740.0011European War 1939/1227: Telegram

The Minister in Uruguay (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

147. The officers and sailors from the Graf Spee who had gone on board the Tacoma, as well as the skeleton crew who ran the Spee out of the harbor, were transshipped to tugs and lighters sent from Buenos Aires, and are believed to have been taken to Buenos Aires.31 Four members of the crew who stayed on the Graf Spee to the last moment were picked up by the Tacoma which returned to port, and are now detained by the local authorities. So far as is known no lives were lost in blowing up the warship.

The press carries the text of a note addressed by the German Minister to the Foreign Office protesting against the “flagrant” violation of international law by the Uruguayan Government in not affording sufficient time for repairs to make the vessel seaworthy.

German Minister also released to the press a note addressed to him by the commanding Officer of the Graf Spee which indicates that the Germans have not lost their aptitude for misjudging the psychology of other peoples. The note criticises violently the attitude of the Uruguayan Government, alleges that it acted under pressure of the British Government and comments that while the commanding officer had means of exerting pressure he had refrained from doing so. Public opinion, which had become sympathetic as a result of the moving scenes at the sailors’ funeral and the plight of the warship, has been most unfavorably impressed by this offensive communication.

It is of interest to note that in the communication in question the commanding officer of the German warship states: “On the morning of the 13th of December (sic) attacked on the high seas the English cruiser Exeter”.

  1. In telegram No. 302, December 20, 4 p.m., the Ambassador in Argentina reported an Executive Decree ordering the internment of the officers and crew of the Graf Spee (740.0011 European War 1939/1273)