The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: The question of the release from the army of Turkish declarants who have been inducted into the service has been and is, as you know, a matter which has caused this Government considerable criticism abroad and annoyance at home. The Selective Service Act provides for liability to military service of all “male persons not alien enemies who have declared their intention to become citizens.” By an amendment of July 9th, citizens or subjects of countries “neutral in the present war” are allowed to withdraw from the army, upon their cancelling their declaration of intention. The question as to the Turks, therefore, is whether they are enemies or neutrals. Obviously they are not “neutrals in the present war.” Neither are they, technically, enemies of the United States, as the United States has not declared war against Turkey. However, according to the Enemy Trading Act24 and the proclamations issued thereunder, the allies of Germany and Austria-Hungary are regarded as enemies for the purpose of the Act. On account of the alliance between Turkey and the Central Empires, and the material assistance rendered by the Turks to Germany and Austria-Hungary in the present war, is it not possible to interpret the Draft Act so as to include the allies of the enemy, in view of their close attachment to, and support of, the enemy cause? It would not be necessary to declare that Turks are enemy aliens, but the Secretary of War could issue a regulation stating that, on account of Turkey’s being an ally of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the subjects of Turkey are to be treated, for the purposes of the administration of the Draft Act, as though they were alien enemies. This would result in no further induction of Turkish declarants into the army, and in the discharge of such Turkish declarants as have already been inducted into the service. I can not too strongly recommend the advisability of taking this action, if you approve, as it will relieve the great embarrassment [Page 198] which is now caused by the allies of the enemy being incorporated into the army and from time to time sent to France, and in the eyes of the world forced to fight against their own cause.

I understand that the War Department would not be averse to such a decision on your part.

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing
  1. 40 Stat. 411.