Chapter I.
The Armed Guard Commander

Section 1. GENERAL

1101. These instructions are for the Commanding Officer of the Naval Armed Guard. In addition to these instructions the Armed Guard officer should refer to and familiarize himself with Wartime Instructions for Merchant Ships.

1102. The Navy Department places its principal trust in the intelligence and initiative of the commander of the Armed Guard. It expects him to foresee and provide for carrying out the details of the difficult and important duties with which the Armed Guard is charged.

1103. The Armed Guard commander represents the Navy Department aboard merchant vessels and Army transports. Whether he be petty officer, chief petty officer, or commissioned officer, his duties are manifold and his responsibilities great.

1104. As commander of the Armed Guard you have been placed in command of a detachment of men of the United States Navy assigned to important detached and dangerous duty. You will be closely associated with officers and men who are not under your command; who may know little of naval customs and traditions. The hearty cooperation of the officers and men of the ship on which you are to serve will be essential to your success. Such cooperation can best be gained by showing toward all officers and men of the Merchant service a uniform courtesy and respect. The Merchant service has its customs and traditions which should receive your respect and observance; inform yourself of these customs and instruct your men in their observance.


1105. Do not forget nor allow your men to forget, that wherever they go, they represent the United States Navy. The Navy Department and the country expect that your conduct will bring credit to the Navy and to the United States.

1106. You must be the leader of your men. Good manners, coolness, and self-control are the first attributes of an officer. You must so control your men as to gain their respect and confidence. Remember it is expected of you to lead, and of them to follow, wherever duty demands, even if death be the result. Be firm; be strict; be fair. Develop the teamwork of your command. Do not fail to use your utmost endeavors and to require equal effort on the part of all your command. Never forget that "good men with poor ships are better than poor men with good ships."

1107. Your success will depend very much on the discipline you maintain in your command. Instruct your men so that they will see the necessity of observing strictly the rules and regulations that you prescribe. Make them realize that the safety of the ship as well as their own lives depends upon the strictest possible performance of duty.

1108. Many of the instructions contained herein are based upon careful study of Voyage Reports and are designed to solve some of the problems confronting the Armed Guard commander insofar as is practicable in General Instructions. Conditions may vary with the many different ships, but if the Armed Guard commander will read these instructions carefully and refer to them when facing difficulties, he will find the solution to many of his problems, or at least information of assistance in solving the problems.

1109. Armed Guard Bulletins -- The Chief of Naval Operations issues Armed Guard Bulletins from time to time for the information and guidance of the Armed Guard officers. They are designed to be additions to and interpretations of the General Instructions for Commanding Officers of Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships. Armed Guard officers shall keep their files of Armed Guard Bulletins complete, and upon detachment from the Armed Guard Service, the officer will return his complete file of Armed Guard Bulletins to his Armed Guard Center. In view of the fact that Armed Guard


officers' actions are governed according to the General Instructions and these Bulletins, it is important that the Armed Guard officer review the General Instructions and his Bulletin file at least once a month.

1110. The commander of the Armed Guard attached to a merchant vessel in the Navy Department's representative. He is the master's military adviser and is specifically charged with the vessel's armed defense. He has exclusive control over the military functions of the Armed Guard and is responsible for the execution of all the regulations under which it functions. In accordance with law, the master commands the vessel and is charged with her safe navigation and the safety of all persons on board. The Armed Guard is subject to the orders of the master only in matters pertaining to the general organization of the ship's company. The Armed Guard will not be required to perform any ship duties. Their military duties will be performed invariably under the direction of the commander of the Armed Guard. The master will have been furnished with copies of these instructions and has been directed through proper authority to be governed thereby.


1111. The following is quoted from the Ordnance and Gunnery Instructions for Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships 1944, Fourth Edition.

"1301. The decision to open fire is of utmost importance and must be based on two considerations:

(a) The necessity for prompt defensive action.
(b) Safety of friendly units.
1302. The commander of the Armed Guard is responsible for the proper indoctrination of the Armed Guard in fire discipline.

1303. In submarine waters the commander of the Armed Guard may, when not present to exercise control, delegate authority to open fire to the gun captain in charge of the gun, without waiting for orders from the bridge.

