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As the letter says, the captain, James E. Roberts, censored this cable and thereby took away their only means of informing the President of their objections to these bills.
I have sent a copy of this letter to the President.
Senator VANDENBERG. How did the captain want to change the message?
Mr. EMERSON. He did not want it changed at all. He did not want them to write to the President of the United States or so send a cablegram.
Senator VANDENBERG. I should think he might properly have said that his ship vigorously protests, but I should not think he had any right to complain that it had been said that the men of his ship had protested.
Mr. EMERSON. The inference here is plain. It meant the ship's crew. Of course, we have had that happen before. I might say, however, that the captain has a right to censor messages to a certain extent.
The ChairMAN. What was the date of that?
Mr. EMERSON. The date of the letter is December 14, 1937, but these men tried on December 10, 1937, to send a cablegram to President Roosevelt.
The CHAIRMAN. Where was that letter sent from?
Mr. EMERSON. This letter was forwarded to me from New York and was sent from the union. It had been forwarded to them from the crew of the President Harding.
The CHAIRMAN. Where was the President Harding?
Mr. EMERSON. This letter is dated “S. S. President Harding, at sea, December 14, 1937."
They must have had this letter written at sea, had it taken off at Cobh, and taken back on the next ship.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it not rather remarkable that they had full information about this bill in view of the fact that it was not introduced until the 2d of December?
Mr. EMERSON. Well, sir, we keep the unions informed in the different places.
The CHAIRMAN. Oh, you sent that letter?
Mr. EMERSON. I sent word to them to send protests to everybody in Washington.
The CHAIRMAN. Oh, you did?
I have one more copy of a letter which I should like to read for the record. It is as follows:
S. S. “ELIZABETH KELLOGG,"
SINCLAIR REFINING Co.,
Houston, Tex., December 31, 1937. Senator ROYAL S. COPELAND,
United States Senate, Washington, D. C. DEAR Sır: Your proposed amendments to the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, incorporated in the Senate bill S. 3078, are un-American and unjust.
As an American citizen by birth, and as a merchant seaman whom this legislation will affect, I strongly protest passage of these amendments. Respectfully,
C. W. GRAZIER, Radio Oficer.
I have many other protests, but I do not want to clutter up the record with them.
The next item is known as the Black Falcon incident, which perhaps I should have included in my statement of propaganda, but which I would rather treat as a separate item. It will be remembered perhaps that on a recent voyage of the S. S. Black Falcon one Mr. Daniel Irwin, a passenger, charged the crew with practically everything he could think of. This attack was so exaggerated that we decided to investigate it thoroughly, and I hereby give our reply to this attack.
First I shall submit for the record an item from the New York Times, entitled "Seamen Deny Charges. Black Falcon Crew Asks to Be Heard in Intoxication Case." It reads as follows:
Spokesmen of the crew of the Black Diamond ship Black Falcon, which arrived yesterday from Rotterdam, denied that they had been intoxicated and disorderly on a recent voyage as was charged at a hearing on December 13 before the Senate Commerce Committee. Daniel B. Irwin, of New York, made the charge in a letter read by Senator Copeland, chairman of the committee.
The crew's spokesmen attributed Mr. Irwin's statements to the misunderstanding of a person unfamiliar with maritime methods. They explained that 477 empty barrels which were carried on the forward well deck had been washed loose by heavy seas and most of them had been washed overboard. The crew went forward to release the rest to prevent damage to ventilators and superstructure, they said. This explanation was in reply to Irwin's charge that the crew had “cast freight into the sea."
Russell Goodman, chief officer, termed the charges “ridiculous”, and many of the seamen expressed their willingness to appear before the Senate committee to refute the allegations. The ship docked at Pier K, Hoboken.
The next statement is from the New York Times of December 16, 1937, in which Mr. Victor J. Sudman, president of the Black Diamond Steamship Co., defended the crew. This article reads as follows:
LINE HEAD DEFENDS UNION
Victor J. Sudman, president of the Black Diamond Steamship Co., defended yesterday the officers and crew of the Black Falcon against charges read into the record of the Senate committee in the form of a letter written by Daniel B. Irwin, a passenger, at a hearing Tuesday in Washington.
Mr. Sudman said he was particularly anxious to clear the record of the National Maritime Union, with which his company signed a labor agreement in September.
