In 1958, Friends Journal was a weekly publication and published frequent updates about the status of the Golden Rule, a ship that protested United States nuclear testing in the Pacific. To learn more, read The Golden Rule Shall Sail Again in the August 2013 issue of Friends Journal.
February 8, 1958
Albert Bigelow, of Cos Cob, Conn., left New York City on January 27 for Los Angeles, Calif., on the first leg of the projected 6,500-mile journey to Eniwetok Island, site of the Atomic Energy Commission’s announced April series of nuclear weapons tests, which we reported in our January 25 issue (p. 56). He is captain of the 30-foot ketch Golden Rule, now berthed at San Pedro, Calif., scheduled to sail for Eniwetok about February 9. With William R. Huntington, of St. James, N. Y., and two others who share their deep concern over the nuclear arms race he will sail on or about April 1 into the bomb-test area and remain there, come what may, as a challenge to the conscience of the American people.
The voyage is sponsored by Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, a committee of leaders of American pacifist organizations. On August 6–7, 1957, the twelfth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, the same group sponsored a nonviolent challenge to nuclear bomb explosions at the AEC’s Nevada test site. Bigelow and ten others were arrested at that time for attempting to enter the test area.
The nationwide petition campaign against nuclear weapons tests has been extended to February 25 to permit signers to “unite spiritually” with the four-man crew of the Golden Rule, which sailed on February 10 for the Atomic Energy Commission Pacific test area.
The campaign was launched Christmas Eve by the American Friends Service Committee as one of its peace action projects. One spokesman for the A.F.S.C. said recently that the petition campaign was being extended so that “it would provide a channel of expression for concerned people.”
The Board of Directors of the A.F.S.C. at its January meeting offered moral support to the voyage of the Golden Rule. Recognizing that a member of the A.F.S.C. Board of Directors (William Huntington) would be a crew member, they said:
While the A.F.S.C. has not been asked for organizational support of this project, we see the action of our Friend and colleague as being in the tradition of individual Quaker witness throughout the history of the Society of Friends. Recognizing therefore that William Huntington and his fellows feel called of God in this venture, we ask God’s blessing on an enterprise which seeks to bear witness at a point where the A.F.S.C. in other ways is trying itself to bear witness.
More than 25,000 signatures have been returned to the Service Committee so far in the current campaign and orders for blank petitions continue to arrive with every mail. Many personal letters have been received along with small contributions to cover the expense of getting out the petition.
Petitions can be ordered free of charge from the national office of the American Friends Service Committee, 20 South 12th Street, Philadelphia, Pa., or from any of its eleven regional offices.
As we go to press we learn from newspaper items that the ketch Golden Rule, about whose voyage to the Eniwetok nuclear tests we reported in several earlier issues, has had to return from a point 700 miles off the California coast because of severe damage suffered in a bad storm. The youngest member of the four-man crew, David Gale, Fallsington, Pa., is reported to be ill. The other members are Albert S. Bigelow, William Huntington, and George Willoughby. It is planned to start the journey again after repairs have been made.
Are you sensitive to opportunities for direct action on disarmament, such as the voyage of the Golden Rule, participating in or supporting such acts as you feel led?
The 30-foot ketch Golden Rule, which had been forced back after a first try on February 10 by severe storms in the Pacific, left San Pedro, Calif., on March 25. Three of the former crew members are again on the boat this time; they are Albert Smith Bigelow of Cos Cob, Conn.; William Reed Huntington of St. James, Long Island, N.Y., and George Willoughby of Blackwood Terrace, N.J. All three are Friends. Orion Sherwood, a 28-year-old science teacher at Oakwood School, Poughkeepsie, N. Y., has joined them. He is unmarried and belongs to the Methodist Church.
On the way to the area where atomic bomb tests are scheduled to be made, the Golden Rule will stop at Honolulu to replenish supplies. The Non-Violent Action Committee Against Nuclear Weapons (825 E. Union Street, Pasadena, Calif.) is raising $40,000 by individual contributions to cover the cost of the voyage of the Golden Rule and of a protest trip of delegates to England and Russia.
