File No. 763.72111/4757

The Secretary of Labor ( Wilson ) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: As an expeditious means of furnishing you with information with respect to the manner in which this Department has cared for the officers and crewmen of the German vessels lying in American ports, I have the honor to hand you herewith a copy of a communication which I am at this time sending to the President.

Cordially yours,

W. B. Wilson

The Secretary of Labor ( Wilson ) to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: I desire to submit the following report with regard to what has been done by this Department in the matter [Page 223] of caring for the officers and men of the German merchant vessels lying in ports of continental United States, Porto Rico and Hawaii.

Notice that the resolution declaring that a state of war exists had passed the House of Representatives reached the Department at 3.14 o’clock this morning. A telegram containing, in accordance with a prearranged plan,1 the words “proceed instantly” was placed upon the wires and started to the immigration officer in charge at every port where vessels are lying at 3.15 a.m. At 3.22 a.m. reports that the messages had been received commenced to arrive, and by 9.30 a.m. assurances of the receipt and delivery at every place upon the continent, Porto Rico and Hawaii were in hand.

At this writing reports by telegraph or telephone have been received from the officers in charge at the following places, showing that the instructions were promptly carried out, the officers and crewmen taken into custody without any trouble of any kind and conveyed to immigration stations or other places of safety: Boston, New London, New York, Baltimore, Newport News, Wilmington, N. C., Savannah, and New Orleans. The places still to be heard from are Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Honolulu, and San Juan.

Several questions have arisen which are of interest to one or more Departments other than the Department of Labor, and these will be raised in Cabinet meeting or discussed with the particular Cabinet officer concerned.

Faithfully yours,

W. B. Wilson
  1. The plan was embodied in the following telegram sent by the Department of Labor to the immigration officers on Apr. 4, 1917:

    “Lay all plans, but take no actual step until receipt of cablegram reading ‘proceed,’ to take charge of and detain in immigration station every officer and crewman of German merchant vessels only. Customs officers will take charge of vessels and later turn over personal effects of officers and men. Military or naval officers will furnish soldiers or marines needed to aid in safely and surely conveying men to station. Immigration officers may carry arms if in your judgment necessary.” (File No. 763.72115/3860.)