File No. 841.850r2/11

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


2867. I have received from Foreign Office the following report of the attack on the Orduna by a German submarine:

At about quarter past seven on the morning of July 9 last a German submarine sighted a steamer from 3 to 5 miles away and a sailing vessel about a mile away. The steamer was proceeding without any flag or neutral markings and was taken for a small enemy steamer by the commander of the submarine on account of the difficulty of observation caused by the unfavorable weather. The commander decided first to attack the steamer submerged and fired a torpedo at the vessel which missed its mark.

Hoping to catch the steamer above the water, the submarine rose and chased the steamer on the surface. The steamer did not stop when a shot of warning was fired, and therefore several shells were fired at her which did not strike her, as the submarine was pitching about and the distance was great. The submarine then proceeded to the sailing vessel, which was shown to be the American bark Normandy, bound from New York to Liverpool with a cargo of lumber. Although the cargo contained contraband, the sailing vessel was permitted to continue her voyage unhindered, as it was impossible to guarantee that the crew would be surely rescued in the small boats if the ship were sunk.

The first attack on the Orduna by a torpedo was not in accordance with the existing instructions, which provide that large passenger steamers are only to be torpedoed after previous warning and after the rescuing of passengers and crew. The failure to observe the instructions was based on an error, which is [Page 546] at any rate comprehensible, and the repetition of which appears to be out of the question, in view of the more explicit instructions issued in the meantime. Moreover, the commanders of the submarines have been reminded that it is their duty to exercise greater care and to observe carefully the orders issued.

Berlin, September 9, 1915.