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The sea is more important to the United States than it has been for a century, but Americans are still not a maritime-minded people. This ls the paradox, the dilemma facing the U. S. naval profession today. ■Sea-centered in an oceanic world, the continued greatness of the United States in the closing decades of the 20th century depends on how well the oceans are made to serve an American people who know °r care little about these oceans. To them their country is still the Wealthy heartland that made them a great people. Only a few of them are aware that the United States is fast becoming an industrial island to Which, across the world’s oceans, must come the raw materials needed for continued greatness; and back across these oceans must go the Products of that greatness in both military and economic form. Coming and going, they must be carried in the holds of humble merchant ships.
Maritime strength or sea power, not the nuclear weapon, is the central factor of the world of the 1960s. Such sea power was bluntly defined in an editorial in the July 1964 issue of The Navy, the periodical °f the British Navy League: “Sea power, in the last analysis, means naerchant ships. Warships and aircraft have indeed vital parts to play fo its maintenance, but they are not its end product, which is overseas Wade. It was overseas trade that made—and will keep—this country great; trade protected, at all times with great hardship and loss, by foe Royal Navy, but actually carried out by equally staunch British vessels flying the Red Duster. The East Indiaman, the wool clipper, the eight-knot ship in convoy, the giant bulk-carrier and—who knows— the nuclear merchantship: these are the realities of sea power, the ultimate means by which we have exercised it in the past centuries, do so now and will continue to do so.”
This may be British whistling in the dark or it may be a manifesto °f a nation’s salvation. In any case, it has an ominous sound for the U. S. naval profession, which has for too long mistaken naval and Weapon power for sea power.
Our failure to conceive of sea power in its integral whole may be due to our preceptor, Alfred T. Mahan, who analyzed brilliantly its Uaval side, but treated its mercantile aspects only in broad generalizations. The weakness in this narrow approach was pointed out by his
own teacher, Stephen B. Luce, in a book review of Mahan’s The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future (1897). Luce, who had striven for 30 years to check the decline of his country’s merchant marine, wrote with his gift of foresight:
The United States finds itself impelled by a variety of causes to look beyond its own borders, and yield to what the author terms the “outward impulse.” No longer the narrow strip hemmed in between the Atlantic and the vast unknown wilderness of the West ... it has now taken its place among the leading powers of the world, and its influence is felt and acknowledged. It occupies a singular advantageous position between the highly civilized states of western Europe, and the ancient civilizations of the extreme east, now awakened, or awakening, from their long lethargy. . . . [Mahan] has allowed the views of a naval strategist to dominate those of the political economist. There is a weak link in his chain of reasoning. From the days of ancient Tyre, the birthplace of commerce and navigation, the sceptre of the seas has been wielded, successively, by states grown opulent through ocean commerce. Sea power, in its military sense, is the offspring, not the parent, of commerce. . . . The author has, indeed, referred in various places to ocean commerce, but has not given it due prominence as a factor of sea power. . . . Both from the military and economic view, an extensive marine commerce is of primal necessity to a country aspiring to beome a naval power.
If Luce’s words still have meaning today, U. S. naval officers must lift their eyes to include within their view not just nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers, but other carriers of American greatness, the oil carrier, the ore carrier, carriers of all kinds of goods throughout our ocean world. Moreover, they must assume not only their country’s naval responsibilities, but also its broader maritime responsibilities, because there are no others in our land to take up this heavy burden.
American historian, Brooks Adams, noted at the turn of the century that “Men fight to defend what they conceive to be their interests, but generally, the only interests which stir them are those which are obvious.” For two decades, Americans, including those in the naval profession, have been both frightened and fascinated by the nuclear explosive.
Since the Cuban Crisis, however, there are indications that the convulsive phase in the development of nuclear energy may be ending. Statesmen are beginning to learn what nuclear weapons can and cannot do and to reject the invalid assumptions first made regarding them. After several agonizing reappraisals of U. S. military policy, it now appears that nuclear explosives can never be
The naval officer must convince himself that ocean
shipping is the other arm of sea power, its right arm, as
Stephen B. Luce insisted.
shaped into effective weapons for the armed services, because their tremendous power makes them political instruments like the armed forces themselves. Armed forces can be used positively in an extension of national policy, as Clausewitz so enlightened us. Nuclear explosives, however, perform a negative function, that of check, by forcing extension of the diplomatic process or, when that fails, keeping war’s violence under control and limited to political ends.
