Statement of Theodore L. Kingsley, Executive Vice-President, Alumni Association of the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps

Hearings on HR 476, Seamen's Bill of Rights, before Subcommittee No. 1, Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, 80th Congress, First Session, Friday, May 16, 1947

I am Theodore L. Kingsley, executive vice-president, Alumni Association of the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps.

I come before you today on behalf of the more than 8,000 graduates of the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, almost all of whom hold commissions in the United States Naval Reserve and over 2.000 of whom entered the Navy as ensigns, active duty, upon graduation from the Cadet Corps. We, as a group, then, have what we feel is an overall picture of this important question whether the merchant seaman who served his country during the recent emergency, should have an adequate readjustment program. We wish to recommend to the committee the passage of H. R. 476 with certain revisions as appended to this report.

Since many of the most pertinent and vital facts supporting this bill have already been presented to the committee or have been prepared and will shortly be incorporated into these hearings by various interested groups, I shall not take the valuable time of the committee this morning by duplicating such efforts.

I have chosen, instead, to dwell briefly on the principles involved in the passage of this Act. Those who have opposed the Merchant Seamen's Wartime Service Act have repeatedly presented certain arguments and statements of opinion based mostly on prejudice, selfishness and hearsay. The arguments usually given cover:

  • a. The terrifically high salaries received by merchant seamen.
  • b. The fact that the average merchant seaman could have joined an armed service and receive the benefits of the GI Bill.
  • c. The probability that other civilian services will ask for the same rights if H. R. 476 is passed.
  • d. The "great" cost of H. R. 476.
  • e. The GI bill of rights is for GI's only.

In regard to the high salaries received by merchant seamen: Tabulated governmental figures reveal that the merchant seamen's "take-home" pay averaged about the same as that of men in the armed services of corresponding rank. Furthermore, the American seaman had little of the privileges afforded the men in the armed forces, and was truly the "forgotten man." It is unfair, therefore, that the question of salaries should become so important a factor to the opponents of this bill when salaries and bonuses earned by GI's are not a basis for granting benefits under the GI bill of rights.

Regarding the individual's choice to serve in the American merchant marine, may I say this: The governments we fought used their dictatorial rule over their people to carry on their war; whereas, the Government of the United States maintained its faith in its democratic system and the American people by preserving that democratic system during the country's most dangerous and trying time, World War II, refrained from compulsory measures whenever and wherever it could.

The victorious conclusion of the war proved the soundness of this confidence. At the call of the Government for seamen to man the merchant ships, thousands of Americans, young and old, answered voluntarily and within 3 months were on the dangerous seas carrying the much-needed supplies to all parts of the world and to all battlefields. The Navy and Army released many to serve in the merchant marine. It was officially recognized by the armed forces that these men were more valuable to the Government and the war effort aboard the merchant vessels than in the armed forces. In short, Americans were allowed to serve their country in the service of their choice. They had the right to select the Navy or the Red Cross, or the Army Air Corps, or the Infantry, or the Naval Intelligence, or the Coast Guard, or the Quartermaster Corps, or the war correspondents, or the merchant marine. They selected a particular service because of certain personal reasons known best to those individuals. In most prominent of these reasons probably was a conviction that they would be of most value to their country in that particular service. Each, however, had one thing in common -- each took the supreme risk for his country, the risk of life and limb, and many in each group did give that supreme sacrifice.

Is any American to be penalized for exercising his American right -- the right to select the service and manner in which he desires to risk his life for his country? Is it right for one group to boast that they gave more for their country then did others? Only Almighty God can be the judge on this account.

To those who present to the Congress the threat of the probability that other civilian services will ask for similar rights of H.R. 476 is passed, the graduates of the United States Marine Cadet Corps will adhere to its contention that those Americans who left the pleasures of home to risk life and limb and who gave the best years of their lives to the faithful service of their country, need readjustment aid as much as any other falling into the same category. We could not, with good conscience, refuse to recognize this fact.

Others opposed to the passage of H. R. 476 have given their opinion that the cost of this program will be great. To quote the head of one governmental agency, "It (the agency) does not have the data upon which to base an estimate of the cost of the proposed legislation, but it is believed that the cost will be great." This statement was obviously designed to strike at a vulnerable spot in the anatomy of Congress -- the region of the budget. Such statements are usually given by the opposition for lack of more valid and substantial ones.

