Commander William R. Sayles, United States Naval Attaché at Paris, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
COPY OF TELEGRAM
May 22nd , 1917,
Ministry of Marine requests me to inform Department that American ships are arriving in France with sailors of all nationalities. These are men not provided with passports with photographs or with certificates of nationality or identification.1 Some of them are agents of the enemy. To control and regulate these men and stop espionage hereafter on arrival in French ports, cards of identification will be furnished them. French government urgently requests that the United States Government issue similar cards of identity to crews of all American ships. Ministry of Marine requests to be informed as soon as possible what actions your will take. 16022
Source Note: CCy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. Stamped in the upper right hand corner is: “COPY FOR THE/INFORMATION OF VICE ADMIRAL/SIMS.”
Footnote 1: On 13 March 1916, Pres. Woodrow Wilson had issued Executive Order 2341 concerning the cancellation and reissue of passports for American citizens travelling abroad. That order would cover seamen who were American citizens. There is no record, however, that foreign nationals serving on American ships were issued identification. However, on 25 May, Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory announced in a cabinet meeting that an effort would be made to insure that no German aliens were officers of ships in New York harbor or were to be found employed in American arsenals or in American navy yards. DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1. On 27 May, the State Department ordered that American consuls “at ports of arrival of American vessels bearing armed guards” issue certificates of identification for those guards based on the identification card issued by the U.S. Navy. These certificates are to be used while the guards are ashore and at departure should collected and cancelled.” Robert Lansing to the Staff of the American Embassy in London, 27 May 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.