Each year, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, we gather to celebrate and honor our military veterans for their sacrifices. This year, over 150 people joined together on the Daviess County Courthouse lawn for the annual Veterans Day program Monday which featured local doctor and military veteran Stephen L. Cullen as the key speaker.
Cullen,who served in both the Army and the Indiana Army National Guard before retiring in April 2008, spoke about the Merchant Marines of which his father, Linden Cullen, served. The group, which is often confused with the Marine Corps, carries imports and exports during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime to deliver both troops and war necessities.
While the Merchant Marine has no official researchers or historians, it is known that Mariners played a vital role in World War II where well over 9,000 lost their lives in battle. Approximately 243,000 served during WWII including Linden Cullen and Edward Klutey.
Linden Cullen’s time as a Mariner was short. “I turned 18 in May of 1945 and the war was over in August of 1945,” he said. “The Merchant Marine lost more men and ships than the other branches. Our ships were slower, a lot of them got sunk and we often didn’t have armaments.”
Klutey served from February of 1944 until May 1947. “I was in the Merchant Marine, and in the Army Air Corps and the Air Forces,” Klutey said. “I was on one of the Victory ships that was steam turbine powered. We’d move about 17 or 18 knots per hour most of the time and had a top speed of about 24 knots. That’s pretty fast but we always traveled alone.”
Both men agreed that it was a dangerous job that even today does not get much recognition. “So many people don’t even know about the Merchant Marine. Like Doc (Cullen) said, they didn’t recognize Mariners as a part of the armed forces,” said Klutey.
It wasn’t until 1998 that some members of the Merchant Marine, those serving after Aug. 15, 1945, were given veteran status.
2013 also marks the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Veteran’s Monument located on the courthouse grounds. It was originally dedicated Oct. 8, 1913.