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aliens and to present a unified front to the enemy in this connection it might be advisable to transfer the former crews of enemy merchant ships who are now in the custody of this Department to the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, so that the Attorney General could then, in his discretion, transfer those seamen whom he considered it undesirable to release on parole to the custody of the War Department, which now holds all other classes of prisoners of war and interned enemy aliens.
This Department appreciates the force of the representations made by you with respect to the international phases of this matter, and I beg to advise you that the Department is willing to adopt your suggestion and has written the Secretary of War to that effect. Respectfully,
John W. ABERCROMBIE
OFFICERS AND CREWS OF CAPTURED AMERICAN
I'ile No. 703.72114/3600
[Received May 27, 11.25 p. m.] 3456. Communication signed jointly by following officers of mercantile marine service, Antone Olsen, Hilmar Richardson, Charles Bowman, Robert Trudgett, Arnold Blom, Edward B. Moore, Adolf Colstad and Matthew Buckard, prisoners at Heidelberg, transmitted by Spanish Embassy, Berlin, asks following information:
(1) What is status of such officers and seamen as prisoners and to what privileges are they entitled ?
(2) What arrangement made concerning payments of salaries or proportion thereof, and shall payment date from time of original capture on high seas or date of landing as prisoners ?
(3) What arrangement for Red Cross relief, communication with owners, bankers, agents, or relatives?
(4) Eligibility for repatriation on ground of age and incapacity. They state they are satisfied with treatment and consideration of German authorities. Accompanying note from Imperial Department of Foreign Affairs states that in absence of agreement these men are treated as officers and interned in camp as long as they can provide for their own maintenance. Documents follow by mail. Please advise what action to take. Food has been sent regularly by American Red Cross and acknowledgment received from all except one.
File No. 763.72114/3660
WASHINGTON, June 4, 1918, 5 p. m. 8075. Ascertain and cable as soon as possible attitude of British Government towards status of British officers and crews of British or foreign armed merchant vessels who have been captured and interned by Germans. Does British Government acknowledge German right of capture and regard these men as prisoners of war? Does Government or employers pay them salaries or relief, and do salaries date from time of original capture on high sea or date of landing as prisoners? What amounts are paid respectively to officers and men ? Report fully any arrangements made in this connection.
File No. 763.72114/3722
[Received 8.35 p. m.] 10710. Answers received from Foreign Office to three specific inquiries contained in your 8075, June 4, 5 p. m., appear to furnish all essential information on subject of status of officers and crews of British mercantile marine interned in Germany.
1. His Majesty's Government admit the right of capture, and regard the officers and crews of the mercantile marine when captured as civilian prisoners of war. The German Government have claimed to treat such persons as combatants in all cases when they belong to the crews of prizes.
The object of this claim is to justify the German Government in their policy of indiscriminate submarine warfare. This claim if conceded would result in the assimilation of the status of merchant ships subsidiary [to that] of warships and in the abandonment of their right to defend themselves against attack without losing their non.. combatant character. The German Government have a further interest in treating seamen of the mercantile marine as combatants inasmuch as in some capacity they can be compelled to work.
You will therefore understand the extreme importance which His Majesty's Government attach to maintaining their view of the civilian status of members of the mercantile marine who are prisoners of war. A communication will shortly be forwarded to the Netherland Legation at Berlin relative to this matter and I shall have the honor to forward a copy of it to you as soon as possible.
2. No allowances are paid by His Majesty's Government to the captured officers and men of the mercantile marine except in the cases of officers to the extent mentioned below nor is there any legal
liability on the part of the shipping companies to pay salaries or wages to their captured employees. The companies, however, in nearly all cases provide relief voluntarily for their interned employees.
3. Although His Majesty's Government refuse to recognize captured merchant seamen as combatant prisoners, they have found it necessary, in order to obviate the hardships which result from the internment of the officers of merchant ships in combatant camps where they would be compelled to work and otherwise treated as prisoners of the rank and file, to make arrangements by which allowances amounting to 100 marks and 60 marks a month respectively, according to rank, are paid to the officers in the event of their being transferred by the German Government to camps for combatant officers. Although the German Government claim to treat these officers as combatants, they would not intern them in combatant officers' camps as a matter of course because the contention of His Majesty's Government that these prisoners are civilians precludes them from guaranteeing the repayment to the German Government at the termination of hostilities of pay advanced in accordance with the article 17 of the annex to the Hague convention of 1907, as would be done in the case of combatant officers. Under the arrangement made for the payment of allowances to the officers of the mercantile marine their transfer to officers' camps cannot of course be claimed by His Majesty's Government as a matter of right. In order to emphasize the distinction between combatant officers and mercantile marine officers interned in officers' camps the allowances paid to the latter by the German Government are repayable by His Majesty's Government per ton [from time to time) and not on the conclusion of peace. Accordingly the contention of His Majesty's Government as to the civilian status of the prisoners in question is not prejudiced by the transfer of the officers to camps for combatant officers.
