Submitted by Edward Geer
Susan Geer, of Licking, surviving wife of Myles Geer, formally from Yukon, and sons, Edward and Peter Geer, both of Yukon, and Lt. Col. Scott Geer, of Washington, DC, were recently presented Myles’ copy of the Congressional Gold Medal that was awarded to World War II Merchant Mariners.
Myles Geer joined the Merchant Marines shortly after graduating from high school in 1944. He sailed on three missions.
His first was aboard the USAHS (Hospital Ship) Charles A. Stafford that crossed the Atlantic to England and back.
His second mission was aboard the SS Nathaniel Alexander. They crossed the Atlantic around Cape Hope, up through the Suez Canal to Egypt, carrying military supplies to U.S. and Allied troops.
His third mission was aboard the SS Carleton Ellis. They sailed from New York harbor through the Panama Canal to join one convoy of many sailing towards Japan to take part in Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan.
Myles was awarded the U.S. Merchant Marine Atlantic War Zone Medal, Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Medal, Pacific War Zone Medal, Defense Medal and Victory Medal.
When World War II ended, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, initially serving with the 11th Airborne Division during the Occupation of Japan.
He served with the 65th Infantry “Borinqueneers” Regiment during the Korean War.
In 2016, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service during the Korean War; he also received the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service in Korea. Additionally, Myles was a recipient of the Republic of Korea’s Korean War Ambassador for Peace Medal.
Members of the Merchant Marine were denied veteran status until 1988, and it wasn’t until 2020 when the Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor their service was signed by President Donald Trump. The lack of recognition lingered even though Myles and his fellow mariners executed the greatest sealift in the history of the United States. Sadly, many of these brave and courageous Mariners would die before receiving these recognitions.
It was hazardous duty. One in 26 mariners who served as a Merchant Marine was killed during World War II – the highest fatality rate of any branch of military service.
The U.S. Merchant Marines began their WWII service to the nation and aid to the Allies in 1939, and wouldn’t complete it until after the war ended.
They served in the Atlantic, Asiatic-Pacific and Europe-Africa-Middle East War Zones. They also partook in every amphibious landing to include Anzio, D-Day, Okinawa, Iwo Jima and the Philippines. By the end of World War II, approximately 250,000 Americans served in the Merchant Marines.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said their mission was the most difficult and dangerous transportation job ever undertaken.
President Harry S Truman, in a letter sent to all U.S. Merchant Mariners after World War II, said, “You undertook a most severe task, one which called for courage and fortitude.”