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Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton)

The Japanese Ambassador called by request of the Acting Secretary of State, Mr. Moore.8

The Acting Secretary said that he had asked the Ambassador to call in regard to the proposed Japanese bombing of Nanking.

The Acting Secretary said that the announced plans of the Japanese naval forces had been brought to our notice only 48 hours before the actual bombing might commence, and the Acting Secretary stressed that the shortness of the notice was extremely regrettable. The Acting Secretary referred to the fact that according to a report which we had received from our Ambassador at Nanking the notice did not give sufficient time for the Ambassador and other American nationals to arrange for precautionary measures to insure the safety of the American Embassy and of American nationals and property. The Acting Secretary said that we were very much concerned about the whole matter. He referred to the fact that the Japanese Admiral’s notice stated that the nationals of third countries should withdraw from Nanking and its vicinity to areas of greater safety but did not specify in any way where such areas of greater safety might be.

Mr. Wilson informed the Ambassador that in addition to our serious concern with regard to the safety of the American Embassy and of American nationals at Nanking we also were concerned with regard to the very unfortunate repercussions which would be bound to arise should large sections of the city of Nanking be laid waste as a result of a general bombing. Mr. Wilson pointed out that the killing and injuring of non-combatants which would inevitably result therefrom would be a shock to the world and that, whether or not such destruction was accidental or premeditated, wide-spread and hostile criticism would inevitably result from any such Japanese attack.

The Acting Secretary told the Japanese Ambassador that Mr. Grew at Tokyo had already made representations to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs on the subject. The Ambassador commented that the Japanese Foreign Minister had sent him a telegraphic report covering Mr. Grew’s conversation with Mr. Hirota and that the Foreign Minister had informed Mr. Grew that foreign diplomatic establishments and non-combatants were to be avoided and that the Japanese bombing operations would be directed at Chinese military establishments. The Acting Secretary emphasized to the Ambassador that if the bombing attack were to be carried out it seemed highly desirable [Page 503]that the attack be restricted in area and that the bombing be postponed in order to afford the nationals of third powers reasonable opportunity to take precautionary measures.

The Japanese Ambassador said that he would send a telegram to his Government that evening reporting the conversation and the fact that the American Government viewed the announced plans of the Japanese to bomb Nanking with deep concern.

(Note: It was agreed that in reply to inquiries from the press both the Japanese Ambassador and officers of the Department would state that the Ambassador had called to discuss the Chinese-Japanese situation. The Acting Secretary told the Ambassador, however, that developments over night or later might cause the Department to make known the fact that the Acting Secretary had asked the Ambassador to call in order to express to the Ambassador this Government’s deep concern in regard to the proposed Japanese bombing of Nanking.)

M[axwell] M. H[amilton]
  1. Assistant Secretary of State Hugh R. Wilson was also present.