U.S. Merchant Marine at War




The War Shipping Administration was established by Executive Order 9054 on February 7, 1942, under the first War Powers Act 1941 within the Office for Emergency Management, Executive Office of the President. The Administrator, appointed by and responsible to the President, was named on February 9, 1942.

Under the terms of the Executive Order, as amended, the War Shipping Administration was authorized to control the operation, purchase, charter, requisition, and use of all ocean vessels under the flag or control of the United States, except combatant vessels, auxiliaries, and transports of the armed services and the vessels engaged in coastwise, intercoastal, and inland waterways transportation, which were under the control of the Director of the Office of Defense Transportation.

This report covers the operations of the War Shipping Administration from its inception to December 31, 1943, in general, but more particularly in detail for the 1943 calendar year and in some instance the early part of 1944. Many of the accomplishments of WSA must remain covered by the cloak of national security.

No report can reflect the full credit due the men and women who have built and who have sailed our fighting merchant ships into the very teeth of our enemy. Their story is being written in the successful efforts of their brothers in the armed services. Our merchant seamen have delivered the goods, on time and enough.

Sincerely yours,



War and Ships

The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 immediately imposed upon the maritime industries of the United States unprecedented problems in ship operations and shipbuilding. When the full impact of the war struck the United States directly with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American Merchant Marine was confronted with responsibilities of such magnitude as to make kany appraisal of the job ahead seem incredible.

Under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, the United States Maritime Commission was established as an independent agency to direct and control all phases of overseas shipping and shipbuilding. It became apparent immediately when this Nation entered the war that a special agency to deal with the operational problems peculiar to war was necessary to supplement the Maritime Commission. That need brought about the creation of the War Shipping Administration on February 7, 1942, which took over from the Maritime Commission virtually all of the Commission's major statutory functions with the exception of shipbuilding. Thus WSA became the Government's ship operating agency and the Maritime Commission its shipbuilding agency.

When WSA came into being, it faced immediately an acute shortage of American flag tonnage. The entire ocean-going dry cargo merchant fleet, placed under WSA control at its inception, was approximately 900 dry cargo ships aggregating about 6,700,000 deadweight tons and about 440 tankers of approximately 5,150,000 deadweight tons, a total of 1,340 ships of 11,850,000 deadweight tons. This was but a slight increase over the merchant fleet under United States control before the start of war in Europe.

Prior to April 18, 1942, when all American flag vessels were made subject to requisition and operation by the Government, cooperation by American ship operators in the transport of military, lend-lease, and other cargoes had been principally on a voluntary basis. The Maritime Commission had established


a Division of Emergency Shipping to supervise and direct movement of both import and export cargoes but the active participation by the United States in the war necessitated total Government control of all oceangoing tonnage.

The result of the general order of April 18, 1942, was to make all ships subject to requisition by the War Shipping Administration. Qualified ship operators became operating agents for the Government. By the end of 1943 there were approximately 130 American ship operators serving War Shipping Administration in that capacity.

WSA Faces Hug Job

The responsibility of the WSA under the Executive Order of February 7, 1942, extended to all phases of shipping including the purchase or requisition of vessels for its own use or the use of the Army, Navy, or other Government agencies; the repairing, arming, and degaussing of WSA controlled vessels and Allied vessels under lend-lease provision; conversion of vessels to troop transports, hospital ships, and for other special purposes; training and providing ship personnel, operating, loading, discharging and general control of the movement of these ships; administering and marine and war risk insurance laws and funds, and the control of terminal and port facilities, forwarding and related matters.

WSA's Major Responsibilities

The most important responsibility of the WSA has been, and will continue to be for the duration of the war, the shipping requirements of the Army and the Navy. The second responsibility is to fulfill the commitments which have been made for transport of lend-lease commodities to other United Nations, principally to Great Britain and Russia. The third is to meet the quotas set by the War Production Board for importation of raw materials essential to the Nation's war industries and necessary to the civilian population. The fourth is to meet goals established by the State


Department and the Foreign Economic Administration for shipments to Latin American and other countries.

During 1942 and early 1943 the Nation and WSA faced a most crucial period. Increasing participation by the United States in the war in both Europe and in the Pacific created continuously growing demands for tonnage. The submarine menace, particularly in the Atlantic, was taking a heavy toll of United Nations ships, including a considerable percentage of American flag vessels.

The public felt the impact of war as ships were withdrawn from normal trade in rubber, coffee, spices, aluminum ore, sugar, and other commodities. War came to the United States as tankers burned in sight of our Atlantic Coast cities. Homes were cold, and there was no second cup of coffee.

Efficient use of United Nations tonnage through cooperation principally between the United States and Great Britain, with the Combined Shipping Adjustment Board as the coordinating agency, was adopted to eliminate overlapping or duplicating use of the dwindling supply of ship tonnage.

Not Too Little--Nor Too Late

Early in 1943, however, defense measures against enemy submarines had become more effective, and greater naval protection was available to merchant ships. New construction was increasing materially and efficiently in ship and port operations direction. Consequently, during last year [1943] all demands of the Army and Navy for tonnage were met, to the point that no essential military cargo was delayed on United States piers for lack of ships. During the same period all commitments for the transport of lend-lease goods were met and those to Russia exceeded commitments by more than 35 percent. At the same time WSA has met all quotas for importation of raw materials set by the War Production Board where the materials were available for transport. The quotas established by the FEA for shipments to Latin American countries also


have been satisfied. Coffee was removed from the ration list and sugar rations were increased. America was winning the war of transportation.

During 1943 shipments from the United States totaled 46,971,000 long tons (2,240 pounds) of dry cargo--42 percent more than in 1942--and the total of petroleum products carried by tankers to the battle fronts was 15,086,000 long tons.

