Statement of Congressman Hale Boggs, Louisiana on HR476

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity of coming here before this subcommittee to testify for just a few minutes in favor of the enactment of this legislation. I have the privilege of representing the city of New Orleans in the Congress of the United States. During the war we had almost as large a portion of young men entering the merchant marine as we did, proportionately speaking, the other branches. Those men served with courage. In the opening days of the war, right at the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, before we had adequate naval and air protection against submarines, ships were sunk there daily.

As a matter of fact, I asked the Navy Department several days ago to give me a recapitulation of the ships sunk in that area and I was really amazed to realize that there were so many. I am certain those figures are all before the committee. I bring them out only to emphasize the point which has been made here by my colleague, Mr. Miller, from California, that it cannot be logically argued that there was any difference in the hazards faced by the men who served in the merchant marine as compared to those of the men who served in other services.

As a matter of fact, it was my impression, and I think it can be verified, that the period of training was so brief for these men entering the merchant marine, and in some cases no time at all, that certainly in the opening years of the war they were subjected to hazards and dangers much quicker than the ordinary man who was inducted into the armed forces.

In addition to that, Mr. Chairman, this bill is a long way from a veterans' bill. As I understand the bill, it gives certain limited basic benefits to wartime service personnel in the merchant marine. I am certain that the committee has read the hearings that were conducted here in the Seventy-ninth Congress and is familiar with all the arguments which have been brought out. But an analysis of the bill will show that it is limited principally to hospitalization, death and disability benefits, and educational benefits. That, of course, is a far cry from veterans' status or veterans' benefits. I do not think it can be logically argued that these benefits should not be extended to the members of the merchant marine particularly, Mr. Chairman, the educational benefits.

During the war I had the privilege of serving in the Navy and with the Marine Commission [sic ­ probably Maritime Commission] in the maritime service. We trained several hundred thousands of men for the merchant marine. Many of these men, as a matter of fact, toward the end I would say the majority of them, were youngsters just turned 16 years of age. They were not even eligible for the draft. They were 2 years ahead of the draft. They went in and served, many of them coming back with the same disabilities as the men who had served in the armed forces. In addition to that, their educations were interrupted at a very early time in life.

It seems to me the height of folly for the Congress of the United States to deny these men educational benefits. Certainly from the standpoint of the advancement of our country there is a necessity for an intelligent citizenry. Among these 200,000 men -- or probably much less than that because I think 200,000 is about the over-all force- I would say maybe 100,000 men would have the opportunity of becoming educated, qualified, competent American citizens.

On hospitalization benefits, the members of the merchant marine already are entitled to hospitalization to a limited extent. All this bill does, in my opinion after analyzing it, is to extend those benefits amid to recognize the fact that a man who suffered a disability, while serving during the war on a merchant ship, should be entitled to Government care and treatment in Government hospitals for the balance of his life or disability which was sustained as a result of war service.
I am not going to take any further time of the committee.

The question of pay, of course, definitely will be raised. But there are charts and tables in your hearings which are pretty conclusive on that matter.

I believe if you will approach that from any fair-minded point of view and analyze a serviceman's pay plus the benefits he was granted and properly so by a grateful Government, insurance, death and disability benefits, hospitalization, travel allowance, terminal leave, and all the other benefits which are too numerous to mention, income tax preference, free postage -- I am just thinking out loud -- and compare that to the seaman who was considered as a civilian and who drew pay only while he was aboard ship, which was usually about 10 months in the year and who paid the withholding tax, and who had not only shore privileges or benefits for dependents that the members of the armed forces had, I believe in many cases his pay situation compares unfavorably with the members of the armed forces.

When you go into the real question of veterans' benefits I am quite certain it is an unfavorable comparison. I had a talk once with General Bradley. He said that they had calculated that if they could pay each veteran of the armed forces the flat sum of approximately $15,000 -- $15,000 to each man - and upon the payment of that amount of money be finished with Government responsibility, that actually the Government, according to their figures, would save money. So I think on the pay proposition a fair analysis of it will show a disproportion actually does not exist.

There is one other point, I would like to make before concluding. We have fought two wars within the past 25 years. At the inception of both wars one of the real problems facing our Nation was necessity of providing for an adequate merchant marine. You members of the Merchant Marine Committee know how inadequate our merchant marine was at the beginning of this war and how pitifully inadequate it was at the beginning of the First World War, and how little effort was made during the time elapsing between the First World War and the Second World War, to maintain an adequate merchant marine in this country. It was only upon enactment of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 that the Congress recognized the national security of the United States was inescapably tied in with a fleet which was capable of carrying the commerce of this country.

I come from a seaport city. Our very lifeblood depends upon ships that come in and go out from all the ports of the world. We are a commerce-minded community. 'We are an old seaport city. We feel this type of legislature will help build the morale of the members of the merchant marine. It is awfully difficult to tell a youngster 16 or 17 years of age who served for maybe 3 or 4 years in submarine-infested waters and who saw his shipmates lost and wounded and injured that he actually did not serve in the war. Certainly he comes back with a pretty poor opinion of the American concept of service in the merchant marine.

I feel that to establish the morale of those men is vital to the continued success of the American merchant marine, and I believe this legislature will go a long way in doing that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. BRADLEY of California. Any questions. gentlemen?

Mr. POTTS. Mr. Boggs, do you consider that this will finish, so to speak, paraphrasing General Bradley's language, the requests for aid of the Government?

Mr. BOGGS. I think it probably will, sir, so far as the merchant marine is concerned. I won't go into the armed forces situation.

Mr. MALONEY. Mr. Boggs, you stated you thought the pay of the merchant seaman would be possibly less than that of the Navy. Have you any figures to substantiate that?

Mr. BOGGS. Yes. If you will look at pages 260 and 261 of the hearings before this committee, part 1, October 18 and 19, 1945, you will see charts on that.

[Reference made here includes pages 258-265: a statistical analysis made of: Annual earnings of seamen in selected occupations whose employment in the maritime industry ranged from 8 to 11 months, Oct. 1, 1943, through Sept. 30, 1944; and compares these with pay received by Navy ratings.]

I think on page 101 there is something further on that. In any event, the record is replete with those figures, Mr. Congressman.

[Reference made here to the pay analysis comparing a mariner with Navy personnel made the War Shipping Administration in answer to an allegation made by the National Commander of the American Legion in 1943. See http://www.USMM.org/salary.html]

Mr. BRADLEY of California. Any other questions, gentlemen?
If not, thank you very much, Mr. Boggs. We appreciate your coming here to testify.

Source:
SEAMEN'S BILL OF RIGHTS: Hearings Before The Ship Construction and Operation and Maritime Labor Subcommittee of The Committee On Merchant Marine and Fisheries House of Representatives Eightieth Congress: First Session on H. R. 476: A Bill to Provide Aid for the Readjustment in Civilian Life of Those Persons Who Rendered Wartime Service in The United States Merchant Marine, and to Provide Aid for Their Families.

Merchant Seamen's War Service Act
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10/10/2000

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