WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 05th December, 2020) US merchant marine veteran George Koch, who received a Russian Medal of Ushakov for participation in Arctic convoys during World War II, told Sputnik that he is "very honored" to be awarded.
"I am pleased and honored that I have received that medal. It was very nice of the Russian Federation to give these medals to us, to merchant marines who sacrificed lives to supply the Russians with these materials to help fight with the Nazis," Koch said. "It was good that we had an ally to fight Hitler."
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Koch, now 92, received the medal by mail, but the Navy League and the American Merchant Marine Veterans organization are planning to conduct an official ceremony to honor the veteran. The ceremony was initially scheduled for December 5 but has been postponed because of the pandemic.
"Mr. Koch served in the US Merchant Marine making the Arctic convoy runs to bring supplies and support to the US ally, the Soviet Union," Sun Coast Council of the Navy League President Michael Wooster said in a statement. "These convoys fought off ferocious air attacks, submarine attacks and even surface raiders such as the famed Nazi Battleship the Tirpitz to bring much needed supplies to our allies."
By Decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC awarded the Medal of Ushakov to 17 Americans, including Koch. The medal is named after Admiral Fyodor Ushakov, who never lost a battle and has been proclaimed the patron saint of the Russian Navy.
During the war, the United States provided material assistance to the Soviet Union via the North Atlantic, sending resources, provisions and military equipment such as tanks and airplanes, to support the military effort against Nazi Germany. In the process, convoys had to deal with the inhospitable Arctic climate along with German attempts to prevent them from reaching their destinations.
In 1944, the 16-year-old Koch enlisted as a helper in the boiler room on the ship named "Eloy Alfaro." His way started in October from the state of New York from where the transport sailed to Glasgow, Scotland to join a caravan with the coded title JW61 to the Soviet city of Murmansk.
"We shipped out from New York City in a convoy with the Naval ships protecting us, and sailed to Glasgow, Scotland. We took supplies there, and then we got into another convoy and headed out to the Arctic Ocean, he said.
The veteran noted that he did not know what cargo his ship was delivering to the Soviet Union because it was bundled up before he boarded.
"We had a locomotive and a coal car that was loaded in a deck, and some goods in our holds," he said.
GERMANS ATTACK ON WAY TO MURMANSK
The weather was relatively good as it was possible to be in the Arctic, but the convoy of 30 British, American and