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the facts in that capacity without going ahead and conducting a hearing?
Mr. LATHAM. No; I think it is essential to dispose of it there. I don't see how you are going to collect the evidence.
Mr. KEATING. I presume they would reduce the evidence to writing.
Mr. LATHAM. You would have no opportunity for cross examination or calling additional witnesses. It is one of those things of a very
It is not like a regular lawsuit. It is a special case and has to do with ships and discipline. You don't have the same discipline in an office building as you do on ships. It is a special case. I think the Coast Guard has done a fair job and an efficient job and should be given the authority to continue.
Mr. HOBBs. Isn't it the same difference exactly between a law court and a court of admiralty?
Mr. LATHAM. Exactly.
Mr. GRAHAM. And this is a fact, admiralty law is different from any other law?
Mr. LATHAM. I recall that it is. I don't remember much of it.
Mr. GRAHAM. At Pittsburgh we have to try a good many cases involving boats under the admiralty law, and I found to my amazement and sorrow I knew next to nothing about it. I made a thorough study and found out how little I knew. I think that is the average lawyer's experience.
Mr. LATHAM. I agree with you, Mr. Chairman. I think it is a very apt illustration of the difference. I think Judge Hobbs made a fine point.
Mr. HOBBS. Wasn't the gentleman in the Coast Guard ? Mr. LATHAM. No; I was in the Navy. Mr. GRAHAM. How long? Mr. LATHAM. 3 years. Mr. GRAHAM. What was your rank? Mr. LATHAM. Lieutenant. Mr. GRAHAM. Do any other members wish to question Mr. Latham? Mr. KEATING. No. I would like to compliment him. Mr. GRAHAM. Does this conclude your testimony? Mr. LATHAM. Yes; but I will come back on next Wednesday. Mr. GRAHAM. Then, we will just adjourn over until 10:30 next Wednesday morning.
(Whereupon, at 11:10 a. m., the subcommittee adjourned until 10:30 a. m., Wednesday, March 10, 1948.)
CONDUCT OF DISCIPLINARY HEARINGS BY COAST
GUARD COMMISSIONED OFFICERS
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 1948
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE No. 3,
Washington, D. C. Th esubcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:30 a. m., in room 327, Old House Office Building, Hon. Louis E. Graham (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. GRAHAM. The committee will come to order.
Mr. GRAHAM. Our first witness this morning will be Mr. Buck, Congressman from New York.
STATEMENT OF HON. ELLSWORTH B. BUCK, A CONGRESSMAN FROM
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. BUCK. Mr. Chairman, my name is Ellsworth B. Buck. I represent the Sixteenth District of New York.
I wish to thank you and the committee for this opportunity to offer my testimony here this morning.
Three circumstances motivate my appearance in connection with the dangerous situation currently existing as to merchant marine personnel.
First, last summer and fall, I traveled to and from Europe on American liner and spent hours discussing with the masters the break-down and discipline on American merchant ships. Second, I am a former member of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries and thus, have an abiding interest in the welfare of the American merchant marine.
Third, the district I represent probably embraces a greater concentration of ocean shipping than any district in the Nation. What injures the American merchant marine injures the life blood of my district.
I understand that my able colleague, Mr. Latham has outlined to your committee the legal tangle which has brought about the accumulation of 534 serious cases awaiting action.
With your permission, I wish to cite a few of the more flagrant cases for the record.
Case Z–324158: Apprehended by the Customs while in possession of narcotics, tried in Federal court, sentence suspended and placed on 1 year's probation with recommendation that he not be deported.
Case Z–270895: Charged with physical incompetence resulting from narcotics addiction while serving as beliboy aboard the Steamship Marine Perch, a passenger vessel, he was reported to be under the influence of narcotics and considered a danger to the vessel and crew.
Case of the Steamship Manrope Knot, entire crew refused to shift ship in Port of Spain until vessel was fumigated to their satisfaction. After three fumigations in 7 days, crew changed their complaint to general dissatisfaction with master and refused his orders for 7 more days until they received dispatch from their union, directing them to bring ship back to States where master would be "taken care of.” Crew's action delayed vessel 14 days and required premature return of vessel to United States.
Case 2-205845: Messman and assistant electrician charged with attempted entrance into woman passenger stateroom, possession of firearms, mental incompetency, possession of marihuana, insubordination, continued refusal to work. Attacked and threatened to kill various crew members. Diagnosed by the United States Public Health Service as a dangerous psychopathic who would probably always be in trouble and whoin it was dangerous to permit aboard ship.
2-130398 : Man wanted for assault on crew member with deadly weapon with intent to kill.
The next one is a man charged with intentionally throwing a mess boy overboard while the vessel was underway. Resulted in death of mess boy.
The next case involves the master of the steamship Smith Thompson. He was charged with shooting of seaman during drunken party in the captain's cabin.
The next case involves a man charged with failure to perform duties due to intoxication, refusal to obey lawful orders, sleeping on watch, insubordination, and assault and battery on chief officer.
Mr. Chairman, we are confronted heer with facts and not theories. I suggest that safety at sea of American passengers and crews is of more immediate importance than the safety of the Administrative Procedures Act. I am informed that Senate 1077, which would solve this dangerous situation, has been enacted by the Senate.
May I further suggest that your able and distinguished committee in delaying this measure a single day is assuming a responsibility which I personally would not care to shoulder.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM C. ASH, NATIONAL VICE PRESIDENT OF
THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF MASTERS, MATES, AND PILOTS OF AMERICA
Mr. Ash. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, my name is William C. Ash. I am a master mariner, national vice president of the National Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots of America.
