Merchant Marines

George Guilford

Courier Tribune (Seneca, KS)
21 Dec 1942

Is Missing in Action

In Merchant Marine

George Guilford, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Guilford, Feared Lost

The Christmas season will find many friends of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Guilford, Centralia, sympathizing with them in an anxious time and hoping that better word may come than a report received Saturday, stating that their son, George Edward Guilford, is missing in action and presumed lost.

George is a volunteer in the merchant marine, one of the most dangerous of the government services. Men in this work often have the job of takign practically unarmed cargo ships through infested waters.

The telegram received by the parents stated: “The navy deeply regrets to inform you that your son George Edward Guilford, is missing and presumed lost, following action in the performance of his duty in the service of his country. The Coast Guard appreciated your great anxiety and will forward you further information promptly when received.” The telegram concluded with a request that to prevent possible aid to the enemy, the name of his ship not be given. The message was signed by Vice-Admiral R. R. Waesche, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard.

George’s parents have been apprehensive since an item appeared in Kansas City papers the first of last week, telling of the death in action of Lieut. Carl S. Zeibler, former Minneapolis mayor. The Guilfords knew that Lieut. Zeibler was on George’s ship at Thanksgiving time and was in command of a gun crew.

George Guilford is a greatly admired in Centralia as an honest youth who has been making a place for himself in the world. At the age of 13, working at the Otto Polson station, he was so dependable that he could be left in charge of the station. While in high school, he worked for Arthur Myers in the clothing store. He graduated from high school in 1939; after graduation went to work for the Port Brokerage Co. in Mobile, Alabama, where he was making good.

George was active in Sunday School work in Centralia, was secretary before he left for Alabama.

He was 21 years of age last July. He joined the merchant marines last April and took schooling. His mother went to visit him before he took up sea duty in the summer.

Courier Tribune (Seneca, KS)
17 Apr 1944


The Friday K.C. Star carried the news that Lt. Carl Zeidler, Milwaukee’s “singing mayor” in the navy and reported missing, is believed alive and a Nazi prisoner somewhere in Argentina, S. A. Centralia is particularly interested in this as George Guilford, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Guilford, who was reported missing was on the same ship as Lt. Zeidler. The story cam from the Milwaukee Sentinel and released for publication by the Navy office of public relations. The ship disappeared in the fall of 1942 when German submarines were taking such a heavy toll in the Atlantic.

George Guilford’s memorial on Find a Grave provides more information about George Guilford’s death.

Searches for more information about the sinking of the La Salle yielded the following:

The four Eisbär boats departed the Cape Town area in high spirits. Merten and Poske went directly to the mid-Atlantic; Witte and Emmermann to rendezvous with tanker U-461. While on his way, Witte (U-159) sank two lone American ships. The first was La Salle, sunk on 7 November, loaded with ammunition; the torpedo ignited her cargo and the resulting blast was heard in Cape Town, 500 km away.

World War II: The cargo ship was torpedoed, causing her cargo of ammunition to explode, sinking her with the loss of all 60 crew in the South Atlantic 350 nautical miles (650 km) south east of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa (40°00′S 21°30′E) by U-159 (Kriegsmarine).

Since George Guilford was not enlisted in the military, he was not eligible for the Purple Heart. In 1943, the Merchant Marine Mariner’s Medal was created.

The Merchant Marine Mariner’s Medal is a decoration of the United States Merchant Marine. Because the Merchant Marine was not considered a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Purple Heart was not available to Merchant Mariners; as such, the Mariner’s Medal was established by an Act of Congress on 10 May 1943 to solve this dilemma.

Awarded only to members of the United States Merchant Marine, the Mariner’s Medal recognizes seamen who were killed or wounded as a direct result of conflict against an opposing armed force; in specific, it was awarded to any seaman who while serving in a ship during a war period is wounded, suffers physical injury, or suffers through dangerous exposure as a result of an act of enemy of the United States. In the event any such seaman dies from the wounds or injuries before the award can be made to him, the medal may be presented to the person named in the War Risk Policy as his beneficiary.[1] 6,635 Mariner’s Medals were awarded for service in the Second World War

George Guilford was killed prior to the creation of the Mariner’s Medal. This medal was awarded posthumously.

Mariner’s Medal Awarded Posthumously to Marine

George Edward Guilford, Cadet Midshipman, U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, was awarded the Mariner’s Medal, posthumously, November 29, and the medal will be presented to his mother, Mrs. Hazel Guilford, Centralia. Guilford is one of the Kansans who have received the Mariner’s Medal. The Centralia youth was lost at sea as a result of enemy action against the SS LaSalle, from which he was reported missing, as were all hands, on date of September 26, 1942.

Courier Tribune (Seneca, KS) 30 Nov 1944, page 1