April 18, 1996
(Works, Services and Transportation)
The following is being distributed at the request of Marine Atlantic:
Persian Gulf crew recognized by United Stated government
Persian Gulf crew recognized by United States Government Operation Desert Storm may
have taken its place in the annals of military history, but five years after the Persian
Gulf conflict, 26 Marine Atlantic crewmembers who played a role in the supply effort have
been recognized by the United States.
In late 1990, Marine Atlantic's MV Atlantic Freighter was chartered to the U.S.
Military Sealift command for Operation Desert Shield, the planning effort which led up to
Operation Desert Storm.
The Freighter, under the command of Captain Neil Hillier, and 25 other volunteer
crewmembers departed from North Sydney on December 19, 1990, and didn't return until April
30 of the next year to a tumultuous hero's welcome at her Marine Atlantic dock.
In the intervening four and half months, Captain Hillier and his crew took the heavily
loaded Freighter into the mine-infested waters of the Persian Gulf on two supply missions,
and one of those trips was during the height of the conflict.
With the conclusion of the Gulf War, the vessel was finally released from the conflict
zone and began her long journey back through the Suez Canal, and halfway around the world
to her starting point in Cape Breton.
Marine Atlantic's president at the time, Terry Ivany, saluted the returning crew
members as "true heroes of Marine Atlantic."
While the Canadian military played a supportive role in the Persian Gulf effort, the
Atlantic Freighter was a civilian vessel contracted by the United States. As the vessel
was not part of the official Canadian contingent, its crewmembers did not qualify for any
However, federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Fred Mifflin, a retired Canadian Navy
rear admiral, actively pursued some form of recognition for the crew and ultimately
secured for them the United States Merchant Marine Expeditionary Award.
Captain Hiller, who was advised of the award through a phone call at his home from Mr.
Mifflin's office March 8 said the recognition was somewhat unexpected.
"The citation comes as a surprise five years after the event, and credit has to go
to Admiral Mifflin for seeing it through," says Captain Hillier. "Our role was
certainly seen to be of great significant by the U.S. military at the time of the
conflict, and the recognition today is still appreciated."
Contact: Doug Burgess, Public Relations Officer, (709) 772-5731.