File No. 763.72114/3331

The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in Switzerland ( Wilson)


1557. Your 2720, February 25, 11 a.m. Inform Spanish Embassy, Berlin, that Department approves its suggestion that all court martial proceedings against American prisoners in Germany be referred to it so that it may appoint counsel for defense. Counsel’s fee would be paid out of American funds at disposal of Embassy. Department will be glad to have this matter taken up immediately with German Foreign Office, and Government of United States will promise reciprocity in this respect provided German Government consents.

Department advised by War Department that rules governing punishment for attempted escapes by prisoners in force in the United States are as follows:

The punishment for a simple attempt to escape on the part of a prisoner of war, even if repeated, shall not exceed military confinement for a period of 14 days.

The punishment for such an attempt to escape combined with other punishable actions consequent upon or incidental to such attempt in respect of property, whether in relation to the appropriation or possession thereof, or injury thereto, shall not exceed military confinement for a period of two months.

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These rules are embodied in paragraph 7 of general agreement forwarded to you under cover Department’s despatch of February 21.1

Request Spanish Embassy to bring these rules to attention of German Government in connection with sentence of six months imposed on Paul Nagel at Brandenburg and request commutation of his sentence. Further request Embassy to inform German Government that unless Nagel’s sentence is repealed or very materially reduced to conform with regulations in force in the United States, Government of United States will be obliged to treat with far greater severity than our present rule prescribes attempted escapes by German prisoners in the United States. Sentence of Lieut. Otto Portwich, who recently attempted to escape from Fort Douglas, Utah, now awaiting trial, will depend largely upon reply of German Government to above.

  1. Post, p. 68.