1304. In the aircraft danger zone the commander of the Armed Guard will direct gunners on antiaircraft guns to open fire immediately without orders upon any un-


identified aircraft which flies within 1,500 yards of the ship, or flies directly toward the ship.

1305. Enemy aircraft will be immediately engaged upon approaching within effective range.

1306. The decision when to open fire is the responsibility of the Armed Guard commander since that officer is charged with the defense of the ship. When practicable, however, without delaying opening fire, the Armed Guard commander will, in deference to the master of the ship, inform him that fire will be opened.

1307. The commanders of Naval Armed Guards are directed by the Chief of Naval Operations to open fire immediately in the general direction of the attacking submarine even if the attacker is not actually sighted. This authority is delegated to the gun watch by paragraph 1303. The Armed Guard crews are instructed not to abandon ship unless sinking is imminent and gunfire impossible. They are required to take advantage of every opportunity to destroy the enemy by gunfire.

1308. In order to carry out the effective defense of the vessel it is essential that the commander of the Armed Guard and the master of the vessel thoroughly understand their relative responsibilities and authority. The ship must be defended in every means available as long as possible. * * * It is emphasized that the ship's master is by law in full command of the ship, which authority is in no manner restricted by the instructions referred to. The authority to open fire quickly is delegated  to the Armed Guard commander by reason of strict military necessity since attacks may develop suddenly by day or by night. There is no situation where either the master or the Armed Guard commander should delay opening fire on the enemy.

1309. The Armed Guard officer is directed to consult with the master on matters of procedure which may vary with circumstances, and which may not be clearly defined in these orders.

1310. Arbitrary conduct and independent actions by the Armed Guard officer in matters where the master has cognizance would tend to lessen respect for the master of the


ship, an officer who by law, tradition, and experience, is entitled to certain prerogatives.

1311. Both Armed Guard officers and masters are enjoined to compose personal differences, should any exist, to the end that harmony and concerted action may save the ship and promote the interests of the United States."

1112. The Armed Guard commander is first and primarily a commanding officer, and as such he is charged by Article 1 of the Articles for the Government of the United States Navy to show in himself "a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under his command; to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices, and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Navy, all persons who are guilt of them." He should at all times be careful of his person as to dress, speech, and action, so that no person aboard the vessel may have occasion to criticize him for conduct unbecoming an officer. He must at all times remember that the Navy is being judged by him and his conduct. Toward his men he should maintain a uniformly friendly attitude, yet never should he impose undue familiarity upon them nor tolerate undue familiarity on their part. He must set down a discipline for his men and maintain it rigidly and impartially. Petty breaches lead to excesses, intolerable in a military organization. Toward the owners and masters of the vessels he should be uniformly friendly, and, where matters of military security are involved, be courteous, but firmly insistent upon the prompt and efficient prosecution of procedure and action best calculated to protect the ship. Where the rights of his men are in any way jeopardized he must be unyielding in guarding those rights. No greater duty is imposed upon any officer than that of protecting the enlisted men against encroachments upon their rights. The officer whose constant interest in his men has been proved finds his men willing and ready to stand with him until the deck sinks below them.

1113. In many cases, both ashore and afloat, Armed Guard commanders must deal with Army officers of varying ranks. As early understanding of the position of the Armed Guard commander by the Army officers aboard will result in enthusiastic and valuable cooperation. The Army Transport Service


is anxious to assist Armed Guard commanders to carry out their duties. Discussion with Army officers aboard merchant vessels will generally result in understanding and cooperative action in the direction of helping the Armed Guard officer and crew in protection of the ship. (Refer to Army Regulations No. 55-330).

1114. In later paragraphs the rights which may be enforced and powers given to the Armed Guard commander will be further elaborated. The basic quality to be exhibited by the Armed Guard commander is Leadership. Leadership requires tact in dealing with men, and with other officers, subordinate and senior. As it is stated in Naval Leadership, "Of far greater importance to officers than the material or tools committed to their charge is the personnel with which they are concerned."