Our organization consists of over 15,000 licensed deck officers and I am authorized to speak for them.
I am speaking here in opposition to this bill. I wish to emphatically state first that we have not had the slightest objection, in fact we consider it desirable that an authority of some sort be available at all times to review any cases of inefliciency, break-down of discipline, or any infractions or violations of any of the existing navigation laws of the United States. But we also are very emphatic in saying that a merchant marine is a civilian organization, consisting entirely of civilians and that the Coast Guard is a military organization, consisting en
tirely of military personnel who are military-minded, who conduct their hearings and cases in the manner boards, and that they are not, therefore, the right personnel to review any cases of inefficiency or any violations.
Now, I have heard it said repeatedly that there are infractions of discipline today more so than ever, that discipline aboard merchant marine ships is at the lowest ebb possible. I deny that emphatically. I would request the committee, through their resources, to get the statistics from any city in the United States, preferably a seaport city of approximately 100,000 people, as in comparison with 100,000 men actually engaged and earning their livelihood at sea, and break down the civilian infractions and violations of the law as in comparison with the merchant marine violations.
I think you would find that the activities of the men in the merchant marine are no better or no worse than any civilians ashore, because they are civilians, and that we have ample civil laws for prosecution of any narcotic addicts, any murderers, anyone who attempts to violate any of our civil laws, because the master is responsible for the administration of all civil laws on the high seas.
Now, we bring up this question of inefficiency. Let us agree that during the war when men were hastily and quickly trained and rapidly licensed, far in excess of the experience called for—we have had cases where during the war we have had ship masters at the age of 22, 23, and so forth. That is something that was never heard of in the normal course of procedure. These men were issued licenses as an expedient and I am very happy and proud to say that they distinguished themselves, when you think of the job they did in merchant ships on the beachheads, the job they did in convoy, in handling their vessels, the courage and the literal guts that they had it is commendable, and they are a fine bunch of American boys.
Now, there are certain men who were licensed because of experience who received the command because of the shortage of trained personnel. These men are rapidly being weeded out of the industry. Do you think, gentlemen, for one minute, that any steamship master that was guilty of a violation, such as has been described by Congressman Buck, can get another command? Do you think that the steamship company would not report to the bonding company? Every shipmaster is bonded. They would report that this man is a bad risk and the bonding company will not bond him, and, therefore, the company could not possibly employ him.
Do you think any officer can apply for a job with any steamship company without presenting his background and his record that is checked upon, with the result that no company would employ a man who has a bad record. It is not a shortage situation existing where inefficient people are forced on a company.
There is no union, and I say that without qualification, that can force any steamship company to take an officer that is not satisfactory to them. The man is punished in many ways, by loss of employment, and they are being weeded out of the industry very, very rapidly.
Now, a very bad feature of this Coast Guard situation, because of the type of hearings they have conducted, is this: The examiners, the hearing officers, and very frequently, the defense counsel are Coast Guard officers. We can produce positive cases where a boarding officer
has boarded a vessel and has gone down in the crew's quarters and wanted to know if any of the crew had any charges against the officer or vice versa, and where they go up in the bridge and ask the officers if they have any charges against the crew. They have found men's records in the logbook showing that they have been absent without leave. They are subpenaed for a hearing and they are advised that they should not go to their union and get defense counsel, that the Coast Guard would provide counsel, and that they would probably get off a whole lot better.
A ship master in the true sense of the word works many years to get his command. He has a responsible position, and it is a hazardous occupation where new situations arise every day. It is a business you learn every day until you die. It is a tragic thing to think that a shipmaster who has been at sea for 20 or 30 years, who has been unfortunate enough to have a grounding or collision or an accident aboard his ship, has to be subjected to interrogation, cross-examination, by one who is at least not equal in experience, such as a lieutenant (junior grade) or an ensign who has a fine legal background but whose total service at sea has been the command of an LST. We had one hearing unit in one of our largest seaports where the officer in charge spent his entire service during the war in command of a large steel desk, who knew nothing about actual life at sea. Another very bad feature of the hearing unit, as set up in the Coast Guard, is that a man has only one right of appeal and then only to the Coast Guard Commandant. He cannot have a review of the facts or evidence. He cannot take it outside to the courts except if there is a question of law involved. According to the testimony of Congressman Latham, there have been only four cases out of 30,000 where men had any background at all to take a case outside in the courts at law. The men just have no chance.
I have sat in myself as witness, as defense counsel, advisor to some of our brothers in the union, who have been on trial. What went on was disgusting. The dignity of the shipmaster has been lowered by the way the Coast Guard conducts the trial, by the questions he is asked, the way he is subjected to these things. The condemnation of one bad shipmaster condemns the entire fraternity. We are very
much opposed to it.
Another very, very bad feature, and I think you gentlemen will agree, is one of double jeopardy. Now, we do not like to have aboard our ships an habitual drunk. On the other hand, we do not believe we have any jurisdiction over what they do at shore on their own time. Some of them come aboard with a hang-over, but, then, there are lots of men that come to their offices with a hang-over. There are lots of steamship executives that come to their office with a hangI know that the majority of steamship companies are very
meticulous about the hiring of their personnel.
I see a man who I respect greatly for his long years of service here, Captain Cummins, who is marine superintendent for one of our largest American steamship companies. I discussed a case with him not so long ago involving a very close friend of mine, a shipmaster who had a groumding. That man was taken off a ship; he was put on the beach; he was well disciplined. The company will not discharge him.