It is estimated that the GI bill of rights will cost $7,000,000,000 this coming fiscal year. The estimated cost of H. R. 476 as worked out in great detail by the United States Maritime Commission Research Division is approximately $5,500,000 per year, or 0.0008 of the estimated 1948 cost of the GI bill of rights. In the light of these figures the "great" cost of H. R. 476 is very misleading and entirely unfair. The other statements appearing in its brief, two-page report in opposition to the passage of H.R. 476, are equally flimsy and unsubstantial.

The same report of this agency states, "The Congress has adhered to the principles of not granting the same relief or benefits to civilians as are now provided for persons who have performed active military or naval service." To my knowledge there has been no test to date of such a so-called principle and, consequently, the word "adhered" is misleading and, again, unfair.

Ever since H. R. 2346 was introduced in the First Congress there have been voices from the GI ranks opposed to it -- some voiced louder than others; some more bitter than others. A closer analysis of the statements made seems to reveal these things: Some GI's are fearful that Congressional recognition of the service American seamen rendered their country, through the passage of a readjustment act, would detract from their position of well-being; others are just not very familiar with the real facts concerning the merchant seamen and thinks of him as a "civilian," not as an American who risked as much as he himself did in the defense of his country.

To the first I can say this: Under H. R. 476 only 91,000 seamen will be eligible for education, disability, death, public health services, and funeral flags, the only benefits available to seamen through this bill. At the highest, only 8,600 seamen will be taking advantage of the educational benefits yearly, hardly enough to be noticed in the great throngs of GI's now enjoying these same benefits; less than 1,000 death benefits: and approximately 150 public health services.

To those who are misinformed on the American merchant marine, I would like to point out these thing:
Nearly all merchant seamen who will be affected by this bill saw active service in the war areas. The rate of casualties in the first year of war was higher for the merchant marine than that of the armed forces. Approximately 7,000 seamen were killed or are missing or officially pronounced dead. Of the estimated 400,000 seamen serving in the war, 109,000 or over 25 percent have been awarded combat bars. These were not awarded unless the ship on which these men served were directly attacked by the enemy. The merchant seamen, contrary to general belief, was subject to strict maritime disciplinary measures and severe restrictions on the normal peacetime of his occupation. They were subject to military law and controls while aboard ship and to court-martial for infractions by the Army, Navy, and the Coast Guard.

The advance release for Sunday papers of October 14. 1945, by Assistant Deputy Administrator of the War Shipping Administration gives a detailed picture of the sacrifices and the sufferings these seamen underwent in all parts of the world in many battlefields.

The great military leaders of the war have inspired to comment on the service of this group of Americans:

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every man in this Allied command is quick to express his admiration for the loyalty, courage, and fortitude of the officers and men of the Merchant Marine. We count upon their efficiency and their utter devotion to duty as we do our own; they have never failed us yet and in all the struggles yet to come we know that they will never be deterred by any danger, hardship, or privation. When final victory is ours there is no organization that will share it credit more deservedly than the Merchant Marine.

Admiral Chester V. Nimitz

The sea lanes of the Pacific, extended westward more than 4,000 miles in the last year, are crowded with merchant ships supporting our offensive against Japan. Without these ships wholly devoted to winning the war, our substantial progress would not have been possible. This war has fully confirmed the necessity for a strong and sound merchant marine in time of peace so that it may be employed as an auxiliary of the Army and Navy in time of war. The convincing way in which this fundamental fact has been demonstrated in the Pacific is a tribute to the ability and patriotism of the American Merchant Marine and augers well for the future.

It was while the Mindoro Campaign was at its hottest that General MacArthur issued his unprecedented command ordering merchant seamen off of ships anchored in the Mindoro area and into shore fox-holes during the night for their own protection. It is a matter of record in WSA files that most of the mariners chose to stay with their vessels as long as the ships were afloat, in spite of this order under the guise of "volunteer skeleton crews."

Commenting on the part the Merchant Marine played in the invasion of Mindoro, General MacArthur later said:

I have ordered them off their ships and into fox holes when their ships became untenable targets of attack. At our side they have suffered in bloodshed and in death. The caliber of efficiency and the courage they displayed in their part of the invasion of the Philippines marked their conduct throughout the entire campaign in the southwest Pacific area. They have contributed tremendously to our success. I hold no branch in higher esteem than the Merchant Marine services.

The Alumni Association recognizes the purpose of this bill is not to reward individuals for services rendered their country in the past emergency. Instead, its purpose is to help those who left job and school, to help those physically disabled or those who left families without means of support, and to aid in their readjustment in time way of life for which they fought. The merchant seaman takes pride in the service he rendered his country when it was in danger and when it needed help. He now, in turn, needs the recognition and the help of his Government.

