865.85/258b: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Italy ( Phillips )8

218. As you are aware, a number of German and Italian vessels have for many months sought refuge in the ports of the United States and have enjoyed the hospitality and protection of this Government. On Saturday, March 29, the U. S. Coast Guard received reliable information to the effect that the crews of these vessels had received orders to sabotage and disable the ships. In an effort to prevent such action, the Coast Guard immediately placed guards on the vessels. These guards found that in many cases extensive sabotage had already taken place. It was therefore decided to assume protective control over the vessels and to place their crews under custody in order to avoid further damage to the ships as well as possible injury to the ports and harbors of the United States.

The urgency of the matter was so great that the Coast Guard authorities found themselves obliged to act prior to notifying the Department and it was not therefore possible to give any advance notice.

In your discretion you are authorized to communicate as much of the foregoing to the Italian (German) authorities as you may deem appropriate.

  1. The same on the same date to the Chargé in Germany as telegram No. 932.