The American Maritime Partnership, the association representing the Jones Act shipping industry, announced Monday that it is recognizing the actor Tom Hanks with its American Maritime Hero Award.
In addition to his Oscar-nominated turns in movies like Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Hanks has appeared in three films with direct connections to the U.S. Merchant Marine. In 2011, for the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, he provided the narration for a short film on the boatlift effort that evacuated half a million people from Lower Manhattan. Two years later, Hanks played the title role in Captain Phillips, the story of the pirate attack on the U.S.-flagged boxship Maersk Alabama.
Hanks also starred in and wrote the screenplay for Greyhound, the newly-released WWII action movie based on the C.S. Forester novel The Good Shepherd. In Greyhound, Hanks portrays the commanding officer of a destroyer who is attempting to defend a convoy of 37 merchant marine ships from German U-boats in the North Atlantic.
The U.S. Merchant Marine's history in World War II has particularly deep significance for American mariners, but it is rarely portrayed in popular culture. A total of 8,241 merchant mariners died in World War II, and many others were captured and became prisoners of war. About one out of every 26 mariners who served aboard during the conflict died – a higher fatality rate than any branch of the U.S. armed forces. Today about 2,000 merchant mariner heroes from World War II remain, and their sacrifices were honored earlier this year with the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Tom Hanks’ work throughout his career reflects a deep respect for those who serve,” said Mike Roberts, the president of the American Maritime Partnership. “This includes American mariners responding to the 9/11 attacks in New York, dealing with piracy off the coast of Somalia, and keeping our allies supplied during World War II. We are grateful for his work and passion in telling the stories of these unsung maritime heroes.”