William Bailey was born into poverty in New York City and found escape as a twenty something through service in the U.S.Merchant Marine. He became a union member and then a member of the Communist Party USA, He visited Germany in the late 1930s aboard a US merchant vessel and saw first hand the handiwork of the brown shirts of the NAZIS. Bailey hated tyranny and turned vehemently against the NAZIS before America was even aware of the brutality of the regime. Bailey would eventually be thrown out of the maritime union he was a member of for being a communist, and he would eventually leave the Communist Party having become disillusioned with the party after Stalin took power in Russia,
In the thirties America and Germany were still trading and had diplomatic relations. There was shipping between the two nations. The SS BREMEN a sort of super passenger liner considered the flag ship of the NAZI commercial fleet connected New York City to German ports with regular liner service. Being a technological wonder of the era the ship drew large and favorable attention when it entered New York Harbor. However the sight of the hated twisted cross flag of the NAZIS outraged Bailey who had seen just how brutal and oppressive the NAZIS were. In the hope of starting a change in American public opinion towards NAZI Germany. Bailey and some fellow communists decided to stage a dramatic gesture aboard the SS Bremen while the ship was in New York, The gesture landed Bailey and some of his compatriots in jail for a short time but it did help start to turn American public opinion against the NAZIS.