Licking resident Susan Geer (formerly from Yukon), and her sons Edward Geer and Peter Geer of Yukon and Lt. Col. Scott Geer of Washington, D.C., recently received a package from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration containing a copy of the Congressional Gold Medal that was awarded to her late husband, Myles Geer, who was a member of the Merchant Mariners during World War II.
Merchant Marine personnel were denied veterans status until 1988, and it wasn’t until 2020 when the Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor their service was signed by President Donald Trump. The lack of recognition lingered, even though Myles and his fellow mariners executed the greatest sealift in the history of the United States. Sadly, many of these brave and courageous Mariners died before being recognized.
It was hazardous duty. One-in-26 mariners who served in the Merchant Marines were killed during World War II — the highest fatality rate of any branch of military service.
The U.S. Merchant Maritime Service began service to the nation and aiding the allies in 1939 and didn’t stop until after the war ended. Mariners served in war zones in the Atlantic, Asiatic-Pacific and Europe-Africa-Middle East, and took part in every amphibious landing, including Anzio, D-Day, Okinawa, Iwo Jima and the Philippines.
By the end of World War II, approximately 250,000 Americans had served in the Merchant Marines.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said their mission was the most difficult and dangerous transportation job ever undertaken. In a letter sent to all U.S. Merchant Mariners after the World War II, President Harry S. Truman said, “You undertook a most severe task – one which called for courage and fortitude.”
Myles Geer joined the Merchant Marines shortly after graduating from high school in 1944. He sailed on three missions.
His first was aboard USAHS (Hospital Ship) Charles A. Stafford, that crossed the Atlantic to England and back. His second mission was aboard the SS Nathaniel Alexander. Carrying military supplies to U.S. and Allied troops, they crossed the Atlantic and went around Cape Hope (at the southern tip of Africa), and then sailed north in the Indian Ocean before entering the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to reach Egypt. His third mission was aboard the SS Carleton Ellis. They sailed from New York harbor through the Panama Canal to join of one convoy of many ships sailing toward Japan to take part in Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan.
Geer was awarded the U.S. Merchant Marine Atlantic, Mediterranean-Middle East and Pacific War Zone Defense Medal and Victory Medal.
When World War II ended, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, initially serving with the 11th Airborne Division during the occupation of Japan.
Geer served with the 65th Infantry “Borinqueneers” Regiment during the Korean War. In 2016, members of the outfit were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service in Korea.
Geer was also a recipient of the Republic of Korea’s Korean War Ambassador for Peace Medal.