107-year-old man believed to be oldest surviving WWII merchant marine plans to attend D-Day ceremony

PIGEON FALLS, Wis. (Gray News) – A Wisconsin man is about to take part in a once-in-a lifetime ceremony.

Believed to be the oldest World War II merchant marine veteran in the country, 107-year-old Reynolds Tomter is going to Normandy to help mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, WTMJ reported. The ceremony will be held June 6.

“I’m lucky to have a chance to go,” he said.

Merchant marines are civilian sailors who operate ships carrying commercial goods to worldwide ports. During wartime or a national emergency, the U.S. military can call on them to transport personnel and supplies to wartime theaters.

The mariners helped supply the Allies with materials critical to the war’s victory.

Tomter — who served as a ship’s baker and backup gunner and took part in five Atlantic crossings — said they shipped “ammo, tanks, cannons, whatever the area needed.”

He told WTMJ that luck is responsible for his long life: “Lots of luck and I’ve always had a positive attitude.”

He also said he feels fortunate: “I’m blessed I’ve got friends and thankful.”

According to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, 243,000 mariners served in the war, and 9,521 were killed while serving — ”a higher proportion of those killed than any other branch of the U.S. military.”

When the fight was over, the mariners weren’t initially eligible for the GI benefits that other troops were, something that Tomter said hurt. They didn’t receive those benefits until 1988.

They also were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by a 2020 law and received the medals in 2022.

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Source Link: https://www.wsmv.com/2024/05/09/107-year-old-man-believed-be-oldest-surviving-wwii-merchant-marine-plans-attend-d-day-ceremony/?outputType=amp

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