FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Historic Peace Ship Is Re-Launched

Along the rugged coast of northern California’s Humboldt County, maritime history is being made. June 20th marked the launch ceremony of the rebuilt sailing ketch, the Golden Rule, after four years of hard work by a restoration team led by Veterans for Peace. As we shall see, the Golden Rule is no ordinary sailboat.

If you are old enough, you may recall that in the 1950’s, the U.S. military used the Marshall Islands as the primary site for its atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. As is now known, those huge nuclear detonations in the Western Pacific were wreaking havoc on the environment and human health. In fact, with each monstrous explosion, readily detectable clouds of radioactive fallout wafted around the planet, and contamination began to turn up in cows’ and mothers’ milk. Increasingly, skepticism grew about government assurances that there was no danger.

Then, in 1958, the Golden Rule arrived on the scene. The Hugh Angelman-designed 30-foot ketch was purchased by a group of activists who soon set out on a voyage of nonviolent protest toward the Marshalls. Their plan, which was well publicized, was to sail into the target zone and sacrifice both boat and crew if need be to bring a halt to the tests.

The Golden Rule and its crew never made it to their destination. The Coast Guard stopped the vessel in Hawaii and arrested everybody on board. But the publicity surrounding the crew’s trial and imprisonment helped ignite worldwide public outrage against atmospheric testing.

That outrage turned the tide. By 1963, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater, and outer space. No nuclear tests took place in the Marshall Islands after 1958.

Just as importantly, the use of nonviolent direct action as a fundamental guiding principle of the Golden Rule’s crew would also influence future generations of activists, as would their abiding respect for the humanity and dignity of those with whom they disagreed. The seas of the world have never been quite the same since.

The Golden Rule fired the imagination of a generation, and was the forebear of the many peace and environmental protest boats that followed, from New Zealand’s Vega, to the Australian Pacific Peacemaker, to the Sea Shepherds and Free Gaza flotillas.

The connection to Greenpeace is direct. In 1971, Golden Rule supporter Marie Bohlen attended a meeting in Vancouver, Canada of people concerned about nuclear weapons testing. She suggested a voyage toward the U.S. nuclear test site in the Aleutian Islands á la the Golden Rule. Soon, the rusty trawler Phyllis Cormack was renamed the Greenpeace and headed north toward the Alaskan Archipelago. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sadly, after the 1958 voyage, the Golden Rule was sold and slipped from public view. The ship wound up in Humboldt Bay, California, badly neglected. She finally sank in a storm in late 2010.

When a group of Northern California members of Veterans for Peace learned the damaged ketch was nearby and might be salvageable, they leaped at the chance to raise the vessel from the depths and restore it to its former peacemaking glory.

In large measure, the purpose of the rebuild of the Golden Rule is to honor the original crew. They stood firm for peace and nonviolence before it became fashionable. Two of them, Albert Bigelow and James Peck, later were among the original 13 Freedom Riders in 1961 in the American South.

The other crew members were equally noteworthy. One led United Nations development programs, and another became a founder of Peace Brigades International.

The team that has rebuilt the Golden Rule is honored to carry on this legacy by bringing the feisty little ketch back to life. While sponsored by Veterans for Peace, the Golden Rule Project brings together an eclectic mix of historic boat lovers, environmentalists, peace and religious activists, and progressives. It’s open to anyone interested in working to keep the boat sailing and promote its mission.

Now that the re-build is complete, the Golden Rule will soon ride the waves as a living museum and floating classroom. Her crews will educate future generations on the risks of nuclear technology, the importance of the ocean environment, and above all, the power of peacemaking.

Arnold “Skip” Oliver is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. Visit VFPGoldenRuleProject.org for more information.

More articles by:

Arnold “Skip” Oliver is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
The  FBI: Another Worry in the National Security State
Rob Urie
Establishment Politics are for the Rich
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: That’s Neoliberalism for You
Paul Street
Midnight Ramble: A Fascist Rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania
Joan Roelofs
The Science of Lethality
Joyce Nelson
Buttigieg and McKinsey
Joseph Natoli
Equally Determined: To Impeach/To Support
Charles Pierson
The National Defense Authorization Act Perpetuates the Destruction of Yemen
REZA FIYOUZAT
An Outrageous Proposal: Peace Boats to Iran
Andrew Levine
A Plague on Both Their Houses, Plus a Dozen Poxes on Trump’s
David Rosen
Mortality Rising: Trump and the Death of the “American Dream”
Lee Hall
Donald Trump Jr., Mongolian Sheep Killer
Dave Lindorff
The Perils of Embedded Journalism: ‘Afghan Papers’ Wouldn’t Be Needed If We Had a Real Independent News Media
Brian Cloughley
Human Rights and Humbug in Washington
Stephen Leas
Hungry for a Livable Planet: Why I Went On Hunger Strike and Occupied Pelosi’s Office
Saad Hafiz
Pakistan Must Face Its Past
Lawrence Davidson
Deteriorating Climates: Home and Abroad
Cal Winslow
The End of the Era: Nineteen Nineteen
Louis Proyect
If Time Magazine Celebrates Greta Thunberg, Why Should We?
Thomas Drake
Kafka Down Under: the Threat to Whistleblowers and Press Freedom in Australia
Thomas Knapp
JEDI Mind Tricks: Amazon Versus the Pentagon and Trump
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s War on the Poor
Michael Welton
Seeing the World Without Shadows: the Enlightenment Dream
Ron Jacobs
The Wind That Shook the Barley: the Politics of the IRA
Rivera Sun
Beyond Changing Light Bulbs: 21 Ways You Can Stop the Climate Crisis
Binoy Kampmark
The Bloomberg Factor: Authoritarianism, Money and US Presidential Politics
Nick Pemberton
Ideology Shall Have No Resurrection
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
What Trump and the GOP Learned From Obama
Ramzy Baroud
‘Elected by Donors’: the University of Cape Town Fails Palestine, Embraces Israel
Cesar Chelala
Unsuccessful U.S. Policy on Cuba Should End
Harry Blain
The Conservatism of Impeachment
Norman Solomon
Will the Democratic Presidential Nomination Be Bought?
Howard Lisnoff
The One Thing That US Leaders Seem to Do Well is Lie
Jeff Cohen
Warren vs. Buttigieg Clash Offers Contrast with Sanders’ Consistency
Mel Gurtov
The Afghanistan Pentagon Papers
Gaither Stewart
Landslide … to Totalitarianism
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
How Blaming Nader in 2000 Paved the Way for Today’s Neo-Fascism
Steve Early
In Re-Run Election: LA Times Journalist Wins Presidency of NewsGuild 
David Swanson
If You’re Not Busy Plotting Nonviolent Revolution for Peace and Climate, You’re Busy Dying
Nicky Reid
Sorry Lefties, Your Impeachment is Bullshit
John Kendall Hawkins
The Terror Report You Weren’t Meant to See
Susan Block
Krampus Trumpus Rumpus
Martin Billheimer
Knight Crawlers
David Yearsley
Kanye in the West
Elliot Sperber
Dollar Store 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail