Senate Committee Decides on That Course
Sailor's Weird Tale
Special to The New York Times
WASHINGTON, April 21.
Chairman Smith of the Senate Subcommittee investigating the Titanic disaster, ran into the busiest period of his life today in preparing for a continuation of the investigation tomorrow by the full subcommittee. A flood of telegrams and a series of conferences held his attention all day to the subject of the wreck, and late tonight he was going over technical charts with experts from the Hydrographic Bureau.
Most important of his conferences was one with the French Ambassador. M. Jusserand early in the day made an appointment by telephone with Senator Smith for the afternoon. When he calied he said he wished to express his appreciation of what the Senator and his committee had already done and to declare the willingness of himself and his Government to cooperate to the fullest degree with the United States in any efforts that might be made to insure greater safety for travelers by sea. As a part of the subcommittee's work is to report proposed legislation, the cooperation of the great maritime nations interested in the subject probably will prove later of great assistance. M. Jusserand made no representations in regard to any French passenger or members of the crew, and his call was entirely of friendly co-operation.
Will Hold Ismay to the End.
There have been persistent reports that the British Embassy, at the instigation of J. Bruce Ismay, had filed a protest of some sort with the State Department, requesting that be be permitted to return to England. But Mr. Smith is inclined to doubt the report. He saw Mr. Ismay as late as last midnight and nothing transpired to indicate that he would ask for diplomatic aid.
But, whatever Mr. Ismay may desire in the matter, it can be stated that Mr. Smith is determined that the Director-Manager of the White Star Line shall be held in this country until the investigation is closed and the report presented to the Senate. The same thing is true of the officers and men of the Titanic who have been held. Quick action was caused in the first place by hints the committee received that Mr. Ismay contemplated hurrying to Europe on the Cedric and later on the Lapland. But now that all these men are in the custody of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, he intends to hold them till every bit of testimony is obtained from them.
Important witnesses who are to be summoned are officials of the Marconi company, and not unlikely officials of other wireless and cable companies also be asked to tell what they know of the messages that went back and forth from the time the Titanic struck the iceberg until the Carpathla landed the survivors in New York.
One of the wildest stories yet circulated in connection with the disaster has reached the committee from Cleveland. There a man describing himself as a Hungarian named Luis Klein, a surviving member of the crew of the Titanic, told a story which was so extraordinary that he was taken before the Hungarian Consul and Vice Consul. Cross-examination failed to vary his story. When it was wired to Chairman Smith he telegraphed to the local United States District Attorney to have Klein held and then obtained by telegraph the sanction of the Attorney General.
Officer on Watch Accused
Klein's story is that the officer of the watch was asleep on deck when the Titanic smashed into the iceberg's projecting spur, and that other officers and members of the crew were drunk or drinking. Wine, he said, was being passed out of the cabin, where an elaborate banquet was in progress. The festivities were at their height, he said, when the impact of the berg brought them to a sudden ending.
The report of the alleged Hungarian sailor is discredited here. It is pointed out that even if it were conceivable that on a ship of the Titanic's type such lax discipline could prevail, there is absolutely no other testimony to bear it out. In support of his story the Hungarian recites that he has a medal for life-saving presented to him by the Hamburg-American Line. He says he shipped on the Titanic at Liverpool, but that he has lost his papers.
Members of the committee are not yet ready to discuss any of the testimony they have heard, though it can be stated that they are much pleased with the result of the quick dash for New York. They are particularly interested in the whole subject of the part played by the wireless telegraph.
In this connection the explanation of Capt. Haddock as wirelessed by THE TIMES correspondent from on board the Olympic, has aroused much interest here. The Captain's theory, that the mistake arose from the bungling by amateurs of a message referring to the towing of an oil tank to Halifax into a message that read that the Titanic was being towed in that direction, is considered highly dramatic and plausible. But the members of the committee have not yet gone into that phase, and they are unwilling to express themselves.
What had a great effect upon Chairman Smith's activities was a telegram received by Representative Hughes of West Virginia, signed ostensibly by the White Star Company, in which it was expressly stated that all passengers on the Titanic were saved. Mr. Smith will have all the messages picked up by the Chester and the Salem — the two scout cruisers sent out by the President in a vain efort to find out if Major Butt was on board the Carpathia — and the necessary wireless and telegraph officials also will be summoned.
Exactly who these men will be Mr. Smith is not ready to announce without further conference with his associates. He has subpoenaed some twenty passengers and members of the crew of the Titanic, and has made arrangements for many others to appear voluntarily.
As to the rescued passengers, Mr. Smith said he could get them whenever he wanted them, and that he is now perfectly willing to wait until they are physically prepared to stand the strain of cross-examination.
Foreigners to be Heard First
The first man to testify tomorrow has not yet been decided upon. The wireless operators are yet to talk, and the committee is far from through with Mr. Ismay. The officers and crew who were forced to remain in the United States are now in Washington, and they, together with Mr. Ismay and other foreigners desirous of leaving the country, will probably be heard first.
Among the foreigners who have consented to testify voluntarily is Major Arthur Peuchen, who will reach here tomorrow from Canada. He has passed some severe strictures upon the handling of the Titanic in the emergency, and the committee will probably hear him at an early date.
Chairman Smith has selected the majorlty caucus room of the Senate as the scene for the hearings to come. It is the largest room at the disposal of the Senate, and is considered by all odds the handsomest room in Washington. It is of pre white marble, at the head of the stairs in the Senate Office Building. The room is capable of seating several hundred persons, and the hearings will all be open.
