File No. 763.72111Ei9/17½
Memorandum of the Counselor for the Department of State
In a conversation this morning with the German Ambassador, relative to the sinking of the William P. Frye by the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, and the presence of the latter vessel at Newport News, I said to him that I thought this Government had shown the German Government very considerable consideration in regard to the vessel at Newport News. He asked me in what way it had been shown, to which I replied “in not seizing the vessel, and arresting the captain for piracy.” He said he did not understand what I meant. I said to him that we had no proof that the Prinz Eitel Friedrich was a German cruiser; that she, so far as the evidence disclosed, was a merchantman; that we had not been notified of her conversion into a cruiser and that she did not appear in the list of war vessels of Germany. The Ambassador said that she was in command of officers of the German Navy, to which I replied that so were other merchant vessels of German nationality, and that that was no evidence of her public character. He then said that she was flying the naval flag of Germany. I answered him that I did not think the flag she was flying was any indication of her character; that he might recall the fact that the cruiser Emden entered a port in the Malay Peninsula with the Japanese naval flag flying, but that that fact did not make the Emden a Japanese war vessel. He asked me what I thought should be done and I said that I thought this Government should be immediately notified of the conversion of the Prinz Eitel Friedrich into a cruiser and that she had entered our port as a public ship of Germany and that he further should estate whether it was the intention to make repairs, not to make repairs, or to intern; that in case we were not advised that the vessel intended to make repairs there was no other recourse but to order her to leave [Page 825] port within twenty-four hours. The Ambassador said he would give the matter his immediate attention.