Clarification of Gun duties and training of Merchant Marine Mariners aboard ship


CONFIDENTIAL January 25, 1943.

(Dry Cargo and Passenger Vessels and Tankers)


In view of certain misunderstandings which have arisen, it is considered advisable to clarify the present policy and practice of the Navy Department regarding provision of armed guards to merchant vessels and quarters required for these guards. The Navy Department originally intended that the nucleus gun crews supplied by them were to be supplemented by merchant seaman for the purpose of loading ammunition supply under actual hostilities, thus reducing the numbers of Naval personnel placed on board merchant vessels for armed guard duty....

It is now requested that Agents or Operators instruct the Masters of their vessels to detail merchant seamen to complete gun crews on the following basis:

For each 5"/38 gun - 5 Men
5"/50 or 5"/51 gun - 5 Men
4"/50 gun - 3 Men
3"/50 gun - 3 Men
3"/23 gun - 2 Men
6 Pdr. gun - 2 Men
20 MM gun - 2 Men
.50 Cal. M.G. - 1 Man

and also to detail sufficient additional men to pass ammunition from the magazines to the gun.

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 defense of their vessels. The Masters should be instructed to assist in every way 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 extended to the armed guard commander in arranging details of any training which involves Merchant Marine officers or seamen.

Agents are requested to issue the necessary instructions to Masters covering the above mentioned points.

(Sgd.) J. E. CUSHING
J. E. Cushing
Assistant Deputy Administrator
for Ship Operations


Confidential Message from Chief of Naval Operations to U.S. Maritime Commission on Gunnery Training Facilities for Crews of Merchant Vessels at British Ports. December 22, 1941
Indicates British concern of maintaining the safety of the Lifeline of Supplies to Britain.

Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

(SC) A16-1 EF13 (M)
Serial 0145622
39657 Dec. 22, 1941

From: The Chief of Naval Operations.
To: United States Maritime Commission.
Subject: Gunnery Training Facilities for Crews of Merchant Vessels at British Ports.
Reference: (a) Conf. ltr. from U.S. Maritime Commission to CNO dated Dec. 17, 1941.
Enclosure: (A) List of British D.E.M.S.* Training and Repair Centers.

1. Reference (a) recommends that the offer, made by the British Admiralty, to make available to U.S. merchant vessels its facilities for gunnery training, be accepted. This recommendation is concurred in, and it is requested that the Maritime Commission request the operators of merchant vessels to issue instructions to their Masters to have appropriate members of the merchant crews take advantage of this training while ships are in British or Dominion ports.

2. It is considered advisable that this measure include all vessels with defensive armament, American owned but sailing under Foreign flag, as well as to vessels sailing under U.S. flag. Full advantage should be taken of this service, which will be valuable for naval armed guard crews as well as merchant seamen.

3. By copy of this letter District Commanders are requested to direct officers commanding armed guard crews to take full advantage of facilities for training, repair, and maintenance of defensively equipped merchant ships at British or Dominion ports. The Commander of the armed guard, in cooperation of the Master, will initiate arrangements with the British D.E.M.S. activity in the premises for both the merchant seamen and the naval armed guard crews. When the vessel carries no armed guard the Master should make these arrangements directly.

copy to: (with Enclosure)
Cdts. All NavDists (less 9 & 16)
All Port Directors W. A. LEE, JR.
By direction.

[Original includes three pages with locations of British D.E.M.S., Bases, and Sub-bases of Gunnery Training Centers. D.E.M.S. Staff Officers are established at the following Ports:
Gibraltar, Alexandria, Port Said, Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Colombo, Singapore, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Capetown, Simonstown, Freetown, Buenos Aires, Kingston (Jamaica), Halifax, St. John (New Brunswick), Sydney (Cape Breton), Quebec, Montreal, Esquimalt, and at the Main Australian and New Zealand Ports.]

* D.E.M.S. - Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships


Hearings Regarding Gunnery Duties Before The Committee on The Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House of Representatives, April 4, 1946

Statement of Admiral Arthur P. Fairfield
Chairman, Board of Medals and Decorations, United States Maritime Commission

The CHAIRMAN [Schuyler Otis Bland]. What is your official position?
Admiral FAIRFIELD. I am Chairman of the Board of Medals and Decorations. I have two other positions, but my primary one is that [one]....
Admiral FAIRFIELD. I think everybody knows very well the service of the merchant marine during this war. Some people forget that on board each merchant ship in transocean service we had 10 guns, in comparison with the 1 gun of the last war, which was a stern chaser to prevent ships overtaking them. But the advent of the airplane made the 10 guns necessary, and in all transocean ships 9, at least, of these guns were antiaircraft. The guns were manned by men of the Navy and of the merchant marine, half and half, so that honors and distinctions going to one-half of the gun's crew would not look well unless the other half were equally recognized.
The CHAIRMAN. That is, the half that came from the Navy would be recognized for their part in the service?
Admiral FAIRFIELD. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. While those from the merchant marine would not.
Admiral FAIRFIELD. Yes, sir.
Mr. DAUGHTON. May I ask a question?
Mr. DAUGHTON. These members of the merchant marine who were part of these gun crews, were they volunteering for combat duty or were they detailed by the commanding officer?
Admiral FAIRFIELD. They are detailed by the commanding officer, just as the Navy men were also detailed....
Mr. DAUGHTON. All right, Admiral. I think your letter of March 25 shows that this is just what is being done for the Army and Navy, and you feel that it should also be done for the merchant marine.
Admiral FAIRFIELD. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I understand that is the crux of the matter.
Admiral FAIRFIELD. Yes sir.

Hearings Before The Committee on The Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House of Representatives, Seventy-Ninth Congress, Second Session on H.R. 5892, A Bill Providing for a Medal in the Merchant Marine, Schuyler Otis Bland, Virginia, Chairman, April 4, 1946


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