The Japanese Minister to the Secretary of State.

No. 67.]

Sir: Under instructions from my Government, I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of the English translation of a report received by the Imperial Government from the commander of the Japanese army in the island of Saghalien, accompanied by a supplementary statement of the superintendent of the field hospital attached to the said army,a regarding disregards and violations of the laws and customs of war by the Russian army during engagements which recently took place in the island.

I beg leave to add that, in the belief of the Imperial Government, conducts and practices of the Russian army, as stated in the above-mentioned report, constitute grave offenses against stipulations of the Geneva and Hague conventions, of which Russia is one of the signatory powers; and it is with this belief in view that the Imperial Government desire to bring the above to the notice of the United States Government and invite their consideration thereof, so that the matter may be made a subject of international discussion at such an opportunity as might present itself in future.

Accept, etc.,

K. Takahira.

report of the commander in chief of the saghalien army regarding violations and disregards by the russian army of the laws and customs of war.

A considerable portion of Russian inhabitants of the island of Saghalien consists of criminal exiles. It was from among these undesirable inhabitants that the Russian Government recruited, during last year, their volunteers for the defense of the island. As a result thereof there were, since the time our (Japanese) army landed on the island, numerous instances of disregard and violation of the laws and customs of war on the part of Russians, not only as an individual combatant, but even as an organized army. Their conduct was also against the stipulations of the Geneva and Hague conventions. Military operations of our army were on that account greatly interrupted, and it encountered with no small amount of difficulties in carrying out the rules of war. Of this irregular and unlawful conduct of the Russian troops, in order to invite the attention of the world and also to furnish references for future discussion of the matter, certain conspicuous cases are specially pointed out in the following report:

* * * * * * *

First. Use of dumdum bullets: On July 10, 1905, while engaged in the occupation of Vladimirovka, our army captured from the enemy cavalry rifles supplied with dumdum bullets. It is also clearly proved by the report of the superintendent of our field hospital that on the 11th and 12th of the same month, during the engagement which took place near Dalineye, and on the 22d, when scouts of both armies encountered near Adradonye, the enemy used dumdum bullets.

Besides, a Japanese by the name of Sumita Kametaro, who was found a prisoner among the Russians when the commander of the enemy surrendered on the 16th of July, witnessed three or four Russians carrying rifles to use dumdum bullets, while a considerable number of dumdum bullets were found among the ammunition captured by our army after the engagement near Dalineye.

Second. Abuse or improper use of the Red Cross flag and arm badge: The Russian troops seemed as if they regarded the Red Cross emblem as a necessary fighting instrument to prevent dangers from falling on them, and the abuse they made thereof reached an inconceivable extent.

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Our troops, while invading the headquarters of the enemy, found on many occasions that the latter were displaying a number of Red Cross flags on the roofs of houses which were not employed for the care of the sick or wounded. In one instance, when our army attacked Rykoff, the enemy hoisted a Red Cross flag on the top of an isolated house, about 3,000 meters west of the place, where troops were sheltered under its cover, and, setting machine guns close by the house, fired at our troops. The similar treacherous conduct was repeated in Novomihayloskoe, Onor, and other places.

Besides, there were numbers of Russian soldiers who abused the Red Cross arm badge. On July 10, when our army occupied Vladimirovka, we found that an excessively large number of persons were attached to the eighteenth field hospital of the Russian army there. As it was suspected that volunteers and other combatants were using the Red Cross arm badge to escape danger an investigation was made and it was discovered that there were regular combatants who were carrying Red Cross arm badges. There is no doubt that in the Russian army the use of the Red Cross arm badge was allowed for combatants, which fact was also proved by confessions of Russian soldiers captured by our army. It is also true that in more than one instance Russian troops in their retreat left behind them certain number of combatants wearing Red Cross arm badges and let them make an armed resistance against the advance of our army.

Third. Irregular combatants without wearing uniforms: In spite of a fixed emblem being provided for the Russian volunteers, a part of the enemy’s force in the island of Saghalien had no emblem whatever, and there were no means to distinguish them from the ordinary people of the place. For instance, on July 10, when the occupation of Vladimirovka was made, a company of the enemy, consisting of more than 100 soldiers without wearing uniforms, assaulted our advance company. Our company, however, with the assistance of another company, succeeded in taking a large portion of the enemy’s soldiers as prisoners. On investigation it was discovered that a great number of volunteers, together with ordinary people who took up arms, were among them. Again, on July 19 a scouting party led by Lieutenant Watanabe (cavalry) was suddenly surrounded at a village called Romanovskoe by Russian volunteers wearing the same clothes as ordinary people and received considerable injury.

Evidently some of the enemy’s volunteers were not furnished with any uniform from the outset, while others took off, in their retreat, their emblems and concealed themselves among ordinary people. Owing to such wanton disregard of uniform and emblems on the part of the enemy, which made it impossible to distinguish combatants from ordinary people, our army had great difficulty in conducting its operations. Our army, however, with conscientious regard for the laws of humanity, spared no effort to prevent superfluous injury of war.

Fourth. Release of criminal prisoners and their violent conduct: On our army having landed on the island of Saghalien the Russian army released the criminal prisoners kept at Alexandrovsk and several other places. These released prisoners entered upon a course of lawlessness, and as a result the city of Alexandrovsk greatly suffered. When our army occupied the city, as the looting was still rampant there, we organized a guard and put the city under its strict surveillance and protection. In spite of this fact the Russian army circulated the scandalous rumor that the violent disturbance of the city was caused by our army. But the fact that the conduct of those released prisoners was extremely threatening is indisputable, as admitted even by Russian officials and people at Rykoff and other places, where on account of the occupation by our army they escaped the injury of the released prisoners. It is evident, therefore, that the Russian army purposely released the prisoners and attempted to put the blame of their wanton conduct on our army.

Fifth. Inhuman insults inflicted upon the dead and wounded: On the morning of July 27 our cavalry scout was surrounded by Russian troops at a place south of Rykoff and our commanding officer, Lieutenant Watanabe, and five others were killed. From the fact that on their dead bodies there were found more than ten rifle, cutting, and stabbing wounds, and that particularly in the rifle wounds there was powder gas, it is doubtless the Russian soldiers must have either barbarously massacred the wounded or inflicted barbarous insults on the dead. Such conduct is not only against the laws and customs of war, but is a most wanton disregard of the laws of humanity.

Sixth. Exhumation of the buried: In an engagement of August 2 near Lake Tonnaicha Araya Kakusaburo, a soldier of the second grade, belonging to the fifth company of our infantry régiment, was killed. Our army buried the body of the killed in the wood near by and set a post over the grave. Later, on August 10, when our army came back to the same place after attacking the enemy’s force thereabouts, it was suspected the grave of the buried had been opened. Subsequently the soldier’s seal and pocket book, which had been buried with the corpse, were discovered in a box containing the private effects of one of the commanders of the enemy’s force. Thus it was confirmed that the grave of our soldier who died an honorable death on the field of battle had been opened by the enemy and the dead had been robbed.

  1. Not printed.