Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the World War II merchant mariners announced as inaugural American Maritime Heroes at launch

WASHINGTON – American Maritime Partnership (AMP), the voice of the nation’s domestic maritime industry, today announced the start of a year-long celebration that will recognize individuals and groups of individuals who have added to the rich history of the United States as a maritime nation through their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the World War II merchant mariners are announced as the campaign’s first American Maritime Heroes.

“The American Maritime Heroes campaign celebrates our maritime heroes and will serve as a reminder to all of the undeniable importance of America’s history as a maritime nation and the role of the maritime industry to U.S. prosperity and security,” said Matt Woodruff, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership.  “We are proud to begin the campaign by honoring Sec. Elaine Chao, who is widely recognized as the best transportation secretary ever for the U.S. maritime industry, and the nearly 250,000 World War II merchant mariners who provided the manpower to operate and maintain the wartime vessels that ultimately helped our country and our allies win World War II.”

Sec. Chao has previously served as deputy maritime administrator at the U.S. Maritime Administration; chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission; deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation; and as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, she has led major organizations like the Peace Corps and United Way.

“We have never had a transportation secretary with such knowledge about, experience in, and passion for our industry,” Woodruff said.  “When the chips are down, there is no stronger advocate than Sec. Chao.  She is a proven American maritime hero.”

The World War II merchant mariners are renowned for their bravery and contribution to the Allied victory nearly 75 years ago.  Almost 250,000 merchant mariners transported tens of millions of tons of war supplies and more than seven million servicemen under the most challenging circumstances imaginable.  As a result, they suffered the highest casualty rate of any service during World War II, with one mariner out of every 26 lost.  Often defenseless against enemy vessels, these merchant mariners continued to sustain the war effort.  A total of 8,241 merchant mariners died in World War II, and many others were captured and became prisoners of war.  Today only about 2,000 remain.

“Especially as Americans reflect this week on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, it is a privilege to salute the courageous mariners who helped make the invasion possible and ensured that our military could triumph, at Normandy and throughout the entire war,” said Woodruff. “We all owe these heroes a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid.”

As this campaign continues, the individuals to be recognized will come from many different backgrounds and be credited for a variety of achievements. What unites these heroes is that they all have made – or are making– a positive difference in the still-unfolding history of American maritime.

This year-long celebration will culminate on June 5, 2020, the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the U.S. Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a fundamental law that for nearly a century, along with other related coastwise laws, has ensured that all vessels transporting goods between U.S. ports are American-built, -flagged, -owned, and -crewed. Moreover, it ensures a qualified pool of mariners to crew American vessels, enables the readiness of the nation’s defense shipbuilding industrial base and sealift capabilities, and sustains our strategic seaports for times of war or national emergencies.

The American Maritime Partnership is encouraging everyone to join in this celebration by submitting their hero nominations at, and to follow the campaign’s celebrations on Twitter and Facebook.

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American Maritime Partnership (AMP) is the voice of the U.S. domestic maritime industry, a pillar of our nation‘s economic, national, and homeland security. More than 40,000 American vessels built in American shipyards, crewed by American mariners, and owned by American companies operate in our waters 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and this commerce sustains nearly 650,000 American jobs, $41.6 billion in labor compensation, and more than $154.8 billion in annual economic output.  You can learn more by visiting

For Immediate Release
June 5, 2019

Media Contact:

Anna Stallmann
(202) 660-2567