File No. 319.1123 L25/9.

Minister Price to the Secretary of State.

No. 545.]

Sir: Referring to the riot in Colon April 2 last, between our soldiers and police and civilians of Panama, I have the honor to report that there was loaned to this Legation last week by Brigadier General C. R. Edwards, Military Commander of the Canal Zone, a copy of the report of Colonel J. L. Chamberlain, Inspector General of the United States Army, made by him of an investigation conducted under his supervision between the 2d and 8th days of April.

[Page 1202]

I have had a copy made of said report and herewith enclose same.

The last of the five recommendations made by Colonel Chamberlain in his report is as follows:

5. That, with as little delay as possible, the control of Panama and Colon and their environments be taken over by the Canal Zone authorities; such control to embrace regulation of the sale of liquor and “dope”, as well as sanitation, prostitution, and police.

Colonel Chamberlain returned to the States along with Major General Leonard Wood on April 5 but since his departure the further investigation of the riot has been under the charge of Lieut. R. C. F. Goetz, Aide-de-camp on the Staff of Brigadier General Edwards. I am informed that he has just recently written his report and that same is being transmitted to the usual channels of the Department of War.

I have [etc.]

Wm. Jennings Price.

Colonel Chamberlain’s Report.

No. 642 IOED.]

investigation of disturbances, city of colon, panama.

Report of investigation of trouble between enlisted men, U. S. Army, and Panaman police, and native civilians, which occurred in the city of Colon, Panama, on the afternoon of April 2, 1915, made in compliance with letter of instructions dated April 3, 1915.
Accompanying this report is the recorded testimony of about 225 witnesses, of whom about 30 are civilians; the remainder are officers and enlisted men of the U. S. Army. In addition to these witnesses many other persons were interviewed. * * *


The immediate cause of the trouble in the first instance, which occurred at the corner of Cash and 10th Streets, was an accident which, had it occurred in a town under American control, would have amounted to nothing.
In the events which immediately followed, the enlisted men were not blameless, nor was their conduct all that could have been desired. Yet I believe that interference by the Panaman police was, under the circumstances, uncalled for, and resort to fire arms, resulting in the wounding of three men, wholly unwarranted.
The trouble at the close of the ball game on Broadway appears to have been brought about by one or more trifling events in which both sides were obviously equally at fault. That same became general in so short a time and assumed serious proportions, must, in my belief, be attributed to the intensely hostile feeling existing between the negroes and Panamans on the one side, and American soldiers and civilians on the other.
Resort to gunfire by the police, resulting in the killing of one soldier and wounding of another, while unwarranted, was under the conditions, a natural sequence of the events of a few moments before and of the general conditions already described.
The conduct of the soldiers at the ball park and about the street of Colon, prior to the trouble at Cash and 10th Streets, was excellent. After the trouble began, the prompt and energetic action of the officers and noncommissioned officers averted what might have been a disastrous fight. The men many of whom were recruits, many of whom had been drinking to a greater or lesser extent, and all of whom were much wrought up because of the casualties, were quickly gotten under complete control. This, together with the [Page 1203] self-restraint of the armed patrols when under fire, evinces on the whole a good state of discipline. The men are not angels, nor were their actions blameless—far from it. Yet, all things considered, it is believed that their conduct as a body was not open to severe criticism. Individuals were at fault, but there appear to be no instances calling for disciplinary action, except as hereinafter noted.
As set forth at length in this report, the trouble at Colon on April 2, as well as former troubles of a similar character, were due primarily to the intensely hostile feeling between American civilians and soldiers on the one hand, and the colored and native Panamans on the other, conditions which unless remedied, will lead to disastrous results. * * *


* * * 4.
The policeman who first opened fire, and those policemen whose shots resulted in the death of Corporal Langdon and in the wounding of Privates Klimp, Richeson, and Deloughery, should be duly punished by the Panaman authorities. Their identity is doubtless already known to the Panaman authorities, but as to their action in the matter I do not venture an opinion, since it is, among Americans, generally believed that the police, as a body, are political henchmen of the governing authorities. The Commanding General U. S. troops, C. Z., has this matter in charge, and pending his report no action is recommended.
That, with as little delay as possible, the control of Panama and Colon and their environments be taken over by the Canal Zone authorities; such control to embrace regulation of the sale of liquor and “dope,” as well as sanitation, prostitution, and police.
J. L. Chamberlain.