I have a few recommended changes and revisions I would like to make. They are as follows:

  • A. Title II, section 202, page 12, line 3:
    This date. September 2, 1948, is to be advanced to November 2, 1950. This will allow sufficient time for a seaman to locate a college he can enter.
  • B. Title II, section 202, page 12, line 4:
    This date, September 2, 1952, to be advanced to November 2, 1958, to allow interruptions in a student's training program.
  • C. The Alumni Association also recommends that some preference be given wartime disabled seamen upon application for civil service positions.
  • D. The A.A. also recommends that all moneys to seamen under this bill for educational adjustments be considered a governmental loan to be repaid in yearly installments over a 10-, 15-, or 20-year period, starting 3 years after completion of their education. The educational moneys used by disabled seamen is not to be considered a loan but strictly as a grant by the Government, not to be returned.

The above recommendation has the following advantages:

  • 1. Reduction of cost of bill to one-half original estimate.
  • 2. Only the minimum funds needed by each seaman will be requested of the Government. It will be to the student's advantage to endeavor to earn as much of his way as possible.
  • 3. Those not needing educational funds because of good financial condition will not burden the Government with the cost of their education.
  • 4. It will help the seaman retain his sense of pride and dignity if he does not have to accept a grant from his Government and thereby increase the heavy burden it already carries.


Excerpts from discussion after Mr. Kingsley's Statement:

Mr. BRADLEY of California [Chairman, Subcommittee No. 1, Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries]. Have you finished with your statement?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes, sir.
Mr. [Thor C.] TOLLEFSON [of Washington]. You said it had been estimated that over 8,000 will apply for educational benefits yearly. Is that correct?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Will take advantage of it, not apply.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. That will take advantage of it?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes. That is taken from the Maritime Commission report.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. I wanted to ask you where you got those figures.
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes, sir.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. And approximately 2,000 will receive disability benefits annually?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Comes from the same report.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. Your recommendation is the recommendation of your organization?
Mr. TOLLEFSON. The last one was that the educational benefits are to be considered a loan except in the case of casualties?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes, sir.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. I am not either an opponent or proponent of this bill. I am asking these questions only for my own information. You made the statement that the average take-home pay of the merchant seaman was about on a par with that received by other services in the same rank?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes, sir. There are figures compiled by Admiral Knight of the Maritime Commission showing, rank for rank, the approximate pay received by men in the armed forces and men in the merchant marine. He deducted taxes and the part of the time the seaman did not work. I think he used an average of 11 months' work per year.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. Are those figures still available?
Mr. KINGSLEY. They are in the old reports of H. R. 2346.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. Report made on hearings before the last Congress?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes; the last Congress....

Mr. BRADLEY of California. Would you like to ask some questions, Mr. Havenner?
Mr. [Franck R.] HAVENNER [of California]. I did not hear the gentleman's full statement. What is your position?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Executive vice president of the Alumni Association of the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps.
Mr. HAVENNER. Would you refer to that take-home pay you gave a while ago as accurate?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes they are fair and just comparisons.
Mr. HAVENNER. In view of the fact. Mr. Chairman, that a great many of the members of our committee this year are new, I think it would be well at some time during the hearing to have a discussion of those figures so that we can satisfy ourselves about that.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. We will be delighted to have them. They will no doubt all be submitted by the Maritime Commission.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. They are going to testify, are they not?
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Yes; they are all going to be submitted. I am doing my very best to get more members here but we just cannot get them.
Mr. HAVENNER. It is always very difficult, on Friday.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Very difficult at any time.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. At least they will he available by time we meet in executive session.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Yes. Have you any further questions?
Mr. HAVENNER, No....

