Date: 2 April 1915



Messrs. Paul Fuller and Frederic R. Coudert Declare Voice of the Nation Will Have to Decide Government’s Course in Dealing with Germany for Death of American in Submarine Attack.

The redress to be demanded of the German government for the death of Leon Chester Thrasher, the American who was drowned when the British steamship Falaba was sunk by a German submarine, must be determined by the American people, Messrs. Paul Fuller and Frederic R. Coudert, authorities on international law, declared yesterday.

In a joint statement they quoted extracts from the recent note sent by the State Department to the German government in answer to the "war zone" decree, in which this country warned Germany that it would be "held to strict accountability" for harm that might come to Americans.

The statement of the conditions which this government faces in dealing with the death of Thrasher, with the suggestion that whatever the ultimate course, it will be that which the whole people dictate, is as follows:—

"On the 4th of February the German Admiralty issued its proclamation addressed to the civilized world (including the United States) to the effect that all enemy merchant vessels found in the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland after the 18th of February would be destroyed, and that it would not always be possible to save the crews or passengers, adding that neutral vessels exposed themselves to the same danger within this newly created zone of war.

The American Warning.

"On February 11 the United States government replied that it felt it to be its duty to call the attention of the Imperial German government very candidly and earnestly to the 'very serious possibilities of the course of action apparently contemplated under that proclamation,' and requested the Imperial German government 'to consider before action is taken the critical situation in respect of the relation between this country and Germany which might arise were the German naval forces, in carrying out the policy foreshadowed in the Admiralty’s proclamaton [sic], to destroy any merchant vessel of the United States, or cause the death of American citizens.'

"The government of the United States added this further warning in the event that 'the commanders of German vessels
of war should * * * destroy on the high seas an American vessel or the lives of American citizens,' that in such case 'it
would be difficult for the government of the United States to view the act in any other light than as an indefensible violation of neutral rights and that if such a deplorable situation should arise the Imperial German government can readily appreciate that the government of the United States would be constrained to hold the Imperial German government to a strict

[photograph of Leon C. Thrasher]

accountability for such acts of their naval authorities and to take any steps it might be necessary to take to safeguard American lives and property and to secure to American citizens the full enjoyment of their acknowledged rights on the high seas.'

"On the 28th of March a German submarine torpedoed off Milford Haven the Falaba, a merchant vessel, carrying one hundred and forty non-combatant passengers. The merchant vessel had been overhauled by the submarine and compelled to stop. The passengers and crew were given five minutes to leave, and before the lifeboats could be safely launched and out of the way of danger the Falaba was struck by a torpedo and sunk, some of the lifeboats destroyed and more than one hundred non-combatants killed. Among these was an American citizen, Leon Chester Thrasher. This was the retort of the German government to the warning of the United States government.

People Must Decide,

"Now, what next?

"This the American people will determine. Their voice will be heeded by those whom they have intrusted the government. So they will need all their accustomed calm and patience, with no loss of resolution.

"What measures of redress? What measures of prevention of any recurrence of similar outrages?

"Shall redress be made certain by sequestration of the offender's vessels now within our borders?

"Shall recurrence be prevented by holding the war ship and its crew who have to their debit the sinking of the Frye? Or shall we go further and let loose once for all the sympathies we have labored to repress? Shall we not now frankly accord to those who are arrayed against this inhuman warfare the 'aid and comfort' to which civilization is entitled in its struggle against barbarism?

"The people must decide, and this decision must come with a voice so universal, so unanimous and so strong that it cannot be mistaken by those to whom the execution of the people's will is for the moment intrusted.

"April 1, 1915."


Herald Bureau,
No. 1,502 H Street, N. W.,
Washington, D. C., Thursday.

A despatch received at the State Department to-day from Mr. Walter H. Page, American Ambassador at London, told briefly of the killing of Leon Chester Thrasher when the steamship Falaba, on board which he was a passenger, was sent to the bottom by a German submarine.

Mr. Page said he would Obtain details and all possible evidence. Nothing whatever will be done by the State Department toward preparing representations in this case for presentation to the German government until this full report from Mr. Page has been received. Ultimately the negotiations over this case are expected to assume great importance in connection with the relations of the United States with Germany. But because of the importance of the case officials are delaying action until they can be sure of their course, and meanwhile are discouraging comment upon the matter.

The report from London merely transmitted unofficial statements, and instructions were sent immediately to Mr. Page and Mr. Skinner, Consul General in London, to begin an investigation and report promptly.

A representative of the company which had employed Thrasher saw him aboard the liner before she steamed. That is as far as official information goes, and Mr. Page or Mr. Skinner now will undertake to get statements from survivors of the steamship who can give positive evidence that the American was drowned.

No inquiries from relatives or friends of Thrasher in this country have reached the State Department, and until to-day the case had not come to the attention of officials except through press despatches.

World War history: daily records and comments as appeared in American and foreign newspapers, -1926. New York, April 2. (New York, NY) 2 Apr. 1915, p. 16. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

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