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STATEMENT OF HENRY NOZKO, NATIONAL ADJUTANT OF THE
MERCHANT MARINE VETERANS ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. Nozko. My name is Henry Nozko. I am the national adjutant of the Merchant Marine Veterans' Association of the United States. I am in hopes that by stating my own personal experiences during the war it will be found to be true of most of the men that served in the merchant marine, excluding many of the bad eggs that we had, unfortunately.
Prior to the war I was employed as an accountant at the General Electric Co., in Lynn, Mass., with a salary of $300 a month. I was studying evenings at a night school and going to the YMCA to take a police examination for the city police in Salem, Mass., which position I wanted in preference to accounting.
In 1941, I took the civil-service examination and passed and was placed No. 2 on the eligible list in that city.
In the early part of 1942 I wanted to do my duty for my country, not to earn dollars, so I went to the Army recruiting station in Salem, Mass., to enlist. There I was found to be totally color blind. Unfortunately at that time we had radios, newspapers, magazines, Government agencies, and others almost demanding men to man merchant ships.
I remember one of the slogans that got me at that particular time. It was broadcast over Station WEEI in Boston. It said, "You not only have obligation to your country, but to your merchant fleet.”
That struck me, so from the Army recruiting station I went to the recruiting and manning organization in Boston, Mass. There I was given a physical examination conducted by Navy doctors. I was found to be physically fit but totally color blind.
One of the maritime men there told me that I could only get into the merchant marine in the steward's department. I was very happy to accept that position, which I did. Three days later I was on my way to Sheepshead Bay Training Station in New York and there i started my career, partly under Navy supervision.
For 10 weeks I was enrolled at that station at $50 per month, less tax deductions. At the end of my training period I was assigned to a ship as a messman, or dishwasher.
For the next 9 months I sailed steadily with no time off whatsoever, except the usual time off that every merchant seaman gets, a day or two in every port, but by saying no time off, I mean to come home for a vacation or to stay away from my duties.
I had all foreign service and was constantly in a war zone. My earnings for the entire first year of service by “service” I mean away from my position of accountant at the General Electric Co.--were $1,996.53. My W-2 form made out for the Government on which I showed my taxes had that figure.
Of this amount over $100 I spent for clothing; over $100 I paid taxes and over $100 for travel and incidentals during that year. "My net earnings, included the enormous bonus that we hear about, were $1,696.52. In this is included a $100-a-month bonus, 5-a-day bonus in the war zones and others that I perhaps can't think of at the moment.
Mr. BROPHY. How about the $125 port bonus?
Mr. Nozko. I didn't get any of those; those were port bonuses and I didn't hit any of the ports that year that were paying the port bonus of $125-oh, yes; there is a $125 bonus included in this figure which was collected on an attack that we had in Hull, England, on the S. S. Henry George, at which time I was on a 20-millimeter machine gun along with a Navy gun crew.
After this year of service I took a 26-day vacation at home which time I spent going to the different ports and trying to state my case regarding previous experience, and so on, that I could be able to serve in a capacity for which I had been trained prior to my war service.
Finally in one of the southern ports I was allowed to sit for my purser's license and somehow or other they didn't realize that I was color blind. I received my purser's license and sailed in that capacity until 6 months ago with positively no time off articles or off ship, outside of 4 months, which time I spent at Sheepshead Bay receiving my pharmacist's license. This I did after VE-day.
At the time of sailing as purser the Navy Department sent out a bulletin which I received and was greatly interested in. It said that there was a dire need for men with accounting experience and pay-roll experience to become-I think that was in the supply department or pay-roll section, I am not quite sure which—which I applied for immediately thinking that perhaps my color blindness could be hidden.
