File No. 811.203/5

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page) to the Secretary of State


8333. My telegrams 7142, September 11, 9 a.m., and 7978, December 15, 1 p.m.1 Following note dated January 18 just received from Foreign Office:

With reference to my note of December 12, last, relative to the maintenance of discipline among United States troops in this country, I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that the legal difficulties therein referred to are now becoming acute and are increasing in number with the arrival of additional United States troops in the country and the delay in arriving at a decision on the legal questions involved is causing considerable anxiety to the military authorities in this country, and in particular I understand to the United States military authorities themselves.

In this connection, I have the honor to transmit to Your Excellency herewith an extract from a memorandum prepared by the Judge Advocate General, which represents the urgency of the question, and I would observe that the recommendations therein made for immediate adoption are solely for the purpose of granting additional powers to the United States military authorities in order to enable them to maintain discipline among their own officers and men.

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I understand that United States soldiers are now in arrest awaiting trial by court-martial, but cannot be tried for the reasons stated in the enclosed document and that the military authorities therefore consider it necessary to proceed forthwith to give effect, if possible, to the immediate recommendations of the Judge Advocate General, but I would point out that this is only a small part of the larger question the solution of which by the course suggested in my note of September 5 last while very desirable from the point of view of the British military authorities appears to be essential and urgent from that of the United States military authorities.

Memorandum referred to above reads as follows:

The American authorities have again been to see me this morning and pressed upon me the extreme urgency of legislation which would at all events enable them to compel witnesses to attend American courts-martial in this country.

What I would suggest is that, even before the general question of the American troops in the United Kingdom is dealt with, a Defence of the Realm regulation should be passed forthwith making it an offence for a person summoned as a witness before an American court-martial to fail to attend or to refuse to be sworn, answer questions, or produce documents, or to give wilfully false evidence or to commit a contempt of court.

The further question also raised in my previous minute as to empowering American Judge Advocate to administer oaths outside the precincts of camps or buildings specially allotted for the use of American troops might be dealt with at a later stage. Signed, F. Cassell, Judge Advocate General.

  1. Latter not printed.