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It is my sincere hope that your committee will take favorable action on such legislation at this time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee. Mr. BOYKIN. Next, the committee is happy to have the statement by Congressman Shelley, of California.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN F. SHELLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. SHELLEY. Mr. Chairman, I want first to thank you and the members of the Spanish-American Subcommittee for permitting me to appear before you this morning in support of my bill H. R. 2998. I am certainly pleased at the hearing given this bill, not only for the practical reason that under its terms the committee and the Congress now have an opportunity to correct an injustice which has existed for more than 50 years, but for sentimental reasons as well.
This bill is a successor to bills which I have introduced in each Congress since the 81st and which my predecessor, the late Dick Welch, had before Congress for many years before that. As a matter of fact, on two different occasions such bills were passed by Congress only to be vetoed by President Hoover. The purpose of my bill is simple. It would extend limited veterans' benefits to about 200 surviving veterans of Army service during the Spanish-American War years, including among the 200 also a number of surviving widows of such veterans.
These veterans, averaging about 75 years in age now, served as fighting seamen aboard merchant vessels operated by the Army Quartermaster Corps during that period. I call them veterans because they are everything that the term implies except for one thing-they were never actually sworn into the Army, and that fact has prevented their dwindling ranks through all these years from getting any of the benefits which their service rightfully entitled them to and which they need more badly with each passing year.
Your committee file has a considerable amount of documentation supporting the justice of these claims. I would like, however, to give you a few of the important reasons why I feel so very strongly that my bill should be enacted and why the service these men gave their country should be recognized by giving them the relief they need so badly in their declining years.
Firstly, it should be done in the interests of justice. During the Spanish-American War years not only the Army but also the Navy took over and operated commercial vessels as military transports. The seamen aboard both types of vessels served under exactly the same conditions. However, the men who sailed on vessels operated by the Navy were formally sworn in as members of the Armed Forces while the men in Army service did not take the oath.
Don't ask me why that was because there was apparently no logical reason. It was just that the Navy Department and the War Department operated differently. But that one difference in the conditions of service has meant for 55 years that Navy transport seamen have enjoyed full veterans' benefits while their counterparts under the Army have been denied any rights at all.
There is certainly no justice in such a situation.
Further, in 1931 Congress enacted legislation granting nurses who served as civilians with our armed forces during the Spanish-American
War period the same status as Army nurses for veterans' benefit purposes. Presumably that was done on the basis that although nurses in the Regular Army were not the customary thing during the Spanish-American War years, the later acceptance of the practice made it only right that those who had performed like duties in earlier years were entitled to like benefits. That same reasoning should apply in this case. These men in many cases performed far more really military duty than the uniformed personnel operating our Military Sea Transportation Service fleet, yet MSTS personnel get the same. benefits as any other sailor veteran while these men get nothing.
As I have pointed out to the committee before, the men who served with the fleet under the Army Quartermaster Corps were, in fact, uniformed personnel of our armed services in every respect save swearing in. They wore Navy uniforms, which they had to purchase themselves; they were subject to the same military discipline as military members of the Quartermaster Corps; they were often brought under fire; they manned guns; they made beach landings; and they risked their lives alongside the troops with whom they served.
In view of the liberal treatment which the United States has accorded to our other wartime veterans, many thousands of whom have performed far less service and were never subject to enemy fire as were these men, it seems to me highly unjust and a serious reflection on th Congress and the Government that they and their dependents are now allowed to suffer privation without so much as a word of thanks for the sacrifices they made.
I might point out that my bill provides only limited benefits for the few survivors now alive. It is limited to pension benefits only, and does not provide for service-connected disability compensation, hos pitalization, burial allowances, and death benefits although it is my personal opinion that full benefits are richly deserved. The pension is all that these people are asking, however, and I certainly hope that it will be granted them at long last.
A large portion of the survivors of the Quartermaster fleet are members of McKinley Fleet No. 1, an organization of veterans of the Transport and Quartermasters' Departments of the Spanish War, located in San Francisco. The city has recognized them as veterans by granting them quarters in our War Memorial Building such as are provided other veterans' groups. They have cooperated in civic activities as do other veterans' organizations despite the lack of recognition of their status by the United States Government. It is high time they were accorded that status.
