Secretaryof the Navy Josephus Daniels to Secretary of State Robert M. Lansing
April 13, 1917
Referring to the status of the U. S. S. SCORPION, now stationed at Constantinople, I have the honor to invite your consideration of the following circumstances bearing upon her present situation.1
During the past few weeks some thirty-six members of the SCORPION’s crew and one of her officers have been started enroute to the United States by way of Berne, Switzerland, and there remain on board at the present time three commissioned officers and something over forty men. Repeated newspaper reports of the last few days announce the internment of the SCORPION and her crew. Under ordinary circumstances of service of a man-of-war detained in a friendly port beyond twenty-four hours, such internment of ship and crew would undoubtedly be in accordance with international policy. However, there are certain conditions of her service at Constantinople which seem to afford reasonable ground for exceptional treatment. The SCORPION, although officered and manned by personnel in the regular naval service, is without any ammunition on board for her guns, and her service has been that of a
fender tender placed for the convenience and service of the American Ambassador to Turkey. Such an assignment has no warlike mission and the vessel is incapable of hostile act.2 Under such circumstances, it appears that the ship and crew might well be considered as an appendage of the Embassy, and that the crew should be treated as part of the Ambassador’s official family.
I have the honor to suggest, therefore, that this matter be taken up with our Ambassador at Constantinople and that an effort be made to obtain permission for safe transportation to the United States of men and officers of the SCORPION through Switzerland, following the route recently taken by part of the crew, or any other safe route that might be permitted. Failing to obtain such permission, I suggest the Ambassador use his best effort to have the crew of the SCORPION recognized as a part of his entourage and that he obtain assurances that in case of severance of diplomatic relations with Turkey these officers and men, like the Embassy staff, be given safe conduct out of Europe.3
Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. At the top left of this copy is the identification number “2742” and “Op-10.” Below Daniels’ signature, it is addressed: “The Honorable/The Secretary of State.”
Footnote 1: On 19 February 1917, Robert Lansing contacted Josephus Daniels expressing concerns shared by the American Ambassador in Constantinople, Abram I. Elkus, about what should be done with SCORPION, a gunship assigned as the station ship at Constantinople, should diplomatic relations with Turkey be severed. Finding it was of strategic importance that the ship remain in Constantinople, Daniels advised Lansing that internment would be a desirable option if Turkey broke off relations with the U.S. See: Frank L. Polk to Josephus Daniels, 19 February 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517; Josephus Daniels to Robert Lansing, 23 February 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.
Footnote 2: SCORPION was involved in a number of humanitarian missions during its time in Turkey. DANFS.
Footnote 3: Despite these efforts, SCORPION was officially interned on 11 April with her crew. The only exception was James P. Morton, commander of SCORPION, who left Constantinople on 4 May, having received permission to do so as Naval Attaché. J.P. Morton to Josephus Daniels, “Internment of the USS SCORPION at Constantinople April 11, 1917,” 22 May 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517 and Frank L. Polk to Josephus Daniels, 6 June 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. For a detailed report of the SCORPION’s actions during the period of its internment (11 April 1917-9 November 1918), see, Herbert S. Babbitt to Josephus Daniels, 24 November 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.