Proclamation 6440—National Maritime Day, 1992
By the President of the United States of America
This year, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' historic first journey to the Americas, we are especially mindful of our Nation's rich maritime history. The development of the American colonies was made possible by merchant ships, and commercial vessels later played a key role in our Nation's struggle for independence. Since that time, our civilian seafarers have continued to contribute to the freedom and security of the United States, as well as to its trade and commerce. Thus, it is with great pride and appreciation that we pause to honor the American merchant marine.
America's civilian seafarers uphold a long and distinguished tradition of service to our country, a legacy that includes outstanding contributions in peacetime and in time of peril. During the Revolutionary War, merchant craft supplemented the 34 ships of the Continental Navy and captured and sank some 600 British vessels, thereby frustrating enemy shipping and hastening the American victory. During World War II, the United States merchant marine provided a vital lifeline for liberty as it helped to transport materiel and reinforcements to American and Allied forces around the world. More than 700 U.S.-flag merchant ships were lost to enemy attacks during that conflict, and more than 6,000 civilian sailors gave their lives in support of the effort to defeat tyranny and aggression. We remain grateful to each of them.
Our Nation is also grateful to the merchant sailors who contributed to the success of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm a little over a year ago. Like generations who have gone before them, these civilian seafarers demonstrated an impressive degree of readiness, patriotism, and skill.
While past periods of armed conflict underscore the importance of a strong sealift capacity to the United States, on this occasion we also note the contributions that our merchant marine makes each day to our Nation's economic security and competitiveness. By carrying American agricultural products and other goods to foreign markets, merchant vessels contribute to our balance of payments and create jobs and opportunities for our citizens. Although our transportation system has expanded dramatically since the colonial era, shipping remains a vital part of U.S. trade and commerce.
The freedom and prosperity that we Americans enjoy today have been made possible with the help of our merchant marine, and it is fitting that we offer this special salute to our civilian seafarers, port terminal operators, and all those who serve in this Nation's maritime industries.
In recognition of the importance of the U.S. merchant marine, the Congress, by joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as "National Maritime Day" and has requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance. This date was chosen to commemorate the day in 1819 when the SS SAVANNAH left Savannah, Georgia, on the first transatlantic steamship voyage.
Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 1992, as National Maritime Day. I encourage all Americans to observe this day by displaying the flag of the United States at their homes and other suitable places, and I request that all ships sailing under the American flag dress ship on that day.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixteenth.
George Bush, Proclamation 6440—National Maritime Day, 1992 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/268556