Mr. Chairman, I have from time to time submitted to this committee letters from members of the McKinley Fleet detailing the hardships they are undergoing and also giving authentic accounts of some of the military operations in which they participated. I want to add to that history now for the record a copy of a letter which I understand was addressed to the committee earlier this year by Mr. James Grant, now commander of McKinley Fleet.
Mr. Grant tells a graphic story of a landing operation on the island of Samar in which he participated and in which heavy casualties were sustained among the transport personnel who participated and whom my bill would benefit. On the basis of this letter and the many others I and the committee have received, there can be no doubt that these
men were soldiers in fact if not in name. Let us recognize that fact now by favorable action on H. R. 2998 before the bitter end.
(The letter referred to follows:)
TRANSPORT AND QUARTERMASTERS' DEPARTMENTS
HON. JOHN F. SHELLEY,
Member of Congress,
San Francisco, Calif., February 12, 1955.
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C.
DEAR CONGRESSMAN SHELLEY: This is a copy of a letter that we are preparing to send to the Armed Forces Committee, as soon as you send us the new bill number and a list of names of the Armed Forces Committee and Congressmen. Thank you very much for your courtesy in this matter.
Mrs. LOUISE MARTIN,
There is in committee, a bill H. R. 2998, and may we take this time to support our claim, that we give full veterans status, by calling your attention to one of the many operations that was performed by the men of the transport fleet during the entire campaign.
When the Filippino insurrectos ambushed the United States troops on the island of Samar, they created great havoc and loss, and an emergency call was sent to Manila for reinforcements, at a time when most of the transport fleet were spread over a wide area, from Lingueyan Gulf to Zamboango Mindauo, and Taku forts in China.
There was announced from the state in the only place at the time, the Alhambra on the Escolta, the following: "All enlisted personnel on pass, report immediately at your company headquarters, also all members of the crew of the United States Army Transport Kilpatrick, muster immediately at the transport quartermaster's dock."
There were no slackers, and no time was lost in getting stores and equipment on board, then loading the ship with troops lying 3 miles out in Manila Bay. We sailed that evening and started landing troops as soon as we sighted our beachhead, using the ships boats and steam launch. In all, we made three landings, at different points, and seemingly everything was quiet until dusk when the enemy, who were concealed in the heavy bamboo brush, began attacking our troops with bolos. We had many casualties that night, but final result of that encounter is now on official record.
That we were an integral unit of the fighting forces, there can be no doubt. In all theaters during the entire war, we followed the orders issued by the Quartermaster General's Department, and performed all tasks allotted to us with credit to the uniform that we wore, and paid for without war bonuses, overtime, social security, or insurance of any kind. "We were just the boys who were there."
Our records of today have less than 200 still alive, including dependent widows who could benefit from this bill, whose average age is 75 years, and we humbly ask that you, the 84th Congress, do this great humanitarian deed by having this bill enacted into law, and give them badly needed assistance for the short time they may have.
MCKINLEY FLEET NO. 1,
Mr. BOYKIN. The committee will next hear from Mr. Bow, of Ohio.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK T. BOW, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO
Mr. Bow. Gentlemen of the committee, Mr. John E. Roberts, of Canton, Ohio, is the national commander of the organization of Indian War Veterans. Over the years I have enjoyed many confer
ences with him on his experiences as a member of the Army on the frontier many years ago and on the recognition that Congress has accorded the veterans of these Indian conflicts.
Mr. Roberts pointed out to me that veterans of Indian wars do not receive some of the services that are available to veterans of the Spanish-American War, including especially domiciliary care, medical and hospital treatment, and outpatient care. He has felt that the Indian war veterans should receive equal consideration, and that if this apparent injustice were called to the attention of the Congress it would be corrected. At his request, with the advice of the Legislative Counsel, I introduced H. R. 5246, now awaiting your consideration.
