When the United States entered
World War II there were about 55,000 mariners.
The government recruited
200,000 for the U.S. Maritime Service Training program - mostly those
too young, too old, or with physical disabilities. (Actor Peter "Lt.
Colombo" Falk, who had only one eye, was a WWII mariner.)
Many recruits were high school
dropouts, eager to help win the war. The merchant marine took volunteers
16 to 78 years old, and was the only racially integrated service.