Mr. BRADLEY of California. You started right out, Mr. Kingsley, with the normal statements that everybody who practically does not agree on the desirability of this bill is influenced by selfishness and hearsay. I would like to have you explain that because that is the usual story which comes to us. Why do you make such statements as that?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I make that statement because of this, Mr. Chairman: Very few, the minority, I would say, of the GI's have the feeling that if Congress passes a special bill recognizing merchant seamen, there would he a definite detraction of their own recognition, and their voices seem to be the loudest. I know, having been on ships with the GI's and with the sailors, that those most familiar with the merchant marine seamen do not feel at all that way, that they would be glad to have the merchant seaman obtain these rights, these, benefits.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. I wonder how you know that. We are having witnesses here and we have had witnesses regularly. I assume our people are familiar with all this. We have not had any GI's, but you come in here and say anybody who does not agree with you is selfish and works on hearsay. You do yourself a great deal of damage by those statements since you have nothing with which to prove them that I can see.
Mr. KINGSLEY. I refer particularly to the article which appeared in the March issue of the American Legion magazine, which was an article based on hearsay.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. What reason have you to say it was based on hearsay? I do not know anything about it and never heard it, but do you suppose the author did not know anything about what he was writing?
Mr. KINGSLEY. One statement that I can particularly point out was a statement he used of a seaman who mentioned he walked off the ship with something like $1,200 after, I believe, 2 months time. Such a statement, in my opinion, certainly is not a factual statement. He could have gotten that money gambling or for some exceptional reason, and it is not a clear picture of the over-all pay of a merchant seaman.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. It may not be a clear picture of the average pay but it is small in comparison to what some received. I happen to know of cases where they doubled that amount.
Mr. KINGSLEY. You see, my effort today was to give an over-all picture of the merchant seaman.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Yes. but I wish you and other witnesses would remember you do not improve your cause when the first thing you say on the stand is that everybody who does not agree with you is influenced by selfishness, greed, or something like that. It certainly does not help.
Mr. KINGSLEY. I do not, Mr. Chairman, mention that every one who disagrees fell in that category. I just said, "Those who oppose the merchant seamen's bill of rights * * * "
Mr. BRADLEY of California. I do not see much difference between those who oppose and those who do not agree.
Mr. KINGSLEY. But there has been quite a bit of misleading information which has ---
Mr. BRADLEY of California. This is a very controversial subject. You boys who are thinking of yourselves do not appreciate that. This is one of the most controversial bills before the Congress. You are going to have opposition and very great opposition. The committee realizes it. We know what the situation is there.
Mr. KINGSLEY. That. is why I suggested the loan idea. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. We will get to that later. I was merely mentioning your statement as a whole. You started by stating that the Army and Navy released men for merchant service and thereby intimated -- I am not sure whether you actually said this -- that that was a sign that the merchant marine was considered as you might say, a military service or an essential service which had special consideration. Was it not also the case the Army and Navy released thousands of men to go into industry, navy yards, shipyards. and so forth?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes, sir.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. There is no difference, is there, in the release of these men as essential? They were the same Americans. Some were released to go to the merchant marine; some navy yards, and industrial plants. Do you consider those men released to go to shipyards have a claim for these particular rights?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I probably can point out a very --
Mr. BRADLEY of California. I am not asking you to point out as I said at the beginning. I wish you would answer questions. I asked a simple question. You have stated that men were released from the Army or Navy to go into merchant marine. You thereby intimated that that puts the merchant marine in a certain specific class. The same number of men, possibly, or at least. many men, were released to go into shipyards, arsenals, and so forth. Do you consider that that could make those men eligible for these benefits?
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Why not?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I consider the analogy direct --
Mr. BRADLEY of California. The question is why do you not?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Because there was no risking of life and limb by those men in the shipyards.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. As I recall it we had some very big disasters.
Mr. KINGSLEY. I mean due to enemy action.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. You also went on to say that every person had the right as an American to select his own occupation that is, that he could select the merchant marine, the Red Cross -- I do not know whether you said USO -- but generally these various agencies in which to serve. Wherein would you distinguish, then, between Red Cross, USO, and these other agencies who went overseas and served at the front from the merchant marine?
Mr. KINGSLEY. In what way do you mean "distinguish"?
Mr. BRADLEY of California. So far as benefits are concerned. It happens we have many claims from the Red Cross and people who went to the front who want to be put in the same category.
Mr. KINGSLEY. I did recognize in my statement that these other men gave as much as any other forces.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Would it be your opinion that these Red Cross workers, USO workers, and other civilians who went overseas and served at and near the front should be given the same consideration that this bill is supposed to extend to the merchant marine?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I mentioned also that to say "no" to that question would not be in accordance with our good conscience.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Would you repeat that?
Mr. KINGSLEY. To say "no" to that question would not be in accordance with our good conscience.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Then what is your opinion? You say you cannot say "no." Would you say "yes"?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Perhaps I should read the paragraph which deals with that line.

To those who present to the Congress the threat of the probability that other civilian services will ask for similar rights if H.R. 476 is passed, the graduates of the United States Merchant Marine Cadet Corps will adhere to its contention that those Americans who left the pleasures of home to risk life and limb and who gave the best years of their lives to the faithful service of our country, need readjustment aid as much as any other person falling into the same category. We could not, with good conscience. refuse to recognize this fact.

