Women have fought in every U.S. war since the American Revolution, and it was no different during World War II. American women took their place beside men and children in defense plants manufacturing supplies for the war effort. Women also served in the U.S. military and in the U.S. Merchant Marine, with some earning the nation’s highest honors. Unfortunately for the women serving in the Merchant Marine during the war, they were never issued merchant mariner’s credentials, which meant they were also denied U.S. veteran status at the war's end.
On February 15, 2017, after seventy-five years of waiting, Sadie Carrie Owney Horton was issued a U.S. Military DD 214 and is now recognized as a WWII veteran of the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Sadie began her maritime career in June, 1942. Her son, William Lee Horton, had been killed that April when the tug Menominee was sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of Virginia. Sadie, then 48, resigned her job as riveter at the Consolidated Aircraft Facility in Elizabeth City, North Carolina and joined her husband, Capt. William L. Horton, working on barges under his command.
The life of a barge seamen was extremely primitive, as most barges were without the average necessities found ashore. There was no electricity, no running water and none of the usual bathroom conveniences. Coastwise barge seamen were a small, dedicated and mostly unknown group who served in the US Merchant Marine. They made little news but played a very important role during World War II, moving bulk cargo and war supplies to the various defense factories and power plants along the East Coast. Sadie O. Horton served over 36 months on the coastwise barges, making more than 90 round trips through waters that were heavily contested by German U-boats, all without naval escorts. Our congratulations to Sadie for becoming the first recognized female veteran of the U.S. Merchant Marine’s operations in the Second World War. – Marex
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.