Jun 8

Origins of Navy Regulations

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 12:59 PM


U.S. Navy Regulation Number 0828 forbids a commanding officer to permit a representative of any foreign power to search his or her command, or to allow such a person to remove any personnel, “so long as he or she has the capacity to repel such act.”

This regulation had its origin in 1798 as a result of events on board USS Baltimore. Baltimore, under the command of Capt. Isaac Phillips, accompanied a convoy of merchantmen sailing to the West Indies to protect them from French privateers during the conflict known as the Quasi-War. When a British squadron intercepted the convoy, Phillips allowed Royal Navy officers to search Baltimore and remove some fifty seamen suspected of being British citizens. The British pressed five of the men and returned the remainder.

In the aftermath, the Secretary of the Navy cashiered Phillips and issued the directive that remains, in wording only slightly altered, in force today.

  • Mark Toomey

    Unfortunately this regulation was overlooked in the decision of the Commander of the First Coast Guard District to issue orders to the CO of the USCGC Vigilant during “The Kudirka incident”!

    On November 23, 1970, Simonas “Simas” Kudirka, a Soviet seaman of Lithuanian nationality, leapt from the 400-foot (120 m) mother ship Sovetskaya Litva, anchored in American waters (near Aquinnah, Massachusetts on Martha’s Vineyard Island), aboard the USCGC Vigilant, sailing from New Bedford. The Soviets accused Kudirka of theft of 3,000 rubles from the ship’s safe. Ten hours passed; communications difficulties contributed to the delay, as the ship was unfortunately in a “blind spot” of Boston Radio’s (Marshfield) receivers, resulting in an awkward resort to using the public marine operator.

    After attempts to get the U.S. State Department to provide guidance failed, Rear Admiral William B. Ellis, commander of the First Coast Guard District, ordered Commander Ralph E. Eustis to permit a KGB detachment to board the Vigilant to return Kudirka to the Soviet ship. This led to a change in asylum policy by the U.S. Coast Guard. Admiral Ellis and his chief of staff were given administrative punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ. Commander Eustis was given a non-punitive letter of reprimand and assigned to shore duty.

    Kudirka was tried for treason by the Soviet Union and given a ten-year sentence in the Gulag. Subsequent investigations revealed that Kudirka could claim American citizenship through his mother and was allowed to come to the United States in 1974.

    The incident, known for several years as the Coast Guard’s “Day of Shame,” was portrayed in a 1978 television movie, The Defection of Simas Kudirka (IMDB), with Alan Arkin playing Kudirka and Donald Pleasence playing the captain of the Soviet ship.

  • Thnaks for the added history lesson Mark!

  • Jim Valle

    Naval sensibilites on this issue were dramatically inflamed by the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair. Although he initially refused to hand over suspected deserters and managed to fire “one gun for the honor of the fleet” after being attacked he was still court martialled and suspended from duty for a five year term. Returning to duty, he never really regained his “honor” in the eyes of his contemporaries.