The United States in the World War

By John Bach McMaster | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
SINKING WITHOUT WARNING

THE Imperial German Government having inquired into the circumstances of the sinking of the Arabic, and having obtained a report from the commander of the submarine from which the torpedo was fired, Ambassador von Bernstorff delivered to the Secretary of State a note in which Germany refused "to acknowledge any obligation or grant any indemnity in the matter."

On August 19, 1915, it said, a German submarine stopped the British liner Dunsley about sixteen miles south of Kinsale, and was about to sink her by gun fire when the commander beheld a large steamship making towards him. This steamer, the Arabic, was recognized as an enemy vessel because she did not fly any flag and had no neutral markings. "When she approached she altered her original course, but then again pointed directly towards the submarine." Sure that the Arabic "had the intention of attacking and ramming him," the commander gave the order "to dive and fired a torpedo at the steamship."

"The German Government most deeply regrets that lives were lost," and "particularly expresses this regret to the Government of the United States on account of the death of American citizens." But "the German Government is unable, however, to acknowledge any obligation to grant indemnity in the matter, even if the commander should have been mistaken as to the aggressive intentions of the Arabic." Should the two Governments find it impossible "to reach a harmonious opinion on this point" the German Government was ready "to submit the difference of opinion, as being a question of international law, to The Hague tribunal." In doing so, the German Government assumed "that, as a matter of course, the arbitral decision shall not be admitted to have the importance of a general

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