I took my examination at Boston, Mass. The officer in charge, realizing my great enthusiasm about the Navy, assured me that where I was physically fit, but color blind, perhaps the Navy would waive this affliction. To be sure that I could get into the Navy I wrote to Congressman Bates. I should like to incorporate this letter, if I may. I won't take up your time reading it, but the letter states I am very much
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Just pass it up and we will look it over. I am not incorporating extraneous matter unless it has some real value to the hearing
Mr. Nozko. What I am trying to point out is that we have men that didn't
Mr. BRADLEY of California. If it has any real reference to the hearing we will incorporate it. Go right ahead with your testimony.
Mr. Nozko. The answer came from the Navy Department, which Congressman Bates forwarded to me and which the captain is now reading, that no encouragement could be given to effect a transfer due to the great need of the two services and that because I was not physically fit that couldn't be effected.
I went back to sea and sailed until 6 months ago as purser. I came home and found, when I did come home 6 months ago, that I was not eligible for police service in Salem because I was not a veteran, but a merchant mariner. · I called for a full board hearing in Boston, Mass., and was informed by that board that they were very sorry but they felt sure that something soon would be done to correct cases such as mine. "They expressed their regrets.
I left that board not feeling badly and went back to my former employer, the General Electric Corp., in Lynn, Mass., and applied for my prewar position. I was told that I would be called in a week or
two, that they would have to find a place for me. I am still waiting for a call from the General Electric Corp.
For 4 months I was unemployed. I have a family of two children. During these 4 months I have visited the employment offices in Salem, Mass., weekly. Veterans were to be given preference. Civilians came next. I do not believe that we should get what veterans got but I do think there should be some sort of a thing to take care of cases such as this, which is true of many thousands. There are still other thous. ands that are bad eggs. We know it. There has been some very, very bad publicity and some bad actions on the part of the merchant mariners, we know that. We do not try to deny it.
Ás far as drawing a line as to where we can stop, it is a problem, but perhaps that line could be drawn to extend benefits to those who manned the guns.
That is all, gentlemen.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. I see very little in this letter which is pertinent to the hearing at all. I think you should read what parts you wish to go in. I would be very glad to have you do that, because here is a memo from the Navy Department to Mr. Bates and a letter from Mr. Bates, and they have no bearing whatever on the case.
Mr. Nozko. All right, sir, thank you. I will just read a couple of sentences.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Yes, read the pertinent parts.
The question of a commission in the Naval Reserve for Nozko had been discussed by this office with appropriate officers in the Bureau of Naval Personnel
Mr: BRADLEY of California. One moment, please. Will you give the reporter a heading and tell him what that is?
Mr. Nozko. Oh, yes. This is a memo from the Honorable George J. Bates, Member of Congress, addressed to me:
The needs of the two services are such that no encouragement can be given to the application for commission in the Navy by the man in the merchant marine
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Would you also read in a part of your letter to Mr. Bates giving your situation and experience so it will appear in the record ?
Mr. Nozko (continuing): As you know, I have been serving in the United States merchant marine as an officer in the grade of purser. I am an ensign in the United States Maritime Serrice and have always wanted to be a part of the armed forces, especially the Navy. While home on a leave it has been brought to my attention that the Navy Department is asking for qualified men to serve in their pay-roll department. I am thoroughly fit with the exception of color blindness and should appreciate anything you may do to help effect this.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. In your testimony you constantly made reference to earnings. That is the reason I bring it up
Mr. Nozko. Yes, sir. Mr. BRADLEY of California. You gave your earnings for the first year; as I understand it, that included your time in training, did it not!
Mr. Nozko. Yes, sir; it did.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. You mentioned $100 for travel as being an expense which you considered entirely legitimate. Where does that come in?
Mr. Nozko. We came into New Orleans and I went home for 5 days.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Where is that any different than anyone else? Others would have to pay for that.
Mr. Nozko. I don't believe that others paid the full rate. We were not entitled to half fare on the train, and so on.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. What I am driving at is, this trip was on your own volition and your own willingness, you were not ordered to make it?