On Friday evening at a public meeting in the auditorium of the Ethical Culture Society, Don Murray, the movie actor, and representatives of the Indian and Japanese UN Delegations spoke. Telephone connections were got to the Golden Rule, and three wives of crew members (why do none ever mention their heroic partnership?) heard from their husbands that the ketch was 700 .miles out in the Pacific, weather bright, and all hands well. Mutual support of Pacific sailors and New York walkers was conveyed.
According to newspaper reports, the United States Coast Guard intercepted on May 1 the ketch Golden Rule and took it in tow a short time after it had set sail from Honolulu to Eniwetok in an attempt to enter the atomic testing area in the Pacific. The crew, consisting of Albert Smith Bigelow, William Huntington, George Willoughby, and Orion Sherwood, were arrested. They had been forbidden to leave port but defied the military order. After their arrest they pleaded not guilty, refused to furnish bail, and were held in jail.
On May 7 the four crew members of the ketch Golden Rule, Albert Smith Bigelow, William Huntington, George Willoughby, and Orion Sherwood, were sentenced by Judge Wiig in the United States District Court of Honolulu to 60 days in prison or one year on probation for criminal contempt of Court because of their having disobeyed the recent order restricting traffic in the Pacific atomic test area. The defendants chose to serve the jail term.
Following the arrest and conviction of the crew, an increasing number of demonstrators belonging to the Committee of Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons camped inside the headquarters of the Atomic Energy Commission at Germantown, Md., in an attempt to see Admiral Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the AEC, and his four colleagues on the Commission. They have started a hunger strike and rejected an offer to have one of the Commissioners meet one of the demonstrators. Among the demonstrators is Mrs. George Willoughby of Blackwood Terrace, N. J., wife of George Willoughby, crew member of the Golden Rule.
The Committee for Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons supports the crew members and the Germantown demonstrators in their attempt to arouse the conscience of the public to an awareness of the dangers in the use of nuclear weapons and their continued testing.
On May 1 and 2 groups protesting the arrest of the Golden Rule crew demonstrated at federal buildings in Boston, Mass.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pasadena, Calif.; Washington, D. C.; the United States Consulate in Montréal, Canada, and the United States Embassy in London, England.
Lawrence Scott, of the Committee for Non-Violent Action Against the Use of Nuclear Weapons, awaiting entry into Russia, delivered a letter to the United States Consulate at Helsinki, Finland, protesting to President Eisenhower the jailing of the crew of the Golden Rule.
Newspaper clippings and other information illustrating the growing movement against nuclear warfare are solicited by the editors of FRIENDS JOURNAL.
The accounts of the Golden Rule and other activities supported by the Committee for Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, such as the “sit-in” at the Atomic Energy Commission’s headquarters and the attempted visit to Russia of a delegation of five, have added a new note to the story of contemporary pacifism. It would be unrealistic to rate these ventures as a victorious campaign of major significance. They are, nevertheless, episodes worthy of note and respect. The good wishes and prayers of a great many Friends accompanied the crew of the Golden Rule and those who held a “vigil without food” in order to obtain an interview with Lewis Strauss at the AEC headquarters. But from the beginning many of us had entertained some doubt as to the advisability of the experiments, questioning their effect on the authorities and public opinion.
The Middle Atlantic Region of the American Friends Service Committee will sponsor two week-long vacation institutes this summer. The first of these will be located at Holiday Hills, Pawling, N.Y., and is entitled, “A Search for New Directions.” This will have primarily an adult program, although provisions will be made for children. The Pawling Institute will be held from July 11 through 18. Faculty members include Albert S. Bigelow, architect, former Housing Commissioner, State of Massachusetts, and skipper of the Golden Rule; Amiya Chakravarty, author and lecturer, formerly secretary to Gandhi and Tagore, Professor, Boston University, recently returned from a round-the-world trip; Hugh B. Hester, Brigadier General, U.S. Army, retired in 1951 after 34 years of military service, student of international relations, recently interviewed Khrushchev during visit to Russia; Bayard Rustin, leading American exponent of Gandhian nonviolent action, secretary to Martin Luther King; and Norman Whitney, National Peace Secretary, AFSC, Friend, world traveler, former professor, Syracuse University.
