United States Senate Inquiry

Day 11

Testimony of Joseph B. Ismay, cont.

Senator SMITH.
Was it filled to its capacity?

Mr. ISMAY.
No; it was not.

Senator SMITH.
Why?

Mr. ISMAY.
I understand the full capacity of one of those boats is about 60 to 65.

Senator SMITH.
Of the collapsible?

Mr. ISMAY.
I do not know whether the capacity of the collapsible is the same as that of the wooden boat.

Senator SMITH.
It was not filled to its capacity?

Mr. ISMAY.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know how many people were in it?

Mr. ISMAY.
I should think there were about 40 women in it, and some children. There was a child in arms. I think they were all third class passengers, so far as I could see.

Senator SMITH.
And this boat was from the starboard side of the boat deck, or top deck, near the bridge?

Mr. ISMAY.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
At the time you entered it, did you say anything to the captain about entering it?

Mr. ISMAY.
No, sir; I did not. I never saw the captain.

Senator SMITH.
Did he say anything to you about your entering it?

Mr. ISMAY.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Who, if any one, told you to enter that lifeboat?

Mr. ISMAY.
No one, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Why did you enter it?

Mr. ISMAY.
Because there was room in the boat. She was being lowered away. I felt the ship was going down, and I got into the boat.

Senator SMITH.
Did you yourself see any icebergs at daybreak the following morning?

Mr. ISMAY.
I should think I saw four or five icebergs when day broke on Monday morning.

Senator SMITH.
How near the scene of the Titanic disaster?

Mr. ISMAY.
I could not tell where she went down. We were some distance away from it.

Senator SMITH.
Did you see the steamship Californian that morning?

Mr. ISMAY.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Not desiring to be impertinent at all, but in order that I may not be charged with omitting to do my duty, I would like to know where you went after you boarded the Carpathia, and how you happened to go there?

Mr. ISMAY.
Mr. Chairman, I understand that my behavior on board the Titanic, and subsequently on board the Carpathia, has been very severely criticized. I want to court the fullest inquiry, and I place myself unreservedly in the hands of yourself and any of your colleagues, to ask me any questions in regard to my conduct; so please do not hesitate to do so, and I will answer them to the best of my ability. So far as the Carpathia is concerned, sir, when I got on board the ship I stood up with my back against the bulkhead, and somebody came up to me and said, "Will you not go into the saloon and get some soup, or something to drink?" "No," I said, "I really do not want anything at all." He said, "Do go and get something." I said, "No. If you will leave me alone I will be very much happier here." I said, "If you will get me in some room where I can be quiet, I wish you would." He said, "Please go in the saloon and get something hot." I said, "I would rather not." Then he took me and put me into a room. I did not know whose the room was, at all. This man proved to be the doctor of the Carpathia. I was in that room until I left the ship. I was never outside the door of that room. During the whole of the time I was in this room, I never had anything of a solid nature, at all; I lived on soup. I did not want very much of anything. The room was constantly being entered by people asking for the doctor. The doctor did not sleep in the room the first night. The doctor slept in the room the other nights that I was on board that ship. Mr. Jack Thayer was brought into the room the morning we got on board the Carpathia. He stayed in the room for some little time, and the doctor came in after he had been in, I should think, about a quarter of an hour, and he said to this young boy, "Would you not like something to eat?" He said, "I would like some bacon and eggs;" which he had. The doctor did not have a suite of rooms on the ship. He simply had this one small room, which he himself occupied and dressed in every night and morning.

Senator SMITH.
Did he keep his medicines and bandages there?

Mr. ISMAY.
No, sir; he kept them in the dispensary; in the surgery.

Senator SMITH.
Right near this room?

Mr. ISMAY.
I have no idea where it was. As I tell you, I was never outside of that room from the time I entered it.

Senator SMITH.
In view of your statement, I desire to say that I have seen none of these comments to which you refer. In fact, I have not read the newspapers since I started for New York; I have deliberately avoided it; so that I have seen none of these reports, and you do not understand that I have made any criticism upon your conduct aboard the Carpathia?

Mr. ISMAY.
No, sir. On the contrary, I do not say that anybody has. But I am here to answer any questions in regard thereto.

Senator SMITH.
What can you say, Mr. Ismay, as to your treatment at the hands of the committee since you have been under our direction?