Exclusive of Army and Navy shipments, WSA controlled ships carried 278,432,000 long tons of dry cargo. This includes lend-lease and civilian commodities and is an increase of nearly 2,000,000 tons over similar dry cargo carried in 1942. The destinations of this dry cargo are shown in the following tabulation:

Ocean-borne shipments from United States in dry cargo vessels by foreign trade area of destination 1942 and 1943
[Tons of 2,240 pounds. Excludes U.S. Army and Navy cargo]
Area of destination 1942 1943
Total all areas 25,809,000 27,432,000
Atlantic short trades 3,047,000 369,000
Caribbean 4,143,000 3,199,000
East Coast South America 1,684,000 1,547,000
Pacific short trades 1,379,000 1,256,000
West Coast South America 464,000 512,000
United Kingdom and Eire 6,646,000 9,736,000
Russia--trans-Atlantic 938,000 542,000
North African theater 932,000 1,648,000
West Africa 315,000 288,000
South and East Africa 438,000 533,000
Red Sea and East Mediterranean 2,061,000 1,483,000
Persian Gulf 1,152,000 1,847,000
India and Ceylon 1,088,000 1,427,000
South and Southwest Pacific 769,000 1,055,000
Trans-Pacific Russia 645,000 1,973,000
Scandinavia 17,000 17,000
Dutch East Indies, Straits Settlements and Philippines 91,000 ------

Return Trips Pay Off

Despite the ever increasing demand for tonnage for military purposes, WSA was able to maintain an increased flow of


essential commodities into the United States. The import of 20 such essential commodities amounted to 15,366,793 long tons in 1943 as compared to 12,179,545 long tons in 1942, an increase of 26.17 percent. The comparative imports of these 20 commodities are shown in the following summarized tabulation:

Ocean-borne arrivals of selected commodities 1942 and 1943
[Tons of 2,240 pounds]
Commodity 1942 1943 Percent
Total, 20 commodities 12,179,545 15,366,793 +26.17
Balsa logs and lumber 9,379 14,367 +53.18
Bananas 524,197 404,237 -22.88
Bauxite 1,999,612 3,592,616 +79.67
Burlap (bags and bagging) 156,100 264,448 +69.34
Castor beans 107,997 146,088 +35.27
Chrome ore 928,958 857,218 -7.72
Cocoa 119,782 261,612 +117.91
Coffee 787,104 969,552 +23.18
Copper 770,512 775,546 +.65
Hides and skins (except rabbit) 212,954 179,380 -15.77
Lead 267.164 129,797 -51.42
Linseed (flaxseed) 238,151 91,596 -61.54
Mahogany logs and lumber 76.124 138,739 +82.25
Manganese ore 1,183,333 1,268,687 +7.21
Nitrates 810,505 696,173 -14.11
Quebracho and tanning material (excluding quebracho wood) 165,980 143.350 -13.63
Sisal and henequen 186,263 179,584 -3.59
Sugar 2,856,277 4,444,442 +55.60
Wool 556,218 369,824 -33.51
Zinc 222,875 440,137 +97.48

Imports into the United States in 1942 were 17,509,000 long tons, including the 20 commodities mentioned above. In 1943 the total imports were 19,480,000 long tons, an increase of almost 2,000,000 long tons over the previous year. More than 80 percent of the 1943 total was carried in WSA controlled ships.

Of the total dry cargo exports in 1943--the equivalent of 6,000 Liberty shiploads of 1,000,000 freight carloads of war material and other necessities--American ships carried 36,596,000


tons, of which 96 percent was carried in WSA vessels and 4 percent in Army- or Navy-owned ships. Of the 35,312,000 long tons carried by WSA ships, approximately 50 percent was military cargo allocated to the Army and Navy.

Ships of other nations carried 10,375,000 of the 46,971,000 long tons of dry cargo exported from the United States during 1943. The greatest part of the cargo carried under foreign flag was transported by ships of the United Kingdom and Russia, which handled about 9 million tons, the remaining 1 million being divided among the ships of other United and neutral nations.

WSA Delivers the Goods

The great bulk of lend-lease shipments was carried in WSA-controlled merchant ships in 1943. In that year those ships made 2,876 sailings with lend-lease supplies. Of that total 2,267 sailings were for Great Britain, her colonies, and dominions, 328 for Russia, and 281 for other lend-lease countries.

In 1942 an average of 12 percent of ships carrying lend-lease supplies to Russia were being sunk. It was a serious but not crippling blow to the United Nations' cause. At the end of 1943 barely 1 percent of the lend-lease carrying vessels were being lost.

This improvement in shipping conditions to the Soviet Union and better protection of the convoys were vital contributing factors to Russia's ability to seize and maintain the military initiative against the Nazis.

Ships--More Ships

Despite the comparatively heavy losses of tonnage due to enemy action, the merchant fleet under WSA control continued to expand throughout 1942 and 1943. Most of the acquisition of new ships came from the Maritime Commission's enormous shipbuilding program. Without these new vessels coming in ever-increasing volume from American


shipways, the tide of war undoubtedly could not have been swung against the enemy in all theaters, an achievement that has been made possible through delivery on time and in sufficient quantities of men, essential material, and supplies for war, including planes, tanks, guns, ammunition, and oil.

As a further result of America's shipbuilding program, the War Shipping Administration now operates the largest fleet of merchant vessels in world history. At the end of 1943 that fleet consisted of about 2,300 dry cargo ships aggregating nearly 22,000,000 deadweight tons, and 580 tankers of 6,627,700 deadweight tons, a total fleet of almost 3,000 ships which is continuing to expand rapidly. BY mid-1944, WSA controlled some 3,400 vessels totaling well over 35 million deadweight tons.

The increase in merchant ship tonnage produced in American shipyards and placed in United Nations war service by the end of 1943 more than offset all losses sustained by all the United Nations since the beginning of the European war in September, 1939. The bulk of this increase, of course, operated under the American flag.

