105 STAT. 2558 PROCLAMATION 6294—MAY 17, 1991 and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fifteenth. GEORGE BUSH Proclamation 6294 of May 17, 1991 National Maritime Day, 1991 By the President of the United States of America A Proclamation Members of the American merchant marine carry on a long and distinguished tradition of service to our country. In addition to promoting the economic development of the United States through trade and commerce, our merchant seafarers have also provided vital support to our Armed Forces during times of conflict. America's merchant sailors first proved their com-age and mettle—and their value in military operations—during the Revolutionary War, when commercial vessels supplemented the 34 ships of the Continental Navy. These merchant vessels virtually immobilized enemy shipping and, in so doing, hastened the end of the war and the beginning of American Independence. Diuing World War II, more than 6,000 of this Nation's civilian seafarers lost their lives as they helped to transport troops and to maintain supply lines to U.S. and Allied forces around the world. Today we are proud to salute the brave merchant mariners who served this Nation during that epic conflict. Recent events have fostered renewed pride in America's merchant seafarers: providing essential support for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, these individuals played a key role in the liberation of Kuwait. More than 90 percent of the materiel needed by our troops was transported by sea, and merchant vessels carried a significant portion of these goods. In addition to the merchant mariners who served on commercial ships during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, more than 3,000 civilian sailors manned the Ready Reserve Force vessels that are maintained by the Department of Transportation for such contingencies. The recent coalition victory in the Persian Gulf has demonstrated, once again, the importance of the American merchant marine to maintaining an adequate and reliable sea lift capacity for the United States. It has also underscored the patriotism and the devotion to duty shared by generations of U.S. merchant mariners. On this occasion, we gladly salute our Nation's civilian seafarers, our port terminal operators, and all those who serve in our vital maritime industries. In recognition of the importance of the U.S. merchant marine, the Congress, by joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as "National Maritime Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance. This date was chosen to commemorate the day in 1819 when the SS SAVANNAH left Savannah, Georgia, on the first transatlantic steamship voyage.