Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt to President Woodrow Wilson

Washington [4 November 1918]1

Memorandum for the President

1. The written addition to the first line shows that the decisions were reached prior to receipt of your message.

2. I enclose memorandum to me from Capt. Pratt.2 I cannot wholly agree.

3. I think we must remember that the naval terms must to a large extent follow the tenor of the army terms, for the latter are unquestionably more vital to the situation.

4. I agree with Pratt that to gain time before sending terms to Germany would be of benefit. But if we are going to send army terms we must send Naval terms also-and in my judgement it will be less difficult for Germany to accept harsh Naval terms than harsh army terms.

5. I do not believe the terms to Germany should differ materially from the terms to Austria-except in regard to the right to maintain order in Austria if that becomes necessary.

Franklin D Roosevelt         

E N C L O S U R E   I

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY.

     Please note the addition to the first line of cable, which changes its entire complexion.

     As I read the cable, these are the decisions arrived at by the Allied Naval Council, but subject to the approval of the governments concerned.

     Where the purely naval features involve no departure from governmental policies or conceptions of future policy it might be wise to accept those decisions. But where they do, it seems wiser to pause and consider the situation more thoroughly.

     The within terms of armistice do represent a view point which is at variance with the terms indicated by the President.

     Attention is invited to the paragraph beginning with line twenty, first page, the Allied Council’s assumptions, special reference to last clause.3

     The result of these terms as apart from the intent, will be, I feel to drive Germany, now perhaps in the transition stage from one form of stable government to another form of stable government, to some last desperate move. There is nothing constructive in these terms, nothing which paves the way for a more amicable future settlement.

     Perhaps Germany has played her last military card, but she has not played her last naval card. And while in the end defeat on sea, as on land, and quickly too, is sure to overtake her, she, I think is bound to play the card, if the controlling destinies of Germany are still those that have been in power. If they have changed or are changing, would it be wise to push Germany so far during the armistice. Do we wish to overload such a government?

     Therefore it would seem wiser to me not to force the issue with Germany too drastically now, but (1) to gain time, (2) secure a German government acceptable to deal with, and the absolute guarantee of same, (3) use the time gained to render Turkey and Austria impotent, and eliminated from the war.

     Following the above course it would seem that every effort might be made to force the right form of government in Germany as the prelude to armistice (While such negotiations are on there will probably be no danger of Germany sacrificing her fleet)

     Having secured this aim, I feel that the President’s terms of armistice, are far simpler but stronger, and easier of accomplishment. During this period Turkey and Austria can be made to surrender, and in this regard I feel that Austria can and should be pushed, according to the terms of armistice laid down in the cable.

     Her case is different and needs different treatment. How can we hope to combine the various elements into a strong government, strong enough to deal with. Rapid action in her case seems necessary.

     Meanwhile, the psyc[h]ological effect of our action towards Austria and Turkey will have time to filter into the German mind.

Pratt    

E N C L O S U R E   I I

To:  Secretary of the Navy

     Chief of Naval Operations

From: Admiral Benson4

     Previous receipt of your message regarding naval terms of armistice question had been thoroughly discussed by Inter-Allied Naval Council in which I was present. Decision reached was on basis conditions laid down by President as follows:

     Quote The only armistice it would feel justified in submitting for consideration would be one which would leave the United States and Powers associated with her in position to enforce any agreement that may be entered into and make renewal hostilities on part of Germany impossible unquote.

     In order to carry out fully the principles involved it was considered necessary to reduce naval power of Germany to such a state that she could not attack any of the Powers associated in the War against her. Final decision of Inter-Allied Naval Council is embodied in following terms: Quote

     Naval conditions of armistice with (A) Germany, (B) Austria-Hungary.

     Allied Naval Council puts forward following terms of armistice for Germany and Austria-Hungary in belief and understanding: (1) That military authorities are in position to continue to press the enemy and prosecute vigorously on land. (2) That enemy’s morale and materials collapsing, and his general position is such that he must in fact submit to terms which would only be accepted by a beaten foe; and (3) That the associated Governments desire only terms of this nature, and not such armistice as could be expected from an enemy still capable of powerful and effective resistance. Should these assumptions be wrong, Allied Naval Council would require considering question further. It should be borne in mind that if War is prolonged through refusal of armistice terms by enemy a severely active submarine offensive is materializing, and at sea-as apart from on land-enemy may be able to cause material loss of men and property to the associated countries.

