The American Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Hirota)

No. 780

Excellency: I have the honor, by direction of my Government, to address to Your Excellency the following note:

“The American Government refers to the statement by the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Third Fleet which was handed to the American Consul General at Shanghai on September 19 announcing the project of the Japanese naval air force, after twelve o’clock noon on September 21, 1937, to resort to bombing and other measures of offense in and around the city of Nanking, and warning the officials and nationals of third Powers living there ‘to take adequate measures for voluntary moving into areas of greater safety’.

The American Government objects both to such jeopardizing of lives of its nationals and of non-combatants generally and to the suggestion that its officials and nationals now residing in and around Nanking should withdraw from the areas in which they are lawfully carrying on their legitimate activities.

Immediately upon being informed of the announcement under reference, the American Government gave instructions to the American Ambassador at Tokyo to express to the Japanese Government this Government’s concern; and that instruction was carried out. On the same day, the concern of this Government was expressed by the Acting Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador in Washington.

This Government holds the view that any general bombing of an extensive area wherein there resides a large populace engaged in peaceful pursuits is unwarranted and contrary to principles of law and of humanity. Moreover, in the present instance time limit allowed for withdrawal is inadequate, and, in view of the wide area over which Japanese bombing operations have prevailed, there can be no assurance that even in areas to which American nationals, and non-combatants might withdraw they would be secure. Notwithstanding the report that assurance that ‘the safety of the lives and property of nationals of friendly Powers will be taken into full consideration during the projected offensive’, this Government is constrained to observe that experience has shown that, when and where aerial bombing operations are engaged in, no amount of solicitude on the part of the authorities responsible therefor is effective toward insuring the safety of any persons or any property within the area of such operations.

Reports of bombing operations by Japanese planes at and around Nanking both before and since the issuance of the announcement under reference indicate that these operations almost invariably result in extensive destruction of non-combatant life and non-military establishments.

In view of the fact that Nanking is the seat of government in China and that there the American Ambassador and other agencies of the American Government carry on their essential functions, the American Government strongly objects to the creation of a situation [Page 505]in consequence of which the American Ambassador and other agencies of this Government are confronted with the alternative of abandoning their establishments or being exposed to grave hazards.

In the light of the assurances repeatedly given by the Japanese Government that the objectives of Japanese military are limited strictly to Chinese military agencies and establishments and that the Japanese Government has no intention of making non-military property and non-combatants the direct objects of attack, and of the Japanese Government’s expression of its desire to respect the embassies, warships and merchant vessels of the Powers at Nanking, the American Government cannot believe that the intimation that the whole Nanking area may be subjected to bombing operations represents the considered intent of the Japanese Government.

The American Government, therefore, reserving all rights on its own behalf and on behalf of American nationals in respect to damages which might result from Japanese military operations in the Nanking area, expresses the earnest hope that further bombing in and around the city of Nanking will be avoided.”

I avail myself [etc.]

Joseph C. Grew