Mr. ISMAY.
I have no fault to find. Naturally, I was disappointed in not being allowed to go home; but I feel quite satisfied you have some very good reason in your own mind for keeping me here.

Senator SMITH.
You quite agree now that it was the wisest thing to do?

Mr. ISMAY.
I think, under the circumstances, it was.

Senator SMITH.
And even in my refusal to permit you to go you saw no discourtesy?

Mr. ISMAY.
Certainly not, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know of any unfair or discourteous or inconsiderate treatment upon the part of the committee of any of your officers connected with this investigation?

Mr. ISMAY.
No; I do not.

Senator SMITH.
In order that I may make the record absolutely clear, have you any objection to me putting into the record your letter to me and my reply to you regarding your departure?

Mr. ISMAY.
Not the slightest.

The letters referred to are here printed in full in the record, as follows:

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 25, 1912.

HON. WILLIAM ALDEN SMITH,
Chairman, etc., Washington, D.C.

Sir: On learning of the appointment of the committee of inquiry after the arrival of the steamship Carpathia last Thursday night in New York, the members of the committee who met me at the steamer will doubtless recall that personally, and as managing director of the White Star Line, I welcomed this inquiry and though under severe mental and physical strain as a result of the disaster placed myself voluntarily at the disposal of your committee, and expressed the utmost willingness to give them all information in my possession to the best of my ability.

I voluntarily appeared before the committee the following day, Friday, April 19, and, though not in the best of condition to give evidence, I testified at length regarding all matters connected with the accident and offered to produce or have produced before the committee any officers or persons from our technical department, or from the technical department of Harland & Wolff, the builders, that might be thought necessary or desirable in order to enable the committee to investigate this tragic occurrence in the most complete manner.

I have regularly attended every hearing of the committee held in New York and in Washington daily since my first examination, on April 19, and have held myself in readiness continuously to answer the call of the committee to give any further testimony that might be desired, though personally I do not see that I can be of any further assistance to the committee. If, however, after the production of the technical or other evidence, the committee is of the opinion that I can help its deliberations in any manner, I shall hold myself in readiness to answer its further call, upon reasonable notice from the committee.

I am hopeful that the committee may be able to suggest ways and means for the avoidance of similar accidents in the future, and anything that I personally or that the company with which I am connected can do to further that object will be gladly done.

If the committee wishes to examine me further at the present time I hope it may be found convenient to do so promptly in order that I may go home to my family. In view of my experience at the time of the disaster and subsequently, I hope that the committee will feel that this request is not unreasonable.

The committee is also aware that an inquiry into this disaster has been started by my own Government, which has jurisdiction to deal with matters of serious importance to the interests of the company, which I understand are outside the scope of the present inquiry, and which urgently require my personal attention in England.

In these circumstances I respectfully request that if the committee wishes to examine me further it will be good enough to do so at the earliest practical moment, and excuse me from further attendance at the present time.

Respectfully,

BRUCE ISMAY

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 25, 1912.

Mr. J. Bruce Ismay,
Willard Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Sir: Replying to your letter of this date, just received, permit me to say that I am not unmindful of the fact that you are being detained in this country against your will, and, probably, at no little inconvenience to yourself and family. I can readily see that your absence from England at a time so momentous in the affairs of your company would be most embarrassing, but the horror of the Titanic catastrophe and its importance to the people of the world call for scrupulous investigation into the causes leading up to the disaster, that future losses of similar character may, if possible, be avoided. To that end, we have been charged by the Senate of the United States with the duty of making this official inquiry, and, so far as I am concerned, nothing will be left undone which may in any manner contribute to this end. As I said to you in New York on Friday evening last, when you asked to be permitted to return home, and again on Saturday night, when you made the same request, I shall not consent to your leaving this country until the fullest inquiry has been made into the circumstances surrounding the accident. This information can be fully detailed by yourself and other officers of your company and the officers and crew of your ship. I am working night and day to achieve this result, and you should continue to help me instead of annoying me and delaying my work by your personal importunities.

Trusting you will receive this letter in the spirit in which it is written, I am,

Very respectfully,

WM. ALDEN SMITH,
Chairman Senate Subcommittee Investigating the Titanic Disaster.

Senator SMITH.
You have frequently assured the committee that if, in its deliberations, it should require your presence here after we have finished with the British witnesses, you will be quite willing to hold yourself subject to the committee's orders.