The WSA-controlled dry cargo fleet in early 1944 was made up of ships acquired as follows: 70 percent from new construction, 23 percent from existing vessels owned by American shipping companies, and 7 percent from foreign nations. This fleet represented 73 percent of the vessels built for or acquired by the War Shipping Administration since December 1, 1941. Disposition of the other ships, representing 27 percent of those acquired or built, was as follows: 9 percent transferred to lend-lease nations under charter with title remaining in the United States, 7 percent transferred to the Army and the Navy to serve as combat loaders, troops ships, hospital ships, and other auxiliaries, and some 11 percent sunk.

In addition to the WSA-controlled merchant fleet, more than 500 dry cargo ships and tankers had been transferred by WSA either by title or under charter to the Army and the Navy by December 31, 1943. These ships were acquired


from owners or were constructed as part of the Maritime Commission program and aggregated more than 4,500,000 deadweight tons. In addition, many hundreds of small craft were acquired for the armed forces.

New Fronts--More Ships

Although the fleet of merchant ships under WSA control and the auxiliary fleets of the Army and the Navy were constantly increasing, rapid expansion of the Nation's fighting forces and the constant broadening of combat areas required most careful allocation of ships to various uses. The picture was changing daily.

The invasion of North Africa, for instance, required diversion of an enormous fleet of merchant ships from other employment to carrying men and supplies from the United Kingdom and the United States to the North African combat area for a considerable period of time. This invasion withdrew from other service enough United States merchant vessels to curtail severely shipment of any other type of cargo, particularly that for civilian use.

On the other hand, the rapid overthrow of the Axis armies in North Africa--considerably ahead of the original schedule--made large numbers of ships again available for other uses. Only through flexibility in the WSA system of handling these vessels was loss of precious ship time averted.

The Big Shippers

During 1942 and the early part of 1943, the WSA-controlled merchant fleet devoted 41 percent of its capacity to carrying Army cargo, 13 percent to Navy cargo, 30 percent to the transport of lend-lease material and commodities, and 16 percent to handling essential raw materials and civilian necessities for the United States. From month to month this ratio changed slightly but at the end of 1943, 49 percent of the WSA fleet was carrying Army cargo, an increase of 8 points over previous months; 10 percent was devoted to Navy


cargo, a decrease of 3 points; 29 percent was carrying lend-lease cargo, a decrease of 1 point, and the remaining 12 percent of WSA merchant ships were transporting essential raw material and civilian commodities for this country, a decrease of 4 points. These decreases of increases, however, were not indicative of the volume carried for each purpose because of the growth of the WSA-controlled merchant fleet. As a matter of fact, the 12 percent of the fleet devoted to essential raw materials and civilian necessities for use in the United States carried a greater volume of cargo than 16 percent of the fleet had transported a year previously.

Increase in the volume of cargo carried resulted not only from the growth of the merchant fleet but from better utilization of ships as well. Improved methods in loading were devised, and the capacity of tankers was increased by development and perfection during 1943 of a new type of skeleton or spar deck.

Ingenuity Pays

To utilize full capacity, arrangements were made to load deck cargo and fill in unused underdeck space on vessels passing through New York for convoy assembly. DUring 1943 such additional cargo, amounting to 14,000,000 cubic feet, was loaded on vessels at New York in transit to the United Kingdom from other ports. In the port of New York alone, these improved methods and new devices resulted in transport of additional cargo equivalent to the capacity of approximately 125 Liberty ships.

Utilization of full capacity of the bunker oil tanks in merchant ships also increased petroleum cargoes handled. Each ship carried oil in excess of its voyage requirements which it discharged on reaching a foreign port. By this means, an additional 3,600,000 barrels of petroleum products were provided the United Kingdom in 1943. This was equivalent to the capacity of 35 average tankers. Adoption of this plan did nuch to build up the stocks of highly essential gasoline and other petroleum derivatives in Great


Britain for emergency distribution to the EUropean and African fighting fronts. The same methods utilized on the West Coast also made available to the United Nations fighting forces in the various Pacific areas a considerable increase of vitally needed munitions and supplies.

So efficiently have these ships space-saving methods been developed that in one month alone early in 1944, the savings, which is really free transportation on tankers and in-transit vessels, equalled the capacity of approximately 55 ships. During that month, 14,325,000 cubic feet of additional dry cargo, including various types of aircraft, was carried on decks of tankers from New York and about 4,900,000 cubic feet from West Coast ports. Added cargo to in-transit ships at New York awaiting convoy amounted to about 670,000 cubic feet, while dry cargo ships discharged more than 65,000 tons of surplus bunker fuel oil in the United Kingdom with no loss of cubic space in any of the vessels. Efficient use of loading ideas and a speed-up of turn-around time in port added the equivalent of 125 ships to the East Coast fleet during each of the 3 months preceding the invasion of France.

Although measures adopted by the WSA have enabled it to meet all of the high priority demands for shipping throughout 1943 and the greater part of them in 1942, there has been no surplus of ships at any time, nor is there any prospect of a surplus in the near future. The greatest shortage exited at the outset of United States participation in the war, a dearth of tonnage that was aggravated by the intensified campaign conducted by the Axis submarines in the Atlantic.

We Still Need Ships

The more active the Nation's armed forces have become, the more ships are required in the widespread military theaters for attack operations. These operations are necessarily wasteful of the running time of ships assigned to them, which places a greatly increased demand on the remainder of the


fleet. By early 1944, some 5 million tons of merchant ships were in shuttle service in the various war theaters.

Despite the constant growth of the WSA merchant fleet throughout 1943, the anticipated demands in 1944 for military movement, coupled with the likelihood that programs for relief and supplying of conquered territories will require a considerable amount of ship space, indicate that an added strain will be placed on the Nation's shipping facilities. Regardless of this, it is expected that the War Shipping Administration can continue to meet successfully the top priority shipping requirements, although the tonnage situation will remain tight for many months.

Shipbuilders Meet Demands

The greatest contribution of relief for the shipping shortage has been made by American shipbuilders, and acquisition of additional tonnage for the WSA fleet at virtually the same level as in 1943 seems to be assured throughout 1944. Not only have American shipyards met the challenge of the Axis powers on the oceans, particularly on the Atlantic, by increasing production on an unprecedented scale but the toll of sinkings since Pearl Harbor has steadily decreased.

