The Russian government Wednesday honored American merchant marines who supplied fuel, food and ammunition that helped stem the Nazi onslaught during World War II.
"It's been a long time coming. I never thought I'd live to see it," said Charles Bellinger, 70, an Amityville, N.Y., resident who made the New York-to-Murmansk, Russia, run in 1944 aboard the S.S. Thomas Donaldson.
About 250 former merchant marines received bronze medals Wednesday, nearly 50 years after the last convoy of U.S. Liberty Ships steamed into the Soviet Union's Arctic ports.
The Cold War had prevented the former Soviet government from honoring American merchant marines until now, said Vladimir Lukin, Russia's ambassador to Washington.
Allied convoys took supplies to the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel after the Germans invaded in 1941. The expeditions were treacherous. More than 100 American ships were sunk by German submarines and dive bombers.