Nuclear weapons have already achieved this benevolent result and it is enough to expect of them. Their function lies not in their possession even as a deterrent, but in their existence as a restraint on other forms of violence in war. It is indeed a benign paradox that we can neither afford to abolish nuclear weapons nor dare to use them.
In choosing, after World War II, a national strategy based on nuclear weapons, the American people gave up an exceptional opportunity to base their future foreign policy on maritime superiority. Their navy, by 1945, had brought all the oceans under its control, in fact had merged them into one. Their war- built merchant marine, numbering 5,000 ships, was prepared to carry trade and aid throughout the oceanic federation that the war created, and it was soon called upon to do so by the Marshall Plan and the Korean War. With such sea power, world leadership
U'aritime strength, entirely neglected, had been a seaeoii
seemed assured for the United States in the second half of the 20th century, as it had been for Great Britain in the 19th century.
Unlike the maritime British, Americans did not appreciate the force for good they had created. Bewitched by nuclear weapons, they renounced their maritime power. This is understandable, if not excusable, because the sea had not formed their character, although " had given them a nation. Earlier genera- Uons of Americans had turned away from the sea to develop the wealthy heartland that had become theirs. Pushing back the frontier and exploiting their resources, while separated by 'he Atlantic from the Old World from whence 'hey came, they created a new and vigorous culture of their own, which is making an im- Prmt on the rest of the world as no other cul- 'Ure has in recent history. Its chief element is expansiveness.
\\ ith the end of the frontier, this expansiveness turned outward, to the Caribbean, the Pacific, then back to Europe in two world '''aes, and finally spread throughout the '■vorld. In doing so, the American people pro- ytded themselves with a navy without know- lng just why, as the records of the naval dis- arrnament conferences and armed service Unification show. But the other element of the merchant marine, they though in earlier days they ag people. Where the land attracts, the sea repels, and Americans at the eud of the 19th century were a different People from what they had been at its begin- n*ng. Others, less fortunate in the world, would do their maritime chores for them.
So, whereas in 1947 ships flying the AmeriCan flag were carrying 70 per cent of U. S. foreign trade, in 1964 this was down to a Uiere 9 per cent and would no doubt be less except for the statutory requirement that 'hese ships carry all military and half of foreign aid cargoes.
To Americans generally, this decline is of Pttle concern. When they think of the mer- ehant marine at all, it is with a feeling of annoyance at its apparently insoluble troubles, rather than pride in its accomplishments. The §reat majority have never seen an ocean; to 'he affluent among them, it is an obstacle to be crossed by aircraft in a few hours. Those who ho embark upon it are, for the most part, in uniform. Even statesmen and scholars have difficulty understanding sea power in the abstract, and the naval profession has failed to make it intelligible to them.
With so little interest shown by their fellow Americans in what is so vitally necessary for our national life, the U. S. naval profession has no alternative but to step into the sea power breach and assume the leadership and direction of all the nation’s maritime affairs. This is a large order. Primarily it will mean assuring the nation adequate, efficient, and economical ocean transport, policing it, and protecting it in war. It will also have to embrace many important related subjects such as overseas procurement of raw materials, world trade, economic warfare, international law, oceanography, and the economic aspects of naval warfare. •
The first thing to be done is for naval officers to learn something about the merchant marine itself and how it works. One of the hardest tasks will be to convince themselves that it is not the Navy. The profession is not entirely wanting here. One of the leaders in American shipping was Vice Admiral Emory S. Land, U. S. Navy (Retired), formerly head of the U. S. Maritime Commission. Senior retired and reserve officers in executive shipping positions have recently brought new leadership into a declining business. M.S.T.S. duty has provided on-the-job training for a few officers. The still-untold story of the newly formed M.S.T.S. in the Korean crisis would vividly portray the naval profession’s potential for cargo work.