According to information received from the Committee for Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, the crew of the Golden Rule made another attempt to sail into the restricted area of the Pacific which is reserved for the testing of atomic weapons. Before leaving, Albert Bigelow was arrested for contempt of court and sentenced to sixty days in jail. On June 4, William Huntington, George Willoughby, Orion Sherwood, and James Peck, New York City, a new member of the crew, sailed out from Honolulu but were towed back by the Coast Guard after having traveled five miles. William Huntington, George Willoughby, and Orion Sherwood were sentenced to sixty days in jail, a penalty which they are now serving. James Peck, not having been involved in the earlier attempt, was also sentenced to sixty days in prison, but was released on probation.
The Committee which has sponsored the protest sailing of the Golden Rule called for nation-wide support of the crew, all five of whom are now in jail in Honolulu. In a public statement the Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons said:
Reverse this course. The Golden Rule sits idle in its slip in the Ala Wai Yacht Basin in Honolulu. The crew have been stopped and are in jail. The tests have not been stopped. The nuclear arms race goes on. We call on President Eisenhower to stop the tests in the Pacific immediately. Free the men of the Golden Rule.
The Committee reiterates the moral and nonviolent character of the Golden Rule project:
The intention of the men in the Golden Rule was to make a moral witness against the nuclear tests, and they were prepared to face the risk of radiation nonviolently, exposing no one but themselves to injury, refraining from any positive acts of interference with the tests, in order to call attention to the far greater injuries of all kinds being done by the tests and by nuclear war preparations in general. Government agents have acted as they have because they do not want to face the moral challenge of four harmless men sitting quietly in a tiny boat near the scene of a huge nuclear blast.
When the Golden Rule sailed from San Pedro on March 25, there was no law against sailing in the open seas in the Marshall Island area. The Committee states:
The government of the United States has exercised its power to stop the crew of the Golden Rule, though we are convinced it has no right in law or morals to do so. On general principle and on the basis of traditional concepts of national sovereignty and freedom of the seas, the position of the United States in staging nuclear tests in the open ocean outside its own territory is indefensible. If the United States does so in the Pacific, on what grounds is the Soviet Union or some other country forbidden to do so in the Atlantic?
The sponsors of the Golden Rule call on members of Congress and of the courts, the President and his associates, the armed forces, the labor movement, the press, the churches, and all elements in our society to ponder the issues raised when the crew of the Golden Rule can be jailed by the power of administrative decree.
Clarence E. Pickett’s choice of inspirational passages, read shortly before the evening addresses [of the 1958 Friends General Conference Gathering] were given, proved his discerning judgment. It was more than timely that on Thursday night he chose to interrupt his series of biblical quotations, especially the sequence of passages from the Letters to the Young Churches, by reading part of a letter by William Huntington, written from prison in Honolulu, where he is confined with the other crew members of the Golden Rule.
Lyle Tatum, chairman of Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, and the crew of the ketch Golden Rule have announced the termination of the Golden Rule project against the nuclear tests in the Pacific. The following statement was received from the crew of the Golden Rule, now serving sixty-day jail sentences in Honolulu:
When we sailed the Golden Rule for the bomb test area, we stated that we would proceed as far as possible. We sailed from San Pedro to Honolulu. Twice we have attempted to sail from Honolulu to the Marshall Islands bomb test area. Twice we have been stopped by government action.
The second time we were sentenced to sixty days in prison. We are still in jail. It is, therefore, impossible for us to sail again before the end of the present tests. Hence we must regretfully announce that we have proceeded as far as possible and have been stopped.
At the same time the crew of the Golden Rule announced their backing of Dr. Earle Reynolds, former Antioch College anthropologist, who is captain of the ketch Phoenix of Hiroshima, which left Honolulu June 11, bound for Japan via the nuclear testing area. Aboard the boat, a 50-foot ketch, is the Reynolds family, including two teenage children, and a Japanese crewman, Niichi Mikami. Before sailing, Earle Reynolds issued a statement which said in part:
This trip is the culmination of a four-year voyage around the world. By this final trip we are calling on the people of the United States to examine their government’s policies and actions which are now gravely suspect in the eyes of the world.
Lyle Tatum, in Philadelphia, stated that the end of the Golden Rule project does not mean the end of opposition to nuclear testing on the part of Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons.
From the Honolulu City Jail, Albert Bigelow, William Huntington, George Willoughby, Orion Sherwood, and James Peck sent a letter to President Eisenhower, again urging that he use the powers of his office to stop the current series of tests in the Pacific and “to start turning the course of history away from nuclear warfare.”
