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Dudley Field Malone at the time of his appointment as
US Collector of Customs for the Port of New York, 1913.
(Library of Congress).
As mentioned on the Deadly Cargo page of this website, the
British Army was firing more shells per week than Britain’s
armaments factories produced. The British therefore had a truly
desperate need to import munitions of war. The British imported
munitions from Russia already, but this simply wasn’t enough to
meet demand, so the British Government turned to the then
neutral United States as well.
The outbreak of the European War in August 1914 had produced
internationally economically recessive times of course. By the end
of the first quarter of 1915, that recession was being felt. The
American President, Woodrow Wilson, clearly wanted this
munitions export business, as it was a multi-million dollar trade and
therefore a much-needed shot in the arm for American industry.
Furthermore, he was up for re-election in 1916, but however he
secured the deal, he still had to be outwardly seen as upholding
US neutrality and the only way to get these American-made
munitions to England was across the Atlantic Ocean, by ship.
The trouble was that the British needed ready-made munitions
urgently. Just sending the components for British factories to
produce shells from was not an option. The British factories were
critically short on output. British reserve stocks were down to about
a three month period to exhaustion and even that narrow margin
was getting narrower by the week. Regular cargo ships usually
took about ten days to cross the Atlantic. Ten days might suffice for
more non-urgent items, but ready-to-use munitions just had to
make it to England sooner. The fastest ships were the
transatlantic liners of the Cunard and White Star Lines, and others
like them, but it wasn’t legal to ship explosives aboard passenger
vessels, for obvious reasons. What was needed was a way to
make it legal.
It transpired that it was legal to ship ordinary bullets aboard
passenger trains and coastal passenger ships in certain parts of
America. This had come about as the result of an open air
demonstration before the Municipal Explosives Commission of
New York City a few years before. A stack of crated pistol
ammunition was deliberately set on fire to see if it exploded. It
didn’t. It burned fiercely, but out in the open air, with nothing to
confine the burning gases or intensify the heat, it didn’t explode as
such. It also helped that the ammunition used for the
demonstration consisted of obsolete, black powder filled
cartridges. Suitably impressed by the resultant non explosion, the
MEC of NYC sanctioned the transporting of such NON
EXPLOSIVE ammunition on public transport, including passenger
ships, as long as the cases they were in were clearly marked NON
EXPLOSIVE. The MEC’s sanctioning was then turned into the
basis for the WHOLESALE EXPORT of munitions from the Port of
New York. The Port of New York was of course where the bulk of
the transatlantic liners docked. The relevant legislation was quickly
put into place. They’d just made it “legal”, by a thread, but it was
still better, certainly at this stage, if this rather thin veneer wasn’t
subjected to too much public scrutiny. Strictly speaking of course,
the cargoes WERE contraband, because munitions ARE
explosive. Once again, the demonstration before the MEC, and the
outcome of it, was thoroughly reported in the New York Times.
The British Government placed their munitions import orders with
the Admiralty’s Trade Division, who in turn placed the orders with
American businessman J Pierpoint Morgan, owner of the
International Mercantile Marine Company. Morgan was officially
appointed as sole purchaser for the British Government’s
munitions requirements in January of 1915 and he worked as such
on the basis of his receiving a 1% commission of all order values.
Morgan in turn, used a complex chain of fictitious companies to
secure the necessary items. The IMM’s ships and passengers then
became the unwitting carriers of this contraband, assisted by any
ships the British Admiralty had any control over or could otherwise
charter. In order to get the vital munitions aboard the chosen
passenger ships, it became standard practice to file a less than
truthful manifest with the US Collector of Customs in the Port of
New York. This manifest would show a purely general cargo. Later,
once each ship had left US territorial waters, a “Supplemental
Manifest” would be filed with the Customs office, listing any “last
minute provisions or cargo items” that had been loaded, though
the nature of any obviously suspect consignments would be
slightly altered or otherwise listed.
But what if the Collector of Customs found out?
A far better question is:
What if the Collector of Customs was in on it in the first place?
