The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial

The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial

Just a short bike ride over the George Mason Memorial Bridge is The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial.  While it is technically located in D.C., the memorial is only assessable by going through Virginia by land, or the Potomac River by sea (so to speak).  The Memorial is located just off the Mount Vernon Trail as it passes through Lady Bird Johnson Park on Columbia Island (MAP).  It is a national monument honoring sailors of the United States Navy and the United States Merchant Marine who died at sea during World War I.

The United States Merchant Marine is the fleet of civilian-owned merchant vessels, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of this country.

During peace time, the Merchant Marine is responsible for transporting cargo and passengers.   In times of war, the Merchant Marine is capable of being an auxiliary to the Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.  Unlike the Navy, however, the Merchant Marine does not have a direct role in combat, although a merchant mariner has a responsibility to protect cargo carried aboard his or her ship.

Nicknamed “Waves and Gulls,” the memorial depicts seven seagulls above the crest of a wave, and reads: “To the strong souls and ready valor of those men of the United States who in the Navy, the Merchant Marine and other paths of Activity upon the waters of the world have given life or still offer it in the performance of heroic deeds this monument is dedicated by a grateful people.”

When you go to the memorial, if you are fortunate enough to encounter one of the men or women to whom it is dedicated, you should refer to them by their preferred designation, Mariners.  The terms seamen, seafarers and sailors is also acceptable for a member of U.S. Merchant Marine.  The term Merchant Marine is incorrect and should not be used to refer to an individual.  And never call one of them a Marine.

NavyMerchantMarine3          NavyMerchantMarine2     NavyMerchantMarine01a


  1. Nice post. I have frequently photographed this memorial, usually when the tulips are in bloom. I haven’t been by in the last week (busy down at the Tidal Basin). Since you were just there, is there any sign of them yet?


    • Not yet. If you enjoy the tulips, have you checked out “The Tulip Library”? It is located between the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial just north of the Tidal Basin, and is maintained by the National Mall and Memorial Parks Department of the National Park Service. These flower beds are officially named “The Floral Library” but during the spring they are better known as The Tulip Library. They should be in bloom soon also.


      • Thanks for the update on the Merchant Marine Memorial. Glad I haven’t missed anything over there. I’ve been keeping my eye on the “Tulip Library” as I pass there in the AM on my way to find a parking spot for the Cherry Blossoms. I see they have replanted this year and have put up some modest restraining ropes to keep the foot traffic out. So I am hopeful that it will be a good display.


      • The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin and in East Potomac Park are beautiful as always. But have you been to see the cherry trees collection at the National Arboretum? The Arboretum has all 12 of the cherry tree species that are downtown, as well as 64 more. I’m currently writing a blog post about it.


      • No, I have not been up there for the Cherry Blossoms. 64 other species sounds pretty impressive. I’ve been there several times at other times of the year, so I’ll be looking forward to your post. I’ve signed up for your email notifications, so I should get it when you publish


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