In the first half of 9142, approximately one-third more tonnage for the United States merchant fleet was built than was sunk. In the last half of 1942, more than three times as much tonnage was built than was lost through sinkings. In the first half of 1943, more than five times as much tonnage was constructed as was sunk, and in the last half of that year buildings outsripped sinkings on about a 10 to 1 ratio. This applies to dry-cargo vessels. The ratio on tankers was not as great but construction showed a continuous increase over sinkings.

At the end of 1943, sinkings of merchant ships, both United States and United Nations, had reached the lowest level since war began and destruction of Axis submarines had reached the peak level since the United States had entered the war.


Although increased activity on the part of Axis submarines early in 1944 indicated a final frenzied attempt on the part of the enemy to shut off as much as possible of the flow of supplies to the European war theater, WSA has outlined a program to utilize to the fullest extent a merchant fleet rapidly approaching 4,000 vessels.

The bulk of the export cargoes from the United States, of course, cross the Atlantic destined for Europe and North Africa. American flag ships, however, carried relatively large quantities of cargo throughout the Pacific, particularly to Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. The relative volume of flow on the sea routes that reach to every quarter of the globe is shown on the War Shipping Administration map accompanying this report. The width of the flow lines on the map indicates the relative tonnage of the outbound traffic in the various services but the lines do not represent actual routes.

New Routes--New Ports

The outstanding difference between the routes traversed in 1942 and in 1943 is that in the latter year the Mediterranean route was reopened, shortening the trip to India and Southern European bases of supplies by about 50 percent. Reopening of this route to United Nations ships was the equivalent of adding more than 200 vessels totaling more than 2,00,000 deadweight tons to the merchant fleets in the service of the United States and the Allies.

Reopening of the Mediterranean route, for instance, meant that ships homeward bound from Australia have delivered Australian wheat and Indian and South African coal to Italy, then have returned to the United States across the Atlantic with whatever cargo may be available, such as metal scrap from the battlefields, or in ballast. This has resulted in a great saving of ship time.

This maximum utilization of tonnage is the result of a constant and careful study of the over-all shipping situation by the expert organizations set up by WSA and the


establishment of shipping offices with competent staffs of experienced shipping men in the following ports:

Portland, Maine -- Boston -- New York -- Philadelphia -- Baltimore -- Norfolk -- Charleston -- Savannah -- Jacksonville -- Fort Lauderdale -- Tampa -- Mobile -- Galveston -- New Orleans -- St. Johns -- Halifax -- Reykjavik -- London -- Hull -- Liverpool -- Southampton -- Cardiff -- Glasgow -- Gibraltar -- Casablanca -- Oran -- Bone -- Bizerte -- Algiers -- Palermo -- Bari -- Naples -- Accra -- Takoradi -- Dakar -- Capetown -- Durban -- Laurenco Marques -- Mombasa -- Bombay -- Calcutta -- Karachi -- New Delhi -- Colombo -- Basra -- Khorramshahr -- Sydney -- Brisbane -- Freemantle -- Hobart -- Auckland -- Wellington -- Noumea -- Buenos Aires -- Montevideo -- Rio de Janeiro -- Havanna-Cristobal -- San Juan -- Honolulu.

As the armed might of the United Nations roll back the enemy, forward area stations will be established by WSA to meet their needs.

Know-How Adds Speed

These representatives and expediters maintain constant contact not only with the WSA in Washington but with the Army and the Navy and other governmental agencies and their representatives in the various areas. Due to the frequent necessity of re-routing ships on short notice to meet emergency military or other war needs, this world-wide WSA organization must be constantly alert and always in touch with United Nations merchant ships in every area.

For the most part, the men engaged this work in the principal ports around the world are highly skilled in ship operations. They have been drawn from the shipping companies and placed in the ports with the objective of assuring the quick turn-around of WSA ships through speedy discharge and loading of military, lend-lease, and other cargo. These men have general supervision over cargo handling, bunkering, repairs, and other operating matters. They supply information which could not otherwise be obtained,


enabling WSA to eliminate delays arising from congested conditions and to program requirements of the various areas adequately.

In handling ships, the WSA is dealing with a movable inventory of constantly changing positions all over the world. Under peacetime conditions, there is ready communication between ports and between ship and shore. in normal times ships sail and arrive on regular schedule. For the most part they use major ports, usually well provided with trained stevedores, good repair facilities, and adequate wharfage.

In time of war, however, communications between ship and shore and between ports are decidedly limited, particularly in the active war zones where radio silence often is imperative. Communications channels often are congested. Convoys make orderly scheduling of ships impossible. Facilities of even the bets ports are seriously taxed by convoy arrivals. Second-and third-rate ports and, in emergencies, harbors with no facilities at all must be used to supply complete military units in war theaters. And the handling of military cargo with items of great weight, such as tanks, or bulk, such as airplanes, creates difficult and often unprecedented problems in loading and unloading ships, particularly in ports which lack adequate cargo handling facilities.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Maximum utilization of available ship tonnage for imports of essential raw materials is one of the principal ship operations problems created by war. Through coordinated work of the WSA organization, routing of vessels homeward bound after deliver of war material throughout the world has resulted in a comparatively orderly flow of commodities required for the Nation's war production and by the civilian population as well. This routing and loading of ships for the in-bound voyage involves, for instance, picking up of nickel in New Caledonia, bauxite in Trinidad and the Guianas, rubber from Ceylon, sisal from the East Coast of


Africa, copper from the Belgian Congo and the West Coast of South America, as well as various other commodities in numerous parts of the world. For civilian consumption particularly, the in-bound movement of coffee, sugar, and cocoa has been a matter for prime consideration at all times. Changing rationed food quotas reflected the efficiency of return voyages.

