Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Statement by Henry Nelson
Statement of the Accused: Henry Nelson
Captain of the SS President Coolidge
"The sea has been my life for over 44 years. I received my unlimited master's license in 1905. Since that time I have been master of many vessels sailing in all parts of the world -- since 1920 the President Wilson for 3 years, the President Pierce for 13 years, the President Cleveland for 1 year, and the President Coolidge for 3 years. I have sailed under various instructions from both private and govermental agencies. In all that time I have neither disregarded nor violated any instructions received unless they would have imperiled the safety of my vessel. I am at present the senior master and Commodore of the APL. I have been master of the S.S. President Coolidge since early 1940, a period of over 2 1/2 years. My affection for that vessel was as great as that a man may have for an inanimate object. My patriotism and love of country has never been questioned. I am not a young man, having reached the age of retirement even for Naval Officers. It was because of my feeling that my country needed me in its time of crises that I continued at sea rather than to seek retirement to enjoy with my family the few remaining years of my life.
I did not cause the loss of the S.S. President Coolidge. I received no special instructions for entrance to Segond Channel. I directed my ship to that channel in the safest manner possible with due consideration for the information that I had regarding it. With the information I had, it would have been poor seamanship to have directed my ship through the narrow Bocayco passage [the passage between Bocayco - now Bokissa - Island and Tutuba Island] when a wider and less navigationally hazardous entrance was available. For then, it would have been folly on my part under these circumstances to have delayed my arrival at Buttons by taking the longer Bocayco passage route and thus longer expose my ship to open water and submarine attacks.
I have been subjected to this trial by Military Commission at a foreign place and have been without the advice and comfort of my friends and family during this period. I have not been allowed to communicate with my company in order to receive advice, instruction, or aid. It has been necessary for me to entrust my defense of the charge before the Military Commission to those who were not previously well known to me either personally or by reputation.
I re-affirm my innocence of the charge and specifications. My whole life, career, and activities have been foreign to such.
Henry Nelson, Master"
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References:Copies of original papers from the Court Martial given to me by Kevin Green of Aquamarine Diving, Santo
The Lady and the President - The Life and Loss of the S.S. President Coolidge by Peter Stone