Artorius Books


"They go to sea, and back to sea, and back to sea again, until one wonders how it is possible to face the continued expectation of death or long chances of survival. Those who have suffered the most seem the most anxious to get back to sea." --January 1943 US Government Report on Convoy Fatigue (of American merchant seamen).

Comparison of Merchant Marine Casualty Rate to Other Services:
Merchant Marine: Serving 243,000, War Dead 9,497, Per Cent 3.90,
 Ratio 1 in 26

Marine Corps: Serving 669,108, War Dead 19,733, Per Cent 2.94,
 Ratio 1 in 34

Army: Serving 11,268,000, War Dead 234,874, Per Cent 2.08,
 Ratio 1 in 48

Navy: Serving 4,183,466, War Dead 36,958, Per Cent 0.88,
 Ratio 1 in 114

Coast Guard: Serving 242,093, War Dead 574, Per Cent 0.24,
 Ratio 1 in 421

Total: Serving 16,576,667, War Dead 295,790, Per Cent 1.78,
 Ratio 1 in 56

(Note: Figures and graph copyrighted US Maritime Service Veterans at

Admiral Karl Dönitz's Famous Four Imperatives For Sea Warfare:

1. All attempts to rescue members of ships that have been sunk, including attempts to pick up swimmers, or to place food and water, will cease. The rescue of survivors contradicts the elementary necessity of war for the destruction of enemy boats and their crew.

2. The order for the capture of captains and chief engineers remain in force.

3. Survivors may only be rescued when interrogation may be of value to the U-boat.

4. Be severe. Remember that in his bombing attacks on German cities the enemy has no regard for women and children.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

"The men of our American Merchant Marine have pushed through despite the perils of the submarine, the dive-bomber, and the surface raider. They have returned voluntarily to their jobs at sea again and again, because they realized that the lifelines to our battlefronts would be broken if they did not carry out their vital part in this global war."

General Douglas MacArthur:

"I wish to commend to you the valor of the merchant seamen participating with us in the liberation of the Philippines. With us they have shared the heaviest enemy fire. On this island I have ordered them off their ships and into foxholes when their ships became untenable targets of attack. At our side they have suffered in bloodshed and in death. The caliber of efficiency and the courage they displayed in their part of the invasion of the Philippines marked their conduct throughout the entire campaign in the southwest Pacific area. They have contributed tremendously to our success. I hold no branch in higher esteem than the Merchant Marine."

Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

"Wonderful exertions have been made by our Navy and our Air Force...and, need I say, by the officers and men of the Merchant Navy, who go out in all weathers and in the teeth of all dangers to fight for love of their native land for a cause they comprehend and serve."

Historian John Keegan:

"The 30,000 men of the British Merchant Navy who fell victim to the U-boats between 1939 and 1945...[and]...their American, Dutch, Norwegian or Greek fellow mariners...stood nevertheless between the Wehrmacht and the domination of the world."

A Sailor Serving in a Royal Canadian Navy Corvette:

"We had great respect for the merchant seamen. I think they were underestimated, especially now by the British public today, because they talk about the Battle of Britain. Granted the pilots did a marvelous, marvelous job, but when you stop and think, how did they get the fuel across to fly those planes, it was the merchant seamen. And, honestly, I think they're the bravest men out, the Merchant Navy."

The dedication line across the top of the illustration above reads: "To you who answered the call of your country and served in its Merchant Marine . . .  President Harry S. Truman"

Adrift in a lifeboat

What unarmed American seamen faced at sea in WWII

I hope you achieved a sense of pride and understanding of your fellow Americans, civilian seafarers all, who answered the call to duty during World War II, after viewing and studying the photos on this page.  Before commenting on the dedication of these barnacle-encrusted heroes I would like to include here a single stark episode of what it really was like to go to sea, and back to sea, and back to sea again during The Battle of the Atlantic: 

Boatswain Sandova and Seaman Dickey from Liberty ship Wade Hampton were alone on a raft at night after she was torpedoed and abandoned.

Dickey: "I don't know how much time went by. It might have been a couple of hours. Sometime that night we saw the black hulk of a ship. It probably was a cor­vette sent by the convoy escort when they picked up our SOS. Our life jackets had little red lights on them, and we flashed the lights so they could see us. We shout­ed, and we pounded on the boards till our fists were sore and we couldn't shout any longer. They never saw us."

Three days later, Sandova froze to death in the wintry gale. Dickey sur­vived, being discovered by a British destroyer.

"Sobbing in utter frustration, crying, and beating his fists against the sodden planking of the raft," he was taken aboard and comforted.

More accounts such as this one are contained in the novel.

The book's dedication page reads as follows:

This story, if it has any merit whatsoever, is dedicated to those courageous and uncomplaining American, British, and Canadian merchant seamen living or dead, who served in World War II, in convoys or in unescorted ships, who suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazi U-boats.

Dedicated also to those remarkably brave sailors of the United States Naval Armed Guard, living or dead, who willingly shared the dangers of those lightly armed merchant ships to protect those self-same seamen from death and destruction on the surface of the sea they all loved.

This book presently is offered in ebook version only.  Purchase and download it  by CLICKING HERE  for $2.99.   The link takes you to SMASHWORDS.COM, which is the premier web site for ebooks formatted for practically every available e-reader to choose from.  Then follow the simple instructions for downloading.

THEY GO TO SEA--The Story of an American Merchant Ship and the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II
A novel that brings to life the courage of our American merchant seamen and Naval Armed Guard gun crews on convoy duty to England.

Underage for the Navy, Ken Mason enlists in the United States Maritime Service and undergoes radio operator training during the summer after graduating from high school. He is not yet 18.

Currently, Nazi U-boats in a feeding frenzy are sinking dozens of ships along the US East Coast and out to sea. Ken, whose father is a New York admiralty lawyer, has, in his father's words, "run away to sea," survives a convoy run across the Atlantic to England. He ships out again upon returning home.

As the assemblage of ships disappears over the eastern horizon on its way to England, Ken and his shipmates must now face the U-boat menace in the North Atlantic for the second time. His ship, however, becomes damaged during a fierce storm and must drop out of the convoy. Her orders are to return to Halifax, Nova Scotia for repairs without an escort.

Forebodingly, the newly built SS Orion Victory is not alone. Kapitanleutnant Walther Starken, the submarine ace better known to the US Navy's COMEASTSEAFRON as "Iron Cross Wally," commanding U-218, stalks the Victory ship and has her in his periscope's crosshairs.

Starken is pursuing not only Ken's crippled freighter but he's eager to achieve a higher goal: winning the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross with the much coveted Eichenlaub or Oak Leaves for merchant shipping tonnage sent to Davy Jones's locker. Sinking the sleek new Orion Victory that is heavily laden with tanks, ordnance, and petroleum products will accomplish just that.



 Torpedo Room U-673

              Merchant Ship Boat Drill Mid-Atlantic WWII
                                    Conning Tower U-673
                  North Atlantic Convoy.  USAAF Photo.
        CGC Spencer firing depth charges in pursuit of U-175
World War II Liberty Ship.  Note gun tubs on the bow and stern, 20mm anti-aircraft guns port and starboard, and break-away life rafts forward and aft of the midships house.
  Photo: Maritime Radio Historical Society, San Francisco, CA

WWII Maritime Commission T-2 Tanker with deck cargo of bubbled aircraft.
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