United States Senate Inquiry

Day 2

Statement of Senator William A. Smith to press and reporter.

That, after conference with my colleagues of the committee, we have concluded to subpoena Mr. J. Bruce Ismay, Mr. P. A. S. Franklin, Mr. Harold Bride, Mr. H. T. Cottam, Mr. C. L. Lightoller, second officer; Mr. H. J. Pitman, third officer; Mr. J. G. Boxhall, fourth officer; Mr. H. G. Lowe, fifth officer; and others; they being the only surviving officers of the Titanic; also others of the crew.

We have also subpoenaed W. Perkis, E. Archer, W. H. Taylor, W. Brice, E. J. Buley, S. S. Hemming, F. O. Evans, T. Jones, Frank Osman, G. Moore, A. Cunningham, A. Olliver, F. Fleet, G. A. Hogg, A. Crawford, W. Burke, Edward Wheelton, F. Clench, Fred D. Ray, G. F. Crowe, C. E. Andrews, J. Widgery, H. S. Etches, G. T. Rowe, John Collins, A. J. Bright, G. Symons, J. Hardy, and Albert Haines, of the ship's crew.

All of these witnesses have been summoned to appear in Washington on Monday morning at 10 o'clock, and at that time this investigation will be resumed and no further testimony will be taken at this hearing.

I have been asked to make a public statement. Before doing so I request that no representative of the press or other person shall ask any question of me before beginning or during my statement or after I have finished. What I say I desire reported accurately, and I wish the public to know that this statement is the only official utterance I shall make before resuming our inquiry in Washington.

The object of this committee in coming to New York coincident with the arrival of the Carpathia was prompted by the desire to avail ourselves of first-hand information from the active participants in this sad affair. Our course has been guided solely by this purpose - to obtain accurate information without delay.

Information had been received that some of the officers of the Titanic, and the managing director of the White Star Line, who are British subjects, residing in England, desired and intended to return to their homes immediately upon arrival at this port. We concluded that it would be most unfortunate if we were deprived of their testimony for any indefinite period, and felt that their removal beyond the jurisdiction of our authority might complicate and possibly defeat our purpose.

We went directly to the Carpathia upon her arrival, were received courteously by the captain and officers of that ship, and were accorded with a prompt interview with the managing director and vice president of the White Star Line.

We requested the attendance of these officers, the other surviving officers, and that the crew might be held subject to our orders. We satisfied ourselves that the promises of Mr. Ismay and Mr. Franklin could be relied upon, felt assured of their presence at the hearing Friday morning, and did not feel called upon to use more drastic means to accomplish that result.

Mr. Ismay intended to return to England forthwith, but at our request has remained here, as have the other officers and members of the crew.

It was found necessary to take the testimony of Capt. Rostron, of the Carpathia, immediately, in order that he might not be further inconvenienced in his departure with his ship, destined for the Mediterranean, after his most creditable conduct in a most trying emergency, worthy of the highest praise. We felt that it would not be an evidence of our appreciation of his gallantry, thoughtfulness, and efficiency to detain him and his ship and passengers longer after he had brought the survivors of the Titanic voluntarily to this port.

The survivors of the Titanic and their friends throughout the world are under a debt of gratitude to Capt. Rostron which can never be repaid. His promptness in responding to the call of distress resulted in a large saving of life which, but for him, would have been impossible; and, voicing the sentiments of my countrymen, I thank him in their name and in the name of the Government of the United States for his unselfish and noble contribution to the cause of humanity.

We examined the second officer of the Titanic, Mr. Lightoller, because he was in command during the hours immediately preceding the collision, and we thought it wise to take his testimony immediately.

Mr. Bride is a telegrapher on the Titanic, who survived, had been injured and was unable to be conveniently moved from New York, and, as the testimony of the wireless operator of the Carpathia was so intimately related to the testimony of the surviving operator of the Titanic, we concluded to take the testimony of both forthwith; and in order that we might, beyond peradventure, have the statement of Mr. Ismay officially upon our records, we decided to take his testimony immediately.

At the completion of the examination all the witnesses were notified of the fact that we had not finished with them, and were requested to remain subject to the orders of the committee.

After conference with my associates, we concluded to exercise our authority and formally subpoena all of the surviving officers of the Titanic, including those just mentioned and others not sworn, together with about 30 members of the ship's crew. This has been done, and further testimony for the present will be taken at Washington, where all the members of the subcommittee can be present.

In summoning the surviving passengers, many of whom were weak and greatly distressed, some quite ill and others injured, we have thought it wise to proceed with care and consideration for their physical and mental condition. Many of them have already been subpoenaed, but returns have not yet been made, and I am unable to give the names of those subpoenaed to the press today.

In closing this statement I desire to acknowledge our debt of gratitude to the representatives of the press for their marked consideration and courtesy in this most trying situation, and wish to assure them that everything that has transpired of public interest has been entirely in their presence, and that this course will be pursued, so far as I am concerned, in the future hearings before the committee.