865.85/244a: Circular telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to Chiefs of Mission in the American Republics Except Costa Rica

The following information should be furnished by you as urgently as possible to the Foreign Minister of the country to which you are accredited:

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.1

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 therefore not possible to give you and the Government to which you are accredited the advance notice which the Department would have wished to give. The Department will continue to make available promptly all pertinent information which reaches it and will welcome any comment which the Foreign Minister may wish to make in view of the situation prevailing in his country.

  1. For correspondence regarding the seizure by the United States of German and Italian ships within its ports, see vol. i, pp. 451 ff.