Essential Come First

Due to the fact that most ships out-bound are routed in accordance with military necessity, the vessels travel to areas where there is not sufficient essential cargo to load the ships "full an down" for the return voyage. To load these ships with nonessential cargo causes double delay, first in loading and second in unloading the nonessential cargo at the home port. Rather than waste ships and ship time in this manner, WSA policy has been to bring the ships back in ballast to a point on their homeward route where essential cargo is available. This system eliminates need of sending additional tonnage to that port to pick up the essential material, saving hundreds of thousands of tons of shipping space.

In event no such essential cargo is available in ports on the ship's homeward route or at points were a reasonable detour can be made, the vessels are moved in ballast to the home ports. This results in starting the vessels out again from United States harbors with ammunition, tanks, planes, and other vital battlefront materials as much as 3 or 4 weeks sooner than if they had been held for in-bound cargo or diverted too far from the most direct return route.

The WSA organization gathers accurate and up-to-the-minute information concerning ship positions, port operations, origin of essential imports, and many other factors than entered into an orderly direction of ship movements.

The information assembled and disseminated to the proper control officials makes it possible to calculate the number and names of ships available for assignment to Army and Navy use and for other purposes including civilian service. From


New WSA World Map Records Gains
Width of flow lines on this map indicates relative density of outbound traffic in the various services, but the lines do no represent actual ship routes.

Outstanding difference from last year's shipping map is reopening of the Mediterranean route and acquisition of French and Belgian ports.

An interesting example of the use of this route is that ships home-bound from Australia deliver Australian wheat and Indian and South African coal to Italy, then return across the Atlantic in ballast. This saves weeks of ship time.


this information it is possible to determine how many vessels should be dispatched to various areas in a given period.

Foreign port representatives cable information as to the number of ships in each foreign port, indicating any that may be idle, those that are loading or unloading and what vessels are being repaired or awaiting convoy. This cabled information, together with that received from the Navy, the War Department, the State Department, and other sources is consolidated into reports distributed daily to control officials. Gathering and analysis of this ship movement information and its utilization have made possible orderly and intelligent employment of available ship tonnage.

Teamwork Moves Supplies

Correlated with the activities of those division of the WSA organization which direct the movements of vessels on the seas are the activities of other divisions which supervise and regulate the forwarding of export materials from their point of origin to the Nation's ports. By close cooperation with the Army, the Navy, and other agencies of Government,as well as with representatives of foreign countries, a control over the movement of all types of cargo from points inland to the ports has been established. This prevents congestion of port facilities, delays in unloading of railroad cars and expedites ship loadings. There have been no serious port congestions in the outward movement of cargo for many months. There has been but one serious case during the war and that was of short duration.

Utilization of port facilities as near as possible to the origin of the cargo is another policy of the WSA. In recent months this has been emphasized and at the end of 1943 further steps were being taken to utilize to the fullest degree virtually all port facilities, large or small. In addition to minimizing the chance of bottleneck in movement of cargoes, this plan also has served to spread the work so as to tap as many sources of manpower as possible. It also conserves space on badly


congested overland transportation lines, such as railroads and motor carriers.

In this way through its various divisions, WSA has been able to maintain a steady and orderly flow of out-bound cargoes from their inland points of origin to the ports of destination and utilize to the fullest possible extent the constantly increasing fleet of merchant ships.

Healing Battle Scars

The thousands of merchant ships under the American flag as well as in the service of the other United Nations have been subjected to punishment and hardships during the war years that the average vessel would not encounter in normal use in a period 5 to 10 mines as long. In 1942 and the spring of 1943, and to a less degree recently, bombs, mines, and torpedoes inflicted severe damage to many ships which "lived" to make port and return to their war job. As a result, one of the most important functions in keeping the ships sailing has been to repair and service them expeditiously.

Upon the United States has fallen the greater part of this burden, just as this Nation has had to assume the major portion of the shipbuilding task. WSA took over from the maritime Commission its Division of Maintenance and Repair, greatly expanded it and created in addition a Division of Foreign Repairs and Salvage Operations which operates throughout the world.

There was also created the Office of Coordinator for Ship Repair and Conversion with headquarters in New York City and operating jointly for Navy and WSA. The coordinator maintains an orderly flow of work to approximately 80 repair yards throughout the United States so that congestion is prevented and ship repairs are made in yards able to handle them in the shortest possible time.

In 7 months of 1942, nearly 4,000 merchant vessels were handled by the Maintenance and Repair Division, and in 1943 the total number grew to about 11,000. These totals include


ship conversions and all types of repair from minor work to major overhaulings necessitated by torpedoings, mines, and other enemy action. Of the 11,000 ships so handled in 1943, approximately 2,000 were for other nations under lend-lease account, and about 9,000 for WSA.

The Division of FOreign Repairs and Salvage which was not established until June 1943 assisted in effecting repairs in other countries to approximately 775 WSA controlled vessels. These repairs were made with parts and materials which in many cases were shipped form the United States to the foreign countries, some were sent by air saving critical shiptime. An 8,500-pound turbine rotor sent by air from New York to Panama saved 21 days for a tanker with 141,000 barrels of oil for Navy use in the Pacific campaigns. In addition, stock piles of repair materials which are needed most frequently were established at strategic points throughout the world.

Salvage operations also have been carried on by this division and all usable parts have been removed from ships damaged beyond repair to be utilized on other vessels. Some enemy ships, badly damaged, have been salvaged in cooperation with the Navy salvage force and in some instances sunken vessels have been raised and returned to operation.

A Fighting Merchant Fleet

Conversion of merchant ships for special services, such as auxiliaries to the armed forces, has been one of the principal jobs of the WSA and maintenance and repair yards. Another important function closely related to maintenance and repair is the defensing, arming, and degaussing of merchant ships. This work is done in close cooperation with the Navy and under direction of a liaison officer from the Navy. Proper protection and armor for merchant vessels has been one of the contributing factors in the reduction of losses from enemy action. Despite this reduction in losses, WSA is continuing the policy of properly defensing, arming, and


degaussing all merchant ships as a precautionary measure. In addition to the degaussing, which is a protection against enemy mines, the merchant ships are equipped with special plastic splinterproof armor for protection of the charthouse, pilothouse, and other vital spots. They also carry guns for both surface and air action at sea and in foreign ports. Many merchant ships have downed enemy planes, others have sunk subs and surface raiders.

