine Veterans Want Pension

The Merchant Marines were small in number compared to other military branches, but their role in World War Two was no less important. They delivered troops, supplies, food and other necessities to all theaters of the war - often under enemy fire. Now, these veterans are asking Congress for a monthly pension.

Dub Bourgeois served from 1943 to 1946 in the Pacific.

"The benefit today that we're asking for, that's written into the bill, is a thousand dollars a month income that can be passed on to your widow. Bearing in mind that the average age of the mariner from World War Two is 81, we don't have a heck of a lot of time."

Another veteran, Jules Burg, says, "It took the government to recognize us as a veteran 40 years, 1988. At that time, we didn't get the full benefits of the GI bill, so this would compensate for the GI bill."

Bourgeois and Burg belong to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of the Merchant Marines. They meet once a month to share lunch and talk about issues, like the pension, they think are important.

Their duties often put them in harm's way, and they suffered the highest casualty rate in the war.

"I was on a merchant tanker, a tanker carrying aviation gasoline. Had one blow up, had another one caught fire. Another one end up in the high seas that cracked up the boiler and I had to go and hunt boilers to fix them, so it was dangerous," Veteran Jim Blount says.

The veterans say they're not asking for handouts, only for what they say they're entitled to for serving their country.

The Merchant Marine pension bill was introduced in the U.S. House by a California congressman. The veterans say they are hopeful that companion bills will be introduced in both chambers by our own Congressional delegation.