No. 748

Editorial Note

New York City Commissioner of Marine and Aviation Edward F. Cavanagh, Jr., announced on March 9, that the passenger liner M.S. Batory, operated by the Polish-owned Gydnia-American Line, Inc., would be denied use of New York City’s municipally-owned piers after April 3. Cavanagh was quoted in the press as stating: “We believe that the tying up of that vessel, in addition to being a very controversial matter, presents problems relative to stevedoring and other waterfront labor; police problems; administrative problems for my department, and most important, a security risk, which makes her a very undesirable occupant of any piers under the jurisdiction of this department.” (New York Times, March 10, 1951)

Since the flight from the United States on the Batory on May 1949 of Gerhard Eisler, a Communist functionary then on bail following conviction for contempt of Congress, U.S. authorities had applied a variety of security restrictions and control measures to Soviet and Eastern European ships, including the Batory. The measures included the surrounding of vessels with guards, the refusal of shore leave to ships’ crews, the refusal to allow ships’ officers ashore except under escort, and the interrogation of passengers, officers, and crews on political subjects. Regarding Polish Ambassador Jozef Winiewicz’ protest against the security measures, see Acting Secretary Webb’s memorandum of conversation of September 13, 1950, Foreign Relations, 1950, volume IV, page 1036.

In a note of March 19 to the Embassy in Warsaw, the Polish Foreign Ministry protested against both the refusal to allow the Batory to dock at New York and the security inspection of the Batory by American officials; for text, see Polish Documents, pages 93–94. The Embassy replied on April 2 that the act of the New York City authorities had to be distinguished from the actions of the United States Government in inspecting the ship; for text, see ibid., pages 95–96. The Polish Government renewed its protest in a note of April 18 to the Embassy in Warsaw and charged the United States with discrimination against the Polish flag and with violations of the principles of international law; for text, see ibid., pages 97–105. The Embassy in Warsaw replied on May 11 that the inspection by [Page 1501] officers of the United States Government did not constitute discrimination against the Polish flag and did not violate the principles of international law or the provisions of the United States-Polish Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Consular rights of June 15, 1951. It also denied that Polish vessels were being prevented from calling at the Port of New York, inasmuch as there were other berths available in the New York area. The Embassy’s note suggested that the Polish Government was seeking a pretext to withdraw the Batory from navigation to New York whereby it could place responsibility for the decision on the United States. For text of the Embassy’s note of May 11, see Department of State Bulletin, May 21, 1951, pages 821–822.

In April the Batory was withdrawn from service between Gydnia and New York. In retaliation ships of the American Scantic Line (MooreMcCormack) were subsequently barred from the port of Gydnia.

Documentation on this topic is in files 911.53 and 948.53.