This is a war story; not about heroic airmen, gallant soldiers, or marines, but civilians. They were the men of the Merchant Marine who manned the supply ships that won World War II. Over sixteen hundred ships were lost, along with eighty-four hundred of their Merchant Marine crew—one in twenty-six men in the Merchant service—the highest death in the line of duty ratio of all services. It is also a tribute to the United States Navy Armed Guard, sailors assigned to man the meager weaponry availed to the slow-moving freighters.
Merchant Mariners have never received full recognition for their contribution to that war. Four decades after the war, they were finally awarded the status of “veteran,” but never compensated as were other services. As this book is written, the US Senate has neglected to consider their version of a House bill (H.R.23) that attempts to partially correct this wrong.
Much of the lack of attention to the Merchant Marine veterans stems from a combination of ‘misinformation, misunderstandings, and outright lies,’ as one source puts it. The conception that merchant seamen had little or nothing to do with the firing of the ships’ armament is still prevalent, despite proof to the contrary.
The Corydon Snow is a novel, but historically accurate as the best of my research would allow. While the characters and situations are fictional, they are set in a background of actual events. Most of the situations are based on either written memoirs, or my interviews with retired crewmen, both Merchant Marine and US Navy.
Though sometimes incredible, these fictional events are well in keeping with the true heroisms of the US Merchant Fleet in World War II.
Richard Whitten Barnes was born in Minnesota but grew up on the north side of Chicago. He graduated from Michigan State University, where he majored in chemistry. He is now retired from a long career in international chemical sales and marketing, which has taken him all over the world. Barnes is a veteran in the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division and an avid sailor. He lives in Lake Wylie, S.C., but spends summers with his wife Marg at their cottage on St. Joseph Island, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron. Barnes is also the author of The Faircloth Reaction.