     A. Naval conditions of armistice with Germany.

PREAMBLE

     It is understood that any armistice resulting as consequence of exchange of notes between President Wilson and German government will on signature carry with it the immediate cessation of hostilities at sea, and that in the event of German government being unable to convey immediate orders to that effect to any submarines, raiders or other ships which may be operating on seas, they will communicate immediately with Allies and governments associated with them in war against Germany, the latest information in their possession as to location and movements of all such vessels.

     Further, all neutral countries shall be informed of assent of German government to the free navigation of all territorial waters by naval and mercantile marine of Allies and associated governments, and that Germany waive all questions of neutrality which may arise from any arrangements made with neutral Powers by Allies and associated Powers in regard to such use of their territorial waters,

     1. German submarines to number of 160 (including all submarine cruisers and mine laying submarines) with their complete armament and equipment, are to be surrendered to Allies and United States government, in ports which will be specified by them. All other submarines are to be paid off and completely disarmed.

     2. All German surface war vessels (including monitors and river craft) are to return to German Naval bases to be specified by Allies, and with exception of vessels which are to be surrendered they are to remain there during armistice.

     Following ships and vessels of German fleet with their complete armament and equipment are to be surrendered to Allied and United States governments in ports which will be specified by them namely-

BATTLESHIPS

     Battle Squadron Three. KONIG, GROSSER KURFURST, KRONPRIZ [WILHELM], MARKGRAF and BAYERN.

     Battle Squadron Four. FRIEDRICH DER GROSSE, KONIG ALBERT, KAISERIN, PRINZREGENT LUITPOLD, KAISER.

BATTLE CRUSIERS

     HINDENBURG, DERF[F]LINGER SEYDLITZ, MOLTKE, VON DER TANN, MACKENSEN.

LIGHT CRUISERS

     BRUMMER, BREMSE.

CRUISERS

     KOLN, DRESDEN, EMDEN, FRANKFURST [FRANKFURT], NURNBERG, WEISBADEN [WIESBADEN].

DESTROYERS

     Fifty of most modern destroyers.

     All other battleships, cruisers and destroyers are to be paid off immediately. And only retain on board nucleus crews. Number which will be fixed by Allies.

     All vessels of auxiliary fleet (trawlers, motor vessels, etc.) are to be disarmed.

     3. Crews of ships and vessels surrendered under paragraphs one and two will be repatriated to Germany if surrender obligations have been faithfully carried out.

     4. Allied and United States fleets and ships are to be given free access to and from the Baltic, and to secure this the Allied and United States governments shall be empowered to occupy all German forts, fortifications, batteries, torpedo batteries and other defenses of all kinds at all entrances from the Cattegat into Baltic. And further for that purpose the associated governments shall be empowered to sweep all mines and obstructions of any kind laid by Germany between Danish and German coast on the one side Norwegian and Swedish coast on the other side. And also any mines or obstructions laid in Baltic outside German territorial waters, and position any such are to be notified to associated governments by Germany and appropriate plans of the positions are to be furnished.

     5. The existing blockade conditions set by associated governments are to remain unchanged, and all German merchant vessels found at sea remain liable to capture.

     6. Otherwise than is provided in paragraph four the position of all mine fields or obstructions laid by Germany are to be indicated with the exception of those laid in German territorial waters and associated governments shall have the right at their own convenience to sweep up German mines or other obstructions outside German territorial waters during continuation of armistice.

     Germany shall also agree to waive all questions of neutrality in connection with any mine sweeping or other warlike operations in Baltic or elsewhere which associated governments may arrange with neutral governments to carry out them[selves] or jointly with such neutrals in neutral territorial waters.

     And Germany shall so inform all neutral governments.

     7. All German aircraft are to be concentrated in German base to be specified by Allied and United States governments and are to remain immobilized and stationary during armistice.

