File No. 763.72114/3355

The Secretary of the Navy ( Daniels ) to the Secretary of State

Sir: There is forwarded herewith a paraphrase of a cablegram dated March 1, 1918, from Vice Admiral Sims, U. S. Navy, giving the substance of a letter received by him from the British Admiralty in regard to the disposition of prisoners of war captured by United States naval forces in European waters.

[Page 54]

I have the honor to request the opinion of the Department of State on the subject matter, in order that early action may be taken by the Navy and War Departments.

Sincerely yours,

Josephus Daniels

Vice Admiral Sims, Commanding Naval Operations in European Waters, to Admiral Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

No. 4549 re my No. 4048. The following is the substance of letter received from the Admiralty:

In regard to this matter, after consulting with the Army Council their lordships have come to the conclusion that the most satisfactory course will be to regard such prisoners of war as entrusted to British custody temporarily, in order that it may be possible at any time to transfer them to the United States if such a course is considered advisable. If this arrangement be adopted, any prisoner who may be handed over to the British authorities by the United States naval forces will receive the same treatment and privileges as other prisoners of war in British hands, but will not be entitled to arrangements by any agreements concluded by His Majesty’s Government and enemy governments for the repatriation, exchange or internment in a neutral country of prisoners of war. Further, as such prisoners will be accounted as captures made by the United States naval forces by whom they are entrusted for the time being to the British authorities, it would appear necessary that notification of their capture to the enemy, prescribed by article 14 of the fourth Hague convention, should be made by the original captor and not by His Majesty’s Government. At any time subsequent, arrangements could then be made to transfer such prisoners to the United States, should a request to that effect be received. As it appears to their lordships to be of importance to obtain the concurrence of the United States Government in any arrangement respecting the custody and disposal of prisoners of war captured by the United States naval forces, they are causing a copy of the correspondence in regard to this matter to be communicated to the “Prisoners of War Department” with the request that steps may be taken to ascertain through the diplomatic channels whether the United States Government are in agreement with the procedure which it is proposed to adopt.

Am orally informed by the Admiralty, with respect to notification, that the German Government was furnished with a list of names of these prisoners by the British authorities shortly after capture. No mention was made as to the nationality of forces making capture, in transmitting the list, nor details thereof. Omission of such mention is in accordance with general practice. 06101.