On June 28 the Golden Rule protest ship was sold to an undisclosed buyer. The asking price was $16,000, but the price actually paid was not divulged. The money will be used to pay costs of the project.
August 23, from “Letter from Japan” by Jackson H. Bailey
The vernacular as well as the English-language press has given extensive coverage to the voyage of the Golden Rule, but unfortunately the deeper implications of this protest are not dealt with, or even recognized by the general public. There is popular acclaim for this evidence of opposition in America to the tests since support for a test ban is almost universal here. Japan is caught between Soviet test radiation brought over by winter winds from Siberia and American radiation brought from the Pacific by the prevailing summer winds. The underlying spiritual implications, however, of man’s responsibility, first to God and second to his fellow man, whomever and wherever he may be, to which the actions of the crew of the Golden Rule are, I believe, intended to witness, are as little considered here as elsewhere.
September 13, from a report on Pacific Yearly Meeting
Quite by accident the Phoenix of Hiroshima docked in a slip in Honolulu harbor near that of the Golden Rule. Crews of the two boats had not known each other before. Earle and Barbara Reynolds of the Phoenix, with their two children Ted and Jessica and Japanese crewman Nick, were so impressed by what the Golden Rule was trying to do that after much consideration they decided to go on with the same effort after the other boat had been stopped.
This story of the unexpected contagion of their own witness was the main burden of the very modest report which Orion Sherwood brought to Pacific Yearly Meeting (August 6 to 10, 1958) at Redlands, Calif., only a few days after he and the other crewmen of the Golden Rule had been released from jail in Honolulu. Orion Sherwood stated that Barbara Reynolds, who is a writer, has written an article about the Phoenix experience which so far has not found publication in a national magazine.
October 4, letters to the editor
Your editorial on “The Church and Atomic Warfare” speaks with refreshing forthrightness and clarity on ecumenical sanctioning of atomic warfare. It is a challenge of faith and steadfastness for the Society of Friends in maintaining our peace testimony in the face of wavering deliberations and pessimism. It is also an inspiration that a non-Friends family, the Reynolds, carried through the concern for the intercepted voyage of the Golden Rule in protesting further atomic testing.
Betty Pennock, Medford, N.J.
October 11, from “Friends Peace Testimony” by Mary Cary
Willingness to suffer any consequences of their action was shown by most groups. The Golden Rule crew disregarded dangers of radiation and storms, and calmly met their prison sentences. The sit-down fast group endured hunger quietly during their entire demonstration. Firm, patient persistence won the day when Admiral Strauss appeared to talk to them.
The crews of the Golden Rule and Phoenix, the two ketches which sailed to protest the Eniwetok nuclear tests last summer, left Friday, November 28, for Geneva, Switzerland. They went to encourage and urge the delegates of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain to act promptly and decisively to end nuclear-weapons testing. They and the Committee for Non-Violent Action believe that “the moral pressures which convinced governments six months ago that the Geneva Conference should be called must now make themselves felt again, and more strongly.”
Flying from Honolulu to represent the Phoenix are Barbara Reynolds, recently skipper during the 60-day, 4,500-mile, headwind passage from Kwajalein to Honolulu, and Niichi Mikami, Japanese bosun. (Earle Reynolds, skipper of the Phoenix, is under six months’ sentence. His passport has been impounded as a condition of bail, pending appeal.)
They will join Golden Rulers Albert Bigelow of Cos Cob, Conn., William Huntington, mate, of St. James, Long Island, Jim Peck, seaman, of New York City, and George Willoughby, bosun, of Blackwood Terrace, New Jersey. The Golden Rule crew served 60 days in Honolulu jail last summer.
Albert Bigelow, skipper of the Golden Rule, said:
The hopes of mankind are centered in Geneva. World-famous moral leaders and scientists have pleaded that nuclear tests be stopped. Each nation has indicated its good intentions for the success of the conference. The anxious hearts of humanity yearn for the end of nuclear tests. We sailed into the Pacific to speak to the conscience of men. We go to Geneva to say now is the time to encourage and support the men at Geneva!
The voyage of the Golden Rule will be told in a book being written for Doubleday by Albert Bigelow, skipper of the vessel which protested the nuclear tests in the Pacific.