811.114 Josephine K./124

The Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (Lowman) to the Secretary of State

Sir: At approximately 8:15 p.m., 24 January, 1931, the Canadian oil screw Josephine K. of Digby, Nova Scotia, official number 152491, was seized by the United States Coast Guard patrol boat CG–145, attached to Section Base Two, Staten Island, New York, in Latitude 40° 24′ 30″ North, Longitude 73° 44′ 18″ West, 10.6 miles distant from the coast of Long Island, N. Y. The Josephine K. , with an unmanifested cargo of liquor, was discovered by the patrol boat CG–145 in Latitude 40° 25′ 36″ North, Longitude 73° 46′ 74″ West, 9.4 miles distant from the coast of New Jersey, in contact with and transshipping cargo to the American barge Brooklyn which was in tow of the American steam screw Dauntless No. 6. After a chase of approximately ten minutes during which the use of gunfire was made mandatory by the refusal of the Josephine K. to heed the Klaxon signals, blank charges and warning shots of the patrol boat, the Canadian vessel was brought to by a solid shot which registered a direct hit on the pilot house and the seizure was effected in the position first above mentioned. The registered speed of the Josephine K. as shown on the British register No. 152491 found on board is eleven knots.

At 8 p.m., 24 January, 1931, while the CG–145 was on patrol about 2½ miles southeast of Ambrose Channel Lightship, the commanding officer, Boatswain Karl Schmidt, sighted the American barge Brooklyn, [Page 79] about 200 yards distant, with a vessel of the rum-running type, without lights, on her starboard side, and a speed boat, also without lights, on the starboard quarter of the barge astern of the larger darkened boat. The searchlight revealed a number of men on the Brooklyn handling packages passed from the boat alongside. As soon as the presence of the patrol boat was made known by her searchlight, the small speed boat immediately got underway at high speed, heading to the northward toward Ambrose Lightship, and disappeared in the darkness. The CG–145 approached the vessel, remaining alongside the barge, with the intention of boarding her, but when within 150 feet of the boat she cast off from the barge and proceeded at full speed in a southeasterly direction toward the open sea. The running lights of the patrol boat were lighted, the Coast Guard ensign and pennant displayed at the masthead were illuminated, and the vessel was signalled to stop by Klaxon horn and shouting. Though there was no possible doubt that the rum-runner was fully aware that she had been called upon to stop by a recognized Coast Guard patrol boat, she refused to heed the signal and continued at full speed to seaward. The CG–145 then fired three blank charges from a one-pounder gun which warning signals were unheeded. Next, three one-pounder warning shots were fired across the vessel’s bow but still she continued on, ignoring the warnings. It being apparent that force alone could make the vessel heave to and that unless the force were quickly applied the vessel might soon escape in the darkness, since either from superior speed or change of course the vessel was apparently drawing away from the patrol boat, two onepounder shots were directed at the vessel to disable her.

About 8:15 p.m., the vessel stopped and as the patrol boat came alongside the vessel was identified as the Josephine K. of Digby, Nova Scotia. When the commanding officer boarded the Josephine K. he was told that a man had been injured by a shot which had struck and passed through the pilot house. Boatswain Schmidt immediately had the man, who proved to be the master, William P. Cluett, removed to the patrol boat and, leaving two of his crew aboard the Josephine K. , proceeded full speed for Section Base Two, Stapleton, Staten Island, the nearest source of medical aid, sending information of the injured man by radio to the Section Base with the urgent request that a doctor be despatched to meet the CG–145 and an ambulance be at the dock to convey the injured man to the hospital. At 10 p.m. the patrol boat CG–145 made contact with the patrol boat CG–100 which was speeding to the CG–145, with a medical officer of the U. S. Public Health Service and an assistant. The medical officers boarded the CG–145 and attended the injured man as the [Page 80] patrol boat continued to Base Two where she arrived at 10:30 p.m. An ambulance was waiting at the dock and the wounded man was taken to the U. S. Marine Hospital at Stapleton, where a surgeon was waiting and an amputation of the right leg was performed. The patient failed to rally from the operation and died at 2:20 a.m., 25 January, 1931.

In the meantime the patrol boats CG–161 and CG–180, the patrol boat Reliance and the cutter Sebago were proceeding to the scene of seizure. The CG–180 put Boatswain Schmidt aboard the Josephine K. , and departed to seize the Dauntless No. 6. The CG–161 arrived at the Josephine K. at 9:50 p.m. 24 January, 1931, and anchored with the latter vessel made fast to her stern. At 1:15 a.m., 25 January, 1931, the patrol boat Reliance arrived at the position of the Josephine K. , and at 4:30 a.m., the Sebago arrived. Details of the seizure were completed and the position of the Josephine K. when seized definitely established and checked. The Reliance then took the Josephine K. in tow and proceeded to New York where the latter was subsequently delivered into the custody of the Collector of Customs and her crew held for a hearing before the United States Commissioner.

The Commander of the New York Division, U. S. Coast Guard, held an exhaustive inquiry into the circumstances of the seizure of the Josephine K. from January 26 to January 30. The investigation was held in open session and the British Consul General, Mr. Gerald Campbell, was present and was permitted to introduce and question witnesses. The Board of Investigation inquired into every phase of the seizure and found that there is no doubt as to the violation by the Josephine K. of the United States laws in force concerning the importation of alcoholic beverages; that the action of the commanding officer of the patrol boat CG–145 in boarding and seizing the Josephine K. was in all respects in accordance with the United States law, and the provisions of the Regulations of the U. S. Coast Guard governing the boarding of vessels and the prevention of smuggling by sea; that the death of the master of the Josephine K. , though extremely regrettable, was unavoidable under the circumstances and unintentional on the part of Boatswain Schmidt, being incidental to the stopping of the Josephine K.; that the wounded master of the Josephine K. was given every possible care and attention, medical aid being secured by every available means; and that the unfortunate accident in connection with the legitimate seizure of the Josephine K. cannot be attributed to any fault on the part of Coast Guard personnel. The record of the proceedings, findings and opinion of the Board of Investigation will be made available to the State Department at the earliest practicable moment.

[Page 81]

Judicial proceedings ensuing from the seizures of the Josephine K. , her crew of ten men, and cargo of 226 sacks of contraband liquor, the American barge Brooklyn, her crew of three men and cargo of 1234 sacks of liquor, and the American tug Dauntless No. 6 and crew of eight men, will be conducted by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

By direction of the Secretary,


Seymour Lowman