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this threat, inasmuch as the weapon is lawful and may be rightfully used, its use will not be abandoned by the American Army. Moreover, if the German Government should carry out its threat in a single instance it will be the right and duty of the Government of the United States to make such reprisals as will best protect the American forces, and notice is hereby given of the intention of the Government of the United States to make such reprisals.

WASHINGTON, September 28, 1918.

File No. 763.72114/4065a

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Sharp)


WASHINGTON, October 4, 1918, % p. m.

2 5801. For your information. The French Ambassador has advised the Department that from information received by his Government the military commander at Innsbruck has decided that the death penalty will be inflicted upon Allied aviators who should drop manifestoes or even should be found bearing such documents, and that the French Government considers that in order to prevent such action the Austrian authorities should be informed by radiogram that if measures so contrary to international law and to humanity were carried into effect, retaliation would have unavoidably to be praticed on Austrian officers in Allied hands, the number to be double and the punishment the same.

To this note I have today replied to the effect that the President holds the opinion that, however abhorrent and indefensible the announced practice may be, he cannot consent that this Government should unite in a threat to retaliate by executing twice as many captured Austrian officers as aviators put to death under the reported military order.

The Government of the United States would, nevertheless, unite in announcing to the Austrian authorities, by such means as are available, that it denounces the proposed treatment of captured aviators, who are found bearing or to have dropped documents within the lines of the enemy, as utterly indefensible and violative of every principle of humanity and every rule of civilized warfare, and that, if the proposed practice is put into actual operation, the Austrian Government must realize that such barbarous and inhuman treatment of prisoners of war will invite extreme measures to prevent its continuance, deeply as this Government would deplore the consequences which would result.


File No. 763.72116/592

The Minister in Switzerland (Stovall) to the Secretary of State

No. 4592

BERNE, September 24, 1918.

[Received October 15.] SIR: With reference to the Department's telegram No. 1926 of May 17, and previous correspondence relative to the appeal of the International Red Cross at Geneva concerning the use of asphyxiating and poisonous gases, I have the honor to transmit herewith enclosed a translation from the Neue Zurcher Zeitung of September 20, 1918, giving a translation of the answer of the German Government to this appeal.

It is interesting to note in this connection that Germany delayed making any answer to this appeal until her armies were everywhere upon the defensive. I have [etc.]



Extract from Neue Zurcher Zeitungof September 20, 1918

The German Government has sent the following answer to the appeal against the use of poisonous gases addressed by the International Red Cross to all the belligerent powers:

The German Government has given this appeal the serious attention it gives to all propositions whose aim it is to ameliorate the sufferings caused by the war. This appeal has been all the more attentively read because German military headquarters had always been led by the feeling that the belligerents ought not to use methods of the sort. It is the opinion of German military headquarters that methods of this sort are against the simplest laws of humanity. The German Government, at the second Hague peace conference, warmly supported the international agreement which forbade the use of all poison or poisoned weapons, as well as weapons, bullets or materials which would be likely to cause unnecessary suffering. So long as the conduct of the enemy did not force the German Government to resort to other measures the German military headquarters did its best, during the present war, to prevent unnecessary suffering. In this attempt it did not allow itself to be influenced by the fact that Germany's enemies, as was to be seen from the speeches of the leading statesmen, constantly emphasized their desire to annihilate Germany and to conduct the war along lines reminiscent of the darkest periods of history. The German Government left to the enemy the innovation of bringing on to the battlefields of Europe uncultured peoples who performed notoriously the most shameful deeds, the idea of meting out the most dreadful fate to peaceful citizens, women and children and old people who were so unfortunate as to fall into their hands, and of making themselves representatives of all those crimes against which the German Government had protested a year ago. In spite of all this the German people has resorted to no measures of revenge nor has it adopted the type of warfare of its enemies, just as the German press has scorned to answer the attacks of the enemy press when they call the Germans “Huns" and "barbarians.”

In the matter of poisonous and suffocating gases the German Government has to state that it resorted to this means of warfare only after it had been in use by the enemy for some time. The enemy had put the greatest hopes in the discovery of the French engineer Turpin. But, after all, a feeling of responsibility for its own people made it impossible for the German military headquarters to renounce an effective if dreadful means of warfare for the mere purpose of sparing the enemy sufferings which the enemy itself was at that very time inflicting only too readily. The German Army communiqués announced the use of poisonous gases by the enemy on the 1st of March, 1915, whereas the German and French communiqués mention the German gas attacks for the first time on the 24th of April. It is, therefore, evident that it is not the place of the German Government to make propositions concerning the limitation of the use of poisonous or suffocating gases. On the other hand it would be quite contrary to the humanitarian spirit which permeates the German people, the Army, and the Government with its Parliament, to refuse this proposition which suggests the lessening of the sufferings of the war. Were the countries at war with Germany to make propositions to the German Government on this subject, the German Government would weigh the propositions and the question in general carefully in an attempt to see how these propositions would coincide with the vital interests of the German people and whether or not the guarantees given by the enemy would assure the latter's keeping its word.