     8. All Black Sea ports are to be evacuated by Germany, all merchant vessels belonging to associated governments in these ports seized or taken over by Germany are to be handed back to associated governments at ports designated by them, and all neutral merchant vessels seized are to be released. All warlike and other material of all kinds seized those ports, together with all German material as specified in paragraph nine in connection with Belgium, are to be handed over to Allied and United States governments.

     9. Germany shall in evacuating all of Belgium coast leave behind all merchant vessels, tugs, lighters, cranes and other harbor material, all material for inland navigation, all aircraft and air material and stores, all arms and armament and all stores and apparatus of all kinds, all of which are to be abandoned by her.

     10. All merchant vessels in German control belonging to associated governments are to be restored in ports to be specified by them, without reciprocity on part of associated governments.

     11. No destruction of vessels and material specified in preceding paragraphs is to be permitted before evacuation, surrender or restoration.

     12. All above measures shall be executed by Germany in shortest possible time, within period for each item which will be laid down before armistice is signed.

     13. German naval prisoners shall be dealt with on similar lines to those laid down for military prisoners, but in no case will prisoners who have formed parts of crew for German submarines be released.

     Note: All vessels and property belonging to enemy which under the armistice terms are to be surrendered or handed over, are to be held in trust for final disposal at conferring of allied and United States governments representatives on conclusion armistice. Note by United States Naval representative.5

     Naval representative of United States wished to reserve for further instructions from his government the question of disposition of surrendered vessels.

End dated October 29th.

     Naval conditions of armistice with Austria-Hungary.

PREAMBLE

     It is understood that any armistice which may result from exchange of notes between President Wilson and Austro-Hungarian government will, on signature, carry with it the immediate cessation of naval hostilities at sea and that in event of Austro-Hungarian government being unable to convey immediate orders to that effect to submarines, raiders, and other vessels which may be operating on seas, they immediately communicate to Allies and governments associated with them in war against Austria-Hungary, latest information in their possession as to location and movements all such vessels.

     Further, all neutral countries shall be informed of assent of Austro-Hungarian government to navigation of all territorial waters by naval and mercantile marine of allied and associated governments, and that Austro-Hungarian government waive question of neutrality which may arise from any arrangements made with neutral powers by associated Allied Powers in regard to such use of their territorial waters.

     1. Austro-Hungarian submarines completed between 1910 and 1918 to number of fifteen and all German submarines which are in or may after signature of armistice enter territorial waters of Austro-Hungarian Empire, with complete armament and equipment, are to be surrendered to the Allied and United States governments in ports which will be specified by them. All other submarines are to be paid off and completely disarmed.

     2. Following ships of the Austro-Hungarian fleet with complete armament and equipment, are to be surrendered to the Allied and United States governments in ports which will be specified by them, namely:

Battleships.

     PRINZ EUGEN, TEGETTHOF, VIRIBUS, UNITIS, ZRINYI, RADETZKY, ERZHERZOG, FRANZ FERDINAND, KAISER KARL VI, HELGOLAND, NOVARA, SAIDA, ADMIRAL SPANN [SPAUN].

Destroyers.

     ORJEN, BALATON, TATRA, LOVCEN, LIKA, USZOK [USKOKE], DUKLA, TRIGLAV, OSEPEL [CSEPEL].

Mine vessels.

     CHAMALEON, DANUBE.

Monitors.

     ALMOSSAVA, BAGUSA, TEMES, ENNS, INN.

     All other Austro-Hungarian surface battleships (including monitors and river craft) or [capable?] of going to sea are to be handed over similarly to the Allied and United States governments.

     All remaining battleships, cruisers, destroyers and DANUBE monitors are to return to naval bases to be designated by the associated governments and to be paid off and disarmed immediately, and they are to be rendered useless or to be disabled in accordance with such instructions as Allied and United States governments may give. Associated governments are to be at complete liberty to appoint representatives to supervise and inspect fulfilling above measures.

     3. Crews of ships and vessels surrendered under paragraph one and paragraph two will be repatriated to Austria-Hungary after surrender, if surrender obligations have been faithfully carried out.

