American Merchant Mariners Memorial

 American Merchant Mariners Memorial , Marisol Escobar, public art, New York City

Public Art: American Merchant Mariners Memorial

Sculptor: © Marisol Escobar

Description: The bronze sculpture depicts three merchant seamen on their sinking ship trying to save a fellow sailor who had fallen overboard, after their boat had been attacked by a U-boat during World War II. One of the seamen is reaching down into the water trying to grab the sailor's hand while the other two are looking on. The sculpture is loosely based on a faded photograph taken by the commander of an attacking submarine during World War II as the crewmen of the unarmed SS Muskogee scrambled from their sinking vessel . All souls died at sea, seven under controversial circumstances (see below).

During high tide the sailor slips under the waters of the Hudson with only the hand exposed.

Date Unveiled: The Merchant Mariner's Memorial was dedicated on 8th of October, 1991

Commissioned by : The American Merchant Mariners' Memorial, Inc.

Location: The American Merchant Mariners' Memorial can be found along  the Hudson River just off the western edge of Battery Park (near The Sphere sculpture and Statue of Liberty ferry dock). It is on a stone breakwater of Pier A, and is connected to the pier by a dock, Manhattan, New York City, USA.


American Merchant Mariners Memorial

Dedicated to all Merchant Mariners who have served America from the Revolutionary War through to the present day.
In the prosecution of war and in pursuit of peaceful commerce, unrecognized thousands have lost their lives at sea.
Their sacrifices have helped secure America's liberty and prosperity.

The sculpture was inspired by a photograph of the victims of a submarine attack on an American merchant ship during World War II.

Left to the perils of the sea , the survivors later perished.

This memorial serves as a marker for America's Merchant Mariners resting in unmarked ocean depths.

In recognition and appreciation
U.S Senator John O. Breaux
U.S. Representative Walter B. Jones
U.S. Representative Helen Delich Bentley
U.S. Maritime Administrator Captain Warren G, Leback
America's Maritime Labor
America's Merchant Mariners
America's Maritime Industry
Battery Park City Authority
American Merchant Mariner's Memorial Incorporated
Lane Kirkland, Chairman
Rear Admiral Thomas A. King, USMS (RET), President
Board of Directors & Members
Governor Mario M. Cuomo, State of New York
Mayor David N. Dinkins, City of New York

The fate of the SS Muskogee crew:  The fate of the S.S. Muskogee and its crew remained a mystery until  1955 when the son of Muskogee's Captain uncovered the truth.

On March the 22nd, 1942 at around 5am the unarmed and unescorted oil tanker S.S. Muskogee was hit in  the engine room by a torpedo from a German  U-boat (600 miles off the coast of Virginia). It took only 16 minutes for the vessel to sink. As the boat was sinking however, Reinhard Hardegen, the commander of the U-Boat, took several photographs.

Despite the belief that all 34 men died on board the S.S. Muskogee, several decades later it was  reveal that there were in fact seven survivors. They had scrambled into two life rafts and had been questioned by Hardegen before being set adrift. Seems the U-Boat was unable to take the men onboard due to lack of room and so abandoned them in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is assumed they all perished.

This truth was discovered by George Betts, the son of the Captain William Betts, in 1955 after he read Wolfgang Frank’s Sea Wolf. The book mentioned the sinking of his father's ship. It wasn't however, until 1978, after obtaining declassified copies of U-123's logbook, that it could be confirmed . 

Betts would  later make contact with the commander of the U-Boat, Reinhard Hardegen who confirmed the truth. In 1987 the two met face to face in Quebec City. Hardegen told Betts he was unable to bring the men aboard the U-Boat but  had given them cigarettes, water , provisions and navigational assistance.  Hardegen gave Betts a photo he took of the seven survivors in the life rafts, Bett's father was not one of them.

Things You May Not Know:

The United States Merchant Marine is the name given 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. In time of war, the Merchant Marine doesn't have a role in combat other than protecting its cargo. They can ,however, be called apon ny the Navyto deliver troops and supplies for the military.

In World War II alone it is estimated that 700 American merchant ships were lost, and 6,600 mariners gave their lives.

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