Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Rear Admiral William B. Caperton, Commander, Pacific Fleet

Operations.

11 May 1917.

USS PITTSBURG, Flag.1

TRANSLATION:

Sigcode: Guatamala has broken with Germany period2 Department desires you stop long enough on route to call on President of Guatamala3 in order to show the good-will of United States and encourage friendly relations period Explain that on account of war visit must be made short period Make full report conditions4 Acknowledge 10011.

Secnav

Source Note: C, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. At the top right of the cable is the identifier “OM-140.” At the top left is another identifier “Op-11-D.” Below the signature is a final identifier, “Class SP”. Caperton was ordered to patrol the east coast of South America with his flotilla to clear those waters of German raiders and to promote goodwill. On Caperton’s mission, see David Healy, “Admiral William B. Caperton and United States Naval Diplomacy in South America, 1917-1919,” Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 8, no. 2 (Nov. 1976), 297-323.

Footnote 1: That is, Pittsburgh.

Footnote 2: Guatemala had broken diplomatic relations with Germany on 27 April 1917 and at the same time offered use of Guatemalan territory waters, ports, and railroad facilities to the United States, which the United States formally accepted on 10 May. Josephus Daniels to ALNAV, 10 May 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 3: Manuel Estrada Cabrera.

Footnote 4: Caperton later testified to Congress that when he visited Guatemala in May 1917, he learned the “reasons that Guatemala had broken with Germany.” According to Caperton, those reasons were: “(a) fear of aggression by Mexico and Salvador. (b) Opportunity to increase friendship of United States with consequent advantages of trade and protection. (c) Opportunity to confiscate large German estates. (d) Desire to strengthen Cabrera administration.” Investigation of Mexican Affairs. Preliminary Report and Hearings of the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate. 2 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), 2: 3212-13.

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