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"One ship by itself is safer if it’s undiscovered. If it’s discovered, then it’s dead, because it hasn’t got any protection at all."(Audio Interview, 21:30)

   Richard Lee Newman
Collection image
Richard L. Newman in Merchant Marine Uniform
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Merchant Marine
Unit: Navy Reseve, General Service, Deck, Merchant Marine
Service Location: Pacific Ocean; Atlantic Ocean; North Sea; Red Sea; English Channel
Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade
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As a member of the first class of the Merchant Marine Academy, Richard Newman received a commission in the Naval Reserves, but the Navy persuaded him to stay with the Merchant Marine. Applying his education in navigation and other skills, Newman rose through the ranks on three long and memorable voyages. On his cadet voyage he had to overcome a fear of tall ladders to stand watch in the crow’s nest. On his second outing, he and a colleague had to cover for a drunken captain during complicated maneuvers, and finally, he helped deliver supplies in support of the D-Day Invasion. In his 2002 interview, at a time when the U.S. was contemplating military action against Iraq, Newman was eloquently defending the need for a professionally trained Merchant Marine to deliver the goods.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (39 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
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»They Also Served: Coast Guard and Merchant Marine
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Joined Merchant Marines in 1942; after 2 months of basic training, sent to sea and served six months; entered academy for 8 months of study and became eligible to sit for Third Mate's license examination; though commissioned in US Naval Reserve as Ensign, was urged by Navy to stay in MM, which needed well-educated officers; had studied navigation, cargo-handling, ship construction, and rules of the road; on top of that had spent 6 months at sea. (02:49) Selected Merchant Marine for the promise he could go to sea as a cadet, to be able to travel to places he would never had otherwise seen; reported to Liberty ship SS Henry Villard; chief officer was in his 80s; sailed from Portland, OR, to San Diego and then on to New Zealand and Aden, Arabia; carrying munitions to Suez for British Army; chief took ill on way back, left ashore in British Guyana; Newman promoted to Third Mate. (05:06) Applying for another job as Third Mate, he ran into his original captain, who hired him as a Second Mate; he was now a navigation officer; explains the duties of the Mates on a ship; captain bailed out on the voyage at the last minute; they sailed to England and Scotland, and on to Murmansk; bad run; attacked by both German subs and planes, lost “a lot of ships;” forming a convoy in Belfast; Third Mate tipped him off that the captain was drunk, so they had to improvise; next voyage was to take pontoons to Normandy to help after the invasion with unloading cargo; anchored in English Channel, he watched waves of Allied planes overhead each day going from England to the mainland and back again. (06:13)
How a merchant ship used Navy armed guard crew; the tradeoff of operating with and without a convoy; fear of ladders made it tough for him to pull watch duty as a cadet in the crow's nest. (05:11) More on his experience in Murmansk; women laborers on docks; theft of cargo strictly monitored; local merchants did not accept American money; Russian equivalent of USO; Merchant Marine ships targeted by German subs led to many casualties; ships were the only way to carry massive amounts of cargo; two men from his community didn't make it back from their cadet cruises; talks about the size and layout of the ship he was on for all three cruises. (07:48) Diagrams a convoy and explains how ships avoided colliding; high-risk maneuvering, especially at night, when there were no lights; coordinating signals among the ships; graduated in 1943 in first class of Merchant Marine Academy; argues for necessity of the Academy and a government-supported Merchant Marine. (04:38)

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  October 26, 2011
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