Merchant Marines Honored With Downtown Monument

May 22, 2017

There is a new 6,000 pound monument along the waterfront in Downtown Wilmington. It’s one that seafarers say has been a long time coming, dedicated to the Merchant Marines. The Monument had been discussed for years, but it took a retired local captain to make it happen.

An armada of sorts invaded the Cape Fear River yesterday, in honor of the U.S. Merchant Marine. A collection of boats shot off thousands of gallons of water, and blasted horns and sirens.

That’s because Wilmington's first monument honoring U.S. Merchant Marine and American Merchant Mariners was unwrapped as part of National Maritime Day.

“The building of a memorial is a time honored tradition, dating back thousands of years.”

Geoff Losee is president of the Propeller Club, in Wilmington.

“… and I can think of no organization that has done so much, that is as unknown and forgotten, as our merchant marine.”

The Merchant Marine is the fleet of ships which carries imports and exports during peacetime, and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime to deliver troops and war materials.

It was a local group of mariners, led by Capt. Henry Helgesen, a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer and 1945 graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy, that raised the money to build the monument. 

1:25 “And we said there is no monument here, we’ve got to do something about that. We decided we’re going to create the monument fund. Which we did”.

It took him and his colleagues less than a year to make it happen.

The Coast Guard also placed a wreath in the river, to honor those who lost their lives in the Merchant Marines.