893.00/3028a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Japan (Morris)

Your March 23, 11 p.m.

The following is a statement of the facts in relation to the recent unfortunate incidents at Tientsin based upon the careful investigations of our Legation at Peking and of our military and consular officers at Tientsin:

An unprovoked attack on members of the American military police was made by some Japanese in civilian clothes while the latter were under the influence of liquor in the licensed district in the Japanese concession on the evening of March 11. The assault was followed by a fight in which four American soldiers were badly injured. As a precaution against further trouble the American commanding officer on the morning of March 12 issued orders forbidding American soldiers to go into the Japanese concession. As a further precaution he later placed a military police patrol on the boundary line between the Japanese and French concessions for the purpose of enforcing the order.

About midnight of March 12 a large group of excited Japanese civilians carrying clubs and pistols invaded the French concession, forcing back the American military police above mentioned. The Acting Japanese Consul General, mounted on a horse, led a body of more than 100 Japanese troops and officers, armed with rifles with fixed bayonets, into the French concession immediately following the Japanese civilians. A search for American soldiers by these Japanese citizens and soldiers led to a fracas between them and the Americans, several on both sides being hurt, none seriously except one American soldier who was taken by the Japanese soldiers and civilians from a house in the licensed district of the French concession, assaulted, stabbed and carried to the Japanese police station almost nude and in a serious condition. The surgeon in attendance states that this soldier will have his left leg permanently paralyzed. Another American soldier while on military police duty was also assaulted without provocation by Japanese civilians and soldiers in the French concession and was arrested and taken by Japanese soldiers to the Japanese police station. While being taken to the police station, these two soldiers were maltreated by Japanese, apparently with the acquiescence of those who had the prisoners in charge.

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When the American Consul General, after the fracas on the night of March 12, approached the Japanese officials with a view to ascertaining the whereabouts of these two wounded soldiers the Japanese officials denied that the American soldiers were confined in the Japanese police station. One of them, however, was found locked in a cell in the Japanese police station and the other lying injured in the courtyard of the station. The American Consul General, having secured the release of the two Americans, was stoned by Japanese in the Japanese concession while returning to the American Consulate at 2 a.m., on March 13 in his automobile.

On March 13, an American soldier, apparently without cause, struck a Japanese in the grounds surrounding the residence of the Japanese Acting Consul in the British concession. The American Commanding officer made apologies to the Japanese authorities for this improper conduct on the part of the soldier, who was promptly punished.

About 9 p.m., on March 13, a body of about 50 Japanese carrying clubs and followed by an excited mob pursued three American military police into the Empire theatre in the French concession. Entrance to the theatre was denied the Japanese, however, and they were dispersed an hour later by the Japanese police. French Annamite soldiers then policed the French concession to prevent further trespassing.

While it has been asserted that the trouble arose from the presence of a body of American soldiers in the Japanese concession on the night of March 12, careful investigation discloses that there were no groups of American soldiers in the Japanese concession on that night.

It appears that the American military commander made every effort to stop each fracas as soon as it occurred and to prevent others from occurring but that the Japanese authorities were remiss in this respect.

You will bring the above statement informally to the attention of the Japanese Foreign Office, leaving a copy thereof if it is desired, and say orally that, after making all due allowance for the origin and nature of the disturbances and the inevitable confusion of testimony, a comparison of the above statement with the statements issued by the Japanese War Department and Foreign Office28 appears to leave still unexplained the illegal arrest of Americans by Japanese officers, the deliberate misleading by Japanese officials of the American Consul General as to the fact of the detention of the Americans in the Japanese jail, and the serious injury to the American soldier who is partially paralyzed. You may say that the Department, equally with the Japanese Foreign Office sincerely deplores this unfortunate affair; that our Commanding officer has voluntarily apologized to the Japanese authorities for the action of the American [Page 426] soldier in invading the Japanese consular premises on March 13; that the soldier himself has been punished and that these steps have the thorough approval of the United States Government. On the other hand the corresponding action on the part of the Japanese officials concerned appears not to have gone beyond expressions of individual and personal regret. You may assure the Foreign Office that the Department has entire confidence in the readiness of the Japanese Government to take such further action as the consideration of the facts in the case seem to warrant.

I propose to have a conversation with Viscount Ishii29 along the same lines today and will give him also a copy of the above statement. Repeat by mail to Peking.

  1. See telegram of Mar. 23, 11 p.m., from the Ambassador in Japan, p. 422.
  2. Kikujiro Ishii, Japanese Ambassador at Washington to June 12, 1919.