500.A15A5 Submarines/5

The Acting Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: You will recall that the so-called Part IV of the London Naval Treaty prescribed rules of submarine warfare, as follows:

“Article 22

“The following are accepted as established rules of International Law:

  • “(1) In their action with regard to merchant ships, submarines must conform to the rules of International Law to which surface vessels are subject.
  • “(2) In particular, except in the case of persistent refusal to stop on being duly summoned, or of active resistance to visit or search, a warship, whether surface vessel or submarine, may not sink or render incapable of navigation a merchant vessel without having first placed passengers, crew and ship’s papers in a place of safety. For this purpose the ship’s boats are not regarded as a place of safety unless the safety of the passengers and crew is assured, in the existing sea and weather conditions, by the proximity of land, or the presence of another vessel which is in a position to take them on board.

“The High Contracting Parties invite all other Powers to express their assent to the above rules.”

You will further recall that under Article 23 of the London Treaty it was stated that, “The present Treaty shall remain in force until the 31st December, 1936, subject to the following exceptions:

  • “(1) Part IV shall remain in force without limit of time.
  • “(2) Etc.”

In view of the fact that the French and the Italians never acceded to the London Naval Treaty, the acceptance of the rules as to submarine warfare, as laid down in Part IV of that Treaty, are now applicable only to the United States, Great Britain and Japan as parties to the Treaty. It has always been desired that these rules be subscribed to by other nations, in fact, all of the nations of the world, if possible. At the present naval conference at London, it has been decided that the best way to obtain general adherence to these rules would be to embody them in an instrument separate from the new treaty and endeavor to obtain adherence to this instrument by as many nations as possible. It has now been decided that the nations signatory to the new naval treaty shall in a procès-verbal separate from the treaty itself authorize the British Government to invite all other governments to adhere to a declaration embodying the rules of international law concerning submarine warfare to which the United States, Great Britain and Japan are now expressly committed under the London Naval Treaty of 1930. As there appears to be some question whether the full powers our delegates now have will authorize them to sign such a procès-verbal, I would suggest that you permit us specifically to authorize our delegates to sign a “procès-verbal designed to obtain further accessions to the rules of international law concerning submarine warfare to which the United States as well as the United Kingdom and Japan are now expressly committed under the London Naval Treaty of 1930.”

We consider it highly desirable to obtain general express recognition of these important rules and I feel sure that you will agree that it would be most advisable for us to lend our cooperation to obtaining the adherence of other powers to these methods of warfare.3

Faithfully yours,

William Phillips
  1. Marginal notation: “W[illiam] P[hillips] OK F[ranklin] B. R[oosevelt]”.