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CASE OF THE "OWEGO." 1

Consul General Listoe to the Secretary of State.

[Telegram.]

AMERICAN CONSULATE GENERAL,

Rotterdam, August 14, 1916.

Captain Barlow, of steamer Owego, New York, arriving Rotterdam to-day, reports having been fired at ten times near Isle Wight in British Channel by German submarine, without warning. No casualties. Mail report follows.

LISTOE.

No. 3296.]

The Secretary of State to Ambassador Gerard.

[Telegram-Paraphrase.]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, August 16, 1916.

Mr. Lansing states that the Department of State has been informed by the American Consul General at Rotterdam that Captain Barlow of the American steamer Owego, plying between New York and Rotterdam, arrived at the latter city on August 14 and reported that his vessel was fired at ten times in the British Channel, near the Isle of Wight, by a German submarine, but no casualties reported. Mr. Gerard is instructed to bring the matter at once formally to the attention of the Foreign Minister and request a prompt investigation of the case and a prompt statement of the findings.

Mr. Lansing adds that Mr. Gerard will perceive the importance of giving his constant attention to the case until a reply from the German Government is received.

1

1 For additional correspondence concerning the Owego, see Special Supplement, 1916, p. 201.

No. 3390.]

The Secretary of State to Ambassador Gerard.

[Telegram-Paraphrase.]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, September 18, 1916. Mr. Lansing, referring to Mr. Gerard's mail despatch numbered 3920 and dated August 29, informs him that the substance of the German note of the 26th of August in the matter of the American steamer Owego had been submitted to the vessel's owners who informed the Department that the captain of the vessel says that, while he heard firing he never saw any submarine and never knew any shots were fired at the Owego or across her bow until after the submarine came in sight and then he could not understand her signals on account of there being no wind to unfurl her flags so they would stand out and disclose her nationality. The captain further states that it was and is his conception of his duty that when stopped he should wait until a boarding party from a warship came on board of his vessel to make search and not he to leave his own vessel to board any foreign warship.

Mr. Lansing states that this Government trusts that the German Imperial Government will see its way clear to warn its undersea commanders, if in fact it has not already done so, to be most particular in their efforts to make sure that their signals are understood by merchantmen before extreme measures are taken which might result in the destruction of American lives and property. In order that this may not occur this Government has informed ship owners that war submarines' signals should be answered promptly and followed.

Mr. Lansing instructs Mr. Gerard to address a note to the German foreign minister in such terms as the foregoing indicates as a reply to his note of August 26, 1916.

No. 3434.]

The Secretary of State to Ambassador Gerard.

[Telegram-Paraphrase.]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, September 29, 1916.

Mr. Lansing informs Mr. Gerard that the master's statement of the steamer Owego in his last telegram was transmitted to him in the language of the United States Steamship Company, and further informs him that he now has the master's own statement made afterward which is as follows:

Ever since early morning of that day we heard sounds of heavy cannon coming from the direction of the French coast, which was nearer to us than the English coast, but not discernible. About 12.40 p. m., on that day I was below eating my dinner when my first mate, H. Hattfield, came to me and stated that he heard guns of smaller caliber and closer to us, but nothing could be seen. I then went on deck with said first mate, and the first thing I saw was a shot dropping in the water about 100 feet from our stern, which shot dropped directly in the wake of the vessel. I looked with the aid of glasses, as did all of the officers of the vessel, but none of us were able to discover any boat in sight. I ordered the wheel put hard starboard and the engines stopped, which was done. About 15 minutes later we made out the submarine coming slowly toward us. At that time, to my judgment, she was about one mile away. Said submarine had signals hoisted but, owing to the entire lack of wind, they were lying flat against the flagstaff instead of being carried out by the breeze and we were unable to make out what the signals were. We were laying still at that time. Then there was a shot fired which came within about four feet of the broad side of the vessel and the submarine kept coming slowly toward us. When she was about one-half mile away we were able to make out one flag and guessed at the rest. We immediately proceeded to lower a boat and I dispatched the first mate with the ship's papers. The Owego was displaying a large American flag on her stern and also a large American flag amidship. Her name and the letters U. S. A. were painted in white letters 6 feet long, extending nearly from bow to stern on either side. I did not know the exact number of shots which said submarine fired, I having seen but four shots which struck near the vessel. There was no shot fired across the steamer's bow as stated in the German note. The commander of the submarine informed my first mate that he had fired 11 or 12 shots at us and that was the source of my information

when I gave the number of shots fired. The first mate returned from the submarine with said papers and a permit written in German and signed by the commander allowing the vessel to proceed, which she did. The boat which I sent out to the submarine was launched as quickly as possible after I discovered the submarine signal to send same. I did not know we were being fired upon by reason of the heavy firing in the direction of the French coast, but stopped the vessel and waited as soon as it was discovered that the firing was near to us and sounded differently than what we had been hearing.

Mr. Gerard is instructed that if he can discern no objection he is permitted to submit this further statement to the Foreign Office, augmented by the information contained in Mr. Lansing's last telegram, and is also informed that this information is being forwarded to the end that he may have all the facts necessary for the information of the German Government.

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SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith an affidavit executed by one, John S. Brennan, claiming American citizenship, who was a member of the crew of the British steamship Sebek, which is alleged to have been torpedoed by a submarine near Malta on the 12th instant.

This affidavit was executed before the American Consul General at Marseille.

I have, etc.,

[Inclosure.]

ROBERT WOOD BLISS.

Affidavit of John S. Brennan.

I, the undersigned, do hereby declare under oath as follows: My name is John S. Brennan. I was born at New York City July 20, 1891. My permanent residence in the United States is

877 Tindon Avenue, in said New York City. I last left the United States on the Norwegian ship Nordfjeld, which sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, bound to Naples, Italy, about the 10th day of June, 1916. On September 30, 1916, I signed as A. B. on the British ship Sebek, which sailed from Liverpool on that date with a general cargo, about one-half consisting of coal, bound to Alexandria, Egypt. On October 12, 1916, at about 6.55 o'clock p. m., while the Sebek was about 10 miles east of Malta, and while I was in the forecastle, I heard a crash. I ran out with the other sailors in the forecastle and we immediately entered into the lifeboats and lowered the boats. There were several trawlers in sight, but I saw no submarine. After we had been about 25 minutes in the lifeboats we were picked up by a French patrol boat, then transferred to a British patrol boat, and for about 12 hours we cruised around our ship the Sebek while she was being towed away by another British ship. We were landed in Malta at about six o'clock p. m. on the following day, October 13. There were no casualties among our crew. So far as I am aware, I was the only American on board. While the seaman on the lookout stated that he saw the wake of a torpedo when our ship was struck, I have no personal knowledge of this matter.

JOHN A. BRENNAN.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this twentieth day of October, 1916.

A. GAULIN, Consul General of the United States of America at Marseille, France.

[Seal of American Consulate General.]

No. 3586.]

The Secretary of State to Chargé Grew.

[Telegram-Paraphrase.]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, November 18, 1916.

Mr. Lansing states that the Department has been advised of the torpedoing without warning of the British ship Sebek, with Americans aboard, bound from Liverpool to Alexandria, while ten miles east of Malta, on October 12.

Also the Department is advised that the ship Delta, of Norwegian registry, bound from Naples to Wales, in ballast, and on

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