LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The Merchant Marines played a big role in supplying the Allied effort during World War 2. Bill Sampson is proud of his service in the Merchant Marine during World War 2. He helped haul supplies and aircraft fuel across the South Pacific, based out of Australia.
“We usually had a load of aircraft gas, or sometimes diesel,” said Sampson. “That’s what we were hauling was fuel.”
That made Merchant Marine ships big targets of the Japanese.
“Oh yeah, we were a major target. If they could sink a tanker, they had done some damage. Not just a ship, but a shipload of fuel. All you had to do was hit it somewhere. The whole thing was gone.”
That’s what happened to a fuel tanker Sampson was on in the Pacific. He ship was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. He floated in the ocean for three days.
“I saw some land and swam to it. There were native people on there. Of course, they were strictly on our side because the Japanese treated them so bad that they hated them worse than we did.”
The natives on the island contacted military officials and Sampson was rescued.
The Merchant Marines suffered a per capita casualty rate greater than those of the U-S Armed Forces in World War 2. They were denied official veteran recognition until 1988.