Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

First Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington Colville Barclay to British Foreign Office

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

MILITARY      

Decypher. Mr. Barclay. (Washington). March 25th.1917.

          R.  8.0.a.m. March 26th.1917.

No. 791.

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     Secret.

     Your telegram No. 824.1

     I have spoken privately to Counsellor of State Department and Assistant Secretary of Navy.2 They quite understand that initiative should come from United States Government. Difficulty is that until actual state of war is proclaimed they are unable to approach us officially.

     Assistant Secretary of Navy suggests unofficially it might be advisable to send as soon as possible expert Naval officer from London also one from Commander-in-Chief’s staff in American waters whose advice would be invaluable to Naval Department as regards netting and mining methods against submarines and coast patrol, etc. Danger of waiting to send these officers until after actual declaration of a state of war would be that much valuable time would be lost. There is of course an off chance that a state of war will not be declared on April 2nd but strongest probabilities are that it will.3

Source Note: C, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1426.

Footnote 3: President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress on 2 April, and requested a declaration of war but the resolution was not passed by the Senate until 5 April, and by the House of Representatives until 6 April. Wilson signed it on 6 April. Later that same day, Barclay cabled to say that Roosevelt had just informed him “confidentially” that the above “suggestions” would be sent to U.S. Ambassador Walter Hines Page “with a view of their being communicated to British authorities.” Franklin also told Barclay that “suggestion will be at the same time be made to send at once an American Naval officer of rank to London on special mission.” Ibid.

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