War Shipping Administration Established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Executive Order No. 9054. February 7, 1942

BY VIRTUE of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and statutes of the United Stares, including the First War Powers Act, 1941, approved December 18, 1941, as President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, and in order to assure the most effective utilization of the shipping of the United States for the successful prosecution of the war, it is hereby ordered:

1. There is established within the Office for Emergency Management of the Executive Office of the President a War Shipping Administration under the direction of an Administrator who shall be appointed by and responsible to the President.

2. The Administrator shall perform the following functions and duties:

(a) Control the operation, purchase, charter, requisition. and use of all ocean vessels under the flag or control of the United States, except

(1) combatant vessels of the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard; fleet auxiliaries of the Navy; and transports owned by the Army and Navy; and

(2) vessels engaged in coastwise, intercoastal, and inland transportation under the control of the Director of the Office of Defense Transportation.

(b) Allocate vessels under the flag or control of the United States for use by the Army, Navy, other Federal departments and agencies, and the Governments of the United Nations.

(c) Provide marine insurance and reinsurance against loss or damage by the risks of war as authorized by Title II of the Merchant Marine Act, 1936, as amended.

(d) Establish the conditions to be complied with as a condition to receiving priorities and other advantages as provided in Public Law 173, 77th Congress, approved July 14, 1941.

(e) Represent the United States Government in dealing with the British Ministry of War Transport and with similar shipping agencies of Nations allied with the United States in the prosecution of the war, in matters related to the use of shipping.

(f) Maintain current data on the availability of shipping in being and under construction and furnish such data on request to the Departments of War and the Navy, and other Federal departments and agencies concerned with the import or export of war materials and commodities.

(g) Keep the President informed with regard to the progress made in carrying out this Order and perform such related duties as the President shall from time to time assign or delegate to him.

3. The functions, duties, and powers conferred by law upon the United States Maritime Commission with respect to the operation, purchase, charter, insurance, repair, maintenance, and requisition of vessels, and the issuance of warrants with respect thereto, under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 as amended, 49 Stat. 1985, Public Law No. 101, 77th Congress, approved June 6, 1941, and Executive Order No. 8771 issued pursuant thereto, Public Law No. 173, 77th Congress, approved July 14, 1941, are hereby transferred to the Administrator; and such part of existing personnel of the United States Maritime Commission together with such records and public property as the Administrator may deem necessary to the full exercise of his functions and duties prescribed by this Order are hereby assigned to the War Shipping Administration.

4. Vessels under the control of the War Shipping Administration shall constitute a pool to be allocated by the Administrator for use by the Army, Navy, other Federal departments and agencies, and the Governments of the United Nations. In allocating the use of such vessels, the Administrator shall comply with strategic military requirements.

5. For the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Order, the Administrator is authorized to utilize the services of available and appropriate personnel of the United States Maritime Commission, the War and Navy Departments, the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation of the Department of Commerce, and other Government departments and agencies which are engaged in activities related to the operation of shipping.

6. In the discharge of his responsibilities the Administrator shall collaborate with existing military, naval, and civil departments and agencies of the Government which perform wartime functions connected with transportation overseas, in order to secure the most effective utilization of shipping in the prosecution of the war. The Administrator particularly shall maintain close liaison with the Departments of War and the Navy through the Assistant Chief of Staff for Transportation and Supply and the Director, Naval Transportation Service, respectively, with respect to the movement of military and naval personnel and supplies; and with the Director of the Office of Defense Transportation with respect to the relation of overseas transportation to coastwise and intercoastal shipping and inland transportation. With respect to the overseas transportation of cargoes essential to the war production effort and the civilian economy the Administrator shall be guided by schedules transmitted to him by the Chairman of the War Production Board prescribing the priority of movement of such commodities and materials.

7. The Administrator may establish committees or groups of advisers representing two or more departments of the Federal Government, or agencies or missions of Governments allied with the United States in the prosecution of the war, as the case may require to carry out the purposes of this Order. Further, he may appoint representatives to such joint missions or boards dealing with matters within the scope of this Order as may be established with Governments associated with the United States in the prosecution of the war.

8. Within the purposes of this Order, the Administrator is authorized to issue such directives concerning shipping operations as he may deem necessary or appropriate, and his decisions shall be final with respect to the functions and authorities so vested in him. The Administrator may exercise the powers, authority, and discretion conferred upon him by this Order through such officials or agencies and in such manner as he may determine.

9. The Administrator is further authorized within the limits of such funds as may be allocated, transferred, or appropriated to the War Shipping Administration to employ necessary personnel and make provisions for necessary supplies, facilities, and services. So much of the unexpended balances of appropriations, allocations, or other funds available (including funds and contract authority available for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1942) for the use of the United States Maritime Commission in the exercise of the functions transferred to the Administrator and the War Shipping Administration, as the Director of the Bureau of the Budget with the approval of the President shall determine, shall be transferred to the War Shipping Administration for use in carrying out the functions and authority transferred to the Administrator and the War Shipping Administration pursuant to the provisions of this Order. In determining the amounts to be transferred from the United States Maritime Commission. the Director of the Bureau of the Budget may include amounts necessary to provide for the liquidation of obligations previously incurred by the United States Maritime Commission against such appropriations, allocations, or other funds prior to the transfer; Provided, that the use of the unexpended appropriations, allocations, or other funds transferred by this Section shall be subject to the provisions of Section 3 of the First War Powers Act, 1941.