Reassuring is the increasing number of articles on merchant marine affairs in the Proceedings during the last five years. The best in this writer’s opinion are: “The Merchant Marine and National Security” by Captain (now Rear Admiral) A. F. Schade, U. S. Navy, January, 1961; the outstanding “Flags of Convenience, Maritime Dilemma” by Captain Ira Dye, U. S. Navy, February, 1962, and the comments on it by Captain R. Hailey, March, 1963; the frank discussions by Captain R. E. McCleave, Jr., U. S. Army, and Stanley J. Davenport, February, 1963, and by Clinton H. Whitehurst, Jr., and Lieutenant (j.g.) F. P. Karres, U. S. Coast Guard, December, 1963; plus some excellent pictorials.
But, how many officers have been on board a modern bulk carrier, a container ship, or other specialized type? How many are informed on the vexing international problem of cartel rate conferences, with their import- export differentials? How many have given thought to the optimum size and formation of convoys in this day of nuclear-powered submarines, or perhaps the more dangerous long- range, jet-powered, rocket-armed, land-based aircraft.
Above all, the naval officer must convince himself that ocean shipping is the other arm of sea power, its right arm, as Stephen B. Luce insisted. To help him, he might dwell on the prospect of our naval responsibilities being turned over to foreign countries without even the protection of treaties.
The best approach to a naval study of the merchant marine appears to be in a division of its diametrically unlike segments, raw materials importing and processed goods exporting. The two are entirely different in the nature of the services they provide to the American economy and national security and in the types of ships they employ.
Iron Ore Millions of tons
* Based on the 1953 report of the President’s Materials Policy Commission, known as the Paley Report. A more recent attempt, Resources in America’s Future (1963) makes estimates to the year 2000, but some economists claim the figures are unrealistic and projected too far into the future.
The imports segment is by far the more important. It is vitally essential to our economy, being part of its basic industries; it is under control of progressive management, and it is growing at an accelerating rate. It has remained free of government control and union domination. Its problems are susceptible of solution. It is the segment not likely to be replaced by air transport in the near future.
The American economy devours 50 per cent of the world’s output of raw materials- Until World War II, most of what the nation required was found within its own borders. Now, supplies of the two basic necessities of an industrial society, iron ore and petroleum, must be imported at an alarmingly increasing rate. Table I gives an elementary picture of the import situation for these two commodities.
The iron ore shipload capacity used in the Table is that of the 48,735-dead-weight-ton Nichiho Maru, built at the Tsurumi shipyard, Yokohama, Japan. An ocean-going ore carrier has not been built in a U. S. shipyard in the last two decades. The tanker load used is based on that of the 106,568-dead-weight-ton Manhattan, built at Quincy, Massachusetts.
Another critical raw material is bauxite; 60 per cent of U. S. requirements is now imported. The rate of increase of bauxite imports in the next decade is expected to be comparable to that of iron ore.
Few American-flag vessels are engaged in the raw materials import trade. The merchant ships that are so engaged belong either to traditional maritime countries, like Great Britain, Norway, and Greece, or they fly “flags of convenience.”
A Panamanian or Liberian flag flying from the stern of a giant modern tanker or bulk ore carrier is a common sight in U. S. ports. Chances are that such a ship, manned by a foreign crew, is American-owned. If so, she represents a contribution to the American economy that is not costing the taxpayer one dollar. On the other hand, this ship is not legally a U. S. vessel, and herein lies the dangerous dilemma that Captain Dye ably depicted in the article previously mentioned.
In the case of a flag-of-convenience ship, a citizen of one state uses the nationality of another state for private purposes. The seas are by their nature free, and all have the right to
Use them. International law, however, requires that a ship, like a person, have na- t'onality, but the conditions governing registration are set by the state whose flag she nies- Some small nations choose to use their fights to the sea by allowing shipowners of °ther states to fly their flag, charging for such registry the nominal sum of approximately one dollar per dead weight ton plus an annual tax °f ten cents per ton.
Panama and Liberia are currently the only Ola] or flag-of-convenience countries, and about 80 per cent of the tonnage under these uags is American-owned or Greek-owned. The American segment carries one-third of the u- S. foreign trade.
The American Committee for Flags of Aecessity was formed in 1958, primarily by fbe major oil companies to present their case to the public. Their claim is that labor costs t° man a 47,000-ton tanker with crews of various nationalities are as given in Table II.
