The Secretary of State ad interim to the Ambassador in France ( Sharp )

No. 409]

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 745 of May 18, 1915, concerning the status and citizenship of applicants for passports, who openly express their intention of enlisting in one or another of the armed forces of the belligerent nations in Europe. You state that whenever the fact appears that an applicant desires a passport to enable him to proceed to another country to enlist in the army of that country, you have advised such person that his enlistment in the army of such foreign country would operate to deprive him of the protection of this Government. You further state that, in your opinion, several American citizens known to be serving in the French Army and in possession of American passports, would be reluctant to surrender these documents; that you have made no effort to obtain the surrender by Americans serving in the French Army of their American passports; that passports have been refused to all persons who would likely use them for protection while serving in foreign armies, and that, unless the Embassy is instructed otherwise by the Department, it will continue to act as stated above.

The Department has frequently held that service by American citizens in foreign armies does not of itself operate as a renunciation of American citizenship, unless such service involves the taking of oaths of allegiance to the foreign governments, which would come [Page 910] within the purview of the first paragraph of Section 2 of the act of March 2, 1907. However, while American citizens are members of foreign armies they are not entitled to the protection of this Government, and passports should not be issued to them while they are serving in such foreign armies. The action of the Embassy as outlined in your despatch under acknowledgment is approved by the Department.

I am [etc.]

Robert Lansing