File No. 841.857Ib3/9

The Consul at Cork (Frost) to the Secretary of State

No. 94]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit hereby confirmation copies of my three cable messages of even date with reference to the sinking of the Leyland Line S. S. Iberian on the 30th instant. I also transmit: herewith a statement by Dr. Patrick S. Burns, ship’s surgeon of the Iberian, and a statement jointly given by Harry N. Healy and George-Killeen, all the deponents being American citizens.1

I think there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that the Iberian was seeking to escape and evade visit and search at the time she was shelled. Dr. Burns’ statement to me in the morning gave me clearly that idea, but when he returned in the afternoon to sign the statement which I had meanwhile drawn up, I found him much less inclined to positiveness, and I suspect that the other ship’s officers had been conversing with him in the meantime. I myself had a conversation with Captain Jagoe, and he sought to represent that the submarine had not given adequate warning at the time the shell struck the Iberian, causing the death of Wiley, the American citizen. In this the crew, with the exception of the officers close to Captain Jagoe, disagree decidedly. The conversation between the commander of the submarine and Captain Jagoe was witnessed by eight or ten men and recounted among the crew; and it appears that the submarine commander passed the lie to Captain Jagoe when the latter stated that he had stopped as soon as he could, and succeeded in facing Captain Jagoe down on the point. There was no doubt that the ship had zigzagged and made special efforts to get up steam before the first shots were fired, and that these efforts were continued after the shots were fired until Captain Jagoe became convinced that resistance was useless. The shelling appears to have been resorted to by the submarine only in so far as was necessary to induce this conviction. All unite in praising the courtesy and consideration shown by the submarine in connection with the abandonment of the ship. The commander inquired whether a wireless call for help had been sent out, and learning that it had, he expressed regret that he could not therefore venture to give the boats a tow toward land.

The statement by Healy and Killeen I regard as more trustworthy than that by Dr. Burns, as these young men were alert, intelligent, and naive in giving their experience. Dr. Burns was perhaps somewhat affected by his nexus to the Leyland Line and the fact that [Page 511] his captain had been placed on record in a sense hardly compatible with that in which the doctor had at first spoken.

One interesting feature of Dr. Burns’ statement was his account of the habits of Mark Wiley, whom he knew fairly well. It appears that Wiley was more or less of the vagabond type, although a capable man and acting chief horse foreman on the Iberian; and that he had been on a protracted course of dissipation at Manchester after the horses from the Iberian had been unloaded. So unstrung and debilitated was he that he had come to Dr. Burns’ door in the middle of the night preceding the attack, and Dr. Burns had given him bromide of potassium to quiet his nerves. There seems to be no doubt that death would not have occurred had it not been for Wiley’s ill condition. Dr. Burns believes that Wiley’s sisters have been supporting themselves, but would probably not feel impelled to bring their brother’s body back to America at any expense, as their ties with him were slight. Their residence he believes was in Salem, Massachusetts; while Wiley himself had last lodged at a sailors’ rest or sailors’ haven in South Boston, Massachusetts.

There are rumors of others of the killed or wounded having American nationality, but I think they are erroneous. The naval hospital authorities assure me that none of the six wounded men admits being other than a British subject; and the most probably American of the dead men, one Carroll, is of Irish blood, with a wife in Liverpool, and has for twenty-five years been on horse-ships between Boston and England. It is possible that he may have taken out naturalization papers at one time, but probably the presumption of expatriation would have arisen against him.

In any, event, I conceive that the important feature of the occurrence was the principle involved and not the number of casualties. It seems clear to me that, in so far as the torpedoing of the Iberian can serve as an indication, the German submarine policy will be tempered with efforts to effect visit and search, or at least to give warning and opportunity for abandonment of the vessels before torpedoing. As this is the first instance which has arisen since the sending of the third Lusitania note, I have taken pains to go into it at some length, thinking it safer to overburden the Department with details than to omit anything which might be of value.

I have [etc.]

Wesley Frost
  1. Not printed.