Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of International Communications (Saugstad)

The Chinese seaman problem which has existed for many years has been further complicated during the past several months by our relationship to China as a United Nation. Low wages paid by other United Nations to Chinese seamen and this Government’s denial of shore leave to such seamen were considered to be the factors which to a large extent caused the discontent amounting sometimes to riot among Chinese seamen.

The British, Norwegian and Netherlands Governments raised the wages of Chinese seamen almost to the level of white seamen and this Government in August 1942 removed temporarily the shore-leave barriers so that Chinese were allowed to come ashore during the periods that their ships were in port.

According to Mr. Smith Simpson, Chief of the Allied Nations Division of the War Shipping Administration, the experiment has worked fairly well excepting in New York. There was at first trouble in San Francisco also but for the last two or three months the situation has been satisfactory.

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Desertions of alien seamen in ports of the United States from October 3, 1942 to January 2, 1943 totaled 1471, as follows:

Chinese 476
British (including Lascars) 347
Norwegian 199
Dutch 62
Greek 59
Yugoslav 38
Belgian 14
Polish 12
Other 264

There are at present approximately 250 Chinese seamen detained by immigration authorities.

Mr. Simpson stated that on Saturday, January 16, Mr. Dimock of the Recruitment and Manning Organization, went to New York and discussed the situation with Mayor LaGuardia who offered to bring together Chinese businessmen he knew and lay the problem before them. The Mayor gave the Chinese twenty-one days to solve the problem. They promised to do everything they could.

It was also learned that a detained Chinese seaman at New York who entered the United States in 1941 is bringing suit under writ of habeas corpus contending that since he cannot be deported to China, he should not be held indefinitely. The District Attorney has taken the stand that a seaman, according to immigration laws, may be deported to the country from which he last came and that the “country from which he last came” may be the country where he signed on a ship. In a large number of cases this would be England. Therefore, if it is found that seamen may be deported to the country where they signed on a vessel, legislative action may not be necessary.

It is obvious that Chinese seamen who desert and disappear in New York or San Francisco are hindering rather than helping the war effort and the threat of deporting them to Great Britain might be an effective influence. On the other hand, it has been stated that Chinese seamen cause little or no trouble on American or Panamanian ships which pay higher wages. Whether this Government should pass legislation encouraging practices by other nations to which we ourselves do not subscribe and which are at the expense of other United Nations citizens should be given very careful consideration.

J. E. Saugstad