Mr. ISMAY.
You mean after I get back?

Senator SMITH.
Yes.

Mr. ISMAY.
Certainly, sir. I will come back any time if you will give me a reasonable notice. I will be quite glad to come back.

Senator SMITH.
And does this include such data and information as we may desire?

Mr. ISMAY.
I will repeat, sir: All information of every nature, of every character, which you wish to have with regard to the ship or her designs or her plans, or anything else, is absolutely at your disposal. If you will simply tell us what you want, you shall have it.

Senator BURTON.
Have you experts in this country who could answer questions relating to the ship, or give suggestions for safety devices?

Mr. ISMAY.
I am afraid not, sir. We would be very glad to send anybody out from the other side, if it would be of any assistance to you.

Senator BURTON.
That is all.

Senator FLETCHER.
Mr. Ismay, I believe some passengers state that Capt. Smith gave you a telegram reporting ice.

Mr. ISMAY.
Yes, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
On Sunday afternoon?

Mr. ISMAY.
Sunday afternoon, I think it was.

Senator FLETCHER.
Is that true?

Mr. ISMAY.
Yes, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
What became of that telegram?

Mr. ISMAY.
I handed it back to Capt. Smith, I should think about 10 minutes past 7 on Sunday evening. I was sitting in the smoking room when Capt. Smith happened to come in the room for some reason - what it was I do not know - and on his way back he happened to see me sitting there and came up and said, "By the way, sir, have you got that telegram which I gave you this afternoon?" I said, "Yes." I put my hand in my pocket and said, "Here it is." He said, "I want it to put up in the officers' chart room." That is the only conversation I had with Capt. Smith in regard to the telegram. When he handed it to me, he made no remark at all.

Senator FLETCHER.
Can you tell what time he handed it to you and what its contents were?

Mr. ISMAY.
It is very difficult to place the time. I do not know whether it was in the afternoon or immediately before lunch; I am not certain. I did not pay any particular attention to the Marconi message - it was sent from the Baltic - which gave the position of some ice. It also gave the position of some steamer which was short of coal and wanted to be towed into New York, and I think it ended up by wishing success to the Titanic. It was from the captain of the Baltic.

Senator FLETCHER.
Did you see any other Marconigrams that afternoon?

Mr. ISMAY.
No, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
You do not remember seeing any from the Amerika?

Mr. ISMAY.
The only one I saw was this one from the Baltic, Senator.

Senator FLETCHER.
Did you accompany the Olympic on its first voyage?

Mr. ISMAY.
I did, sir.

Senator FLETCHER.
Did anything out of the ordinary occur?

Mr. ISMAY.
No; nothing. I think everything worked entirely satisfactorily, if my memory serves me. I think she arrived in New York Wednesday morning.

Senator FLETCHER.
You say the captain informed you, when you went on the bridge that he had struck ice? I did not understand whether that was the first time you went to the bridge, about 10 minutes after the accident, or the second time?

Mr. ISMAY.
The first time I went to the bridge. Up to that time I had no idea what had happened.

Senator FLETCHER.
What was the result of that accident to the Olympic, which I believe you said occurred last August or September?

Mr. ISMAY.
The result of it?

Senator FLETCHER.
Yes, sir.

Mr. ISMAY.
She was run into by the cruiser Hawke and very seriously damaged. She had to go back to Belfast to be repaired.

Senator FLETCHER.
What was the nature of the damage?

Mr. ISMAY.
The outside of her hull was very badly damaged and the shafting was bent.

Senator FLETCHER.
It opened one of the watertight compartments?

Mr. ISMAY.
I think it did. It was in the afterend of the ship, where the compartments were all very small.

Senator FLETCHER.
Do you think Capt. Smith ever quite got over that?

Mr. ISMAY.
I have no reason to doubt it at all, sir. I saw Capt. Smith very frequently.

Senator FLETCHER.
You think his nerve was as good after as before that accident?

Mr. ISMAY.
I think so, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Would you not regard it as an exercise of proper precaution and care to lessen the speed of a ship crossing the Atlantic when she had been warned of the presence of ice ahead?

Mr. ISMAY.
I am afraid that question I can not give any opinion on. We employ the very best men we possibly can to take command of these ships, and it is a matter entirely in their discretion.

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