On February 10, 1964, an American Government vessel, the USNS BLUE JACKET, collided with a fishing boat, the M/V DIRK, on the Weser River in the territorial waters of the Federal Republic of Germany. Six members of the DIRK'S seven-man crew were killed; the seventh survived, but suffered physical injuries. In this lawsuit, brought on November 16, 1965, by the surviving crew member and a representative of those whose lives were lost, recovery is sought from the United States under the Public Vessels Act, 46 U.S.C. § 781 et seq. for the pain, suffering, and other damages attendant upon the deaths and personal injuries.
The Government has moved for summary judgment dismissing the suit, asserting that the matter has been withdrawn from the court's subject-matter jurisdiction by the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty Status of Forces Agreement ("NATOSOFA") of June 19, 1951, 4 U.S.T. 1792, to which the Federal Republic of Germany acceded by a Supplementary Agreement of August 3, 1959, effective July 1, 1963, 14 U.S.T. 531. Those treaty arrangements, the Government contends, create a comprehensive and exclusive scheme for adjudication and settlement of claims within their purview. The argument appears to be clearly correct. The only question initially creating some doubt as to whether the motion should be granted is whether the BLUE JACKET, at the time of the disaster, was part of a "force" governed by the provisions of NATO-SOFA.