File No. 763.72/2862

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


3390. Your mail despatch No. 3920, August 29.1 The substance of the German note of August 26 in the case of the American S. S. Owego has been submitted to the owners of that vessel, who inform the Department that “the captain states that while he heard firing, he did not see any submarine and did not know that any shots were directed at him or across his bow until he saw the submarine, nor could he make out her signals on account of the condition of the weather, there being no wind; and the flags not standing out, he could not decide the nationality. Furthermore, his interpretation of his duty when stopped was, and still is, to wait until a boarding party from a warship came on board of his vessel to search, not he to leave his vessel to board any foreign warship.

This Government trusts that the Imperial Government will see fit to instruct its submarine commanders, if it has not already done so, [Page 287] to use special care to insure that their signals are understood by merchantmen before drastic measures are taken which may end in the loss of American lives and property. To the end that this may not occur, this Government has notified ship owners that signals of war submarines should be promptly answered and followed.

Please address a note to Foreign Minister in the sense of the foregoing in reply to his note of August 26, 1916.

With this communication to the Foreign Minister this Government is inclined to regard this case as closed.

  1. Not printed; see the Ambassador’s telegram No. 4273, August 27, 1916, received August 28, ante, p. 285.