793.94/8683: Telegram

The Ambassador in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

206. 1. A clash took place shortly before midnight last evening at Marco Polo Bridge, which is 10 miles west of Peiping, between Japanese and 29th Army (Sung Cheh-yuan’s) troops. Japanese troops have been maneuvering for some 2 weeks in that vicinity and, according to Chinese sources, attempted last evening to take Marco Polo Bridge as a part of the maneuvers. The Chinese troops which have been stationed at either end of the bridge for a long time resisted and subsequently retired into the nearby small, walled town of Wanpinghsien. It is not known what casualties may have occurred during the clash at the bridge.

2. It is understood that the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hopei-Chahar Political Council called at 1 a.m. at the Japanese Embassy here to effect a settlement.

3. However, according to Chinese guards of the barricaded gates of Wanpinghsien who were interviewed this morning at 8 o’clock by Salisbury,1 the Japanese began firing on the city at about 3:30 a.m., with the result that some houses were destroyed, some tens of Chinese soldiers were killed or wounded, and ten or more civilians were killed. The guards claim the Chinese side did not respond to the Japanese firing. Desultory firing was still going on in the vicinity of Marco Polo Bridge as late as 8:30 a.m. today although country this side was peaceful, Chinese on farms going about their affairs as usual.

4. The Embassy will report later what progress may be made in negotiations for a settlement of the incident. Peiping is quiet. No unusual movement of troops by either side.

Repeated to Nanking, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

  1. Laurence E. Salisbury, Second Secretary of Embassy in China.