All Hands on Deck

Expansion of the WSA controlled fleet into the world's greatest armada of merchant vessels brought with it the problem of obtaining trained manpower to operate the thousands of new vessels. The Maritime Commission previously had established a training division to provide both officers and unlicensed personnel for the ships constructed under the original peacetime long-range program. This training division was transferred from the Commission to the Coast Guard early in 1942 but was returned to the War Shipping Administration on July 11, 1942.

The pre-war American Merchant Marine gave employment to between 50,000 and 70,000 men. Based on the expanded wartime building program of the Maritime Commission and the program of vessel acquirement set up by WSA, it was estimated early in 1942 that approximately 150,000 more men would be needed, about 25,000 of them being licensed officers. Later those estimates were revised upward to approximately the 200,000 mark to care for the expanding merchant fleet and provide replacements for 2,000 to 2,500 men each month.

TO supplement the supply of trained men which would be made available through the training programs, an organization was set up in WSA to obtain as many experienced men as possible from among the thousands who had previously seen service on merchant vessels but had taken up jobs ashore.

Through these activities, sufficient manpower has been made available so that very few ships of the growing merchant


fleet have been delayed for lack of a crew. In the latter part of 1942 there were as high as 15 to 18 ships delayed in a fortnight but those delays have decreased constantly until there were not more than 1 or 2 each fortnight in the latter part of 1943, and those delays were occasioned largely because of a lack of 1 or 2 men in certain specialized ratings, who had to be transferred from one port to another.

Sailings on Time

Ship delays have ceased for all practical purposes to disturb our overseas transport of troops, munitions, and material of war. Regardless of the continuing production of ships at a peak level established in 1943, it is expected that the Recruitment and Manning and Training groups of WSA will be capable of providing sufficient manpower throughout the remainder of the war period to prevent any increase in delayed ship sailings.

During 1943, there were 55,013 men graduated and assigned to merchant vessels under the WSA training programs. Of these 1,126 were graduates of the United States Merchant marine Cadet Corps, 614 being deck officers and 512 engineer officers, while State maritime academies provided 368, of which 217 were deck officers and 151 engineer officers. The United States Maritime Service graduated 53,519 of all ratings from officers to unlicensed seamen. In 1942 there were approximately 12,500 graduates of all ratings.

From its establishment on May 5, 1942, through December 31, 1943, the Recruitment and Manning Organization had handled 103,300 referrals of men for assignment to ships, both seagoing and in harbors, rivers, and the Great Lakes. These referrals included the majority of the men graduated from the training schools, some of whom, however, were handled directly by unions or ship operators and were not placed through the Recruitment and Manning Organization.

Up to the end of 1943, well over 100,000 men had been added to the pre-war personnel of the deep sea merchant fleet. Of


these, approximately 50,000 were derived from WSA training, about 25,000 were recruited by the Recruitment and manning Organization, another 15,000 were recruited by the maritime unions and the ship operators, and about 10,000 Great Lakes and inland waterways sailors had been moved by the Recruitment and Manning Organization to deep-sea vessels. At the close of 1943 there were approximately 135,000 men employed on the oceangoing merchant vessels controlled by WSA and as civilian crews on Army transports. To July 1, 1944, there has been an increase of 15,000 to 20,000.

During the time that this active training and recruitment program has been constantly adding men to the oceangoing Merchant Marine Service, losses have been suffered which are estimated to have taken from 30,000 to 35,000 men off the ships. Of that number approximately 5,600 are dead, missing, or prisoners of war due to enemy action at sea, another 5,000 are believed to have suffered disabilities which have taken them out of service at least temporarily, and between 20,000 and 25,000 have left the merchant ships to take jobs on shore or for other reasons.

Beyond the Call of Duty

Men in the United States Merchant Marine have proven their courage, ability, and devotion to duty Under the most trying conditions.

Cadet-Midshipman Edwin J. O'Hara was serving aboard a merchant ship attacked by two enemy surface raiders. With boilers blown up, engines destroyed, his ship ablaze from stem to stern and gun crew injured or mortally wounded by shell fire, O'Hara, single-handed, served and fired the ship's gun with five remaining shells scoring direct hits near the waterline of one of the raiders. he went down with several of his gallant shipmates.

A young quartermaster, Edwin F. Cheney, released and launched, single-handed, a life raft from a sinking tanker.


He maneuvered the craft throughout the blazing, oil-covered sea to open water by swimming underwater. Though severely burned, he guided four shipmates to safety and rescued two others who were injured and helpless.

Oscar Chappell, an able seaman, was on a ship that was torpedoed three times in less than a minute. Chappell, injured by the explosions and with head and shoulders covered with blood, stayed at his post at the helm. He saw seven shipmates on the forecastle, heads trapped by flames soaring toward them and escape shut off. He turned the vessel about, drawing the flames upon himself, but gave his shipmates a chance to jump clear of the blazing sea of oil.

More than 100 men, including these 3, have been awarded the United States Merchant Marine Distinguished Service medal for deeds of magnificent courage, self-sacrifice, and outstanding seamanship above and beyond the call of duty, an inspiration to the men who follow the sea.

Calling All Men

The WSA has maintained strategic pools of marine labor at key ports on the East Coast, the Gulf, the West Coast, the Great Lakes, and on the Mississippi River system. In addition, replacement manning pools are maintained at many foreign port throughout the world, such as in the United Kingdom, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the southwest Pacific. These men are assigned as crew replacements on WSA controlled ships which run short of personnel during an overseas voyage.

In cooperation with the Allied Government, WSA has sought to return to service seamen who had deserted their foreign flag ships in United States ports. In April 1942 there were in the United States approximately 6,000 seamen who had left their ships under various Allied flags since the beginning of the war. The great majority of these have been returned to service and at the end of 1943 only a mere fraction of the former volume of desertions were being reported.


