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Lieutenant Commander Edward McCauley Jr., to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels



U.S.S. RHODE ISLAND            

Navy Yard, Boston, Mass.,    

June 9, 1915.      


From: Lieutenant Commander E. McCauley, Jr., U.S.Navy.1

To  : The Secretary of the Navy.

1. In connection with the recent acquisition by Japan of certain Islands in the Pacific, I submit the following for the information of the Department, and for such further reference as the Department may deem desirable.2

2. The newspapers of our own and other countries have printed considerable information on this subject, and there is no doubt some realization of the apparent menace to the United States which Japan's possession of these islands conveys especially in view of the conditions and circumstances under which that country has acquired and now holds the islands, but I doubt if the very serious extent of the real danger to our own country is generally known or surmised.

3. Attention was called to the importance of these chains of islands in certain articles written in 1898 by Professor Edward V. Robinson of the University of Minnesota, and by Rear Admiral Bradford, U.S.Navy, in the Forum of February 1899.3

4. While in Europe recently I had a conversation with Prof.Robinson on the subject and since then he has written me on the subject.4 Having been in Geneva last winter, where he had access to all of the principal newspapers of Europe and having been a student in Germany some years ago, he is well informed on the present status of the islands, familiar with the German policy, and with the semi-official opinions as expressed by the press of certain countries. Recent articles in the press and recent events in the Far East have again called my attention to the subject.5

5. The groups of islands in question are the Marshall, Caroline, Pelew, and Ladrone or Marianne Islands. All except the first were sold to Germany by Spain in 1899.6 It is reported that all of them have been occupied by the Japanese and that, in the Marianne group, a Japanese civil government has been established, which seems to imply a permanent occupation.7

6. It is well known that these islands contain a number of excellent harbors, so located as to command practically all the routes across the Pacific and especially to and from the Philippines.8

7. The possession of these islands by Germany in the past appeared more or less dangerous to the United States. Their retention by Japan is equally if not more dangerous. That country has recently given renewed evidence of its territorial ambitions and something of a disregard of the American doctrine of the open door in China,9 and I believe, to say the least, that the fact that Japan is now less susceptible than formally to American influence and opinion on such matters is due to the possession of such harbors, which would effectually blocked the principal routes across the Pacific except to a greatly superior fleet.

8. Strategically and geographically the retention of these islands by Japan would inevitable tend to create friction between Japan and the United States, but in addition, and this point Prof. Robinson particularly emphasized, the fact of the Japanese control of these islands will be s[e]ized upon as an additional means of bringing on war between the United States and Japan by nations who might wish for war between those countries, and there are such, who desire thereby to weaken both countries.

9. It would undoubtedly be well for the United States to look at this matter squarely now, and seek to anticipate and avoid a situation which would constantly tend towards, if not invite, war. In this direction appears that the best means of promoting an inspiring peace, so far as the United States is concerned, would be to make sure that the four groups of islands are neither returned to Germany nor left in the possession of the Japanese at the close of the war.

10. As to what should be done with them. It seems that it would be best for them to be taken over by Great Britain, whose good behavior towards the United States is, in a measure, assured by the proximity of Canada.10

11.  If the attention of the British Government were informally and unofficially called to the danger of permitting Japan to retain these islands, means might be found to satisfy Japan elsewhere. It would be greatly to the interests of Great Britain, as an ally of Japan, to avoid anything tending to friction between the United States and that country, since Great Britain would be placed in a position of great difficulty and danger in the event of such friction developing into a war between the two countries.

12.  This question may have already been considered in all its phases by our Government, but in the event that it has not, I respectfully submit the above. . . .11

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 59, M367, roll 51. In right corner of the first page: “CONFIDENTIAL.” McCauley did not sign this document.

Footnote 1: Just prior to this time McCauley was commander of the steam steel yacht Scorpion, which was stationed in Constantinople during the First and Second Balkan Wars. Four months after this report was submitted he was ordered to work for the Office of Naval Intelligence. He was assistant director of the ONI from 1916 to 1918. McCauley biography, DN-HC, ZB Files.

Footnote 2: After the outbreak of World War I the Japanese Empire seized numerous Pacific islands that had belonged to Germany. Sadao Asada, From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2006), 51.

Footnote 3: See, RAdm. Royal B. Bradford, “Coaling Stations for the Navy, Forum, vol. xxvi (February 1899): 732-47.

Footnote 4: Appended to this intelligence synopsis was a two-page report dated 13 August 1915, by Professor Edward V. D. Robinson, who claimed that the Japanese posed a threat to the U.S. DNA, RG 59, M367.

Footnote 5: McCauley is referring to the Twenty-One Demands that Japan presented to China on 8 January 1915, after its forces took over German possessions on China’s coast. Meeting these demands would have reduced China to a subordinate protectorate status. Foster R. Dulles, China and America: The Story of Their Relations since 1784 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946), 140-42.

Footnote 6: After its defeat in the Spanish-American War, Madrid sold its Pacific island possessions to Germany on 12 February 1899. However, Guam was taken over by the U.S. before war ended. On the conquest of Guam, see: Capture of Guam.

Footnote 7: An intelligence gathering report from RAdm. Albert G. Winterhalter, the commander-in-chief of the Asiatic Fleet, relayed information that the Japanese were tightening their control on some of these islands. Winterhalter to Josephus Daniels, 15 December 1916, DNA, RG 59, M367.

Footnote 8: The U.S. acquired the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, and, used the Philippines as a base, hoping to expand trade in the Orient. The Japanese presence in the Pacific was construed by McCauley as a potential strategic threat to these islands. For a discussion of the view in the U.S. Navy that Japan constituted a threat, see Braisted, The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1909-1922.

Footnote 9: The Open Door Policy was first declared by Secretary of State John Hay on 6 September 1899. In effect, it stated that all countries should be able to freely trade with China. John K. Fairbank, The United States and China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), 295-303.

Footnote 10: There was anti-British sentiment within the U.S. Navy’s officer corps. McCauley may have been referring to Great Britain, since London previously established an alliance and military understanding with Japan in early 1902. For more on the anti-British sentiment, see: Cecil Spring Rice to British Foreign Office, 20 March 1917; Ian H. Nish, The Anglo-Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires, 1894-1907 (London: The Athone Press, 1966).

Footnote 11: Appended to this report was a letter from Prof. Edward V. D. Robinson dated 13 August 1915.