Trainor Merchant Mariners; they helped deliver the goods!
Shortly after graduating from Jacksonville, Florida’s Andrew Jackson High School in June 1940, my father, Kenneth Charles Trainor went to work for Clyde-Mallory Lines (CML), a private shipping company that operated passenger ships between New York and Florida. His first job was aboard the S.S. Shawnee, a coastwise passenger steamship as a wiper, a general handy man in the engine room. The ship departed Jacksonville on Aug. 12, 1940 for New York and returned to Jacksonville seven days later. In August 1941, Kenneth worked on another CML coastwise passenger steamship, the S.S. Seminole, also as a wiper. In between these brief stints at sea, he worked in Jacksonville as a truck driver and a glazer at the French Mirror Plate Glass Company and as a salesman at the Carter’s House to House Advertising Service. He probably did not know it at the time, but he wouldn’t sail again until the outbreak of World War II, under extremely different circumstances.
- S.S. Shawnee (1927, Clyde-Mallory Lines) - chartered for cruise service in 1941 to replace ships requisitioned by the War Department
- S.S. Seminole (1925-26, owned by Cherokee-Seminole SS Corporation and managed by Clyde-Mallory Lines) - formerly a passenger ship; used as a hospital ship during World War II; and scrapped in the 1950's
At the beginning of World War II, my father and my two Uncles Alexander Horace Trainor and Glenn Weston Trainor faced being drafted in the U.S. Armed Forces. Their father, Alexander William Trainor had a long-standing anti-war conviction, sent a letter to Florida Senator Claude Pepper seeking alternative service for his three sons in the United States Maritime Service. Senator Pepper granted the request and consequently the three boys became Merchant Marines.
Prior to the war Kenneth was considered a civilian mariner who was employed by private shipping companies and represented by the National Maritime Union to carry goods, supplies and people on cargo and passenger ships around the world. However, during World War II, merchant vessels were nationalized under the War Shipping Administration and turned into armed warships. The government, through the U.S. Maritime Service, recruited and supplied the necessary seamen by opening training academies around the country.
Kenneth, Alexander and Glenn officially became Merchant Marines in the early 1940s in Jacksonville. The three brothers headed off to U.S. Maritime Service Training Stations for rigorous 90-day boot camps to prepare them for life at sea. Kenneth was sent to the U.S. Maritime Service Training Station in St. Petersburg, Florida in January 1942. He graduated on May 7, 1942 at the rank of Apprentice Seaman and was sent to New Orleans, Louisiana to the U.S. Maritime Service pool, better known as a graduate station to await orders for assignments to merchant ships that carried troops, supplies or ammunition.
During the next two years, Kenneth was employed on the S.S. City of Philadelphia, S.S. Meriwether Lewis, Chiloil (oil tanker), U.S.A.T. Liberty Glo, S.S. Cyrus H. McCormick, S.S. William L. Yancy and S.S. Edward W. Bok during which time he held the rank of Ordinary Seaman and Able Seaman.
- S.S. Meriwether Lewis - torpedoed and lost in the North Atlantic, 1943
- S.S. Cyrus H. McCormick - torpedoed and lost off Brest, France, 1945
- S.S. William L. Yancey - sold private 1947, scrapped 1969
- S.S. Edward W. Bok - sold private 1947, scrapped 1970
- U.S.A.T. Liberty Glo - torpedoed by Japanese submarine, January 11, 1942, 10 miles southwest of Lombok Strait, situated between the islands of Bali and Lombok in Indonesia
He then enrolled in the U.S. Maritime Service Officers’ School at Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut. He graduated as a Navigation Officer from the 39th Class of the Officers’ School on Oct. 12, 1944 at the rank of Ensign (Deck Department), and was immediately employed on the S.S. Milton J. Foreman as a Third Mate for five tours from Nov. 11, 1944 through Dec. 10, 1945. In his last two years in the Merchant Marines, Kenneth was employed on the S.S. Roger Williams from March 14, 1946 through Nov. 27, 1946. He received an Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Coast Guard on Nov. 27, 1946. Kenneth’s monthly pay, while in the Merchant Marines ranged from $21 per month as an Apprentice Seaman to $375 per month as a Third Mate.
