861.00/6117: Telegram

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

13. Your 9, January 9, 11 p.m. and 12, January 11, midnight. The orders issued to General Graves were dual in character. Unfortunately there seems to have been some misinterpretation of them and of the policy of this Government as expressed. In the first place the orders which General Graves issued for the evacuation of certain units as contained in your Urgent No. 9, January 9, 11 p.m., were intended to effectuate a purely strategic military move and had no political significance. These troops were simply scattering units in outlying districts and they were in danger of attack. Orders were sent them there to evacuate to a more central point in order that they might be concentrated and their defense more easily effectuated. The whole movement was one of defensive military character.

In the second place the information sent to General Graves indicated that there probably would be a movement for eventual evacuation of the forces from Siberia. This seems to have been misconstrued, and his action thereunder certainly was premature. Department had no knowledge that he had been instructed to evacuate as at the time the telegram in question was sent to General Graves the policy of the Government had not been definitely promulgated.

I desire you to explain to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and let it be known to the public, within your discretion, that there has been no purpose on the part of this Government to act otherwise than frankly and with the greatest possible measure of coordination. The Aide Memoire left with me by the Japanese Ambassador on December 8, 1919,34 was understood to present clearly three alternatives, namely, reinforcement, maintenance of status quo, or withdrawal, and to require a definite answer. Moreover, the illness of the President, with whom final decision rested, made it necessary to present the question to him categorically. When the President’s decision was known it was communicated as promptly as possible to the Japanese Ambassador at Washington and to you by means of the memorandum of January 9.

[Page 494]

As already explained, the action of certain military authorities, based upon advance information was premature. Upon learning thereof the Secretary of War had orders addressed to General Graves stopping the troop movement which he had set in motion.

As you will see by reference to the memorandum of January 9, the departure of American troops is not intended before the safe evacuation of the Czecho-Slovaks has been assured. General Graves has now been instructed to report the present disposition of the Czecho-Slovak troops as well as of his own, and the orders which are eventually given him with respect to the departure of the American troops, or their removal from the sectors of the railroad which they are now guarding, will be based upon a consideration of this report with a view to assuring in conjunction with the Japanese military forces the safe evacuation of the Czecho-Slovaks.

  1. Not printed.