Cost per year
flags of convenience, flags of necessity, rUnaway flags, or flags of easy virtue, as they are called, depending on how interested par- t'es approach this turbulent subject, are not Pupular with NATO maritime countries or 'v,th American seafaring unions. The mari- hrne nations have advocated a singular change jn international law, known as the “genuine ink” principle, or the requirement that in the nationality of a ship there must be a genuine tnk between the ship and the state. This Principle was the subject of much discussion at the 1958 Geneva International Conference °n the Law of the Sea, but, in June, 1960, the nternational Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion against it.
Municipal courts of nations have also reused to disturb traditional international law. n 1962, the U. S. maritime unions, backed by the National Labor Relations Board, made an effort to organize American-owned flag- of-convenience ships. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled against the NLRB on the basis that custom in international law could not be set aside without the expressed intent of Congress.
One big question remains. Are these ships under effective U. S. control to the extent that they will be available in a national emergency? Agreements for their return to the American flag in such event exist with the owners, but not with the registry nations. Some members of Congress doubt that this represents “effective control.” The Maritime Administration and the Navy Department claim that it does—but, it must be admitted, without much conviction.
The Greek merchant marine offers a fruitful subject for a case study on “effective control.” Greece has been a maritime nation for 3,000 years. This mountainous land has forced its men to earn their living from the sea. For a young Greek, life holds no sweeter ambition than to be master of a ship. A postwar marvel of the mercantile system has been the amassing of fortunes by the Greek shipping magnates in the world’s one remaining area of free enterprise, the oceans.
Greece was occupied by the Germans in World War II, but its shipping was our ally. In 1942 there were 156 Greek ships sailing in Allied convoys; before the end of the war, 142 were lost. The burden of restoring this merchant marine after the war was on the victors. Our Ship Sales Act of 1946 provided the enterprising Greeks with a windfall of Liberty ships, some of which were sold for as low as $22,000 each. This law has since been criticized, but it was fair at the time.
The postwar world changed fast, and the Greek shipowners changed with it. They saw that the ships of the future would be the large bulk carriers for overseas movement of the raw materials that modern industrial economies required. They were quick also to take advantage of the flag of convenience, an American creation to escape the fiscal and political instability of their own country, to take advantage of the tax havens these flags offered, and to obtain easier access to U. S. sources of financing.
Within the last few years, however, Greek shipping has been returning to its own flag. In 1953, the government, politically stabilized
following its trials after World War II, reoriented its shipping policy, reducing taxation and providing more liberal registry, including freedom from requisition by government. This and the pressure of other maritime nations and U. S. unions against Panamanian and Liberian registry caused a “flight to the flag” on the part of Greek shipowners. The result was a tripling of the size of the Greek national merchant marine in three years, with a consequent increase in the prosperity of the country.
The question of “effective control” of this transferred shipping is a pressing one. No one can foretell whether it will be available to the United States in a future national emergency. As shown above, Greeks do have a good record from World War II, and they abandoned the lucrative Communist trade with Cuba to comply with the U. S. blockade.
With respect to other maritime nations, the Marshall Plan revived their shipbuilding, an ancient European craft. Between 1950 and 1958, West German shipbuilding increased tenfold. During the same period, Great Britain was annually producing 1.4 million tons of ships, while the United States failed to better one-half million tons, and, in some
The United States has the
world’s largest merchant Jleet . . . but most of it
will soon be scrap.
years, built less than 100,000 tons. Japan, which once built a splendid navy, had the facilities and know-how to capitalize on the postwar revival of world trade. In 1947, that country built less than 200,000 tons of shipping; a decade later, her output was 2.4 millions. Since 1958, world-wide ship tonnage constructed has ranged from 8 to 9 million tons per year, only 5 per cent of which has been built in the United States.
What the Russians are doing has been ably told by Hanson W. Baldwin in his Atlantic Monthly article, “Red Flag Over the Seven Seas” (September, 1964). Ocean-going cargo ship procurement in the Soviet Union is more
than twice that in the United States. Tanker procurement is five times as great. Russia today has an advanced oceanographic service, ' but most ominous is her modern fishing fleet. Fisheries, historically, have been the nurseries of seamen and the starting point for maritime expansion and greatness.