Merchant seamen, despite the added hazards and rigors of service in the war zones, were spending less time offship in the latter part of 1943 than they had previously. In the pre-war period it was estimated there were 25 men ashore for each 100 afloat. That ratio had been reduced to about 15 of each 100 and was still declining at the end of 1943.

We Care for Our Own

In conjunction with the United Seamen's Service, a non-profit, service organization supported by public subscriptions, the WSA aided in establishing rest centers for merchant seamen and in conducting health, welfare, and personnel service programs. At the end of 1943, five rest centers had been established, being located at Oyster Bay, N.Y.; Gladstone, N.J.; Bay Ridge, Md.; Pass Christian, Miss.; and Millbrae, Calif. All of these were operating at close to capacity. The United Seamen's Service also was operating 63 hotels, clubs, and recreational units in the United States and foreign ports. More than 25,000 guest-nights of accommodation had been provided to merchant seamen.

To safeguard the health of all maritime personnel engaged in the war effort, WSA established the office of Medical Director, which is operated in cooperation with the United States Public Health Service. This medical organization supervises and controls all the services, both on land and on ships, which are directed toward maintaining the highest possible health standards for the men of the Merchant marine. As a result, adequate and extensive medical supplies are carried on all WSA controlled ships. A minimum list of such required supplies has been set up for the guidance of the ship operators, and officers on the ships have been given special training in the care of wounded, sick, and disabled men and the use of various medical supplies provided. On some ships physicians or pharmacist's mates are included in the crew. By the end of 1944, all ships will have pharmacist's mates. This health program has resulted in the maintenance of the highest physical condition of Merchant Marine personnel


in the history of the fleet, despite handicaps imposed by war.

Holding the Line

The WSA, in requisitioining ships, established a basic value for the tonnage taken for title and basic charter rates for the vessels requisitioned for use.

Experience in the last WOrld War proved that a proper control of ship values was necessary to prevent an inflationary spiral and its resultant effect upon the Nation's entire economy, particularly as reflected in prices of commodities imported from other countries.

Ship prices rose in 1940 and 1941 due to heavy losses sustained by the Allied Nations and a shortage of merchant tonnage available for constantly increasing cargo movements.

With the requisitioning of ships, the profit incentive was minimized as a consideration in determining the utilization of ships as the operators were paid fixed fees as operating agents for the Government, in addition to the prescribed charter rates for their vessels. The WSA assumed all operating responsibility and insurance liability for war-risk losses.

Basic time charter rates set by WSA were $4 per deadweight ton on 20-year-old vessels of 8 to 101/2 knot compared with $5.75 in the last war and a world market rate of $10.20 in 1941.

The WSA valuation for ships was set at $65 per deadweight ton for 20-year-old 81/2-knot vessels as compared to the 1917 Shipping Board value of $160 per deadweight ton and the 1941 world market rates which reached a high point of $139 per deadweight ton. These rates and values were continued in effect through December 1, 1943.

Determination of these rates and values was reached by WSA after a long negotiation with ship owners and was based on a price formula computed on ship values not enhanced by war demand. Although ship owners declared that the


rates were not entirely satisfactory to them, the determinations by WSA were accepted by the great majority as being necessary to halt the inflationary trend already manifest as a result of the war.

The Comptroller General of the United States in a report to the Congress held that the rates were too high, thus placing the WSA in the middle position between the Comptroller General and those ship operators who felt the rates were too low.

The Scales of Just Compensation

To reach a determination of just compensation, the President of the United States on October 15, 1943, appointed an Advisory Board; on Just Compensation made up of three Federal circuit court judges. On December 7, 1943, this Board reported and established standards in general consistent with the rates and values originally set by the War Shipping Administration. The report further gave basis for certain reductions in light of changed conditions and the increasing age of vessels, and steps were taken early in 1944 which resulted in a reduction of the former basic value of $65 per deadweight ton to $56.25. At the same time the WSA established basic bareboat charter rates at $1.25 per deadweight ton as compared with $4.15 in the last war and $6.00 allowed by the courts following the last war. This latter action, it is estimated, will save the Government approximately $50,000,000 additional in charter hire, insurance, and other costs arising out of the requisition program. While a portion of this saving will be passed on to the public in reduced freight rates, the greater portion will accrue to the Government as charterer and the largest shipper of cargo.

One other effect of this fixing of charter rates was to prevent a runaway abnormal rise in ship prices by fixing a ceiling on ship earnings. It also prevents undue speculative activity in the ship market which can result only in serious dislocation and uncertainty for ship operators.


The effect of this stabilization will be felt in the post-war ship market by preventing too great a discrepancy in investment made by ship owners before, during, and after the war. As a further stabilizing factor, legislation has been introduced in the Congress to establish a floor under ship prices following the war. This is intended to apply to Government-owned vessels sold either to American operators or to those of foreign nations.

WSA Covers War Risks

Soon after the creation of the War Shipping Administration and determination had been reached to requisition all vessels, the functions of the Wartime Insurance Committee of the Maritime Commission were transferred to WSA. Under terms of the Merchant Marine Act, a revolving fund had been set up for the purpose of permitting the Government to enter the insurance field at such time as an emergency might increase commercial insurance rates prohibitively. This condition arose when heavy losses at sea were being suffered as a result of the war.

In addition to insurance on ships and cargoes, WSA provided for Government paid war risk insurance on seamen in the amount of $5,000 and also for payment to seamen for loss of personal effects.

WSA expanded its wartime insurance operations to the degree necessary to provide proper protection to the Government as well as the ship owners. In 1942 it operated with a deficit of more than $12,000,000 but by the end of 1943 the operations showed a credit which amounted to nearly $35,000,000 in receipts over the paid and accrued liabilities for a 21/2-year period, part of which extended back into Maritime Commission jurisdiction.

