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Merchant Marine Display

After nearly a year’s efforts, the Oregon Coast Military Museum has completed the expanded display honoring the United States Merchant Marine. Past President Tim Sapp commented “This effort really started with two different supporters approaching the Museum over a year ago with concerns about the lack of understanding of the role of the Merchant Marines in their heroic efforts during WWII. The Estate of Muriel Rothwell, whose husband ‘Rocky’ was a WWII Merchant Mariner, wanted to leave a sizeable monetary donation to the Museum provided we did more to clarify that role. The American Merchant Marine Veterans organization here in Oregon also approached us with the same concern. They then provided significant material to help us understand that role, and develop a display to address it.”

Executive Director Cal Applebee clarified “While the concept of the American Merchant Marine dates back to 1775 similar to other disciplines of military service, it never actually evolved into an official military branch of the United States like other branches,” and he added “WWII Merchant Mariners only received actual Veteran status in 1988 and then with limited benefits.” Sapp explained “That is why many military museums do not contain much on the heritage of the United States Merchant Marine – we’re proud to have this as a part of our offerings.”

Judy Murphy who was instrumental in creation of the life-sized dioramas that are a major part of the Museum displays, was brought in to paint the backdrop mural of a raging night-time seascape, against which is set a four-foot wooden model of the SS Oregon Star, the first Liberty Ship to come off the production lines of the Kaiser Shipyards in Oregon, for the WWII effort.

In addition to the breath-taking backdrop and large ship model, the display includes among other artifacts, information binders on other significant impacts on Oregon from the US Merchant Marine efforts, such as the herculean effort to build Liberty Ships in Portland and the creation of Vanport City. Another information binder includes the names of seventy-nine Oregonians who served in the United States Merchant Marines who gave their lives in the service of their country, as well as the six who were interned as POW’s during the war. These names were provided by the Oregon chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans.

Chief of Staff Geoff Cannon added “This display has come a long way in helping us serve our mission to educate the public about this specific aspect of World War II. It really emphasizes that our Museum does cover all disciplines of military heritage.”

The Museum is located at 2145 Kingwood Street in Florence, and open to the public Thursday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Cal Applebee 541-999-4175 or

Image by RetroSupply
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