"We are not going to have any star-chamber proceedings," said Mr. Smith tonight "The country has a right to know the truth about this terrible disaster, and we'll ascertain the truth if we possibly can."
Ismay Party Didn't Register
J. Bruce Ismay and Vice President P. A. S. Franklin of the White Star Line and their counsel arrived In Washington at 8 o'clock tonight, slipped into the
Willard Hotel, and denied their presence for over two hours. Then the constant succession of messages sent to Mr. Ismay convinced him that concealment was useless, and one of his lawyers registered the names of the party. S. C. Neil of the White Star Line accompanied them on the train. The party at the Willard consists of Mr. Ismay, Mr. Franklin, C. C. Burlingham, Charles Burlingham Jr., J. J. McGlone. and F. P. Pease.
Thirty-five officers and men of the Titanic, headed by Second Officer Lightoller, also arrived and were taken to the Continental Hotel where every effort was made to deny their presence, though they were in custody of one of the Deputy Sergeants at Arms of the Senate.
These proceedings seemed all the stranger, in view of the fact that the hour of Mr. Ismay's arrival was so well known all over Washington that a crowd of several hundred persons was awaiting him in the street before the Willard when he arrived. Presumably Mr. Ismay thought his arrival was unexpected, for his automobile was driven up to the Fourteenth Street entrance to the hotel, the usual place for disembarking passengers. It took its place in line, and then, by someone's orders, was taken out of line and driven up to the F Street entrance, where Mr. Ismay and his party left it, slipped into the building, and were whisked up to the suite of rooms reserved for them.
Mr. Ismay was recognized as he made his hurried entrance and the news was all over the hotel in a jiffy. Yet the clerks persisted in denying that he was there or was expected or had engaged any rooms. After a while Mr. Burlingham and other members of his party were found, and through them message after message was sent to Mr. Ismay, pointing out that recent reports, such as the story that he had filed a protest with the British Embassy, called for an answer. At last Mr. Ismay consented to say enough to cover these points.
Has Filed No Protest
He positively denied that he had filed with the British Embassy any protest against his detention by the Senate Committee. He has no idea of adopting such a course, he said. He is here to tell the committee everything he knows, and has ao intention of avoiding a full statement, by any legal technicalities or by disputing the power of the Senate to interrogate him.
An unconfirmed report printed here this afternoon that Huntington Wilson, Assistant Secretary of State, had gone to New York to confer with Mr. Ismay, was flatly, denied by the latter. He had not seen Mr. Wilson, he said. He also denied that he had surrounded himself with detectives as a bodyguard against possible assault by angry members of the crew of the Titanic or their sympathizers in this country. He does not know whether he will take the stand tomorrow morning or not, and has no idea how long he will be detained by the committee.
The officers and men subpoenaed to appear before the committee are incommunicado and under surveillance at the Hotel Continental. The fact that they are under surveillance was not advertised by the committee, but was admitted tonight by one of the Senators prominently identified with the investigation, who also explained why it was impossible for newspaper men to see or interview the officers or crew.
"No one will have a chance to talk with any member of the Titanic party tonight," said Senator Smith. "I think it would be highly improper for any one to seek statements from these witnesses before they give their testimony on the stand before the committe."
"Are they under surveillance?" Senator Smith was asked.
"Well, the fact is not being advertised," he replied, "but the Sergeant at Arms has a man with them. I understand that the men in the party are well satisfied where they are, and with the arrangements under which they are stopping at the hotel. They came from New York in a special car. My personal secretary accompanied them from the railroad station to the hotel to see that they were properly cared for while here."
Wireless Operator Bride of the Titanic did not accompany the party to Washington. Senator Smith stated tonight that he did not care to have Bride brought here today on account of his physical condition. Arrangements were made for Bride to be sent to a hospital in New York. He will be called before the committee later.
Among the passengers on the Titanic who, while not subpoenaed, have indicated their willingness to testify are Mrs. Arthur Ryerson of Philadelphia, Mrs. Lucien B. Smith, daughter of Representative Hughes of West Virginia, and Mrs. Douglas of Minneapolis. The committee is particularly anxious to get Assistant Steward Thomas Whitely as soon as he can be moved from St. Vincent's Hospital, New York.
One of the features of the forthcoming hearing will be the inquiry into the wireless communication as the Titanic was sinking. An effort will be made to ascertain the exact location of the German steamer Frankfort, who responded to the Titanic's signal of distress, but did not extend any aid. It is desired to ascertain if the Frankfort was actually nearer to the sinking ship than the Carpathia, as Operator Bride estimated the Frankfort to have been, judging from the strength of the electric spark in the wireless communication. Whether the Frankfort operator will be called as a witness could not be learned tonight.
Secretary Meyer of the Navy Department called today upon members of the committee and gave assurances that the wireless operator of the Chester, who endeavored to get details of the disaster from the Carpathia on the latter's way to New York from the wreck, would be held subject to the committee's orders.
Senator Nelson, Chairman of the Commerce Committee, expects to have published tomorrow a translation of Norwegian navigation laws, which the committee will consider in framing its recommedations to the Senate.
If any such laws as the strict Norse requirements had been in force in Great Britain," said Senator Nelson today, "there would have been no such disaster. They provide that lifeboats and other life-saving apparatus shall be sufficient to take care of every passenger and member of the crew. There the life-saving apparatus is based upon the number of passengers, while here and in Great Britain it is based upon the tonnages."
Related Biographies:Harold Sydney Bride
Herbert James Haddock
Joseph Bruce Ismay
Charles Herbert Lightoller
Arthur Godfrey Peuchen
Mary Eloise Smith
Thomas Arthur Whiteley