Book Review: Merchant Mariners at War: An Oral History of World War II


by George J. Billy and Christine M. Billy, editors

Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2008. Pp. viii, 322. Illus., append., notes, biblio., index. $30.00. ISBN:0813032466

Proportionate to their numbers, American merchant mariners suffered greater casualties than any branch of the armed forces. By linking personal accounts of the service of 59 American Merchant Marine Academy alumni, the editors have created a readable, and surprisingly comprehensive look at merchant seamen in the Second World War. 

The men in question, many of whom did not attend the academy until after service afloat, provide accounts of their training, shipboard duties, and ship board life, within the context of their wartime experiences. Their tales recount seemingly endless and tedious days at sea in virtually every quarter of the world, often confronting the many hazards of the deep, as well as harrowing moments of combat against enemy aircraft, submarines, and occasionally surface ships. The accounts, which are often gripping, are well told, and when taken together provide a look at the great diversity of experience merchant mariners had during the war.

This work is an excellent addition to the literature of the war at sea.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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