HALLOWELL — People around here might know Arthur Moore, 93, for his past work as a captain and harbormaster on the Kennebec River.

What fewer people might recognize is that Moore, a veteran of the U.S. merchant marine who sailed during World War II, and his wife, 90-year-old Florence Moore, played an important role in documenting the sacrifices of mariners from that era, when shipping vessels were at constant risk of attack from German submarines.

Together, they wrote “A Careless Word, A Needless Sinking,” a meticulous log of all merchant mariners who died and all merchant ships that were sunk in World War II.

First published in 1983, their book relied on data they collected themselves, and it helped document that merchant mariners suffered a higher rate of casualties than any other branch of the military, according to Ed Sullivan.

Sullivan, a retired merchant marine captain, now is campaigning to have the Moores’ efforts recognized more widely, including by the administration of President Donald Trump. On Thursday, he bestowed medals on the Moores American Legion Post 6 in Hallowell and said his group, the National World War II Memorial Committee, of which he is the Massachusetts field representative, has designated them as “national heroes.”

Among the changes that followed the publishing of their book, the Pentagon announced in 1988 that men who sailed merchant ships in World War II finally would qualify for veteran status.


Other speakers at the ceremony Thursday included two former commanders of the Legion post; a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Angus King; and Chief James Owens, of the Hallowell Fire Department.

Another who helped with the festivity was Donnette Nichols Harris, a Litchfield woman whose father, Donald Nichols, was also a Hallowell native who became a merchant mariner in World War II. Nichols died last week at the age of 93, and his daughter happened to meet Sullivan while preparing the Legion post for his funeral.

After the ceremony, both she and Arthur Moore described some of the challenges merchant mariners faced after World War II.

Moore recalled the challenge of getting service groups, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, to recognize their efforts.

Harris described the moment her father, who also served in the Maine Army National Guard for more than 35 years, applied for veterans’ benefits and learned that his almost four years of service as a mariner wouldn’t count toward the benefits.

Both Mitchell and Moore helped lobby members of Congress to extend veterans’ benefits to their fellow merchant mariners; but while Harris knew of Moore before Thursday, she didn’t realize the contribution that he had made to their cause.


“It’s nice knowing that he put together the statistics that the government never did,” she said.

In his 2016 book, “The Mathews Men,” writer William Geroux indicated that 9,300 merchant mariners died during World War II, most of them in 1942, when merchant ships received little or no protection from the U.S. Navy.

“Surviving a U-boat attack often meant running a gauntlet of dangers, including fire, explosions, icy water, sharks, flaming oil slicks and long odysseys in open lifeboats,” Geroux wrote in a piece for Smithsonian.com.

Sullivan has written his own book on the dangers faced by merchant mariners in World War II, called “Daddy’s Not Coming Home,” and he recounted some of them on Thursday. He described the bravery of men who, often destitute, enlisted in the merchant marine during such perilous times.

Sullivan also announced steps he’s taking to try to make their contributions more widely known. In March, he contacted John Kelly, who was then the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and who also has served in the merchant marine, to request a formal commemoration of the Hallowell couple’s efforts. This week, Kelly became Trump’s chief of staff.

Sullivan also said he contacted five other federal agencies with similar requests, and so far he hasn’t heard back. He has enlisted King to help seek federal recognition for the Moores, and on Thursday, a representative from the senator’s Augusta office, Sarah Graettinger, read a letter praising the Hallowell couple.


An email to the White House press office was not returned on Thursday.

“In his campaign, Trump said over and over that we should ‘honor the veterans, honor the veterans,'” Sullivan said Thursday. “If Kelly would memorialize Arthur Moore, we’ll be all good.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642


Twitter: @ceichacker

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