I joined the U.S. Maritime Service in 1945 and I was trained at Catalina Island, Calif. Upon completion of training, I passed the Coast Guard test and was issued "fireman water tender oiler" and was assigned a Z number. It would still be valid today, except steam power is extinct.
I was assigned to a hospital ship and made fresh water on the USS Charles Stafford, an old steamer operated by the Army Transportation Corps.
While in Manila waiting for the hospital to ready a load of wounded veterans to return home, I made a trip to Corregidor and toured the island. I walked in General Wainwright's tunnel. There were many mementos there, but the most important thing I remember was the Japanese prisoners. I think they were all Japanese officers.
It took the U.S. government nearly 40 years to recognize the Merchant Marines as veterans without compensation. We applied for veterans' compensation and nearly got it in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Merchant Marine veterans are still in the process of working with legislators to gain compensation.
I am president of the American Merchant Marine Veterans, San Juan Chapter, here in Bellingham, and our goal is to receive compensation for our years of duty during World War II.
Joe Hanson lives in Bellingham.