Armed Guard Quarters

The first Armed Guard crew of WWII went aboard the S.S. Dunboyne on December 2, 1941, with other crews following soon thereafter. The Armed Guard crew of the S.S. Larranga has the distinction of being the first to fire on an enemy submarine from an armed merchant vessel. 


The Armed Guard crew consisted of Officers, Petty Officers and seamen, serving as gunners in the main. Signalmen, of various ratings, had the duties for visual communications. Armed Guard radiomen worked alongside Merchant Seamen radio operators, but radio silence was observed except in extreme emergency. 

20mm Guns

Armed Guard crews also served aboard cargo ships of many Allied Nations as well as the United States. Of the 6,236 merchant ships the Armed Guard served aboard, 710 were sunk, and many hundreds damaged. Serving aboard 2,710 Liberty Ships alone, 216 were sunk. 

Serving alongside their fellow shipmates, the men of the Merchant Marine, members of the Armed Guard received 8,035 decorations or commendations for the period ending in August of 1946. These included: 

  • 6 Navy Crosses

  • 2 Legions of Merit

  • 75 Silver Stars

  • 54 Bronze Stars

  • 24 Navy and Marine Corp medals

  • 563 Commendations by the Secretary of the Navy

  • 2,778 Commendations by the Bureau of Naval Personnel

  • 4,553 entries into service records.

There were 36,240 operation and engagement stars authorized for the same period. 9,802 were authorized to wear the Philippine Liberation Ribbon alone, and 4,031 were authorized to wear a star on that ribbon. Purple Hearts are too numerous to mention. 

The Maritime Commission indicates that 6,989 members of the Merchant Marine became causalities, either dead or missing, during WWII. 581 were made prisoners. The Armed Guard dead or missing totaled 1,810, with 27 prisoners of war. 

 Submitted by:  Kenneth E. Keith

More Armed Guard Links:

Administrative History Arming of Merchant Ships and Naval Armed Guard Service in World War II

History of the Naval Armed Guard Afloat

History of Convoy and Routing

Anti-Submarine and Escort of Convoy Instructions

Story of Alfred Elam, Armed Guard Veteran

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