Alleged Incident at Guadalcanal and Other Smears of Seamen During WWII

Ship 'Strike" Ires Guadalcanal Fighters, Akron Beacon Journal, January 21, 1943

Navy Message re Guadalcanal, 23 Jan 1943

Merchant Seamen vs. Westbrook Pegler: Unions Protest Charge of Navy Friction, San Francisco Chronicle, February 17, 1943

Seamen Libel Case: NMU Files Suit Against AP and Hearst Papers, San Francisco Chronicle, February 18, 1943

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

40 Seamen to Be Decorated [Excerpts], San Francisco California Examiner, July 10, 1943

Ship "Strike" Ires Guadalcanal Fighters

Akron Beacon Journal
January 21, 1943

Refusal of Crew to Unload Cargo on Sunday Reported

Flaming with indignation, at least six battle-scarred veterans of Guadalcanal have come back to Akron with the incredible claims that their buddies have been forced to unload their own supplies from a merchant ship on that island battleground because of the refusal of civilian crew men to work on Sunday.

Their stories have been put up to Naval [unreadable] in Washington for confirmation or denial. Thus far, the navy reports that it is investigating.

But confirmation has come from a high official source in Washington, who though he witnessed these conditions during his service in Guadalcanal, must necessarily remain anonymous.

The combined charges of three Akron marine eyewitnesses, a navy pilot and tow sailors who heard the story while they were in action in the Solomons are:

  1. That a merchant marine vessel dropped its hook two miles off Guadalcanal one Saturday afternoon and that after spending two hours in landing supplies, the civilian crews knocked off, refusing to work again until Monday morning.
  2. That hungry, malaria-weakened, and in some cases slightly wounded marines -- fed up on a rice diet and lack of supplies -- were forced to put out in their own barges to get supplies on Sunday.

Claims Reports Exaggerated

One source in Washington put these reports down to "exaggeration that we find quite common when boys are under the stress of emotion."

But the men who have been coming back from the blazing hell of Guadalcanal, insist with the characteristic bluntness of seasoned, fighting men that there;s "no exaggeration about it."

The young navy pilot, survivor of the Wasp, branded the incident as the "worst scandal of the war." He labeled the refusal of merchant mariner crews to work on Sunday a "strike" and blamed the national maritime union.

He said that a ship loaded with urgently needed supplies stood two miles off shore. "The crew refused to land those supplies, though we had marines ashore hungry and in terrible need, he said. "Why he asked, "doesn't someone report this to Washington?"

A marine lieutenant, wounded and recovering from malaria, told of the merchant ship that had put in on a Saturday afternoon. He said the crew unloaded for two hours and then stopped. "They refused to work all day Sunday. Finally our marines swarmed onto the ship to get the supplies they needed." He called it a "disgrace."

Another Akron district marine lieutenant asserted the reason "the supplies were not landed was not because the crews couldn't get them in. The landing boats could have got in, all right. There was no opposition from the Japs. We had the landing covered.
With that he cut off the conversation and refused to say any more about it.

The two sailors, survivors of ships lost in the battle of the Solomons, said they reached shore too late to witness the incident's, but that "stories of the strike were rampant."

"During the first weeks of action the boys didn't have enough supplies. Food was short and so were medical supplies. For a time, all the food we got was rice we captured from the Japs," one officer said. He declared that after a few weeks of that diet "our boys weren't interested in waiting over Sunday to get the food that lay just off shore. They just went after it."

A check with the Beacon Journal Washington bureau disclosed that not only has the same story been confirmed by an eyewitness of high standing, but further that the reports are beginning to be circulated widely in congress and that a blow off is imminent.

Navy Message re Guadalcanal

Date: 23 Jan 1943
Fro Coderoom 1044

Decoded by Barco

Paraphrased by Stiner
Lt Hill 280248 NCR 5309

(COMSOPAC Sends. CTF 62 has for Info)

Your 260231* Total of 14 American merchant Marine Manned Vessels including 6 Army transports have unloaded in the Guadalcanal area under the close supervision of experienced Naval officers. There have been no refusal of these crews to discharge cargo at Guadalcanal. There have been many reports praising the courage, ability and hearty cooperation of officers and crews engaged in this hazardous duty under enemy attack. Implication of refusal to work a base canard and is not understood here. I repeat I am currently forwarding by mail strong recommendation for special recognition of the fine work of these ships and their patriotic personnel.