Mr. Roberts reports that there are only about 250 veterans of the Indian wars alive today. They are of an age when hospital care and outpatient are needed frequently. Mr. Roberts himself is 89 and only recently was honored for 50 years of service as a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. I think it is entirely fitting that the Congress recognize and reward this small band of aged veterans who served us long ago. I sincerely hope the committee will approve my bill.
Mr. BOYKIN. We will now hear from the gentleman from New York, Mr. Dorn.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANCIS E. DORN, OF NEW YORK
Mr. DORN. Mr. Chairman, I should like to add my support of favorable action on House Joint Resolution 151, which would place individuals who served in the temporary forces of the United States Navy during the Spanish-American War in the same status as those individuals who served in the Army for equal periods of time during that war and who were given furloughs or leaves upon being mustered out of the service.
I am very much in favor of this legislation, for I believe it would remedy a great inequity which has long needed correction. I do not believe the Congress at any time means to discriminate against any one group of individuals who have served their country honorably. And yet this has been done, by failing to provide for those in temporary service in the Navy during the Spanish-American War. They served the same length of time, but by reason of inaction these individuals have not been given the same advantages as those who served the same periods of time in the Army.
I am informed by the Veterans' Administration that there are a total of 63,514 living veterans of that war who are now drawing pensions, and a totol of 84,047 Spanish-American War veterans' dependents who are receiving pensions, making a grand total of 147,561 who are receiving pensions as the result of service in that
Yet the report of the Secretary of the Navy of 1898 has disclosed that appointments for temporary service of officers was 856, and the Naval Militia totaled 4,216 enlisted personnel, making a total of 5,072. That was in 1898. The number has considerably decreased over the past 57 years, and the percentage of eligibles under this legislation would be negligible as compared to the number who are presently drawing pensions because of service in the Spanish-American War. I
believe it encumbent upon the Congress to enact this measure and correct a situation which should have been corrected many years ago. Mr. BOYKIN. Thank you.
We have a great man from whom we are going to hear at this time; a man who has all of the honors, and I think now he has the greatest honor on this earth, the national commander of the United Spanish War Veterans. Commander Lloyd Thurston, we would like to hear from you at this time.
Mr. Thurston is a former Congressman, as you have just heard, and he was here and made a great record for many long years. We are delighted to have him with us this morning, and we know we are going to enjoy his statement.
STATEMENT OF LLOYD THURSTON, COMMANDER IN CHIEF, UNITED SPANISH WAR VETERANS
Mr. THURSTON. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, it is a privilege to return here and especially view the portraits of the former distinguished colleagues of mine who not only rendered great service to the veterans of the country, but, likewise, to the NationMr. Rankin, Mrs. Rogers, and Royall Johnson.
Mr. BOYKIN. Mrs. Rogers is still doing that good work, too. It is said down-hall that she is truly a honey. She really is. She is one of the greatest women I have ever known, and she puts in overtime every day, every night, and every week, working for the veterans. She and John Rankin were the greatest pair I have known for looking out for our men in the service.
Mr. THURSTON. First, on behalf of the veterans of the country, I feel that I should express their views in commending the untiring services of Congressman Barratt O'Hara in their behalf throughout the years.
As commander in chief of the United Spanish War Veterans, an organization composed of about 45,000 veterans, I should state that my employment fails to carry remuneration for my services. So I am not obliged to list myself in a certain category which is somewhat prevalent here.
Mr. Chairman, the group which appears before your body today is conscious of the heavy responsibility which has been assigned to you in not only weighing the merits of the Spanish War veterans and their dependents, but likewise their relation to the entire veteran picture, not to mention the great multiplicity of activities of our Government, both of a military and civilian character. To me, the Congress is a great court of equity, which has under its jurisdiction not only the collection of funds to meet the expenditures of the Federal Government but, likewise, the apportionment of such funds between and among those who are employed by or have served the Nation.
Therefore, a comparison or analysis of the legislation enacted for the benefit of the different classes of veterans must be carefully examined so that a clear picture may be had of the allowances granted to the rspective groups. If this is done, in the instant case, we feel that the equities will move to the group represented here today.
Of course, we are pleased to have the chairman of the full committee,. Colonel Teague, with us this morning.
Mr. BOYKIN. He is always with us and he is doing a grand job.