But why on Earth would the US Collector of Customs acquiesce in
such a practice? To issue a ship with a sailing clearance certificate,
which is after all a legal document, knowing it was based on a less
than truthful manifest, was surely a criminal offence? Are we
talking Bribery? Corruption? Ignorance? Or even just a conspiracy
theory? If it were true, that this Customs Official knew what was
going on and that he willingly took a part in it, surely he’d have
ended up in prison sooner or later?
So, who was the US Collector of Customs for the Port of New York
That man was Dudley Field Malone.
An active member of the Democrat Party, Dudley Malone was the
son of a Philadelphia Democratic Official; William C. Malone and
Rose (McKenny) Malone. He was born on June 3rd 1882.
Malone was put in the office of Collector of Customs for the Port of
New York by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, though Wilson
needed the backing of his friend, New York Senator James A O'
Gorman, to secure Malone’s appointment. O' Gorman was very
much the rising star in the New York Democrat camp at that time.
He was already on NYC's Legislature Committee and with his
appointment to the Foreign Relations Committee in 1913 O’
Gorman’s influence, especially in New York, was assured. Senator
O' Gorman readily consented to Wilson’s wish, mainly because
Dudley Malone had been married to his daughter, May O’ Gorman,
for five years at the time.
Malone was a Lawyer by trade, specialising in Divorce and
Probate. He was also very much a personal friend and political ally
of President Wilson's. Both Wilson and Malone often spoke
publicly and in the press, in support of each other. Malone went on
the campaign trail with Wilson for the President's 1916 re-election
campaign. Being O'Gorman's son-in-law would undoubtedly have
been beneficial on the campaign trail too.
Malone however, had a lot of political and financial skeletons
rattling around in his closet: Skeletons that had a nasty habit of
exposing themselves every now and again. Skeletons such as his
being under official investigation for aspects of his estate lawyering
activities, in March of 1916. Malone had stood accused of
fraudulently hiding assets, possessing dubious "gifts" and other
financial irregularities. This was to be a recurrent theme in his life.
After Wilson's re-election, Malone resigned as Collector of
Customs due to a political disagreement with Wilson over the
women's movement, being succeeded as Collector by Byron P
Newton in October of 1917. Malone then announced his public
support for the Socialist Morris Hillquit, in his quest to become
Mayor of NYC. Malone himself was being publicly attacked in the
press at that time by members of the Roman Catholic Church in
Brooklyn, over his politics. Malone’s own arrogance seems to have
prevented him from realising that he was becoming something of a
liability to the Democrats by then.
By 1918 however, he was back in the Democrat fold again, fighting
the feminist cause in support of Wilson; but not for long. In 1920
he ran for Governor of New York on the Farmer-Labour Party
ticket, earning just 69,908 votes versus 1,335,617 votes for
winning Republican Nathan L. Miller, 1,261,729 for incumbent
Democrat Al Smith and 171,907 for the Socialist Joseph Cannon.
After this ignominious defeat, Malone left the Democrats to
become an Independent.
In 1921, his wife May O' Gorman, divorced him, and he took
another wife, the feminist and writer Doris Stevens. They moved to
Paris, France, where he'd recently set up a Law firm. However, he
was soon back home in the States and being sued for malpractice
by one or two of his French clients. In 1929, his second wife also
divorced him. He spent most of the early thirties flitting backwards
and forwards between the US and France whilst still being
pursued by at least three of his more notable clients over money.
He then married Edna L. Johnson in a London Registry Office in
January of 1930. In 1931, he and his third wife went on a cruise to
Bermuda, probably to escape the ever growing number of his
clients who were hounding him over money. By 1935, he had filed
for bankruptcy, owing more than $260,000, though he managed to
wriggle out of one of the law suits against him.
In 1943, he played the part of his old friend, WINSTON
CHURCHILL, in a propaganda film called Mission to Moscow.
In 1949, he was beaten up at the roadside by two men, which
hardly seems surprising at all. He died at Culver City Hospital,
California, in 1950. Ever the social-climber, Dudley Malone seems
to have been rather a shady character, to say the least.
So, to return to the question of “What if the US Collector of
Customs was in on it in the first place?”
Malone knew exactly what was taking place, but he was instructed
to turn a blind eye to the practice. Malone would issue a sailing
clearance certificate for each ship, usually the day before its
scheduled departure, based only on what was called a “Loading
Manifest”. Something like the real manifest, the “Supplemental
Manifest”, would be filed about three days after each ship had
sailed, when it was too late to do anything about it anyway.
