File No. 763.72/2112

The Ambassador in Germany ( Gerard ) to the Secretary of State


2860. Following memorandum is based largely on opinion of our naval attaché, with which opinion I agree. His deductions are founded upon careful observations and reliable information.

The remarkable change in the German attitude between Bernstorff’s statement and the last German note regarding the Arabic arises from a decision having been reached to follow naval policy rather than the policy of the Foreign Office and to give no guarantees that the submarine warfare will in any way be modified. The reasons for this I believe to be as follows:

Of the group of submarines of which one sank Arabic three boats failed to return and have been given up for lost, namely, U27 and two others. This constitutes by far the greatest loss sustained by the submarine fleet at one time although I believe that sixteen have been lost since the beginning of the war of which only ten have been publicly announced.
It is reported by one returning submarine that on August 18 when trying to carry out order to give warning before torpedoing an English merchant vessel, she was fired on by this ship and escaped only by diving.
English reports of destruction of the submarine U–27 as received by the German Navy Department are as follows:

It is reported with certainty in England that a German submarine was sunk by an English destroyer1 after the sinking of the Arabic in the vicinity of the scene of the latter’s destruction. The submarine which had come to the surface was in the act of stopping and sinking a steamer2 with a load of mules en route from New Orleans to Liverpool when an English destroyer, which had been hidden from sight by the steamer, hastened to the scene and destroyed the submarine with gunfire before it had a chance to submerge.

Backed up by these reasons the German Navy Department was in a position to tell the general Government that to follow the policy laid down for submarine warfare would mean total failure of that method of warfare, involving the destruction of the German submarine fleet. I believe that these facts were used by the Navy to influence the Government and that they were successful in reversing the policy as laid down by Bernstorff in his conversation and note.

The above statements could not have been applicable to the sinking of the Arabic or Hesperian. They apply only to the attitude adopted in the German note of September 7.3

  1. See the case of the Baralong, post, p. 650.
  2. See the case of the Nicosian, ante, pp. 527 et seq.
  3. The German Ambassador’s note of September 1, repeated to the Ambassador in Germany, September 7, ante, pp. 219 & 536.