File No. 300.115P44/33

Memorandum of the Counselor for the Department of State (Polk)

Baron Zwiedinek, Chargé of the Austrian Embassy, called and we went over the affidavits of the seamen formerly employed on the Petrolite. I pointed out that not only were there discrepancies between the stories of the various men, but in the case of one of the men, who made two affidavits, the affidavits of this one man conflicted. We then went over the facts as presented by the affidavits and I showed that, assuming that these stories are true, even they indicated that the submarine began firing with one American flag flying and continued to fire after a second flag had been raised. The second flag was raised at the third shot. None of the affidavits stated that the Petrolite was headed toward the submarine. They all stated that the ship had stopped. Some said the submarine was on the quarter; some abeam. The affidavits showed that they began firing and continued to fire even when the ship was never headed toward the submarine.

Baron Zwiedinek admitted that it undoubtedly showed that the submarine’s commander had acted hastily, and without due caution, but that there was no criminal intent. I told him that personally I quite understood the feelings of the submarine commander, but that a man who could not control himself better than this particular officer should not be put in charge of a ship which could do such great damage to neutral shipping.

He showed me the message he was going to send to his Government. This message indicated that he thought the submarine commander had acted without due caution. He asked my opinion of the message and I told him that I could not express an opinion as to the accuracy of the statements contained in the message he wished to send to his Government.

F[rank] L. P[olk]