The log of the Black Falcon was produced by Mr. Sudman to support his contention that the crew, facing a gale which caused a shipment of barrels on the fore deck to break loose, had shown bravery in going forward and jettisoning the barrels. Mr. Irwin had charged that members of the crew, apparently drunk, had hurled freight into the sea.
Mr. Sudman said the one man who was drunk was a cook and he was discharged when the ship reached Rotterdam.
“We have had nine sailings,” Mr. Sudman said, "since we signed a labor agreement with the National Maritime Union. There has been not the slightest difficulty with the union or the men, and it is obvious to us that Joseph Curran and his fellow union officers are sincere in their efforts to keep contracts and maintain efficiency.”
There is a case in which the shipowners for once defended us against these malicious charges. Of course, we understand that all shipowners are not enemies of ours.
The CHAIRMAN. Are most of them enemies of yours?
The CHAIRMAN. Would you prefer to have the ships put under the Navy?
Mr. EMERSON. Sir?
The CHAIRMAN. Would you prefer to have the merchant ships put under the Navy?
Mr. EMERSON. That is a question. If it were found in the final analysis that we had no responsible businessmen in America who could handle the merchant marine to such an extent that the public would benefit by it, then we might be forced anyway to put the whole merchant marine under the Navy, but we would have to get our profits.
The CHAIRMAN. If you had to make a choice now, which would you prefer? Would you prefer placing the operation of the ships under the Navy, or would you prefer placing an officer of the Coast Guard on each ship in order to supervise personnel?
Mir. EMERSON. ile would prefer neither at the present time.
The CHAIRMAN. I know; but if you had to choose between those two things, which would you choose?
Mr. Emerson. There is only one thing I have to say with regard to that: If we come to this state where we cannot find competent, trustworthy ship operators in this country, or men who will go into the shipping business and run it squarely and fairly for the benefit of the public, without thought of making a million dollars in a year or two, as was disclosed by the former Shipping Board scandal, then we had better put the whole thing under Navy control.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you not think we had better do that now?
Mr. EMERSON. I don't know; we have some ship operators who are pretty fair; others who have learned their lesson and who are going to act differently from now on. With the Maritime Commission keeping supervision over them, they should be given a chance.
Senator VANDENBERG. But the Maritime Commission says:
Unless something can be done to stabilize those relationships, to reduce interunion friction, to increase the efliciency of crews and to restore order and discipline aboard our ships, all of the Government's efforts to develop a strong American merchant marine will be futile.
Mr. Emerson. They said practically the same thing to the ship operators.
Senator VANDENBERG. I think the ship operators are entitled to plenty of condemnation for some of the conditions they have permitted to persist, but, Mr. Emerson, the situation in which I find myself-and I may as well say it to you now, so that you can give me the benefit of such comment as you subsequently want to make-is this:
I agree completely with your statement that this proposition should be handled for the benefit of the public. When I confront independent witnesses by the score, not shipowners, not ship operators, but responsible Government officials in the various departments of the Government, who insist that unless something is done to restore a semblance of discipline on the sea, and who say that we are facing a trend toward positive loss of safety to the operation of ships at sea, I am forced to believe that there is some problem involving the public welfare in which both you and the ship operator are interested and where we hold a primary responsibility.
Mr. EMERSON. The whole trouble has been in the last couple of years. Since seamen have become light organized, they have dointed out so many bad conditions on ships that there is an effort to stifle any further move toward correction.
The CHAIRMAN. An effort by whom?
Mr. EMERSON. We have submitted an awful lot of evidence to Washington, and nothing has ever happened from it.
The CHAIRMAN. No; and I want to tell you that you submitted over a hundred affidavits
Mr. EMERSON. That was a long while ago.
The CHAIRMAN. You submitted more than 100 aslida vits. Every one was investigated.
You made a point about the Black Falcon, indicating that only Mr. Irwin protested. I have here a letter signed not only by Mr. Irwin but by the other passengers who were aboard. So, you see, it is not alone Mr. Irwin. I don't know Mr. Irwin. There is a ship and a line which you said was operating, or which your representative said was operating, very satisfactorily. Mr. EMERSON. Yes, sir; and the company is satisfied, too.
I just submitted for the record the statement of the president of the company repudiating the charge.
The CHAIRMAN. What about the public? Is the public satisfied?
Mr. EMERSON. I shall read this to you. This is a letter from the S. S. Black Falcon.
The CHAIRMAN. Of what date?