My point is this: Such a bill as H.R. 476 is not to reward the services, but --
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Let us not get into any more discussion. We do not have time for all these things. I am trying to bring out a certain fact. Either you believe it or you do not believe it, or you refuse to answer. The fact is do you believe that these other civilians who went overseas and served at the front or near the front should be entitled to these same or similar privileges?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I will answer that as directly as I can, Mr. Chairman. I do not want to say "no" or "yes' only. May I say this: Because of my lack of knowledge of these services, I cannot answer with one word. But knowing that many men in the Red Cross were right in the midst and thickest of battle, and did give their lives for their country and for their fellow men, that they do need readjustment aids provided in such a bill as H. R. 476.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Then you do believe it?
Mr. BRADLEY of California. That is a very simple answer. I might ask you, then, since you are supposed to be a person of real intelligence, being a graduate of college and all that, where are we going to find any place to stop this program which you are advocating after it starts? Where will there be a line of demarcation?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I will point out this, Mr. Chairman, which I feel is the only basis upon which the Congress can award a bill such as H. R. 476, and that is the risking of one's life and limb in the service of his country and, of course, corresponding service of so many years or so much time in the service of his country.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Do I understand that you put a time limit on this? As I recall it, it could be as little as a year under this bill, could it not?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes, sir.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Do you consider that so much time?
Mr. KINGSLEY. That is up to the Congress to decide....

Mr. TOLLEFSON. One question to clear up my mind on that point. When you say "risked their lives" you mean through enemy action?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Through enemy action is what I mean.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. You have further amplified considerably the small cost of this program. Do you, for one moment, believe that this would be anything more than the simplest start on a program of benefits?
Mr. KINGSLEY. You mean with regard to the awarding of similar benefits?
Mr. BRADLEY of California. With regard to so-called civilian personnel, different groups, and the merchant marine itself.
Mr. KINGSLEY. I do believe this: That the merchant marine is the largest of those groups. I may be wrong, but that is my offhand opinion.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. But that was not the question.
Mr. KINGSLEY. Let me continue, please. Any subsequent readjustment aid that is given to other groups would be on a decreasing level....

Mr. BRADLEY of California. ...You spoke about merchant seaman being under military law. Tell me where and how?
Mr. KINGSLEY. In one particular instance that, I know of, one of the men on our ship when in Cherbourg, France, went ashore, and there were no shore leaves allowed by the Army. We had gone in just after the invasion. He was subject to court-martial after he was caught and imprisoned.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. I wonder if you are not confusing it with ordinary civilian procedure. That man went ashore in the port where military law ruled and if he had been a civilian he would have been subject to the same rule, would he not?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I do not know, but that is very possible.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Do you know of any case aboard a merchant ship where either military or naval law prevailed except insofar as military or naval personnel was on board and to which it applied?
Mr. KINGSLEY. I could not answer that directly, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. I said do you know of any case. You certainly answer it. You either know or do not know. You cannot answer whether there was such a case but you can answer whether you know of any case.
Mr. KINGSLEY. I do not know of any case.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. You do not know?
Mr. BRADLEY of California. You brought up the question of military law in the case of some quotations from General MacArthur. You stated that General MacArthur ordered the crews to be into dugouts and they did not go. If military law was in effect, why did they not go ? I am not aware of cases where Army Commanders give orders and they are not carried out if military law prevails.
Mr. KINGSLEY. I think in that case they assumed the general had ordered them ashore for their own safety.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. It they were under military law would they do any assuming whatever? Military law, as I understand it, and I have known it for many years, does not permit any assumptions. I think you will find out you are 100 percent wrong on all of that....

Mr. TOLLEFSON. As I understand the bill, it applies to all merchant seamen regardless of the period of their service. Is that your understanding of the bill?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Would you repeat the question?
Mr. TOLLEFSON. The bill covers every merchant marine seaman regardless of the period during which he served. He may serve 6 months, a year, or 2 years. There is no limitation; is there?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes; there is a limitation of 6 months unless he had to leave the merchant marine because of injury, disability which was incurred as a direct result of the war.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. In other words the minimum service requirement would be 6 months?
Mr. KINGSLEY. Yes, sir.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. Suppose he served 2 years and then just quit during the middle of the war, not being a casualty?
Mr. KINGSLEY. He would be eligible for certain rights; yes.
Mr. TOLLEFSON. That is all.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Have you anything more you wish to say?
Mr. KINGSLEY. That is all, sir.
Mr. BRADLEY of California. Thank you very much for your testimony. We appreciate it very much. (Witness excused.)

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