Preparing the Merchant Marine for Global War
New London’s Maritime Officers School was part of a new effort begun by the U.S. Maritime Commission in 1938 to prepare officers for American shipping lines. The decline of our Merchant Marine after World War I had allowed Great Britain and other countries to dominate international shipping to the disadvantage of the United States. Growing awareness of the obsolescence of the nation's merchant ships and shipping operations led to the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which put the renewal of the service on a sound, official footing.
When war clouds gathered in 1938 and 1939 revitalization plans for the Merchant Marine were already under way. In his book What the Citizen Should Know About the Merchant Marine, Carl D. Lane mentioned a course "designed to quickly advance unlicensed seamen to officership...About twelve hundred unlicensed men are availing themselves of this "quickie" course, mostly at Fort Trumbull, New London, Connecticut, where the Coast Guard has built a new, modern plant."
Lane had finished his book in July, 1941, only four months before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Virtually overnight, all forms of war mobilization accelerated, including training for the Merchant Marine, reaching high gear early in 1942 with the formation of the War Shipping Administration. The WSA was charged with building the Merchant Marine into the strong, resilient service required to win a three-ocean war against Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan.
A unit of the WSA called the Training Organization began to recruit and train the thousands of officers and seamen that would be needed for existing ships as well as new ones that would soon be launched with astonishing frequency from the nation’s shipyards.