Four men sailed for the Hawaiian Islands, planning to go to Eniwetok in protest against continued testing of nuclear bombs. They left San Pedro, California, on February 10, in a thirty-foot ketch. Albert Bigelow '29 was captain of the ship; the crew contained another alumnus, William R. Huntington '28, who has a daughter at Radcliffe.
The ketch, "Golden Rule," was damaged by storms soon after its departure, and was forced to return to San Pedro for repairs. She set out again at the end of March, and reached Hawaii on April 19. On April 28, the United States Government issued an injunction instructing the crew to appear at a hearing on May 1. On that day the four men, defying the Government, the U.S. Navy, and the Atomic Energy Commission, all of which had given orders that no one was to enter the testing area, set sail from Honolulu for Eniwetok. In half an hour they were overtaken by a Coast Guard cutter and towed back to Hawaii. They have now been arrested for criminal contempt of court.
The relative success or failure of the voyage itself, however, is not the central issue. "Eliminating nuclear warfare is the most important practical issue in the world," wrote Huntington last summer, "I do what I do because it is the way I feel about it. My feeling is not the most important thing in the world--it may be all wrong--but it is the best I have. If everyone else in the world will do above all else what he thinks is right about this most important issue, then it shall be properly met. I hope I am a part of this process."
Bigelow first became aware of the necessity for stopping war in 1945: "Late in World War II, I was a Captain of the destroyer escort DALE W. PETERSON--DE 337--and was on her bridge as we came into Pearl Harbor from San Francisco when the first news arrived of the explosion of an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Although I had no way of understanding what an atom bomb was, I was absolutely awestruck, as I suppose all men were for a moment. Intuitively it was then that I realized for the first time that morally war is impossible."
Of the voyage of the Golden Rule Bigelow says: ". . . men are bound by old patterns of feeling, thought, and action. The organs of public opinion are almost completely shut against us. It seems practically impossible, moreover, for the ordinary person by ordinary means to speak to, and affect the action of, his government. . . . It is only by such acts as sailing a boat to Eniwetok and thus 'speaking' to the government right in the testing area that we can expect to be heard."
The voyage is sponsored by Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, a committee of pacifist leaders who feel that pacifism is not a negative refusal to fight; but on the contrary, the most positive approach to world problems. They advocate a constructive program for peace, which would transfer the effort, resources and intelligence now used in preparations for war to a plan for non-violent national defense. Fully aware of the need to resist the growth of communism, they yet look on war as only strengthening totalitarianism everywhere, and deny the assumption that "the massive engine of modern war can be applied rationally, or controlled to achieve democratic ends . . . And we have seen that a constructive program for peace cannot be carried on simultaneously with a program for military preparedness."
Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons is not only trying to make the United States stop nuclear tests. They have sent a delegation to Moscow, via London, to talk to both British and Russian leaders about cessation of tests. One member of the delegation is Bayard Rustin, secretary to Martin Luther King.
The Non-Violent Action committee also sponsored a demonstration in Nevada last summer, at the Camp Mercury testing grounds. Here, in the same spirit of Gandhian civil disobedience that has guided the crew of the "Golden Rule," eleven people attempted to enter the testing area. They were arrested for trespassing, and given a suspended sentence. Bigelow was a member of this group.
The week after the ketch had arrived in Honolulu, the University of Hawaii newspaper ran an extra, headlined GOLDEN RULE--ISSUE OF AN ERA. It may well be such an issue, and four men in the Pacific have made up their minds as to how they feel about it. The voyage can be opposed or supported; it should not be ignored