File No. 763.72/2101
The German Ambassador (Bernstorff) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 9.]
My Dear Mr. Secretary: I have been waiting to hear from home about the Hesperian incident, but have as yet not received any information, [Page 539] which seems natural, as the submarines engaged at the time of the sinking of the Hesperian must first return home. Till then it will not be possible to know whether the Hesperian was sunk by a German submarine or a German or British mine. However this may be, I wish to inform you, that this case in no way changes our general policy with regard to submarine warfare.
I further desire to draw your attention to the fact that according to all reports the Hesperian was armed. This seems exceedingly important as the whole controversy between the United States and Germany turns on the subject of “unarmed merchant vessels.” Therefore, in my opinion, the case of the Hesperian has no bearing at all on the question we have been discussing.
I remain [etc.]