- S.S. Milton J. Foreman - sold private 1947, scrapped 1965
- S.S. Roger Williams- sold private 1947, sunk 1965
In the early days of the war, most merchant ships weren't armed, so crews disguised telephones poles mounted on the ships to look like guns, their only recourse against attack. Later on, ships became armed with guns that were manned by mariners and a special unit of the U.S. Navy, the Armed Guard, whose joint assignment was to deliver the troops, armament, ammunition, planes, fuel and supplies to all fronts. Standing regular watches, handling winches and cargo gear, cooking meals, checking engine room equipment and manning the guns was the life of a merchant marine. As soon as a ship left port it was "on the front line," subject to attack by German U-boats, battleships, bombers, Kamikazes and sea mines. Mariners fought desperately to save their ships and their own lives against enemy attack. Many ships, with invasion barges ready to lower, brought troops to the beaches under enemy fire. Because of the danger, other ships traveling in the convoy were not allowed to stop and help ships that had been attacked.
One of the most dangerous voyages mariners faced were the ones to the Russian port of Murmansk, above the Artic Circle on the Barents Sea. In July 1942, Alexander Trainor, a chief engineer and U.S. Maritime Service Officers' School graduate, took part in the most deadly of the 40 convoys to Murmansk, “Convoy PQ17,” which left Iceland carrying cargo worth $700 million. This convoy slowly plodded through the Atlantic and was the lifeline of the Allied campaign in Europe during World War II. The Germans knew that if they could cut that lifeline, they would be that much closer to victory. The convoy was forced to follow the coastline of Nazi-occupied Norway and was not only threatened by submarines but subject to attack by land-based aircraft and surface vessels from Norwegian ports. These hazards were compounded by the brutal and often unpredictable weather. Finally, throughout the Artic summer, the convoy was forced to tread their way north fully exposed in 24 hours of daylight. Only 11 or the 34 merchant ships reached the port of Murmansk, making it one of the most deadly operations during the war. Alexander took part on many convoys to Europe and Russia as well as to Asia and Japan.
In World War II, the Merchant Marines had the greatest casualty rate of any branch of service – about 9,300 mariners died at sea, more than 12,000 wounded and 604 men and women were held prisoners of war. More than 800 American ships were sunk and countless mariners died on shore of their injuries after their ships were shot at from the air, hit by torpedoes or blown up by floating mines. The infamous “Murmansk Runs” claimed one in every eight ships.
It was a miracle that the three brothers survived the war and returned home after engaging in landings from Dakar, thru Casablanca, Oran, Bizerte, Salerno, Naples, Normandy, Murmansk, Belgium, Britain and the Pacific. The Trainor “boys” helped deliver the goods, and may we never forget their service to this country as well as the service of nearly 270,000 mariners of the U.S. Merchant Marines during World War II.
During the early days of the Vietnam War there was a high demand for experienced mariners. The U.S. Government tracked down Alexander, who was living in Sunrise, Florida and in his early 50s, to see if he was interested in going back to sea. Having his own business and raising a family, he turned down the government's offer.
The Merchant Marine tradition continues today with Alexander's grandsons - Jonathan Alexander Sichel and Alexander Russell Sichel. Jonathan graduated in 2003 and Alexander in 2004 from the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island, New York. Both currently are fulfilling the terms of their maritime service obligations.
Jonathan and Alexander's parents are George and Jean Lorraine (Trainor) Sichel.
- Alexander Horace Trainor - b. July 1, 1919, Troy, NY; d. May 30, 1980, Massapequa, NY
- Kenneth Charles Trainor - b. Feb. 9, 1921; Niskayuna, NY; d. Dec. 12, 2007, Tallahassee, FL
- Glenn Weston Trainor - b. May 11, 1924, Burnt Hills, NY; d. Jan. 15, 1999, Savannah, GA