1115. Petty Officers -- As in the fleet, so also in the administration of Armed Guard units, success or failure rests largely with the petty officer. The following is a paraphrased quotation from Naval Leadership:

"Petty Officer means 'small' officer or 'sub-officer.' He is a picked man, chosen because of his possession of certain attributes of character, ability, and experience lacking in his less gifted shipmates. He is capable of assuming responsibility; he is capable of leading and controlling other men; he knows more about his job than do any of those under him. For these reasons he is given the authority to practice his capabilities."

1116. Every effort should be made to impress on the petty officer the importance and responsibility of his position. The average petty officer does not appreciate either his importance or the influence for good or evil that he has in his possession. The importance of the petty officer is well shown in the Navy Regulations which clothe him with full authority to carry on all the duties of his office.

U. S. Navy Regulations, chapter 35, section 1 -- Petty Officers, Art. 1275.

"(1) Petty officers shall show in themselves a good example of subordination, courage, zeal, sobriety, neatness, and attention to duty.

(2) They shall aid to the utmost of their ability in maintaining good order, discipline, and all that concerns the efficiency of the command.


(3) for the preservation of good order petty officers are always on duty and are vested with the necessary authority to report and arrest offenders. This authority attaches to them while ashore on liberty.

(4) When an enlisted man is appointed petty officer, the commanding officer shall bring to his attention the provisions of this article."

1117. Again quoting from Naval Leadership: "The captain of a ship recognizes the importance and responsibility of the officer or petty officer when, in issuing him an appointment, he says, 'I do strictly charge and require all petty officers and others under my command to be obedient to my orders.' Both afloat and ashore, at sea and in port, in peace and in war, the petty officer occupies a most important position and plays an essential part in the success or failure of his ship. It is often said that 'petty officers are the backbone of the organization on board ship.'"

1118. "Do all you can to draw a distinct line between petty officers and nonrated men. Treat the petty officer with consideration. Let him feel freer to talk to you than the other men, and let him feel that he may do so in a somewhat less formal way. When a petty officer asks a special privilege or liberty, try to grant it. Invite his suggestions and advice. Ask him, when you think it appropriate, how he feels about some matter which should be settled. You need not take his advice, but your evident evaluation of it will make him take a greater interest, and increase his sense of importance and self respect. Make him feel his superiority over the other men -- he is superior, he is a picked man, that's why he is a petty officer. Make the other men realize that to be a petty officer amounts to something; that if they would aspire to the authority and privileges, they must do their work in such a manner as to be considered for rating themselves. Discourage fraternizing between petty officers and their men. Petty officers should never permit nonrated men to address them by their nicknames or Christian names. Let your petty officers know exactly how you feel about this. He owes this to the office he fills.

1119. "Watch you[r] petty officers closely. When they do well tell them so. Do this publicly. Tell them so when they do


badly. Do this privately. Instruct them constantly as to your desires, your methods, your general policy. See that they understand thoroughly what you are trying to do and how it is you want them to help you do it. As in all branches of leadership, be consistent in your demands and requirements. Let them know precisely where they stand and what is expected of them. Indoctrinate them."


1120. The maintenance of discipline is a vital part of the responsibility of the commanding officer. It is, therefore, necessary that he understands fully his responsibility in the matter, as well as his authority. In connection with disciplinary procedure, it may be necessary from time to time for the commanding officer to assign punishment for infractions of regulations. The assignment of punishment in the Navy is governed by law, and strict adherence to the law is required of all commanding officers. The Articles for the Government of the United States Navy in Article 24 outline punishment which may be inflicted by a commanding officer as follows:

  1. Reduction of any rating established by himself.
  2. Confinement not exceeding 10 days, unless further confinement be necessary, in the case of a prisoner to be tried by court martial.
  3. Solitary confinement, on bread and water, not exceeding 5 days.
  4. Solitary confinement not exceeding 7 days.
  5. Deprivation of liberty on shore.
  6. Extra duties.

No other punishment is permitted except by sentence of a court martial and all punishments inflicted by the Armed Guard commander, or by his order, except reprimands, must be entered upon the Armed Guard log, and a report submitted to the Armed Guard center concerned, for entry in the man's service record.

