393.1163 Lutheran Brethren/101

The Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Arita) to the American Chargé in Japan (Dooman)

No. 90, American I

Sir: I have carefully perused your notes, no. 1272, May 22, 1939, no. 1273, May 22, 1939, and no. 1274, May 22, 1939,98 in which it was stated that property belonging to the Lutheran Brethren Mission at Tangho, Honan Province, was bombed by Japanese military planes on May 4, 1939; further that the property of the Lutheran Brethren Mission at Tungpeh, Honan, the same property at which the incident resulting in death and injury to members of the Nyhus family on October 24, 1938, occurred, was again bombed on May 2, 1939, by Japanese airplanes. You stated that both properties were marked; [Page 663]and that particularly in the latter case it was entirely improbable that the Japanese military authorities could be ignorant of the existence of the above property. At that time, you stated, there was an American flag flying from a pole on the property and also there was an American flag painted on the roof. In view of these facts, you stated that this bombing of the same property must be viewed as especially flagrant. You protest to the Japanese Government concerning these incidents, and request that measures be taken to prevent any future occurrences of a similar nature.

The actual facts, however, according to the investigations of the Japanese forces which have recently entered Tangho and Tungpeh, are as set forth in the addendum herewith attached.

As I have already frequently explained to you, the Japanese air forces have paid from the beginning, and are paying, the strictest attention to the protection of the rights and interests of third countries in China. Nevertheless, in time of war accidental injury may be done to such rights and interests. The Imperial Government sincerely regrets such instances, but it has been learned that these injuries are very often caused, as in the cases at Tangho and Tungpeh, by the fact that the property of American nationals has given the appearance of being that of the enemy, or for the reason that enemy forces have assembled in large numbers, or have constructed their military emplacements in close proximity thereto. The Imperial Government being greatly embarrassed by these facts, I desire emphatically to invite your attention to instances of the above nature.

You conclude in the latter part of your above-mentioned note no. 1274 that the Japanese authorities are not uniformly animated by a spirit of concern for American rights and interests. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs has, at every opportunity, affirmed to His Excellency, Ambassador Grew, and to you, the Japanese people, the Japanese Government and authorities both civil and military at home and abroad, have always been and are anxious for the maintenance and promotion of friendly relations between Japan and the United States, and have invariably considered in good faith the protection of American rights and interests in China. Accordingly, under present circumstances your statements, such as those mentioned above, are indeed inapposite. I earnestly hope that to a greater degree than heretofore the sincerity of Japan’s attitude will be appreciated.

Needless to say, the Japanese Government will take all possible measures to protect rights and interests in China. It is requested that the United States, on its part, cooperate fully with Japan toward avoidance of such damages by preventing the Chinese forces from utilizing such property, by prohibiting the building of military emplacements of the Chinese forces in close proximity to that property, and by other measures.

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Finally, I wish to call your attention to the fact that officials of the Japanese Army at Shanghai, officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other officials concerned are at present conferring and are giving particular attention to the question of a solatium for the members of the Nyhus family who were injured in the recent unfortunate accident at Tungpeh.

I avail myself [etc.]

Hachiro Arita


1. It was determined that Japanese airplanes did, in fact, bomb and destroy an American mission at Tungpeh. This mission was comprised of two buildings constructed near the provincial government’s building. Of the above two buildings, one, the main building a two story structure, was struck by a bomb and destroyed with the exception of one portion of about one hundred and forty-four square feet in the north corner. On the roof of that part left standing, there was a small observation lookout. The other building was a barrack-like structure. Inside there were definite evidences of the housing of a large number of people and straw was spread on the floor. There was a brick wall around this mission and there were loopholes cut into the wall. The property clearly had enemy character.

It is definitely established that all of the buildings within the walls of Tungpeh were appropriated by enemy forces and were utilized as barracks. For example the school building in the center of the walled city was remodeled as a military barracks and a neighboring house was used as a military telephone exchange with many telephone lines converging on it. There was a room marked “Commander’s Headquarters” in the provisional government’s office building near the above mission which clearly indicates that this served as the headquarters of the enemy forces. Further, houses in the immediate or close proximity of this same mission were practically all marked “Training Corps no.”. There were many evidences that these buildings were barracks of the enemy forces and such buildings were destroyed by the Japanese air forces. The propriety of such action from the standpoint of prosecution of hostilities may be proved by actual evidence.

2. The Japanese air forces had discovered at the time of the bombing of Tangho that there was a large concentration of enemy troops near the American mission at that place. This discovery was later verified as a fact through investigations among the local populace. This mission was very small and not more than one very small part of it was destroyed. Even in this case as well, there are many evidences that the enemy forces took military advantage of American rights and interests.

  1. None printed.