NOTE: Long before Pearl Harbor, the President had initiated measures to expand our merchant fleet. At the end of 1940, he approved the construction, under the United States Maritime Commission, of a series of "Liberty ships" -- emergency steel cargo vessels with a cargo capacity of approximately 10,000 dead-weight tons each. Shortages of machine tools, steel, propulsion machinery, and valves delayed the shipbuilding program from the start.

Shipbuilding facilities were fortunately expanded during the months before Pearl Harbor.


Immediately after Pearl Harbor, the needs for shipping became extremely acute. More merchant ships were needed to carry out lend-lease to Britain, to fulfill the terms of the First Moscow Protocol, to move troops and supplies to all theaters of war, and to ship petroleum. In order to meet the world-wide needs for shipping, it became necessary to coordinate the existing private shipping facilities and to centralize Federal control over merchant shipping.

The foregoing Executive Order establishing the War Shipping Administration authorized the Administrator of the War Shipping Administration to allocate and control the operation and use of all United States vessels except certain vessels of the Army and Navy or under the O.D.T. The Order left with the United States Maritime Commission its responsibilities for carrying on the great wartime ship construction program. The W.S.A., as it became popularly known, was empowered to purchase or requisition vessels for its own use or for the use of the Army, Navy, or other Government agencies; to provide ships and ship personnel, and to control the operation and general movement of these ships; to control terminal and port facilities, and to administer marine and war risk insurance laws and funds.

On the entry of the United States into the war, the American merchant fleet totaled about 900 dry-cargo vessels of 6,700,000 dead-weight tons and some 440 tankers of 5,150,000 dead-weight tons. This total included those foreign vessels which had been acquired by negotiation, requisition, and seizure in American ports. By V-J Day, the merchant fleet controlled by the U.S.A. had, in spite of enormous losses sustained during the war, reached 4,221 ships with a
dead-weight tonnage of 44,940,000.

By far most of the increased merchant fleet was obtained through the extraordinary wartime construction program, under which production miracles were achieved -- most spectacularly by Henry J. Kaiser; the remaining tonnage was acquired by charter agreements with owners of vessels.

For a long period early in the war there was a neck-and-neck race between ship construction and ship destruction by enemy submarines.

The race for adequate shipping was finally won not only by the increased rate of construction but also by the successes of the Allied convoy system and of the Army Air Forces and the Navy in combating the enemy submarines. In 1942, losses to the merchant fleet equaled 39 percent of new ship construction in that year, this ratio was reduced to 11 percent in 1943, to less than 8 percent in 1944, and to only 4 percent in 1945.

After the creation of the W.S.A. the United States Maritime Commission (which had been in operation since the passage of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936) concentrated on ship construction; the WSA. handled the operational problems of the wartime merchant fleet. There was efficient cooperation between the two agencies. One reason was that the Chairman of the United States Maritime Commission, Vice Admiral Emory S. Land, was also the War Shipping Administrator.

Although the United States had more ships at the start of World War II than in World War I, the difficulties of shipping operations were far greater in the second war. Virtually all European and Mediterranean ports were closed to Allied shipping; voyages had to cover a much longer span; and merchant ships had to fight their way through to the small number of ports in the Pacific remaining out of Japanese hands.

The W.S.A. devised new means to carry more cargo per ship by using deck space and finding new devices for cramming more cargo beneath the deck. Aircraft, tanks, and landing vessels were loaded on the decks of tankers. In some cases entire railroad trains were ferried across the ocean by the merchant marine; bulk ore carriers were fitted out to carry grain; and ten entire mobile generating sets for supplying light and power to destroyed cities were shipped to Russia in the winter of 1944.

The W.S.A. had to meet at the same time the demands of the Army, the Navy, lend-lease, civilian exports required by Allied Nations, and shipments to Latin American and other countries on the request of the State Department and thc Foreign Economic Administration. Toward the close of the war, there were added the needs of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and the Foreign Economic Administration for space to ship civilian relief supplies to occupied and liberated areas. In addition, throughout the war there was the demand for American merchant shipping to import strategic materials for war industries. The balancing of these various programs, each of which had some military, strategic, economic or political objective, within the limits of insufficient shipping to meet all the needs at the same time, provided a challenge to the W.S.A. which it successfully met.

The merchant marine participated in every large-scale American invasion in Europe and the Pacific, and followed up each invasion by delivering enough supplies to reinforce the beachheads and help American troops go forward. The merchant fleet helped build up in the British Isles a tremendous arsenal of supplies during 1943 and early 1944 in preparation for the invasion of Europe. Huge convoys. some with as many as 167 ships, had delivered the troops and supplies in shuttle service across the Atlantic.

The invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, was the greatest sea-borne invasion in history. At its head were 32 American merchant ships, many of which had previously suffered severe battle damage. These 32 ships were charged with explosives and were sunk off the beachhead in order to form a break-water for subsequent landing of supplies. Following this, 10 oceangoing tugboats, operated by the W.S.A. towed the famous artificial ports into position, thereby making possible the quick landing of tanks, guns, supplies, and heavy equipment necessary to hold and expand the beachhead.

After the war, W.S.A. vessels were used to carry home the huge number of armed personnel overseas. Over 3,500.000 men were brought home from overseas areas by December 1, 1945.

Source: Public Papers of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Volume 11

President Roosevelt Speeches and Statements


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