1121. Since it has been determined that the officer in command of an Armed Guard Unit is a commanding officer of a separate and detached command, he has all of the authority and responsibility in regard to the administration of discipline as is given to the commanding officer of any vessel of the Navy. This includes the authority given by Article 28 of Articles for the


Government of the United States Navy to order summary court martial upon enlisted men in the naval service under his command. And since any officer who is authorized to order a summary court martial may also order a deck court, this authority is also possessed by the commanding officer of an Armed Guard unit. However, in order to try a man by either a summary court martial or a deck court it is necessary to have either a man's complete record or a certified transcript thereof. Since the required records are not carried with the Unit, it is not considered desirable that commanding officers of Armed Guard Units exercise the authority to convene courts martial while aboard a merchant vessel. In more serious cases in which a greater degree of punishment than that which can be inflicted by a commanding officer is determined necessary, the man should be placed on report to the commanding officer of the nearest Armed Guard center and transferred to that activity at the earliest opportunity. If the man's records are not at the nearest Armed Guard center they can be secured by that activity in accordance with current procedure.

1122. Emphasis should be given to the fact that the commanding officer of an Armed Guard Unit has a heavy responsibility and by the same token a high honor. His authority in many respects is equivalent to that of the commanding officer of a combatant ship, because he is in charge of guns and in command of men who fire them. The commanding officer of an Armed Guard Unit and his crew are under the observation of the merchant officers and crew of the vessel under his protection; they are observed by passengers, if any, who happen to be aboard that vessel; they are scrutinized by Army and other Navy personnel if any happen to be aboard. It follows, therefore, that to a large degree the public impression and estimate of naval personnel and efficiency will depend on the example shown by the Armed Guard officer and his crew.

1123. It therefore behooves the commanding officer of an Armed Guard Unit to use the wide authority given him to keep his crew alert, well disciplined, well trained, neat in person, and shipshape in all that the term implies. He must command the respect of his petty officers and men, and keep such control of them that he is conscious every hour of the


day and night that he can depend on their readiness for instant, alert, and efficient action.

1124. Such authority can best be exercised by good organization, which means that the commanding officer must work through his petty officer or officers and clothe them with a portion of the authority which resides in him as commanding officer.

1125. Armed Guard commanders should particularly caution their men to observe the following rules while on board ship:

  1. Armed Guards shall keep themselves clean, in proper uniform, and shall bear themselves as befits a man-o'-war's man.
  2. All unauthorized persons shall be kept clear of guns and ammunition at all times.
  3. Drinking wines, beers, or liquors by Armed Guards is strictly prohibited.
  4. Gambling by Armed Guards is prohibited.
  5. No flame or open light will be allowed on deck at night. Otherwise, it is not necessary that smoking be restricted. It is expected that regulations as regards smoking will be governed as the local situation may dictate.
  6. Unnecessary noises or loud talking should not be permitted around sleeping quarters or the navigation bridge. Armed Guards should be especially cautioned to maintain quiet around the Master's and officer's quarters both day and night.
  7. Armed Guards should not be permitted on the navigation bridge unless actually on duty.

1126. Gratuities -- The Navy Department has been informed that in certain instances foreign governments, their agencies or representatives, commercial firms, or merchant crews have presented gifts of money to naval personnel assigned to Armed Guard duty on merchant vessels.

The acceptance of such gratuities by Naval personnel under any circumstances is considered to be contrary to the customs and traditions of the Naval service.

Hereafter, if any such gratuity is received by a member of the Naval service, it is directed that the gratuity be returned to the donor with a statement that its acceptance is not permitted under existing Navy regulations.



1201. Limitations of space on merchant vessels necessarily limit Navy personnel available for duty aboard armed merchant vessels. For this reason it is necessary to call upon many duties of the Armed Guard.

1202. It is desirable that all persons aboard a vessel shall be drilled in battle stations so that in time of engagement a minimum of confusion may result, and that persons necessarily engaged in servicing the guns may know their duties.

1203. Where available, it is desirable that military personnel embarked for transportation be utilized to assist the Armed Guard Unit. A request to the senior officer of such military personnel aboard will undoubtedly meet with consent and cooperation. Also members of the merchant crew should be trained and drilled in assisting the Armed Guard Unit. Military personnel which might be available on the outbound voyage might not be available on the homeward voyage, in which event trained members of the merchant crew should be at hand. No one can tell when and to what extent additional trained members of the merchant personnel might be urgently required in manning defensive armament of the vessel for the protection of the ship and themselves.

