File No. 865.857An2/71
The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Austria-Hungary (Penfield)
1039. You are instructed to address a note to the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, textually as follows:
The Government of the United States has received the note of your excellency relative to the sinking of the Ancona, which was delivered at Vienna on [Page 648] December 15, 1915, and transmitted to Washington, and has given the note immediate and careful consideration.
On November 15, 1915, Baron Zwiedinek, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Imperial and Royal Government at Washington, transmitted to the Department of State a report of the Austro-Hungarian Admiralty with regard to the sinking of the steamship Ancona, in which it was admitted that the vessel was torpedoed after her engines had been stopped and when passengers were still on board. This admission alone is, in the view of the Government of the United States, sufficient to fix upon the commander of the submarine which fired the torpedo the responsibility for having wilfully violated the recognized law of nations and entirely disregarded those humane principles which every belligerent should observe in the conduct of war at sea. In view of these admitted circumstances the Government of the United States feels justified in holding that the details of the sinking of the Ancona, the weight and character of the additional testimony corroborating the Admiralty’s report, and the number of Americans killed or injured are in no way essential matters of discussion. The culpability of the commander is in any case established, and the undisputed fact is that citizens of the United States were killed, injured, or put in jeopardy by his lawless act.
The rules of international law and the principles of humanity which were thus wilfully violated by the commander of the submarine have been so long and so universally recognized and are so manifest from the standpoint of right and justice that the Government of the United States does not feel called upon to debate them and does not understand that the Imperial and Royal Government questions or disputes them.
The Government of the United States therefore finds no other course open to it but to hold the Imperial and Royal Government responsible for the act of its naval commander and to renew the definite but respectful demands made in its communication of the 6th of December, 1915. It sincerely hopes that the foregoing statement of its position will enable the Imperial and Royal Government to perceive the justice of those demands and to comply with them in the same spirit of frankness and with the same concern for the good relations now existing between the United States and Austria-Hungary which prompted the Government of the United States to make them.