Merchant Marine Veteran Dave Yoho falsified his birth certificate so he could join the effort during World War II. He was fifteen years old when he joined the branch that would experience the highest casualty ratio of the war; 1 in 26 Merchant Marines would give their lives.
Dave joined the crew aboard the SS Great Meadows, a T2 refueling tanker operating in the Pacific Theatre. He worked in the engine room, thirty eight below the water line. When he asked his “salty old” 22 year old officer how they would get out if hit, he was told “Kid..if we take a hit you ain’t gonna get out of here.”
The sacrifice made by the WWII Merchant Marine is exhibited by one particular convoy on the “Murmansk Run”, a critical supply line for the Russian allies. Of the 33 ships that began PQ 17, only 11 made it safely.
The war ended four days before Dave’s 17th birthday. When he returned home he was a Veteran but not able to vote or buy a drink. Merchant Marines were not recognized as Veterans and therefore received no benefits. “We call it an oversight because it eases the pain. If we thought it was anything else it would break our hearts.” That “oversight” was not corrected until 1988.
Another initiative to recognize their service came about in 2020 when bi-partisan legislation to award all WWII Merchant Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal was signed into law. This came about thanks to advocates like Rita Cosby and Congressman John Garamendi.
“Life is a series of new beginnings and most of us made a choice.” Dave completed his GED, spend three years in “night school” and founded his own business at the age of 28. Today his company Dave Yoho Associates is one of the leaders in his industry & Dave is recognized as one of the most accomplished public speakers in the country.
Only approximately 2,000 WWII Merchant Marines remain. If you would like to support their cause please visit American Merchant Marine Veterans.
TAKEAWAY: “I’m not bitter. I only ask. Can you…will you..ever understand? We gave up our youth to serve. “