Always being there for people who desperately needed help during his many Upper Greenwood Lake Volunteer First Aid Squad years and there too, during other times of need like when he traveled for miles on skis to bring food to a family stranded during a devastating winter blizzard in 1958, defines the kind of person Arthur Hansen is to many, but there is still much more to know about him and his service to the nation throughout his lifetime.
The fact that Arthur is a private person who is known to be one who usually does not tell others about himself, was changed by the U.S. Government when attention was given to him with the presentation of a Merchant Mariner’s World War II Congressional Medal of Honor on July 8.
He was a very young Merchant Marine and World War II was in its final phases with frequent attacks from U-boats whose goal was to stop supply ships from reaching their military destinations.
Although Merchant Marine people and the ships they are assigned to are not part of the military during peacetime, this changes during wartime when they are called upon by the federal government to carry troops and critical supplies such as fuel for aircraft and ground military vehicles. During World War II, Art was part of the crew on a ship doing this. The ships, originally non-military, did not have much artillery to defend themselves and were at the mercy of the U-boats that hunted them.
These unsung heroes were usually overlooked when it was time for military tributes and recognition for heroism to be acknowledged. In 2020, the United States Congress passed the Merchant Marine of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act to recognize Merchant Marine crewmen for their courage and dedication to the war effort. The late President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the mission of the Merchant Marines as the most difficult and dangerous transportation job undertaken.
The actual Congressional Gold Medal is displayed at the American Merchant Marine Museum at Kings Point N.Y. Arthur Hansen and every other surviving crew member who were Merchant Marines during World War II are receiving a bronze replica of the honorable award. An estimated 248,500 crewmen have already passed on. By the end of World War II, about 290,000 men had served in the Merchant Marines during the war.
Hansen was born in the United States to parents originally from Norway. When he was two years old his family returned to their homeland, where he grew up. After World War II was won, Arthur left the Coast Guard and in 1947, was chosen by the military to attend U.S. Army Intelligence School. It was a time when the Allies were looking to capture war criminals and Art’s ability to communicate in English, German and Norwegian with some understandings of the Russian language were important to the Allies.
When the Korean War began Arthur was again ready to serve the United States. After basic training at Fort Dix he was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from where he would ship out to Korea. The love of his life, Mae Lee, took a train to Fort Bragg and they were married before he boarded a C-54 headed to General McArthur’s Headquarters in Tokyo for additional Intelligence Training. After that he was off to Korea – and the raging war.
In 1952 he returned to the United States after flying nearly 100 missions that included almost a full year of being shot at during combat missions. After the war he returned to Lake Lookover where he and Mae raised their two children, Karen and Keith. The devoted couple celebrated 69 happy years together in January 2020. She passed later in that month at age 90.