*Probably refers to confidential 261835




Merchant Seamen vs. Westbrook Pegler
Unions Protest Charge of Navy Friction

San Francisco Chronicle
February 17, 1943

Seven seamen's unions, representing all branches of the merchant marine, yesterday protested in an open letter, the attacks of Westbrook Pegler, nationally known columnist, who had charged friction between navy gun crews and civilian merchant sailors.

The letter was addressed to Roy Howard, Scripps-Howard publisher and the New York Telegram, source of Pegler's syndicated articles.

The union merchant men charged Pegler with "careless reporting" as well as "purposely distorting facts" and sharply state one of his columns had the "quality and pattern . . which should be highly pleasing to Dr. Goebbels and the men in his camp."

The impression has been given it the columns says the letter that disunity existed because of "fabulous pay for sailors, including overtime bonuses, whereas the navy men draw only the modest pay for their rates without extras."

The letter declares that Government allotments for families, low-rate premiums on insurance, hospitalization, dental care, pension, civil service rating consideration tend to balance the pay of ordinary seamen in civilian service.

It is noted that the merchant sailors operate under navy orders. The letter quotes Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, OWI Director Elmer Davis and Rear Admiral Emory S, Land to substantiate the merchant seamen's co-operation. Percentage of merchant seamen killed in this war is 3.8 (3200 men) compared to 1 per cent of enlisted navy men, says the letter.

The unions ask an apology from Pegler.

Those who signed the letter and their organizations are:

Captain C. F. May, president National Organization Masters, Mates and pilots; R. Meriwether, secretary, Marine Engineer's Beneficial Association; Harry Lundeberg, secretary-treasurer, Sailor's Union of the Pacific; Gene Burke, Marine Cook's and Stewards' Association; George B. F. King, American Communications Association; Ralph D. Rogers, National Maritime Union; Vincent Malone, Marine Firemen, Oilers, Watertenders and Wipers Association.

Seamen Libel Case

NMU Files Suit Against AP and Hearst papers

San Francisco Chronicle
February 18, 1943

New York, Feb, 17 (UP) The National Maritime Union (CIO) filed a libel suit today against Hearst Consolidated Publications, Inc. and the Associated Press on charges they had published dispatches asserting that union members had refused to unload a merchant ship lying off Guadalcanal because of alleged union rules against Sunday work, thereby forcing sick marines to unload their own supplies.

The suit, on which Joseph Curran, NMU president, was plaintiff, asked $1,000,000 in damages from each of the defendants.

Quote From Halsey
The union's complaint denied the NMU ever has had rules against Sunday work and quoted a report of Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of United States forces in the South Pacific, to the Navy Department in which Halsey praised the "co-operation, efficiency and courage" of the merchant seamen and asserted that "In no instance have merchant marine seamen refused to discharge cargo from their vessels or in any other way failed to co-operate with the United States forces ashore in that (South Pacific) area."

The suit alleged that the dispatch was printed January 22 in the New York Journal-American, which is published by Hearst Consolidated Publications, Inc. and the Associated Press, on the same day, "rewrote and maliciously amplified the story originally published in the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, and released it to its member newspapers for publication throughout the country."

It was charged that the Associated Press released the dispatch "without making any independent investigation to verify the authenticity of the story."

Mum in Akron
In Akron, C. Blake McDowell, attorney for the Beacon-Journal, had no comment to make on the suit. John S. Knight, editor and president of the newspaper, was said to be in Florida. James P/ Rosemond, managing editor and in charge during Knight's absence, referred all inquiries to McDowell

Chairman Warren G. Magnusen (D., Wash.) of a House Naval Affairs Subcommittee which investigated charges that merchant seamen had refused to unload a ship off Guadalcanal on a Sunday, said today a formal report would be made to the full committee soon, perhaps tomorrow.

[The NMU won the case. We are looking for the news articles about the settlement.]

40 Seamen to Be Decorated [Excerpt]

San Francisco California Examiner

July 10, 1943

6 Bay Area Men Among Merchant Marine Heroes

Forty heroes of the Merchant Marine, including six from the Bay area, will be decorated today at the formal dedication of the United States Maritime Service Officers School at Neptune Beach during a coast to coast broadcast. . . .

Service bars and stars will be given to the following officer candidates:

From San Francisco. . . .

Kenneth McNeely, 2350 Market Street, under Jap bombing at Guadalcanal.

Rumors, Lies, and Innuendos
National Maritime Union, Feb. 1943 Pamphlet