The Enemy at Home

National Maritime Union of America, February 1943
[Pamphlet in defense of accusations about mariners refusing to unload ships]

cover The Enemy at Home

This pamphlet is the answer to the latest and most vicious attack on the members of the National Maritime Union. But our desire to have the whole truth told in connection with the alleged story of the seamen's "refusal to unload ships at Guadalcanal" was not our only purpose in printing the pamphlet.

We had another thought in mind. It occurred to us that in the press treatment of this fake story, Labor could show concretely what it means by its frequently repeated charge that the newspapers are anti-union.

This Guadalcanal story, from its first appearance in the Akron Beacon-Journal, through its pick-up by the wire services, and its reappearance as a page one feature in newspapers all over the country, is a real case history of the job that the press does on Labor all the time.

Do you want proof that the press lies, distorts and suppresses the news to give unions a black eye? Here is that proof.

Joseph Curran


Tin Fish Ahead!
Tin Fish Ahead lookout shouts

The brave men who sail our ships have come to expect that cry from the lookout. It means that spinning through the water, headed for the bowels of a precious ship, is a torpedo fired by an Axis U-boat. Within seconds, cargo, life and limb will be sinking to the bottom.


Dead and missing from the ranks of merchant seamen in the first year of war because of "tin fish" are 3,211 men.

Gone to the bottom of one ocean alone -- the Atlantic -- since Pearl Harbor, are 611 Allied ships.
Despite these dangers, the members of the National Maritime Union, CIO, are pledged to "KEEP 'EM SAILING -- DELIVER THE GOODS."

To keep a bridge of ships across the oceans, as our Commander-in-Chief requested, is the aim of the National Maritime Union.

To supply our troops and the armies of our allies with the weapons to crush Fascism is the war-time role of the N.M.U.

Neither Hitler, Hirohito, or "tin fish" will deter us from this task.

But when the lookout cries:

Tin Fish on Land!
Tin Fish on Land

The men who sail the ships resent it.

It means that bouncing from the pages of the 6th-column press is a slanderous story designed to help Hitler here and hinder America's war effort.

The aim of the Axis torpedo at sea is to sink our ships, kill our seamen and make us lose the war on the high seas.

The aim of the 6th-column torpedo on land is to shatter our morale, smear our seamen, and turn Americans to fighting among themselves.

Each works for Hitler. Each is our enemy.

Just as each section of the ocean is assigned to Axis subs, so is each section of our country assigned to Axis-aiding newspapers.

In Chicago, the "tin fish" tosser is Col. Robert McCormick and his Chicago Tribune.

In Washington, it is McCormick's cousin, "Cissie" Patterson and her Washington Times-Herald.

In New York, it is another cousin, Capt. Joseph Patterson and his Daily News.

Around the rest of the country, "tin fish" are tossed by friends of the Hearst-McCormick-Patterson Axis.

Within the past few weeks, this Axis has launched three whopping "tin fish."

The first torpedo was fired by the Chicago Tribune. It quoted an unnamed "Naval officer" and accused merchant seamen of being "draft dodgers", "yellow", and "insolent".

What are the facts?

Elmer Davis, director of the Office of War Information, said that merchant seamen in the first year of war lost 3.8 percent of their total manpower in dead and missing alone. This, he said, is four times greater than the combined losses of the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, which have lost only three-fourths of one percent of their manpower during the same period.

Rear Admiral Emory S. Land, chairman of the War Shipping Administration and the United States Maritime Commission said that the seamen were "loyal and efficient".

graphic compares casualties.
Out of every thousand American Seamen 38 have been reported dead or missing 3.80%
While the Armed Forces including the Army Navy Marines and Coast guard have lost 7 out of every thousand 0.75%

Answering another smear concerning huge wages, he said the average weekly income of a seaman, including his room and board, is $57.00 -- the equivalent of the earnings of a second-class rigger in a shipyard.

Those two statements are the answer to the first torpedo.