There remains the appraisal of the subsidized U. S. Merchant Marine. A study by a panel of economists at Northwestern University’s Transportation Center, sponsored by and prepared at the request of the shipping operators themselves, resulted in the findings that “the subsidy program and the subsidized merchant fleet made no substantial net contribution to the economy.”
The only justification therefore is its military value. In 1950, the U. S. Merchant Marine did support adequately a war in Korea across 6,000 miles of ocean. If the present trouble in Vietnam were expanded into a war of comparable extent, the United States, with this same fleet now obsolete, would not be able to support the war without the aid of foreign-controlled shipping. In this case such shipping would probably be made available under conditions that might limit our freedom of action. Some of our maritime allies, in a much less favorable position at the time of Korea than now, were nevertheless able to veto an economic and naval blockade of the coast of China.
The sad anomaly is that the United States has the world’s largest merchant fleet, but most of it is tied up in back channels and will soon be scrap. Our operating ships, with a few notable exceptions, are also old, and so are their crews. The average age of the operating personnel is about 48 years. Little new blood has been infused since World War II. One federal and four state maritime academies are maintained to fill officer needs, but despite high pay and the existence of almost three jobs for each applicant, few of their graduates choose the merchant marine for a lifetime career.
So much for a long brief of an unhappy case. The only remedy this study offers is a general one—extension of the naval profession into the whole maritime area. A few specific observations can be made.
Private ownership of our merchant marine has had its chance. The merchant marine is,
A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy in the Class of 1924, Admiral Hayes writes on historical and professional subjects and is the editor of the Naval Institute’s new Naval Letters Series. During World War ff> he served as Engineer Officer in the USS Astoria (CL-90); Chief Staff Officer, Transport Group, 3rd Amphibious Force; Planning Officer, 7th Amphibious force. Later, he was Commander, Service Squadron One, Pacific Fleet. His last duty before retirement in 1954 was as a faculty member of the Industrial College °f the Armed Forces.
after all, a public service, and so a feasible solution might be found in the new American management phenomenon, the Authority, employed with outstanding success in operat- lng turnpikes, ports, and other such services. The contribution of the Tennessee Valley Authority is no longer a debatable question.
In any case, no solution can be expected to come from the present government maritime offices. Administrative agencies have no record of reforming themselves, and the present body is bogged down in the morass of a law postulated on conditions prevailing in the bygone world of 30 years ago.
What is needed today is some of the same conviction, will, and leadership as was demonstrated by Franklin Roosevelt, Hugo black, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Emory Land, who, a generation ago, pushed the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 through a reluctant Congress to convert the industry, moribund at that time also, into the nucleus for the §reat merchant fleet of World War II.
If the problem of a merchant marine for the United States is ever to be resolved, it will bave to be placed in the hands of a high-level, distinguished, and independent commission endowed with extraordinary investigative Powers, similar to the famous Morrow Board °f 1925, which, out of a welter of confusing testimony, produced a report that formed the guide and pattern for aviation in the armed services and private industry for the succeeding two decades.
In 1959, a distinguished group headed by Captain Louis H. Roddis, Jr., U. S. Naval Reserve, and Admiral Arthur W. Radford, U. S. Navy, under the auspices of the Maritime Research Advisory Committee of the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council, produced an outstanding study entitled, Project Walrus: The Role of the Merchant Marine in National Security. It strongly emphasized the dominating role of the merchant ship in the political-economic Cold War. It also held that, contrary to the claims of industry, a commercially competitive merchant marine was possible. The report was submitted to the U. S. Maritime Commission and that was the last heard of it. Naval officers would be well advised to read this excellent document as an introduction to the merchant marine challenge.
Sea power in its broadest sense, together with all its related subjects, such as oceanography, international law, world trade, and economic warfare, will never get the full attention it merits until a Department of Maritime Affairs is created at the Cabinet- level with the Navy Department being transferred to it from the Department of Defense.
Until that happy far-off day comes, the solution to sea power problems will be found only in the strength, wide efficiency, and untiring devotion of the U. S. Navy. As long as the Navy so remains, all ships on all oceans will be subject to its control, for as has been proven time and again in history, it can when the time comes make all ships either withdraw from the sea or submit to its direction. The final adjudicator of all things maritime in peace and war must be the U. S. Navy.
Had I been master of the sea, I should have been lord of the Orient.