March 2016

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Group Application to Secretary of the Air Force seeking recognition of the oceangoing service of American Merchant Seamen employed by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) and by commercial shipping lines aboard public and private vessels of United States registry and sailing in direct support of the Armed Forces of the United States during the “Korean Conflict” (defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs for benefit purposes as 27 June 1950 to 31 January 1955, inclusive). Established under: “GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977” approved 23 November 1977.  (Citation: Public Law 95-202, Title IV, Section 401; 91 Statutes 1449, as amended.) Codified as: United States Code, Title 38—Veterans’ Benefits, Section 106 note (2012 Edition). Implementing regulations: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 32—National Defense, Part 47—Active Duty Service for Civilian or Contractual Groups (7-1-15 Edition). Governing: Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 1000.20 “Active Duty Service Determinations for Civilian and Contractual Groups” dated 11 September 1989 (Certified Current as of November 21, 2003).

Work Accomplished to Date

104 handwritten pages of text (about 85 type-written, double-spaced pages) Downloaded or copied about 150 source documents from books, newspaper articles, and Internet websites Selected tentatively for inclusion in application:  3 crew lists; 4 charts/graphs; 9 maps; 15 photographs and 13 tables. Identified in the combat zone—Korean waters:  73 U.S.—flagged commercial merchantmen during the first six months of war; 49 United States Naval Ships (USNS), 45 crews of which became eligible for the Korean Service Medal by 1954.  One of these ships, USNS Diphda (T-AKA 59) also served as USS Diphda (AKA 59). Requirements for Acceptance of Group Application by DoD Civilian/Military Service Review Board (DoD C/MSRB)

Define the Group

Show relationship group had with U. S. Armed Forces; manner in which members employed; service members provided Substantiate and document the application Burden of Proof rests with the applicant Policy under regulations of the DoD C/MSRB Active Duty recognition of civilian service based on extent of similarity of control of group members vs. military personnel Control determined by criteria called “Incidents” or “factors” that are either favorable or unfavorable toward recognition of equivalency:


Uniqueness of service Organizational authority over group Integration of group into Organization Subjection to military discipline Subjection to military justice Prohibition against group members joining Armed Forces Receipt of military training and/or achievement of military capability


Submission to U. S. Armed Forces for Protection Permitted to resign? Prior recognition of group’s service (by state and local authorities) Consideration also given to status of group in international law:  Treated as civilians, or assimilated to the Armed Forces? [Note: Nothing is stated as to which status is considered favorably or unfavorably.]

Reality Check

As previously identified by former AMMV Team Chairman Dr. Larry Kerkow, DoD’s rewrite of these policy regulations after the 1987 defeat in U. S. District Court (Schumacher v. Aldridge; 665 F. Supp. 41) of the Secretary of the Air Force’s decision not to recognize the service of Oceangoing and Invasion Mariner Groups produced arbitrary and capricious factors.  Consequently, what AMMV is facing in this application process is a requirement to fit a square merchant marine peg into a round DoD hole.  My arguments concerning this were stated in my letters of 25 November and 21 December of 2015.  Briefly: At one time the Mission and its successful accomplishment drove the Armed Forces, especially during wartime.  Performance mattered.  Congress recognized that the service of civilians should be critical in supporting the Armed Forces for favorable recognition as active duty.  None of this is valued in the current criteria.  The emphasis is, rather, on conformity, control and appearance. The U. S. Merchant Marine is a uniquely adaptable service and is provided for by law to the Armed Forces as auxiliary in time of war.  It is not an organization; it is an institution, an industry.  Mariners are employees who go to work on ships, rather than go on duty wearing a uniform.  Service is supposed to be the issue here, not appearances. The U. S. Merchant Marine is controlled by federal law and regulations largely administered by the Coast Guard.  The United States Code, Title 46— Shipping governs.  Yet, under the Boards’ regulations, Section 47.5(a)(3), a Coast Guard representative is only appointed as an additional voting member if the Group is claiming active Coast Guard service.  Effectively, we have no representative on the Board. The “Integration” factor applies only minimally to the extent that USNS and merchant vessels under MSTS control are assigned to task organization’s under operational command by a naval officer.  “Customs and courtesies” are cited as part of this favorable factor, yet when was the last time any civilian rendered such courtesies to uniformed officers?  We have a naval tradition, but we are employees who work on ships. The Uniform Code of [Military] Justice (Public Law 81-506; 64 Statutes 107), was approved 5 May 1950, just before the start of the Korean Conflict.  This effectively ended the speculation about whether or not civilians accompanying the armed forces during an undeclared war fall under the legal jurisdiction of military commanders.  The Manual for Courts-Martial applies to uniformed service members and not to civilians.  Our disciplinary procedures are dealt with by the ships’ master under regulations, and our justice matters fall under the U. S. Criminal Code.  Based on the current criteria as stated, the U. S. Merchant Marine’s service during the Korean Conflict will not be favorably recognized. Merchant seamen are not prohibited from joining the armed forces, assuming they can meet the physical, mental and moral standards prescribed for enlistment.  Their service was so essential during WWII that they received occupational deferments rather than be inducted into the Army (and later the Navy and Marine Corps as well).  There was also a shortage of seamen during the Korean Conflict.  This factor is really quite out-of-date since the women’s issue over unfairness and unequal treatment has all but vanished.  Getting killed in combat is now a matter of equal opportunity.  Welcome aboard! “Protection of Shipping” was made a primary function of the Navy and a collateral function of the Air Force by Direction of President Truman to the Secretary of Defense on 21 April 1948.  The sources for this application show that both services provided surface and air escort to USNS and commercial vessels.  Yet, considering the Unfavorable criterion above, one would expect that seeking such protection automatically results in a negative recommendation of the group’s service.  Why this was ever included and what the motivation was in writing it is uncertain, but it is tailormade for rejection of this application.

In the Works

Several projects are identified that require a “task force” of more than one man.  The 42 sealifts that moved the troops/cargo to Japan/Korea require identification of shipping.  I have the proposals in hand. To volunteer call Michael Helbig at 907-244-4238 or email at [email protected]. Submitted to AMMV National Vice President Morris Harvey by Michael J. Helbig