The second "tin fish" was launched by the Akron Beacon-Journal, a friend of the 6th-column Axis in America, with an assist by the Associated Press and the other land torpedo-tossers.

This "tin fish" quoted six unidentified Marines as allegedly saying sick, hungry Marines were forced to unload a ship at Guadalcanal on a Sunday because N.M.U. members said working on the Sabbath was against union rules.

Although this event was supposed to have occurred many months ago, the first inkling the N.M.U. had of the charge was the day after it appeared in the Akron paper.

The Union called a special press conference within a few hours after the story appeared in the Hearst Journal-American in New York. There the lie was given to the tale, but anti-labor forces were already using the yarn as a bludgeon against labor unions.

A company union in New Jersey issued a special leaflet attacking the CIO. The anti-labor newspapers all over the nation printed heated editorials and inflammatory cartoons attacking union seamen.

cartoon about Akron newspaper

The Akron paper which printed the lie sent 1,600 copies of the false story to members of the armed forces with the obvious intent of making them feel they were being played for suckers.

Although the Union, through its president, Joseph Curran, showed that there was no rule prohibiting Sunday work, that seamen have always worked on Sunday and that the men at Guadalcanal would have been brought up on mutiny charges, if they had, refused to work, the Axis--aiders still gave widespread play to the lie.

Letters were received at the union office from members of the armed forces who said they had read the attack in the papers, but had not seen any denials from the union. They asked for information.

The Union obtained and released the following state-ment from Brigadier General Robert L. Denig of the United States Marine Corps:

"The Marine Corps knows nothing about the published charges. The people in Akron called us about it and we told them we knew nothing about it. We referred them to the Navy Department and I understand the Navy told them there was no basis for the story."

collage of newspaper headlines

[Text of article is found in "Articles about alleged incident at Guadalcanal" linked below]

This statement was either "buried" by the Axis-aiders or not printed at all.

cartoon newspapers torpedo ship

The Navy Department then made public an interview with Marine Corps Lt. Col. Lewis B. Puller who had just returned from Guadalcanal. He said the reported "holiday" never occurred. This story was "neglected" by most of the press.

But the editorials and cartoons attacking not only the N.M.U. but all unions continued unabated.

We received letters from dozens of citizens who, knowing of the sacrifices union seamen were making, couldn't believe these stories in the newspapers. They asked for our side of the story because their paper hadn't printed it.

So widespread did this falsehood become that Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., commander of all United States forces in the South Pacific, had to take time out from fighting the war to answer the slanderous attack.

Because few papers printed the Halsey statement, here it is in full as released by the Navy Department:

"Admiral William F. Halsey, Commander of United States forces in the South Pacific, informed the Navy Department today that in no instance have merchant marine seamen refused to discharge cargo from their vessels or in any other way failed to coop-erate with the United States forces ashore in that area.

"In a report to the Navy Department, Admiral Halsey asserted more than a dozen vessels manned by seamen have reached Guadalcanal since the start of the Solomon Islands campaign, August 7, 1942. Under the supervision of naval officers, the crews participated in unloading all of them.

"The report stated that none of the crews had ever refused to discharge its ships cargo, and the merchant seamen's cooperation, efficiency and courage, on some occasions, in the face of enemy attack, have won high praise."

A Congressional sub-committee was appointed to take testimony and investigate the published charges.

Headed by Representative Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, this is what the committee was told:

By Major-General Alexander A. Vandergrift, commander of Marines in Guadalcanal "At no time while I was in command did any civilian crew refuse to do its al-lotted task in unloading ships."

By Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox: "I had an investigation made while I was in Guadalcanal and can state unequivocally that no such incident occurred."

These statements were added to the earlier reports by Admiral Halsey, General Denig and Lt. Col. Puller.

When Helen Waterhouse, sob-sister for the Akron Beacon-Journal, who wrote the story was called as a witness, it developed her "facts" were merely hearsay.

Part of the story, she said, was picked tip from two girls "who met a Marine downtown."

Other parts came from mothers who phoned her!

At no time, she testified did she talk to any marine who had actually unloaded ships.