1204. The following is quoted from Army Regulations, AR 55-330, dated December 1, 1942, for the information of commanding officers of Armed Guard crews on board U. S. Army Transports:

No. 55-330
Washington, December 1, 1942.

"*  *  *.
5. Provision for and status of Armed Guards --

  1. Where Navy armed guards are assigned to Army transports their status and the relationship of their commander to


    the master will be as prescribed in the appropriate Navy Department regulations governing the assignment of Armed Guards to merchant vessels, as amended from time to time. Neither the transport commander nor the Unit commanders aboard will exercise any command over such guards.
  1. The transport commander and Unit commanders aboard will, at the request of the master, organize details of troops with machine guns and rifles or other available weapons to stand watch, if necessary, and assist in the defense of the ship when called upon to do so, and will cause such drills and exercises of these details to be held as are required to make them proficient in quickly manning stations and opening an effective fire; but the fire of any such weapons will be at all times under the exclusive control of the person charged by the governing regulations with the control of the fire of the permanent armament aboard. Where the permanent Armed Guard is military personnel this will be the master.
    *  *  *."

    For further information refer to Army Regulations 55-330.

1205. It is important that a thorough look-out be kept at all times for surface and air attack. The officer must insist upon absolute military standing of look-out watches. Failure to stand watches in military fashion shall be a matter of immediate disciplinary action. The ammunition train must be drilled to act quickly, doing a particular job as a reflex action. The prompt servicing of the gun is of vital importance to the successful termination of any engagement. The officer must remember that his guns constitute the sole defense of the vessel upon which he is serving. There is no armor plate or blister to ward off the shells, bombs, or torpedoes of attacking craft. The support of nonmilitary passengers and the merchant crew should be solicited through the master of the vessel. The officer whose efforts and tact fail to bring the necessary cooperation may recall Chapter 4, Section 333, Naval Courts and Boards: "The officers, members of crews, and passengers on board merchant ships of the United States, although not in the naval service of the United States, are, under the laws of the United States, the decisions of the courts, and, by the very necessities of the case, subject to military control while in the actual theater of war."



1301. The Armed Guard commander must bear in mind that the condition of his battery for firing is but a small part of his duty. He is the military adviser to the master of the vessel and as such his duties are manifold. The Armed Guard commander must realize that the master of the vessel is a man of wide experience and proven judgment in matters of the sea, whereas the Armed Guard commander is generally a man of limited maritime experience. However, the Navy Department recognizing the need for military protection of the vessel, a field in which the master has had little, if any, training and experience, places the Armed Guard Unit aboard as a distinct entity, separate from the ordinary complement of the vessel, in charge of an officer specially trained in the military function. Such responsibilities upon the Armed Guard commanders are not endangered by lack of seagoing experience, for being essentially military in nature, the Armed Guard commander has received the necessary military and naval training, to protect the ship in time of war.

1302. By courtesy, tact, and display of ability the Armed Guard commander must obtain the confidence of the master as a prerequisite to the cooperation between these two officers that is required for the protection of the vessel in time of war. As soon as the master is cognizant of the duties, position and responsibility of the Armed Guard commander, and has gained confidence in him as a man, few difficulties or misunderstandings should arise. It is largely the responsibility of the Armed Guard commander to establish such cordial relationship. In cases where the master absolutely refuses to recognize the sphere of the Armed Guard commander, the problem should be taken up with the port director in a United States port or the naval authority in a foreign port.

1303. Whenever complaints are made by officers of the Merchant Service against members of the Armed Guard, be sure that you conduct a dignified investigation of such complaints, no matter how trivial they may seem. Always inform the master of the result of your investigation. Where punishments are required which cannot be administered by yourself, make


a written report to the officer in charge of the Armed Guard center to which your crew is attached. If you are in a United States port, furnish a copy of this report to the port director, or in a foreign port to the naval attaché, and be guided by his advice. Show a copy of such reports to the master of your ship. In all cases arising out of complaints made by the ship's officers, assure both the master and the ship's officers that the Navy will properly punish all offenders. Complaints by unlicensed personnel against members of the Armed Guard must be made through the master.

