February Volunteer Profile – Bob Barkus

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Our volunteer profile this month is on Merchant Marine Bob Barkus.  His father and mother immigrated to New York City from England in 1926. Bob was born in Brooklyn July 1928.

Volunteer Bob Barkus with a windy, choppy Charleston harbor in the background along with a few merchant ships at berth.

Volunteer Bob Barkus with a windy, choppy Charleston harbor in the background along with a few merchant ships at berth.

He was 13 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Bob wanted to enlist in the Navy, but with the war winding down and his age only 16, his only option to do something in the war was to join the United States Merchant Marine in 1944.

Merchant Marine Flag

Merchant Marine Flag

Bob had to study hard to receive his merchant marine certificate and then signed on to several ships participating in the war effort. After several voyages in American waters,  he signed onto a Victory ship going to La Havre, France and Europe. There he saw the impact of the fighting in Europe.

Bob also travelled to Cape Town and Durban, South Africa and to Narvik, Norway. He made the grand total of $40 per week.

One of only two Merchant Marine members of our volunteer cadre, Bob does an incredible job with our visitors and visiting school children. Many of them have never heard of the Merchant Marine or the incredible job they did in World War II.  The Merchant Marine had the highest casualty rate of World War II as 1 in 26 Mariners were killed during the conflict. Thanks to Bob and men like him, our armed forces and allies in World War II did not want for arms to defeat the Axis powers.

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