Mr. Nozko. Oh, no; I was not ordered to make it.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. I am trying simply to show that there is no particular discrimination in this. You also bring out the $100 for clothing. Wherein does that discriminate materially?
Mr. Nozko. I only used those figures to try to bring down the earnings.
Mr. BROPHY. At least he is honest about it.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. The implication of the testimony would be that those were necessary expenses which would not be incurred by one in the naval or military service.
Mr. Nozko. Yes. Mr. BRADİEY of California. I appreciate a certain small allowance is made at the beginning of the first enlistment to naval personnel, but not thereafter.
Mr. Nozko. I didn't know that. Mr. BRADLEY of California. I don't know the exact amount of the allowance at the present time. It is somewhere around $65, as I recall it. You very carefully gave your total earnings in this year in which you were partly in training but you failed to give them in any year in which you served afterward.
Mr. Nozko. I am sorry, I meant to. Mr. BRADLEY of California. I think you should put that in. Mr. Nozko. I meant to—I skipped that but not intentionally. My arnings were $3,200 per year for the balance of the war, Mr. BROPHY. Plus bonuses? Mr. Nozko. That is right, sir. Mr. BRADLEY of California. You indicated at another point you found it necessary to travel around the United States in order to find job. Why should that be the case ? Mr. Nozko. I don't think I said around the United States. Mr. BRADLEY of California. As I recall it you said you went to New Orleans or somewhere like that for the purpose of finding a job.
Mr. Nozko. Yes, due to my color blindness I went to different ports, hat is, I went to Boston and they refused to give me a purser's license, o I went to New York and there they refused to give me a purser's icense; I went to Baltimore and there the same. I think I finally got in Norfolk, Va.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. As I understand it, then, this jaunt was or the purpose of obtaining some kind of a position you wanted ? Mr. Nozko. Yes, to better myself. Mr. BRADLEY of California. You bring out in your testimony the esire to veterans' preference in particular. That is not covered in this ill. You appreciate that, do you not?
Mr. Nozko. Yes. I think some of the things that are in the bill, some of the items there would take care of all cases. I only brought my case in to give you a true picture of what was going on with many thousands in the merchant marine, excluding the bad eggs.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. We are not interested in the bad eggs, we have bad eggs everywhere.
Mr. Nozko. That is right.
Mr. Nozko. I think this bill would take care of many of the items where thousands of merchant seamen today are suffering through no fault of their own.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. You realize, do you not, that the actions of the board at Lynn, Mass., are not controlled by the Government in any way!
Mr. Nozko. That is right, but I can cite cases throughout the country in different States where the same thing is going on. My case is one which is very minutely small. We are trying to help, I would say, 200,000 men that are probably in straits such as mine. I am not bad off, but I know of men who are, through no fault of their own at all
. Mr. BRADLEY of California. You would bring out, though, that municipalities and States have regulations which they have made which do allow veterans preference to seamen ?
Mr. Nozko. Yes, sir, I definitely would.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Mr. Havenner, do you want to ask a question?
Mr. HAVENNER. What is the membership of the organization which you represent?
Mr. Nozko. We do not have a count right now. I was only appointed national adjutant a month ago. I am bringing the files up to date now and I will be able to give you a figure in probably a week to 10 days, if that would not be too late. I can give you an approximate figure. Mr. HAVENNER. What is the approximate figure ? Mr. Nozko. I think it is about 15,000. Mr. HAVENNER. That is all. Mr. BRADLEY of California. Mr. Brophy?
Mr. BROPHY. When you were at Salem looking for your police of ficer's job, did you ask the council there to include that in their civil service move?
Mr. NozKO. The council in Salem ?
Mr. Nozko. No, the mayor there told me that was not possible. He said it was strictly State legislation and there was nothing that could be done about it. I was closed out cold. He was not open to discussion on it at all. He said it just could not be done, Washington is the place to fight those things.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. It must have been done in that case by State action, isn't that right?
Mr. Nozko. Yes, I think he did mention State action.