On November 23, 1970, a Lithuanian seaman named Simas Kudirka leaped from the deck of a Soviet fishing trawler to the U.S. Coast Guard ship called the Vigilant, and asked political asylum. The two ships were anchored side by side in American territorial waters off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
The Russians demanded that the U.S. Coast Guard return Kudirka. The Coast Guard officers instead allowed crew members of the Soviet ship to board the Vigilant, search it until they found and captured Kudirka, beat him unconscious, and carry him back to the Soviet ship. He was subsequently sent to a Soviet prison.
The behavior of the Coast Guard officers who rejected Kudirka’s desperate plea for political asylum, and who allowed this brutal act of Soviet tyranny to take place on an American ship, was universally condemned.
New documentary evidence, however, indicates that the victim of this human tragedy was not just a Lithuanian sailor, but was and is an American citizen whose mother was born in Brooklyn, New York.
Because he was born out of wedlock, Kudirka acquired at birth the American citizenship of his mother by reason of Section 205 of the Nationality Act of 1940; and this fact has been confirmed by senior officials of the U.S. Naturalization Service. Although this 1950 law was subsequently repealed by the McCarran Act of 1952, Kudirka did not lose his citizenship because our laws do not operate retroactively.
Since our Government has never recognized the Soviet invasion of Lithuania, and still maintains diplomatic relations with the Lithuanian Government-in-exile, the Soviets cannot establish that Kudirka is a Russian citizen or that he has “dual citizenship” with Russia.
This new evidence that Kudirka is an American citizen presents the United States with an unexpected opportunity to correct the shameful injustice of allowing Kudirka to be kidnapped from the deck of an American ship in American waters. Our State Department should demand that the Soviet government return Kudirka to the United States.
This would be a good test to find out if the Soviets are sincere about detente. Kidnapping is reprehensible when practiced by the Symbionese Liberation Army and other outlaws. It is unthinkable that any nation seeking credits from the United States would fail to return a kidnapped U.S. citizen.
The “Americans for Simas” Committee hopes that many people will contact their Senators and Congressmen in behalf of the kidnapped American citizen, Simas Kudirka.