File No. 763.72/12087

The Swiss Chargé (Oederlin) to the Secretary of State
Department of
German Interests

WASHINGTON, November 2, 1918. SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith the original German text of a communication from the German Government, forwarded by cable to this Legation by the Swiss Foreign Office, relative to air raids on German territory.

An English translation is also submitted herewith, which must not, however, be considered authoritative. Accept [etc.]



The German Foreign Office to the Swiss Legation at Berlin The German aërial forces have been under orders, since the beginning of October of this year, only to make bomb attacks which are directed solely against important hostile military objects, within the immediate area of operations of war. Those orders were issued on the assumption that the enemy aërial forces were to receive similar instructions.

In assuming this the German people find themselves disappointed. A short time ago the enemy made bomb attacks on the German towns of Wetzlar, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Freiburg, Forbach and Wiesbaden, claiming numerous victims among the civilian population. Nor has occupied territory been spared. It is evident that Germany can refrain from aërial attacks on enemy territory behind the area of operations only if, on their side, the enemy, from now on, will reciprocate and also refrain from making aërial attacks outside the area of operations.

In the expectation that the intention, shared by the other side, to further humanity and preserve important objects of culture will meet with the understanding of the opponents, the German Governinent proposes to the Governments of the other belligerent countries that corresponding instructions be issued without delay to their aërial forces, informing it of the measures taken.

File No. 763.72119/2524
The Belgian Minister (De Cartier) to the Secretary of State

WASHINGTON, November 2, 1918. MY DEAR MR. SECRETARY: Following on our conversation of last night, I herewith beg to submit to your earnest consideration a short memorandum which I have received from my Government on November 1.

From the contents of this memorandum it seems that the wanton destructions already executed or in preparation were deliberately planned in violation of the promise given by Germany in her note to President Wilson of October 20.1 The fact that the telegram sent by the Spanish Minister at Brussels on October 26 was only delivered to the Spanish Legation at The Hague on the 30th would seem to confirm this view. I beg to remain [etc.]


1 Supplement 1, vol. I, p. 380.

The Belgian Foreign Office to the Belgian Legation

November 1, 1918. On October 26, the Spanish Minister at Brussels sent a telegram to the Spanish Minister at The Hague, reporting new acts of destruction by the Germans in Belgium. According to these informations the German military authorities, on October 25, issued an order to the directors of coal mines in the Province of Hainaut, to the effect that all men and animals, then in the pits, should be brought up. All raw materials still in possession of the companies are also to be delivered to the Germans. Furthermore, the Spanish Minister at Brussels received information, on the 26th, of an even graver character, according to which all coal mines in Belgium should be destroyed. The blowing up of these by dynamite must have begun at Hornu and Wasmes (Borinage) on the 26th at 10 o'clock.

The Belgian Government has been requested by Mr. Francqui and other Belgian notabilities to take action in the matter in order to avoid a national disaster.

The Spanish Minister at Brussels lodged a protest with the German civil authorities who seem disposed to examine the protest. The German Political Department at Brussels is likely to have communicated on the subject with army headquarters.

File No. 763.72116/632a

The Secretary of State to the Swiss Minister (Sulzer) No. 287

WASHINGTON, November ", 1918. SIR: I have the honor to request that you will bring the following to the attention of the German Government:

In its note of October 201 the German Government announced that “the German troops are under the strictest instructions to spare private property and to exercise care for the population to the best of their ability

Information has now reached the Government of the United States to the effect that the German authorities in Belgium have given notice to the coal mining companies that all men and animals should be brought out of the pits, that all raw materials in possession of the companies should be delivered to the Germans, and that the mines will be destroyed at once.

Acts so wanton and malicious, involving as they do the destruction of a vital necessity to the civil population of Belgium and the consequent suffering and loss of human life which will follow, can not fail to impress the Government and people of the United States as wilfully cruel and inhuman. If these acts, in flagrant violation of the

1 Supplement 1, vol. I, p. 380.

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