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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

Opnav, Washington.  Nov. 30, 1917.


NCB 18 D.     

1800. I approve following from Niblack2 quote Steamer KIOWA bound to Marseille<s> France, with provisions  and medical stores for Servian prisoners of war, has arrived Gibraltar. Ship is painted white and marked with Red Cross on side, flies Red Cross flag and at night illuminates inscription on ships side.

     On account of uncertain character and in order not to compromise British – German agreement as hospital ship in Mediterranean Sea, British Admiralty propose painting vessel gray, remove marks and extra light and place her in convoy to Marseille<s> France. They request Navy Department take steps to prevent repeat. For reasons given and to safeguard ship I concur in action now being taken 18529 Niblack unquote.

     Following is quoted from memorandum from Admiralty quote Owing to the attitude taken up by the German Government with regard to hospital ships in the Mediterranean, it has recently been arranged, through the intervention of the Spanish Government that German submarines will not attack hospital ships, which have been duly notified as such, while in the Mediterranean Sea, provided that they carry a Spanish delegate on board who will be able to certify that the terms of the Conventions which relate to the use of hospital ships are strictly adhered to. Any infringement by any of the Allies of this arrangement is liable to render al<l> hospital ships in the Mediterranean liable to attack, and it is therefore of great importance that nothing should be done which could in any way compromise this agreement.

     The painting of the vessel referred to in the telegram. would not in any case render her immune from attack and under the terms of the Hague Convention No. ten of 19073 she is not authorized to carry the markings of hospital ships. It is hoped that steps can be taken with a view to preventing any ships from proceeding to the Mediterranean with these markings which are not authorized to carry them unquote. 22030


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: Capt. Nathan C. Twining.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Albert P. Niblack, Commander, United States Naval Forces at Gibraltar.

Footnote 3: Article 10 of the 1907 Hague Convention adapts the previous principles of the agreement to maritime warfare. In this case the issue is that the ship is acting as a transport for recovered prisoners of war and not strictly as a hospital vessel. A. Pearce Higgins, The Hague Peace Conference and Other International Conferences Concerning the Laws and Usages of War (Cambridge: University Press, 1909), 63.