Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

United States Ambassador to Great Britain Walter Hines Page to Secretary of State Robert Lansing

 

PARAPHRASE

     June 29th 1917.

Secstate,1  WASHINGTON.

     6567.....June 29. 1 p.m.

     My 6539… June 26. 2 p.m. The Foreign Office has received from the French Ambassador2 a memorandum in which it is stated that the French Government suspect that the Spanish and German Governments may have planned together the entry of the UC-52 into the port of Cadiz. It is reported that she intends on leaving Spain to carry away mail matter and a quantity of wolfram and that she brought in mail matter and is leaving explosives with the German Naval Attache in Spain. The French Government consider the presentation to the Spanish Government of a Note concerted between the representatives of the Allied Governments of Madrid justified by these circumstances.3

     The Spanish Charge d’Affaires has handed Mr. Balfour4 a memorandum to the effect that since the German Government has given to Spain a guarantee that the submarine will proceed directly to an Austrian or German port without committing any belligerent act on the way, the Spanish Government has informed them that the vessel will be permitted to depart by a fixed date after the completion of repairs.

     The British Government have advised their Ambassador at Madrid5 that they have received no information tending to confirm the suspicion of the French Government that the submarine reported at Cadiz for ulterior motives having in reality suffered no injuries, and at the same time they have instructed their Ambassador to protest in conjunction with his French colleague against the decision of the Spanish Government, basing his protest on broader grounds: that the release of the submarine would be a violation of both the spirit and the letter of international law which pre-supposes that the rules of civilized warfare will be observed in the operations of vessels seeking hospitality in neutral ports. The German submarines who do not submit to these rules transgress the laws of international warfare as openly and shamelessly as pirates and the British Government consider that neutrals who succor vessels behaving, by frank admission of the belligerent owners, with a criminal brutality which makes helpless victims of the neutrals themselves, are acting in a manner utterly inconsistent with the principles which underlie international morality.6

     Appeals have been sent to the Allied Governments to support this view and instructions have been sent to the British Ambassador at Madrid to unite with his Allied colleagues in presenting it urgently to the Government of Spain.7

PAGE.    

Mr. Gunther.8

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG45, Entry 517B. An identification number, “Out 3” appears in the upper right-hand corner. At the top of the second page, centered, “Page 2/PARAPHRASE continued” appears.

Footnote 1: That is, Secretary of State.

Footnote 2: Jean Adrien Antoine Jules Jusserand

Footnote 4: Foreign Secretary Sir Arthur J. Balfour.

Footnote 5: Sir Arthur H. Hardinge.

Footnote 6: The submarine revolutionized warfare at sea, and the Allies all reacted with horror to Germany using this new technology against commercial shipping and especially against neutral vessels. Wartime propaganda widely criticized the U-boat campaign as barbaric and uncivilized. Its most significant impact was to draw the United States into the war on the Allied side. Spector, At War at Sea: 104-114; Halpern, A Naval History of World War I: 294-300.

Footnote 7: On 29 June 1917, King Alfonso of Spain issued a decree banning submarines from any of the belligerent nations from entering Spanish territorial waters. Any submarine which violated this prohibition was subject to immediate internment until the end of the war. The joint letter suggested here does not appear in any of the World War I volumes of Foreign Relations of the United States and probably was not sent in light of the king’s proclamation. King Alfonso of Spain, Royal Decree, 29 June 1917, DNA, RG45, Entry 517.

Footnote 8: First Secretary of the American Embassy in London Franklin M. Gunther.

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