The ratings to whom the allowance of 100 marks a month are made are as follows: masters, officers second in command, and chief engineers holding Board of Trade certificates.
Those to whom the allowance of 60 marks monthly are made are all junior deck officers and junior engineer officers holding Board of Trade certificates, pursers, and certificated wireless operators.
Uncertified officers, both deck and engineer, have recently been added to the 60-mark class.
The allowances are not paid to these ratings whether of the 100or 60-mark class unless they are interned in camps for combatant officers.
It should be observed that these allowances while guaranteed by His Majesty's Government are to be defrayed ultimately by the shipowners concerned, who have in general raised no objection to this liability. Consequently the amount involved is not a charge on Government funds.
Arrangements have been made for the payment of allowances to the dependents in this country of captured officers and men of the mercantile marine. These dependents receive either the same allowances as they would have received if the men had lost their lives by enemy action, or allowances in accordance with the following scale if it is more beneficial, namely, half wages or 1 pound weekly, whichever is less. The dependents' allowances are payable from the date of capture, 80 per cent being defrayed by His Majesty's Government and the remaining 20 per cent by the shipowner.
A circular explaining the allowances payable in the case of men who have lost their lives as the result of enemy action will be sent in next pouch.
File No. 763.72114/3909
BERNE, August 8, 1918, 11 a. m.
[Received August 9,9.35 p. m.] 4237. Department's 2371, July 31, 7 p. m. I have requested Spanish Embassy, Berlin, to pay weekly allowance of 5 marks to interned American civilians in need who are actually American citizens.
Will Department please instruct me of attitude which should be adopted towards [officers and] crews of American merchant ships now interned in Germany who are not American citizens, or who claim American citizenship on insufficient grounds, both as regards relief in food parcels by Red Cross and financial relief from Spanish Embassy.
I am of opinion that these persons deserve consideration if they were taken prisoners from American merchant ship[s].
File No. 763.72114/3909
WASHINGTON, August 27, 1918, 2 p. m. 2611. Your 4237, August 8, 11 a. m. Shipping Board will shortly assume financial relief of officers and crews of American merchant ships interned in Germany who are American citizens.
Shipping Board is considering extension of proposed relief to include interned officers and seamen of American merchant ships who are citizens of neutral countries. Interned officers and seamen who are citizens of Allied countries should be provided for by government of which they are nationals.
* Circular not printed. 2 Not printed.
Red Cross food parcels are being sent to interned officers and seamen, unless otherwise provided for, irrespective of nationality.
Pending commencement of Shipping Board relief you may authorize Spanish Embassies, Berlin and Vienna, to include in financial relief interned officers and crews of American merchant ships of American or neutral nationality.
File No. 763.72114A/101
WASHINGTON, September 6, 1918, 4 p. m. 2669. For Garrett:
Shipping Board has requested that the transfer to an officers' camp of the three officers of the merchant marine, namely, Capt. Alfred Oliver, Dr. John W. Brown, and David Johnson, now interned at Brandenburg, be arranged for, if possible, at the conference.1 Improvement of the lot of all the American merchant seamen and officers is to be desired, but care must be taken not to recognize directly or indirectly as valid the German contention that these men are prisoners of war and not civil prisoners.
ENEMY ALIENS IN PANAMA, CUBA, AND THE DOMINICAN REPUB
LIC: RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES
File No. 763.72114/3965
[Received April 4,8.50 a. m.] Circular April 2, repeated promptly. Congratulations. I had an audience with Panaman Minister for Foreign Affairs at once with thoroughly satisfactory results. The Governor of Panama Canal and I conferred with Panaman President and his advisers this afternoon and cordial cooperation was assured us. The Governor of Panama Canal requested that all adult male Germans in the Panaman Republic upon a formal declaration of war be apprehended, and delivered to Canal Zone authorities for internment, and Panaman President assented.
1 American-German Prisoners of War Conference at Berne. ? Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 1, p. 194.