National Maritime Day

The reasons behind National Maritime Day

Each year on May 22, our country celebrates National Maritime Day.

  On May 22, 1918, the SS Savannah departed the port in Savannah, Georgia on its way to Liverpool, England. The ship reached Liverpool in 29 days and four hours, becoming the first steamship to cross the Atlantic ocean. Nonetheless, this impressive achievement is one that signaled the start of the era of steam and American technology leadership.

  On May 22, 1933 Congress declared May 22nd to be National Maritime Day by a joint resolution. In spite of their services and their sacrifices, merchant mariners were not accorded to veterans’ benefits and were excluded from a celebration of Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, and any other day they were exclusively for the Armed Forces. One merchant marine veteran who felt exclusions was Walter Oates. He worked at the Maritime Administration as a Public Affairs Officer. This administration is the successor agency to the War Shipping Administration where oversees the shipbuilding and merchant marine operations in World War II.

  In 1970, Maritime Administration sponsored an observance of Maritime Day to solemnly honor veterans of merchant marine. After long court battles, merchant marine veterans were accorded to rights and privileges of veterans on January 19, 1988. As the years continued, more rights and privileges were given to merchant marines.  

  Today, Maritime Day is observed in a variety of ways. Many ports have open houses and special celebrations. Propeller Clubs all over the U.S. hold special luncheons and special ceremonies. National Maritime Day is a day to pay special tribute to the merchant marines and to the benefits that the maritime industry provides this country and to all who live.