Wednesday, November 12, 2008

J. Bruce Ismay

My dad and I had a short discussion last night about Ismay, and about how the choice me made shaped the rest of his life! So I though I would re-post this blog to give everybody something to think about.

Joseph Bruce, Ismay has received a lot of criticism over the past decades. Why? Because he got into a lifeboat when there were still women and children aboard. But is there any just foundation for this serious criticism? We'll look at the two sides of the story, 1. reasons for staying aboard, 2. reasons for getting on a lifeboat! Now this will be rather hard for me, since I already have an opinion of Ismay, but I will try to not let that come through..... you decide for yourself what he should have done!

1. First we'll look at the reasons that J. B. Ismay should have stayed aboard the sinking Titanic!
After the Titanic collided with an iceberg at about 11:45, it did not take long for Captain Smith to figure out there was not enough places for all the men, women and children in the lifeboats. So he gave the well known order, "women and children first." Now, did the Captain mean that there was no men to be allowed in the lifeboats? NO! The lifeboats needed officers, and sailors to make sure they were operated safely, and correctly. It was the spirit of the order that counted, if you did not have a legitimate reason for getting in a lifeboat, you had no place in one. Some fantastic men of measure did get off in a lifeboat, such as Harold Bride the wireless operator, Lightoller the Titanic's Second Officer, Archibald Gracie, Jack Thayer, and the list could go on.
Whats noticeable about these men, is they did not receive the criticism that Bruce, Ismay did, why is that?
Did Ismay have a responsibility to stay with the Titanic till she sank beneath the waves, like the Captain did? Lets look at some things that took place years earlier..... When the Titanic was still on blueprints the planning of how many lifeboats the Titanic would carry came up. The Titanic's designer at the time Andrew, Carlyle was pushing for 48 lifeboats which would have been enough for everyone one on board in case of a disaster. But there was one man standing in his way, John B. Ismay! When the rubber met the road Ismay said no, for various reasons. But when you get to the night of April 14, 1912 its a different story. Because of his choice, it puts him under some obligation to stay aboard and take whatever comes.
Here's possibly another reason that he should have stayed aboard. J. B. Ismay owned the White Star Line, which means he owned the Titanic. If a person owns something that is used for the public, and if fails in some way, and death follows, or injury, it seems that whoever owns it should take whatever other had to take as well. He was responsible for the passengers as well!
I guess one more thing that should have binded him to the Titanic in time of trouble, is the fact that there were still women and children on board, and he owed them all the safety that was in his power as a man. By giving up a spot in a lifeboat, and doing the courteous thing, and not to mention the polite thing!

2. It wouldn't be fair to explain one side of the story, so we'll make an argument for the opposite side. In this kind of situation we have to be fair, because Ismay is no longer around to speak for himself!
J. B. Ismay claims that there were no women in sight, and there are witness to back up the fact. Since that being true why should he stay on a sinking ship and face certain death? And if there was no women sight was he really breaking a rule? I think that if your standing on the side of a sinking ship, and there's an empty spot on a lifeboat, there are no women and children about, would we have the fortitude to remain on the ship? There are a lot of questions that come into play here, and what it comes down to is, was he doing something really out of the ordinary?
Why should he stay on a sinking ship if he could get off, and go back to his family, we can't really say that he had motives of the baser sort. He was the managing director of the White Star Line, he had a lot of responsibly back on shore.
Was there really a need to end his short life, just to make a name for himself?
And after all, you can't blame the entire construction of the ship on him, Thomas, Andrews obviously didn't have a problem with 20 lifeboats!
Just because countless men stayed aboard, doesn't mean that Ismay did if a opportunity presented himself.
To call this man a coward just because he got off a sinking ship, doesn't seem right! What would you have done in his position?