Charles C. Miller, city editor of the paper, in a hurt tone of voice, told the committee:

"It is true that the story was rewritten by some other newspapers and that in the process the matter of 'Sunday rules' came to be injected in some versions of the story printed elsewhere."

The fact is that the story was rewritten so often by papers like the Chicago Tribune and Washington Times-Herald that the last thriller had N.M.U. crews standing on deck waving beer bottles and jeering at wounded, starving marines who were stumbling forward asking for water and food.

The extent of the reactionary drive to keep the truth from the American public can best be illustrated by the following instance:

On February 7, Walter Winchell tried to read an editorial from the St. Louis Star-Times which defended the merchant seamen from the Guadalcanal lie. The editorial recited the story as printed in the various papers and then showed how anti-labor Congressmen had used it in an attempt to foster hatred against unions despite the denials from Admiral Halsey and other military and naval officials.

This broadcast was censored and Winchell was not allowed to read the editorial because, the Blue Network said, it was "controversial."

The entire Guadalcanal story can best be summarized by the comment which appeared in the lead editorial of the Hudson (New Jersey) Dispatch on February 8. This paper had been one of the leaders in the attack on the seamen. It had gone overboard with a feature cartoon and editorial. After the Congressional sub-committee had labeled the story untrue, it apologized by saying:

"That's enough evidence for us that the Beacon-Journal was taken for a sleigh-ride, and we followed along on the toboggan."

cartoon red scareIt is interesting to note, however, how willing and eager the nation's press was for that sleigh-ride.

The third Axis - aiding "tin fish" was launched by Westbrook Pegler, labor-baiting columnist who said an N.M.U. proposal that merchant seamen man guns aboard ship would mean "a risk that the guns one day would be turned against this country by men bitterly opposed to the American form of government."

This column, widely circulated in hundreds of newspapers, is part of the campaign to ignore the death and heroism of the merchant seamen and attempt to turn the public against labor.

The fact is that the Government has recognized the wisdom of the N.M.U. proposal and has already instituted gunnery training for the merchant seamen. It has done so because it recognizes the merit of the N.M.U. statement that this training will relieve Navy men for important work elsewhere. It will also make room aboard ship for men who have been graduated from the Government's Maritime Training Schools, and give them the practical sea training they need. It will thus provide a steady stream of skilled men who are vitally needed in the fight against submarines.

And besides, in many encounters with the enemy, both on the sea and in the air, the merchant seamen have manned the guns heroically -- and effectively.

These three "tin fish", coupled with the attacks on labor by Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, cannot go unanswered.

With Rickenbacker on the same raft when he was rescued, and suffering the same privations, was a union man -- Corporal John Bartek, a member of the Textile Workers Union of America, CIO.

How many of you have read his views on labor unions?

Rickenbacker was adrift 22 days. Hundreds of N.M.U. members have been torpedoed and have sailed in open life boats and rafts for longer periods. But when they were rescued, they set about going back to sea to continue the fight against Fascism. Rickenbacker, when he was rescued, came back to take up the fight against labor,

Corporal Bartek and the hundreds of National Maritime Union members who have spent weeks adrift in open boats and rafts, do not want their labor unions destroyed. They are offering their lives so that this will be a better world in which to live -- a world in which their rights will be protected by organizations of their own choice.

The "tin fish" tossers do not print these sentiments.

Despite the slanders and the libels, despite the provocations and the omissions, the National Maritime Union will not be led off its course.

We will deliver the goods.

We will, keep 'em sailing. .

Neither hell, high-water, Hitler or "tin fish" will stop us.


full speed ahead

Dead and missing from the ranks of merchant seamen in the first year of war because of "tin fish" are 3,211 men. Gone to the bottom of one ocean alone -- the Atlantic -- since Pearl Harbor are 611 Allied ships.

cartoon about casualty number


Published by the National Maritime Union of America
First Printing 50,00 copies
February 1943


Rumors, Lies, and Innuendos
Articles about alleged incident at Guadalcanal