Within the Law

Operations of a Government agency, such as WSA, with expenditures in excess of $2,000,000,000 annually involve


many legal question. To handle these a division with six major units and offices in three of the major ports of the United States; San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York, as well as in the four principal zones of military operation; United Kingdom, the Mediterranean, India, and the South Pacific . Included within the division is a legislative section which prepares formal reports on bills or proposed legislation for the committees of Congress and the Budget Bureau. During 1943, the legislative section followed the progress of more than 500 bills, resolutions, and Executive orders and prepared in excess of 100 formal reports for the Congress.

Enough to Do the Job

The WSA organization has been built and geared to solve or at least minimize wartime problems and handle them as expeditiously as possible. The organization in Washington on December 31, 1943, consisted of 1,159 employees, about one-quarter of the 4,615 which made up the entire personnel of the world-wide organization at that time. Of this latter number, 3,157 were engaged in field service throughout the United States and 299 were engaged in foreign service. A considerable portion of the experienced personnel of WSA was acquired from the Maritime Commission, and various service divisions of the Commission function in a dual capacity for both WSA and the Commission, thus conserving manpower and avoiding duplication of effort.

How WSA Works

In the organizational setup of WSA under the Administrator are three Deputy Administrators; one in charge of vessel utilization, planning and policy which covers virtually the entire field of vessel operations; another in charge of labor relations, manning, training and recruitment, which organization provides the trained manpower to operate the world's largest merchant fleet, and a third in charge of construction, which is primarily a Maritime Commission function but


affects WSA operations to the extent that close integration of the building program with operations is necessary.

Under the Deputy Administrator for vessel utilization, planning and policy are 7 Assistant Deputy Administrators who in turn have immediate supervision over 27 divisions covering all phases of ship operations and their myriad ramifications, procurement, and operation of small vessels, maintenance, salvage, and repair of ships, ship control, tanker operations, fiscal affairs and the Pacific area.

Under the Deputy Administrator for Labor Relations, Manning, Training, and Recruitment are the Medical Director, and three Assistant Deputy Administrators, one for training, another for recruitment and manning, and the third for maritime labor relations. Under the immediate supervision of these three officials are 10 subdivisions.

Paying the Freight

Total obligations and disbursements by WSA--actual and estimated--since its inception on February 7, 1942, to the end of the 1944 fiscal year--June 30, 1944--are $5,107,729.916. Of this amount, purchase, charter, and operations of vessels, reconditioning, outfitting, defense installations, operation of warehouses and terminals and other expenditures from the revolving fund are $2,683,048,532. Expenditures for these purposes in 1942--from February 7 to June 30--were $183,527,851; in 1943, $1,242,554,696; and in 1944, including estimates to June 30, $1,256,965,985.

Obligations and expenditures from the maritime training fund for the entire period were $168,758,241 of which $39,285,226 was expended in 1942, $60,273,015 in 1943, and in the year ending June 30, 1944, actual and estimated, $69,200,000.

Total obligations in support of State maritime schools amounted to $875,072, of which $180,814 was expended in 1942, $344, 258 in 1943, and expended and obligated up to June 30, 1944, $350,000.

The marine and war risk insurance fund for the entire


period shows an excess of $56,644,098 in receipts over disbursements.

Funds expended or obligated for lend-lease purposes in 1942, were $367,264,498; in 1943 they were $667,894,513; and in 1944, including actual and estimated, $1,276,533,158, making a total lend-lease activity by WSA show obligations of $2,311,692,169.

Source of these funds were from authorized appropriations, transfers, or allocations.

In making budgetary setup for appropriations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1945, WSA shows a balance in the revolving fund of $821,000,000 to be carried over. This amount is available because of a reduction in the original estimates of expenditures form July 1, 1943, to June 30, 1944, $640,000,000 of which is due to reduction in vessel operating expense and the decrease of submarine and other enemy action on the seas, with the resultant drop in the volume of repairs.

Because of the rapid acceleration of the Maritime Commission's shipbuilding program and the resultant increase in the number of ships acquired from that source, the original estimate of $185,000,000 for purchase of vessels in the fiscal year starting July 1, 1943, was reduced to $56,200,000.

Unfinished Business

As this is written, rumors and "armchair" predictions of the impending collapse of our European enemy has caused many to question the continuation of our ship construction and operations program. People forget that the Merchant Marine's job will not stop with the declaration of peace in Europe.

Six million of America's fighting sons are overseas, and they are likely to remain to complete the task of creating a lasting peace after the day of victory. They must be supplied and they must return home. The Merchant Marine will continue to deliver the goods.

Even with the internal downfall of the German nation and the occupation of the European Axis countries, there will


remain the task of winning the unconditional surrender of Japan.

Few recognize the fact that a considerable portion of our merchant fleet will be needed to rehabilitate the continent of Europe. Nor do they stop to realize that the distance from United States ports to the coast of China, to the Philippines, and to Japan is between two and three times that from our Atlantic Coast to the European war theater. It will take two or three times the merchant tonnage to bring a weight of arms equal to those now blasting the Germans, to bear on the Japanese scattered on hundreds of islands and the mainland of Asia.

The task of the Merchant Marine, the War Shipping Administration, and the Maritime Commission is not completed and we cannot rest on our oars until the job is done. The task of rehabilitating the Far East will not be an easy one. What destruction was not completed as the Japanese advanced will be completed as they are forced back on their heels by the might of Allied arms, delivered to our fighting men by America's merchant fleet.

Today, when the emphasis of battle and America's production might is delivering the knock-out blows in Europe, more than 5 million deadweight tons of the merchant fleet are engaged in short-run shuttle service for our armed services. What that tonnage will be when our might is turned to the west is not know. It can be assumed that greater distances of ocean, and hundreds of Pacific beachheads will require proportionally larger tonnages for this service.

Today, scores of merchant ships are carrying supplies across the narrow stretch of water from England to Normandy. Increase that distance a hundred or a thousandfold and the need for more and more ships, and more and more merchant seamen in the Pacific becomes real.

Ship construction and ship operations in mid-1944 is unfinished business with number one priority.


Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation