Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Lieutenant Commander (Retired) Hugh McL. Walker, Commandant, Fifth Naval District
CONFIDENTIAL OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE
December 28, 1917.
From: Chief of Naval Operations.
To: Commandant, Fifth Naval District.1
SUBJECT: Co-operation of the Aid for Information with the Department of the Treasury at the ports in the Fifth Naval District.
1. Under an agreement just reached between the Department of the Treasury and the Navy Department, the Office of Naval Intelligence, through the Aid for Information, will co-operate with the Division of Customs in all ports of the United States in the examination and inspection of personnel and material on all merchant vessels – incoming, outgoing or in port.
2. The Aid for Information of the Fifth Naval District will carry on the Navy Department’s share of this work in the Fifth Naval District, pending publication of written agreement. It is requested that the Commandant of the Fifth Naval District lend all possible assistance to the Aid for Information for the organization and details of this plan.
3. The enclosure is a copy of the said agreement.
4. With reference to the placing of guards on vessels to and from Baltimore, it is requested that the procedure now in force be continued. It is the understanding of this Office that these guards are placed on the vessel from the pilot boat at Hampton Roads, and accompany the vessel up the river to Baltimore. Upon departing vessels the procedure is reversed, the guards accompanying the vessel down the river disembarking with the pilot.
(Signed) W. S. BENSON
<Enclosure of December 28, 1917.>
Participation of the Navy Department in the Supervision and Examination of Ships, Passengers and Crews arriving at or departing from the Ports of the Fifth Naval District.
1. The Commandant of the Fifth Naval District will place a suitable guard, in charge of a petty officer, on all neutral sea-going vessels when entering the Ports of the Fifth Naval District and on all vessels except those having armed guards or gun crews, arriving from neutral ports. The guard should be placed on board at the entrance of the ports.
2. If the vessel is to go alongside a dock or pier, the guard should remain on board until the vessel is secured at the dock and the Customs authorities are ready to take over the supervision of the vessel.
3. If the vessel anchors or moors in the stream, the guard shall remain on board.
4. No visitors, bumboatmen?, compradors2 or others will be allowed on board unless provided with a permit from the Division of Customs, Department of the Treasury. Each individual allowed on board must be provided with a separate permit.
5. A suitable guard should be placed on board all neutral sea-going vessels and all vessels not provided with an armed guard or gun crew when such vessels are ready to sail and shall remain on board until the vessel passes the entrance of the ports outward bound, when the guard can be removed.
6. When an incoming vessel has gone alongside a dock or pier, the petty officer of the guard will turn over to the Customs officer the supervision of the vessel and withdraw the guard.
7. When a vessel is moored alongside a dock or pier no one shall be allowed to go on board or leave the vessel without permission from the Customs authorities.
8 11. EXAMINATION OF THE PERSONNEL.
1. A representative of the Navy Department shall be present at the examination by the Customs authorities of the personnel of all vessels – neutral, allied and American.
2. Members of the crew of such vessels will be required by the Customs authorities to have certain specified means of identification, as follows:-
(a) American seamen must have passports or certificates of American citizenship issued by the Collector of Customs.
(b) Germans and Austrians must not be shipped.
(c) Alien seamen must present proof of their nationality and, for this purpose, the following are accepted:-
(1) Identification certificates which may be issued by foreign consuls to their citizens or subjects, which give a sufficient description to identify holder and which have a photograph of the holder attached thereto.
(2) A continuous discharge book or other seaman’s record book sufficient to establish the identity and nationality of the holder and with a photograph of the holder attached thereto.
3. Seamen’s identification cards issued and signed by the Immigration authorities, according to Form 685, shall be issued as permits to go on shore and will be issued only to seamen who have the proper papers as specified above.
4. Instructions have been issued by the Division of Customs, Department of the Treasury, that any officer or member of the crew of a vessel who is under suspicion shall be searched whenever he goes on board or leaves his vessel. Representatives of the Navy Department present will assist in the enforcement of this regulation when requested by the Customs authorities.
5. Crews of vessels will be mustered and inspected immediately prior to sailing and after mustering no member of the crew shall be allowed to go on shore. A representative of the Navy Department shall be present at the muster.
6. Ship owners and ship masters will be notified by the Customs authorities that hereafter regulations requiring identification of seamen will be strictly enforced.
111. EXAMINATION OF PASSENGERS AND BAGGAGE.
1. A representative of the Navy Department shall be present at the examination of passengers and baggage by the Division of Customs, Department of the Treasury. This representative shall be provided with all available information pertaining to passengers and crew and this information shall be available for the use of the Customs authorities as well as for the representative of the Navy Department.
2. After passports are inspected and visaed passengers shall be required to go on board immediately and not be allowed to leave the vessel thereafter.
3. If suspected persons are reported to be on board, a special search and examination will be made by the Customs authorities at the request of the representative of the Navy Department.
4. The Customs authorities will remove from a vessel any passenger, officer or member of the crew when requested by a representative of the Navy Department who deems it not desirable that a person be allowed to land or depart.
5. A representative of the Navy Department shall be present at the search for letters, writings and other tangible forms of communication being brought into or taken out of the United States.
IV. EXAMINATION OF CARGOES.
1. A representative of the Navy Department will be present at the checking and inspection of cargoes.
2. If a shipment is reported as suspicious, the representative of the Navy Department shall request a special examination and if, in his judgment, the shipment should be held, he should request the Customs inspector to hold the shipment giving the reasons therefor.
V. PROTESTS, RECOMMENDATIONS, ETC.
1. All objections to, suggestions for, or protests in connection with the examination and inspection of vessels, personnel or passengers of vessels should be made by the naval officer or petty officer in charge to the inspector of Customs in charge at the time. A copy of such objections, suggestions or protests will be forwarded to the Office of Naval Intelligence.
2. All requests for the removal of personnel or material from a vessel shall be made by the Naval Officer or petty officer in charge to the inspector of customs in charge at the time. A copy of such requests for removal will be forwarded to the Office of Naval Intelligence.
3. A brief report of the examination and inspection of each vessel will be forwarded to the Office of Naval Intelligence as soon as possible after completion of such examination and inspection.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: The Fifth Naval District was commanded by the commandant of the Norfolk (Virginia) Navy Yard. Lt. Cmdr. Walker held this position as of 1 January 1917. Whether he still held the post by December is uncertain, but probable.
Footnote 2: Bumboats are small boats used to carry people or supplies between larger ships and shore. They are also used by merchants selling goods to sailors. A comprador is a person who acts as an agent within a country for foreign interests.