(top right) Seagoing cowboys aboard the Adrian Victory in 1946; (right) another team boarding the Queens Victory.
photo by elmer bowers, peggy reiff miller collection photo by guy buch, peggy reiff miller collection
Conclusion In the wake of World War II, the American government supported international agencies like UNRRA to provide humanitarian relief and support rehabilitation efforts, primarily in Europe, but around the world as well. In addition, repatriating or relocating the millions displaced by the war was made possible by American ships. Initially, this aid was given to all who asked, but as the Cold War commenced, the United States began to target its aid much more carefully as the soft-power component of its struggle against the Soviet Union and the spread of Communism. The Cold War would be fought sometimes through force or military aid, and often with a combination of hard and soft power. As American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles wrote, the hope was that humanitarian aid would emerge as “a force of enduring strength that can bind together the peoples of the world.” The United States did not always win in this decades-long conflict, and sometimes it backed corrupt, incompetent, or even authoritarian regimes. Whether via Liberty ships sold to Greece, Victory ships carrying mules to China, or troop transports carrying DPs to Australia, American ships and merchant mariners provided a crucial component in allowing the free world’s peoples to pursue the ideals established in Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.
Joshua M. Smith is Director of the American Merchant Marine Museum at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The views expressed in this article are not intended to reflect the policies or views of the US Merchant Marine Academy, the Maritime Administration, or the United States government. A note of thanks to Peggy Reiff Miller for images and information regarding “Seagoing Cowboys.” For more on that topic, visit her website at www.seagoingcowboys.com.
(left) Aerial view of the Reserve Fleet near Beaumont, Texas, in February 1950. After World War II, many US ships were laid up until they could be sold to commercial operators or were recalled by the military. SEA HISTORY 177, WINTER 2021–22