by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent
Three front page articles discussed the consequences of Germany’s announcement that she would attack neutral shipping if it appeared, behind the neutral flag, to in fact be a belligerent vessel.
War Expert Discusses Plan of Germans to Starve Foes By Submarine Blockading
Germany cannot maintain an effective blockade of the British isles. It is as impossible for the Teutonic submarine fleet to starve England into surrender as it is for Zeppelins to terrorize her into submission.
The German declaration against British merchant vessels does not, in fact, proclaim a blockade. Instead, British waters are pronounced a “war zone,” which is an indefinite term, not excluding neutral shipping from belligerent ports, as would a blockade.
A principle, therefore, is affirmed in international law quite without modern precedent. Germany, in effect, announces that it will treat all British ships in British waters as blockade runners, although no blockade can be established. A warship may sink a blockade runner without consideration for the lives of its passengers or crew. Under international law, merchantmen of an enemy which are not blockade runners cannot be sunk unless provisions made for saving life.
A second article warns neutral countries that the “Kaiser Will Attack Britain’s Sea Control:”
Germany announced today that she is poising to strike another blow at England’s control of the seas.
A new official warning to neutral countries, declaring the intention of Germany to attack British transports bearing troops and munitions to France, was issued by the government. It declares these vessels will be attacked “with all the means of warfare at our disposal.”
“England is on the eve of shipping large numbers of troops and quantities of war material to France,” says the announcement. “We shall proceed against these transports with all the means of warfare at our disposal.”
“Peaceful shipping is earnestly cautioned against approaching the northern and western coasts of France, as it is threatened with serious danger of being confounded with ships for warlike purposes. The route around Scotland is recommended as the best track through the North sea.”
The United States government, examining the German proclamation, was in the process of considering a possible protest:
After a brief examination of the German proclamation extending the European zone to all the waters in the vicinity of England and France, officials of the administration were inclined today to believe that there was ground for a contest.
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The order is generally characterized here as “a paper blockade,” although administration officials are understood to believe that, in endeavoring to enforce it, Germany might wreak havoc on American vessels in isolated instances.
This is the text of the German policy:
All the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are hereby declared to be a war zone. From February 18 onwards every enemy merchant vessel found within this war zone will be destroyed without it always being possible to avoid danger to the crews and passengers.
Neutral ships will also be exposed to danger in the war zone, as, in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered on January 31 by the British Government, and owing to unforeseen incidents to which naval warfare is liable, it is impossible to avoid attacks being made on neutral ships in mistake for those of the enemy.
Navigation to the north of the Shetlands, in the eastern parts of the North Sea and through a zone at least thirty nautical miles wide along the Dutch coast is not exposed to danger.