• Deitz, Morton
  • College/Year: NLAW '55
  • Links to Oral History Sessions: Deitz, Morton Part 1 (June 12, 2009)
    Deitz, Morton Part 2 (August 21, 2009)
  • Conflict(s): World War II
  • Military Branch & Unit: Navy & Merchant Marines
  • Theater(s): European
  • US Merchant Marines Other : Mr. Deitz was a USNR midshipman training with the Merchant Marines
  • Navy Ship: SS John Drayton


Morton Dietz was born and raised in Trenton, NJ, where his father owned a jewelry store. He graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce in 1942. He enlisted in the US Navy Reserve on June 25, 1942. While training as a midshipman at the Merchant Marine Cadet Corps School, he was assigned to duty aboard the SS John Drayton. On April 21, 1943, in the Indian Ocean south of Madagascar, German U-boats sunk the SS John Drayton. Deitz and twenty-three other survivors escaped aboard a lifeboat designed for twelve.   When they were rescued after thirty days at sea, only five remained alive. After recovering in Durban, South Africa, for two months, Deitz was returned to the United States, though physical and mental results of the ordeal would affect him severely for the rest of his life. He was tapped to participate in the Third War Loan cross-country bond drive tour in the Fall of 1943, along with Boatswain's Mate Ward L. Gemmer, Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant John Basilone, of Raritan, NJ, Machinist's Mate Robert J. Croak, Sergeant Schiller Cohen and celebrities Gene Lockhart, Virginia Grey and John Garfield. After the war, Deitz was deprived of his veteran's status since the US Navy claimed he was technically part of the Merchant Marine (whose members did not win recognition as veterans until 1988) at the time of the sinking. He spent many decades trying to rectify this injustice. Deitz worked as both a CPA and an IRS agent before graduating from the Rutgers School of Law in Newark in 1955. He practiced as an attorney in Princeton and Trenton and served as first chairman of the New Jersey State Bar Association Section on Taxation.