     4. Fleets and ships and vessels of the associated governments are to be given free access to and from Adriatic and up river Danube and tributaries throughout Austria-Hungary territory, and to secure this Allied and United States governments shall be empowered to occupy all Austria-Hungary fortifications, batteries, torpedo batteries and other defenses of any kind on Danube, or to dismantle them at their option, further Allied and United States governments shall be empowered to sweep minefields and obstructions of all kinds laid by Austria-Hungary in the Danube, and positions of any such mines and obstructions are to be notified to the Allied and United States governments by Austria-Hungary and appropriate plans of the positions are to be furnished.

     5. Existing blockade conditions set up by the associated governments are to remain unchanged, all Austro-Hungarian merchant vessels found at sea are to remain liable to capture.

     6. Position all mine fields or obstructions of any kind laid by Austria-Hungary are to be indicated, including those laid in Austro-Hungarian territorial waters, and the associated governments shall have right at their own convenience to sweep up any of these mines or obstructions.

     7. All Austro-Hungarian aircraft are to be concentrated in Austro-Hungarian bases to be specified by the Allied and United States governments and are to remain immobilized and stationary during armistice.

     8. Austria-Hungary to evacuate whole of Italian coast and all ports they have occupied outside their national territory, leaving behind all merchant vessels, tugs, lighters, cranes and all other harbor equipment, all equipment for inland navigation, all aircraft and air equipment and stores, all arms and armament and all stores, all apparatus of all kinds, all of which are to be abandoned by her.

     9. Allied and United States governments may occupy during armistice the naval and land forts of Pola, including the islands that constitute an integral part of the place and of the forts and dockyards at that base, limits of the occupied territory being defined by the allied and United States governments having regard to the necessity of the defense of the base from the land side. Mine fields and other obstructions at the entrance of Pola within these limits are to be included in provision paragraph six.

     Note: Allied Naval Council dealing with this question solely from naval viewpoint without prejudice to any political or military reasons for the occupation of other parts of Austro-Hungarian territory.

     10. All merchant vessels in Austro-Hungarian control belonging to the associated governments are to be restored, in ports to be specified by them without reciprocity on part of associated governments.

     11. No destruction of the ships and equipment specified in the preceding paragraph is to be permitted before evacuation, surrender or restoration, except as provided in paragraph two.

     12. All above measures shall be executed by Austria-Hungary in the shortest possible time, within the periods for each item which will be laid down before armistice is signed.

     13. Austro-Hungarian naval prisoners shall be dealt with on similar lines to those laid down for military prisoners, but in no case will prisoners who have formed parts of crews of Austro-Hungarian or German submarines be released.

     Note: All vessels and property belonging to the enemy which under the terms armistice are to be surrendered or handed over, are to be held in trust for final disposition at conference of the Allied and United States representatives on conclusion of the armistice.

     Note by the Naval representative of the United States.

     Naval representative of United States wished to reserve for further instructions from his government question of the disposition of surrendered vessels.

End. Dated October 29, 1918. Unquote.

     While you did not definitely state it, it is implied that ownership of war vessels referred to would not change hands. The message implied this by stating definitely in paragraph seven what should be done with German warships. I therefore changed my previous agreement with the following Quote All vessels and property belonging to enemy which under the terms of the armistice are to be surrendered or handed over are to be held in trust for final disposition of conference of Allied and United States representatives upon completion of the armistice. The representative of the United States wishes to reserve question of disposition of surrendered vessels for further instructions from his government unquote.

     My professional opinion is that in order to fully comply with President’s conditions the measures recommended by the Inter-Allied Naval Council must be carried out. Immediate decision requested.

     I have consulted with Colonel House.6 He approves my action in referring this matter for decision. Benson. Unquote.

Source Note: DTS, DLC-MSS, Woodrow Wilson Papers.

Footnote 1: The original document is undated, but in his diary entry for 3 November, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels notes that Roosevelt’s memorandum was sent in reply to advice that he had offered about the naval terms of an armistice on that same day; see: Diary of Josephus Daniels, 3 November 1918.

Footnote 2: William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 3: That is, the paragraph beginning “Allied Naval Council puts forward...” in Enclosure II below.

Footnote 4: William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 5: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 6: Edward M. House, an advisor of President Wilson, who led the diplomatic mission to Paris to negotiate the terms of the armistice with Germany and its allies.

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