The Ambassador in Chile ( Bowers ) to the Secretary of State

No. 139

Sir: Apropos of the reports in the press concerning the prospective purchase by the Chilean Government of some German ships now in Chilean ports, I have the honor to report that Mr. Frost32 has discussed the matter with Under Secretary of Commerce Señor Cayetano Vigar, who admits that the Chilean Government, soon after the beginning of the war, suggested to the German Government its desire to purchase these ships. It appears that Señor Vigar, under whose jurisdiction the maritime section of the Foreign Office falls (the Chilean Maritime Commission), is in active charge; though he was vague as to where the plan initiated.

He reports that the German Government has been most unresponsive and up to the present moment appears to be entirely indifferent, and that there have been no new developments to indicate that the proposal is receiving serious consideration by the Germans. He went so far as to speculate on what Germany’s ultimate aims may be which may explain Germany’s apparent indifference, and mentioned the possibility that the German merchant fleet may be given Russian registry.

It appears that but three of the six German ships in Chilean ports were of interest to the Chilean navigation companies, namely, the Frankfurt, the Dusseldorf, and the Dresden; the others being too large (such as the Osorno) or too small (such as the Priwall). The Dresden has now left Chilean waters presumably on its way to Vladivostok. Señor Vigar has the idea that the Frankfurt and the Dusseldorf might be worth something like 100,000 pounds sterling each. If Germany will sell, he thought the funds could be secured partly by the Corporation of Fomento, partly by the Ministry of Fomento, and partly through loans floated by the already water-logged Junta de Exportación Agrícola. Marks are gradually becoming available in moderate quantities from the non-arrival of goods ordered in Germany.

To sum up, however, it seems that at present nothing in the way of a sale is in prospect, despite the press reports.

Respectfully yours,

Claude G. Bowers
  1. Wesley Frost, Counselor of Embassy.