During the outcry over the Lusitania case, Malone was asked by a
reporter from the New York Times, in his position as Collector of
Customs, if projectiles such as those used by the Artillery could be
classed as explosives. He was quoted in the paper as stating that:
“If no fuse was fitted to them then they would be classified as
being NON-EXPLOSIVE. Therefore any such projectiles as might
be loaded aboard a passenger ship would not be illegal under US
law, as long as it appeared on the manifest”. In short, he’d been
treating artillery shells as being nothing more than “big bullets” and
bullets were what the Municipal Explosives Committee of NYC had
initially sanctioned. If the fuse wasn’t fitted to it, then the shell, in
theory, had no means of detonation. Kapitan-Leutnant Schwieger
of course changed that, on Friday 7th May, 1915, by inadvertently
introducing a G6 torpedo amongst 5,000 of these supposedly
NON-EXPLOSIVE “big bullets”.
With his good friend Senator James A O' Gorman on New York
City's Legislature Committee it was obviously made much easier
for President Wilson to go a step further and get these now
miraculously “empty”/NON-EXPLOSIVE” munitions made legal to
transport on transatlantic passenger ships. Of course, Wilson also
had another personal friend, O' Gorman's son-in-law, Dudley
Malone, whom he’d personally put at the Head of Customs in New
York, who could then "legally" clear these munitions to be loaded
onto eastbound passenger ships. Given Malone’s background,
then and since, it would indeed seem highly likely that the wilful
and knowing issuing of sailing clearances on the basis of a less
than truthful manifest, would not have been beyond Dudley
Malone at all.
One week after the Lusitania disaster, The International Mercantile
Marine Company announced in the New York Times that “in future,
IMM ships would no longer carry munitions of war as cargo”. The
words in future and no longer should be particularly noted!
Despite this most public statement, liners of the White Star Line,
(who were owned by IMM), continued to sail from New York with
vast quantities of war materials in their holds. Their departures and
the nature of their cargoes were regularly published in the New
York Times. On December 10th, 1915, seven months after the
Lusitania was sunk, the New York Times announced that the White
Star Liner Adriatic had left New York carrying 18,000 tons of war
munitions for the Allies. Among the cargo items listed were 5,973
“empty” shells (NON EXPLOSIVE of course). The ship’s total
cargo was valued at $10,000,000. Less than a year later, in August
of 1916, the New York Times again reported the sailing of another
White Star Liner, one of Adriatic’s sisters, the Baltic, carrying
18,500 tons of war munitions for the Allies. Such reports were
usually printed about three days after the ship had left, once their
supplemental manifests had been filed with Malone’s office. That
gives an idea of the scale of the munitions shipping operation:
TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS worth of munitions exports, on just
those two ships alone, on ONE voyage. It is also worth noting that
the Adriatic and the Baltic were both about one third smaller than
Another interesting sub-point is that Charles M Schwab, President
of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, who manufactured most of
the munitions that were being shipped to Britain on these liners,
was himself a regular passenger on both the Lusitania and the
Mauretania.In the wake of the Lusitania disaster, “Champagne
Charlie” as he was known, was asked by the New York Times if it
was normal for his munitions products to leave the factory in crates
marked NON EXPLOSIVE. He stated that he had no idea, as he
wasn’t often there.In fact, he said; in the week that the Lusitania
had been sunk, he’d been away, so he felt he couldn’t possibly
comment on the matter further anyway.
By the end of 1915, the year in which the Lusitania was sunk,
exports of American-made munitions to Great Britain had totalled
$199, 627, 324. The monthly average for munitions exports during
the period 1st Jan 1915 to 1st Jan 1916 was $74, 003, 583. Both
of these figures were proudly announced in the business pages of
the New York Times of September 7th 1916. By the time of the US
entry into World War 1 in 1917, it had well and truly passed the
$1bn mark. All of it of course, had been sent by ship, and not just
from the port of New York. There were shipments from Boston and
Philadelphia too. We’ll leave you to work out what commission J P
Morgan had earned for himself as sole purchasing agent, at 1% of
all orders !