American Maritime Partnership (AMP) announced July 13 that it is presenting Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks with the celebrated American Maritime Hero Award. The award recognizes individuals or groups who have “added to the rich heritage of the United States as a maritime nation through their professional contributions, courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.”
Hanks has portrayed a contemporary merchant marine captain whose ship is hijacked by Somali pirates starring in the film “Captain Phillips.” He narrated the documentary short “Boatlift – An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience,” and currently stars in “Greyhound,” for which he also wrote the screenplay. The film was released on AppleTV+ July 10. “Greyhound” tells the story of U.S. Navy Commander Ernest Krause (Hanks). He is on his first naval command mission, a destroyer escorting a convoy of 37 merchant marine ships across the chaotic North Atlantic, when he comes under pursuit by a squadron of German U-boats.
“Tom Hanks’ work throughout his career reflects a deep respect for those who serve,” said Mike Roberts, president of the American Maritime Partnership. “This includes American mariners responding to the 9/11 attacks in New York, dealing with piracy off the coast of Somalia and keeping our allies supplied during World War II. We are grateful for his work and passion in telling the stories of these unsung maritime heroes.”
As depicted in “Greyhound,” World War II’s merchant mariners made a crucial and often overlooked contribution to the Allied victory more than 75 years ago. Almost 250,000 merchant mariners transported tens of millions of tons of war supplies and more than 7 million servicemen under the most challenging circumstances imaginable.
Although merchant mariners earned high bonus hazard pay during the war , they received no military benefits and were not eligible for the G.I. Bill, despite suffering the highest casualty rate from combat of any service, with one mariner out of every 26 lost. A total of 8,241 merchant mariners died in World War II, and many others were captured and became prisoners of war.
After the war, their sacrifices were forgotten for decades. That neglect began to change in recent years. Earlier this year, they were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal Award. Today, approximately 2,000 merchant mariners from World War II remain.
Additional information about the World War II merchant mariners and the Congressional Gold Medal Act, the actions of American maritime first responders on 9/11 who helped bring more than 500,000 people to safety in what became the largest sea evacuation in the nation’s history, and the heroic rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates can be found on the American Maritime Partnership website.
To learn more about American maritime heroes, visit www.americanmaritimeheroes.com/.