S. S. “BLACK FALCON,"
Antwerp, Belgium, December 19, 1937. NATIONAL MARITIME UNION,
New York City, N. Y. (Attention of Joseph Curran.) DEAR BROTHER: In answer to the scurrilous attack by Mr. Daniel Irwin, passenger on the S. S. Black Falcon, voyage No. 49, east-bound, from New York to Rotterdam, and in defense of the National Maritime Union aboard this ship from such pure libelous statements which are no doubt the fabrications of a prejudiced person.
The nature of these charges are so utterly untrue and ridiculous that I am at a loss to understand how anyone could give them serious thought, but as it seems to be the policy of adverse people and organizations to seize on anything that might sound piausible to the listeners of the radio and the readers of newspapers and migazines, those who do not go to sea, and cannot distinguish facts from fancy, because of unfamiliarity with conditions afloat.
On leaving New York, east-bond, we put ot in a rolling sea and worked until late at night securing the ship-i. e., lowering booms, battening down, stripping the rigging, lower the lines, securing the hatches, cte. On Sunday a. m. ship was taking considerable spray. As all weather indications pointed to rough seas, all hands were called and after-deck cargo of drums were moved to lee of house and secured by wire and chain. Nevertheless, so great was the action of the sea and the water on deck that several times d'ring the trip, course was altered intil this cargo was resecured. On reaching Rotterdam m'ch of this cargo was crushed and washed out of position, as ser claims on same. The fore deck was loaded two high with empty barreis, same being impossible to secure, and were not touched until 4:30 a. m., Monday, November 1. At that time, at risk of my life, I went on foredeck, which was constantly shipping green water and washing many of the barrels over the side. Others were smashing against the bulkheads and bulwarks, and some, due to the action of the water, were listing up and striking the dogs on the shelter-deck doors, lifting them off and endangering ship passengers, cargo, and
At greatly bodily risk, I resecured these dogs three times in an hour and 30 minutes, and also removed barrels that were wedged and pounding oil vents, and in danger of breaking these vents thereby flooding the oil tanks with salt water. It was imperative that remaining cargo of barrels be jettisoned for the safety of the ship, and such was the opinion of the master and all officers. Such action was carried out, and to prevent bodiy harm to seamen, ship's course was altered until this work was completed.
Such charges that crew took possession of the ship is so utterly ridiculous that only one with a limited knowledge of ships would give credence to such a statement.
That the crew were drunk is another gross misstatement of fact. With the exception of one, whom this passenger fed with liquor, not a member of the crew was in such condition.
During the entire trip while on watch on deck members of the crew at no time noticed that passengers' lounging space was in darkness.
Due to rough weather, all decks and alleyways were constantly awash. Gratings were put on both sides to facilitate the passengers reaching messroom and staterooms without wading in water, and everything possible that could be done to make the trip pleasant for the passengers was carried out, and any criticism should be of the elements, and not of the crew of the Black Falcon.
It seems that Mr. Irwin's unfounded attack of the crew of this ship is merely a subterfuge to discredit the National Maritime Union in the eyes of the American public. Yours fraternally,
N. M. U., 1180, Deck Delegate. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Emerson, I hold in my hand a letter from Mr. Irwin to me, under date of January 6, 1938, enclosing a letter or a petition to the Black Diamond Co. signed by every single passenger except one. That particular passenger was a former ship's carpenter. He did not want to sign, but every other passenger signed it. Does that impress you at all?
Mr. EMERSON. Mr. Chairman, at this point, if you would like further information on the subject, I have the signer of the letter I just read here present in this room, Mr. William Collins, and I shall suspend my statement for a few monents so that you may call him to the stand and ask him any questions, if you wish.
The CHAIRMAN. We shall do that in due time, or do it now, if you like.
Mr. EMERSON. Mr. Collins, will you please come forward?
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM COLLINS, NATIONAL MARITIME UNION,
1180, DECK DELEGATE
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Collins, give you full name.
The CHAIRMAN. What have you to say about the Black Falcon? Were you aboard?
Mr. COLLINS. I was.
Mr. COLLINS. First, I want to answer that letter and the other passengers signing it. This man was discussing the question of other passengers signing this letter, but before the ship reached Rotterdam every passenger wanted to get the letter back and take the signatures off.
The CHAIRMAN. How do you know?
Mr. COLLINS. Because there were several on there who told us they wished to get the letter back.
The CHAIRMAN. In the meantime, had they been seen by your delegates?
Mr. COLLINS. No; they were not.
The Chairman. In other words, nothing happened on the Black Falcon that was not entirely proper?