Today we celebrate Maritime Day, an annual opportunity to recognize the contributions of the maritime industry and the U.S. Merchant Marine.
The maritime industry and our merchant mariners have supported our nation’s economy and our national security for more than 235 years. But this year, I am reminded of one mariner in particular, Eugene Quidort, who, in February, finally received six medals from the Maritime Administration for his brave service to our country with the United States Merchant Marine during World War II.
In 1943, while a midshipman at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, Quidort was serving aboard the Esso Gettysburg, delivering 120,000 barrels of crude oil, when two German torpedoes hit the tanker. He was flung from the ship and, after swimming through oil, water, and sharks for three hours, was among a few survivors able to find safety in a badly burned lifeboat. Tragically, 40 of his fellow crewmen, including three other cadets, were not as fortunate.
Quidort was undaunted by his experience. He continued to support the war effort as a merchant mariner aboard another tanker, a hospital ship, and two different troop transport vessels. "As far as Hitler goes," he says, "I did my part."
Eugene Quidort’s service is in the fine tradition of merchant mariners ready to answer any call during times of need. That tradition dates back as far as 1775, and it continues today.
Last fall’s Hurricane Sandy relief effort showed that our merchant mariners and the midshipmen of Kings Point are still prepared for whatever comes their way.
The three vessels combined to provide more than 17 thousand berthing nights and more than 32 thousand meals, including a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Most importantly, they allowed our dedicated relief workers to restore a sense of normalcy to a region that had been devastated by the hurricane.
Maritime Day is just a small token of our nation’s appreciation for one of our oldest forms of transportation. We at DOT commemorate the sacrifices of our merchant mariners and honor their achievements by continuing to carry America's proud maritime legacy forward.