File No. 763.72/1239

The Ambassador in Turkey ( Morgenthau ) to the Secretary of State


47. At 7 o’clock yesterday Minister of the Interior telephoned me that commander of Tennessee in his steam launch attempted to visit Smyrna passing through mine zone contrary to Turkish Government’s regulations and that they fired blank shots and that he then threatened, unless permitted to visit Smyrna to-day, he would bombard the fort. Minister of the Interior added that Governor General [Page 772] after incident offered to take the officer overland in automobile. I immediately sent following telegram:

Consul General of the United States at Smyrna for Commander of Tennessee. Have just been informed of a visit attempted by an officer by water to Smyrna and of his prevention and of his menace to bombard fortification. Kindly send me details promptly of the incident. Embassy was officially informed some time ago that the port of Smyrna is closed.


Minister of War called me up later and told me same story and insisted that Tennessee immediately remove her wireless apparatus and requested that she leave Vourla. I then telegraphed as follows:

Decker, Commanding Tennessee, Vourla. Since I sent you telegram through Horton, Ottoman Minister of War has requested that Tennessee remove her wireless apparatus and leave Vourla in order to avoid any incident. I urgently request you to immediately leave for Chios without visiting Smyrna. Kindly acknowledge the receipt of this telegram.

This morning I received the following telegrams:

Your telegram 16th. Urgent. Am aboard cruiser Tennessee at Vourla. Commander Decker desires to give you following details. Commander was coming to Smyrna on his steam launch to make the usual visits. He knew that the port was closed to battleships and to merchant vessels but had no information that there was any objection to the launch of the Tennessee going to Smyrna. On the way three solid shots were fired on the launch. Upon this the officer left in command of the Tennessee telegraphed me to inform the Governor General that a repetition of this line of conduct would cause the Tennessee to advance to a place from which it could bombard the fortifications. No blank signal shots or other warning preceded the solid shots. After cessation of fire the commander communicated with authorities on shore. They informed him that it was forbidden to continue on to Smyrna and the commander thereupon returned to the Tennessee.


Your telegram requesting me to leave for Chios received and shall go out at half past eight.


As I deem it absolutely necessary for the protection of all American interests here to avoid creating an incident, I sent second. telegram. Shall I consider matter closed or do you expect investigation made?

American Ambassador