File No. 763.72114/2979

The Secretary of War ( Baker) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication of October 16,1 wherein the views of the War Department are requested upon the advisability of constituting a commission to deal quickly and effectively with the various questions which are continually arising with regard to American prisoners in Germany and German prisoners in the United States.

All prisoners of war held by the United States are placed in the custody of the War Department, and The Adjutant General of the Army is, by regulation, given general charge of all matters connected with such prisoners. The Adjutant General is further charged with the maintenance of the Bureau of Inquiry for prisoners of war, which will receive and record the information of American prisoners in Germany that is required by article 4, chapter 1, of the Geneva convention.

Since the outbreak of the present war, The Adjutant General has furnished promptly the American Red Cross the information concerning prisoners that it is necessary for them to have; and he has endeavored to cooperate with them in every way.

The effort of the War Department has been to build up a machinery which would in an adequate and responsible way take care of this [Page 13] situation. The suggestion that there be a commission would seem to divide the responsibility which, I am afraid, would be unwise. If, however, in your judgment some closer form of integration between the Department of State and the War Department in the matter is wise, I shall be most happy to take the matter up further with you.

Cordially yours,

Newton D. Baker
  1. Not printed.