1304. In cases where food of poor quality or improperly prepared is served to the Armed Guard mess, the Armed Guard officer should take the matter up with the Master of the vessel with the view of making necessary corrections. If the deficiencies are not corrected, the matter should be taken up with the port director or naval authority in the next port of call for assistance in correcting the conditions.

1305. The maintenance of discipline among the merchant crew is the master's responsibility. If he is absent, the responsibility falls on the next senior deck officer on board the ship. This is not the responsibility of the Armed Guard officer.

1306. Naval personnel are placed aboard merchant vessels for military duties only. Armed Guard commanders must not permit their men to be utilized as messengers, deck hands, gangway, or cargo hold watchmen, or the like.

1307. The Armed Guard commander shall detail personnel for sentry duty at the gangway while in ports where such a watch is necessary for the security of the vessel or required by the naval authorities of the port. The sentry will not replace or assume the duties of the ship's gangway watchmen. The duties of the ship's gangway watchmen include tending mooring lines, checking merchant personnel on and off the ship, in some cases searching Merchant Marine personnel, tending boat lines, receiving boats alongside, tending the gangway against movements of the ship, receiving stores and packages, etc. It is the responsibility of the master or merchant officers to provide gangway watchmen.

1308. It is the desire of the Navy Department to instruct and train the officers and men of the merchant crew in all matters pertaining to gunnery and the defense of their vessels.


The Armed Guard commanders should make every effort to carry out this training. The training periods should be alternated between mornings and afternoons to enable each watch to attend instruction classes, gun drills, and spotting board practice. The cooperation of the master should be requested by the Armed Guard commander in arranging details of any training which involves Merchant Marine officers or seamen.

1309. Masters and Armed Guard commanders should have a settled plan of action to meet all emergencies. The merchant officer on watch on the bridge should be given instructions by the master accordingly. In formulating these plans, the following should be borne in mind: (1) Weather conditions likely to be encountered; (2) the areas and times in which enemy attacks may be expected; and (3) the types of enemy forces likely to be employed. Particular caution should be exercised during morning and evening twilight.

1310. The master of the vessel shall keep the commander of the Armed Guard informed at all times concerning:

  1. The ship's position.
  2. The course.
  3. Location of mine fields of which the master has knowledge.
  4. All war warnings received.
  5. Confidential instructions received from Naval authorities as to measures tending to the safety of the ship.
  6. The known assistance that may be expected from Allied ships and aircraft.
  7. The proximity of a course to the nearest port to which boats may proceed in case the vessel is sunk should be daily determined and responsible personnel informed.

1311. The Armed Guard commander should keep track of the ship's approximate position in order to inform the lifeboat and liferaft crews of the course and approximate distance to land when necessary to abandon ship.

1312. The necessity for immediate and efficient action in carrying out prearranged routine the moment an emergency arises or an enemy is sighted cannot be too strongly emphasized. The Armed Guard and merchant crew men should be trained to


react practically automatically in an emergency. This means indoctrination, drill, and training. Alert lookouts, quick use of rudder, prompt manning of guns, smooth operation of the established routine, may save your ship and sink the enemy.

1313. In making out the organization every possible detail must be foreseen and covered to the best of your ability. Remember that in organization and provision against submarine attacks there must be close coordination and cooperation between naval and merchant personnel. The commander of the Armed Guard and the master of the vessel should agree upon the procedure for handling the ship and for handling the guns to meet all conditions. It is most important for the master to know how the guns are to be controlled, and for the commander of the Armed Guard to know what the master is going to do when the enemy is sighted. Remember that unless every detail is provided for, covered in drills, and understood by every man on board, confusion will result. In certain waters submarines do not operate. At other times, you are safe from aircraft. In good weather in certain waters you are in danger from both. Confer with the master arranging a flexible, workable system for defense of the vessel depending upon the area in which the vessel is operating.

1314. Take up these questions in succession with the master and come to a working agreement as to exactly what is to be done; then, having decided, make it a daily practice to rehearse by questions and answers with the ship's officers until all are entirely familiar with the plans.


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