361.1123 L 25/37: Telegram

The Chargé in Japan ( Bell ) to the Secretary of State

74. My 66, February 14, 6 p.m.18 I have received following note dated today from the Minister for Foreign Affairs:

“Referring to my note of number 2 dated January 2519 relative to the unfortunate incident which occurred at Vladivostok, I have the honor to state that the matter has since been subjected to the most thorough and exhaustive examination at the court martial held at Vladivostok according to which it has been established that the action of the sentry in question was entirely due to certain shortcomings in the orders he had received and he has therefore been acquitted according to the provisions of the military laws.

In consequence the Imperial military authorities have taken the following measures against his superior officers based on their having issued inaccurate orders:

Major General Nishihara general commanding the Japanese garrison in Vladivostok to be removed from the active list on account of his misinterpretation of the barrack-service regulations thus giving occasion for the recent grave occurrence. He is therefore deprived not only of the commandership of the garrison but of the honorable position of a brigade commander which he has hitherto held.
Barrack officer (a major) to be subjected to the punishment of ‘kinshin’ (to be confined to his room and not to have any outside communication) for 30 days.
Assistant barrack officer (a lieutenant) to be subjected to ‘kinshin’ for 20 days.
Regimental commander to be subjected to ‘kinshin’ for 20 days.
Company commander to be subjected to ‘kinshin’ for 7 days.

The commander in chief of the Japanese expeditionary force paid a visit to the United States Steamship Albany and expressed to the commanding officer of the ship his sense of regret at the occurrence of the incident.

As regards preventive measures against any recurrence of a similar event in future, the Japanese command at once gave orders to the heads of the various troops at Vladivostok to exercise stricter care to prevent such events which fact was duly communicated by that command to the commanding officer of the United States Steamship Albany on the 20th ultimo.

In communicating the above to you for transmission to your Government I beg to request you to be so good as to convey to the American Government the expression of deep regret on the part of the Japanese Government at the occurrence of this sad event and I trust that the Government of the United States will fully appreciate the sincere spirit in which the Japanese Government have acted in dealing with this most unfortunate incident.”

In handing me the above note the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs stated he wished to make it quite clear that his Government placed the entire blame for the unhappy affair on the sentry’s superior officers for having issued improper orders. The sentry himself acted only as might have been expected under such orders and the punishment which has been inflicted upon him, 30 days imprisonment, was in the nature of a disciplinary measure because of his having made false statements to the court of inquiry and not for having shot Lieutenant Langdon. Vice Minister added the verbal assurances on behalf of his Government that General Nishihara would never receive another command in the Japanese Army. He said also that a question would probably be asked of the Minister of War regarding this affair at tomorrow’s Diet session and if so the Minister would make a statement of the tenor of the above note.

Hanihara also vouched for [vouchsafed?] the information that Captain Richardson of the Albany has stated to the Japanese military authorities at Vladivostok that he personally considered the action of the Japanese authorities as satisfactory. I contented myself with observing that I found no mention in the note of reparation [Page 362] and intimated that my Government might have further views to communicate on this point.

From a telegram received this afternoon from Admiral Strauss20 I learn that the Japanese officers confined to barracks are Major Ishikawa, Captain [Colonel] Horiuchi, Lieutenant Imoto and another captain name undecipherable.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram no. 38, Jan. 25, 1921, from the Chargé in Japan, p. 359.
  3. Rear Admiral Joseph Strauss, U. S. N., commander in chief of the Asiatic Fleet, from February 1921.