Memorandum by the Ambassador in Japan (Grew)
In accordance with the Department’s telegram 119, May 8, 7 p.m.87 I called this morning on the Foreign Minister and made emphatic oral representations against the recent indiscriminate bombings by Japanese forces in China, basing my representations primarily on humanitarian grounds involving the safety of non-combatant civilian populations and furthermore on the grounds of the serious risks involved in jeopardizing the lives and property of American nationals both official and private.
The text of my oral statement, a copy of which I left with the Minister, and a coded text of which is being sent tonight by air mail to Shanghai for repetition to the Department by the naval radio is appended.
The Minister’s only comment was the usual formula that every effort was made by the aviators to avoid accidents when bombing military objectives but that he would convey my representations both to the military and naval authorities. I pointed out to the Minister that in view of the great heights from which the bombs were dropped, in a wholesale and indiscriminate way, the chance of hitting specific objectives was very small while the risk of injuring foreign nationals or property and of causing widespread casualties among the local population was very great. The Minister replied merely that such bombing operations were part and parcel of the Japanese military operations in China and that as soon as these hostilities ceased, the risks of which I complained would likewise cease.
The Minister asked me what sort of publicity I thought ought to be given to our interview. I suggested that he say that I had come to discuss the general political situation but he replied that this would be too vague to satisfy the press. He then suggested an announcement that I had come to discuss current American problems in China. I agreed with this suggestion on the ground that some elements in the Army might be undesirably inflamed by a statement of my precise representations which might merely serve to incite the military to more intense depredations. (In agreeing to the Minister’s proposal I had in mind the fact that if my precise representations were passed down to the Bureau of Information, the official spokesman, Mr. Kawai, if true to form, would very likely serve up the story in an inaccurate and sensational form. Mr. [Page 647]Dooman, at my suggestion, later discussed the point with Mr. Yoshizawa who thought that it would be best to leave the matter of publicity as arranged between the Minister and myself). I however told the Minister that with a view to satisfying American public opinion my Government might feel obliged to give detailed publicity in the United States to my representations.