Oral Statement by the American Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs (Matsuoka)

Shortly before 11 p.m. on December 30, 1940, eight United States Marines were present in the International Cabaret on Hatamen Street in Peiping, five of whom were on regular authorized liberty while three were present on duty as special patrol. Parenthetically it may be noted that the duties of the special patrol are to visit night clubs [Page 708]and cafés in Peiping, to observe the conduct of marines and to order any marine showing signs of intoxication to return immediately to the barracks. All of the marines present in the cabaret at that time were well behaved and sober.

At 10.50 p.m. a Japanese in civilian clothes, who appeared to be drunk, entered the cabaret and walked about the room glaring in an insolent and provocative manner at the marines seated at tables. Although they noted that this Japanese appeared to be armed, the marines ignored his rude actions and he left. Shortly thereafter at 11 p.m. this same Japanese was seen immediately outside the cabaret by two other American marines who were just arriving. They also noticed two more Japanese in civilian clothes standing outside the cabaret. After these two marines had entered the cabaret and as they were removing their overcoats in the cloakroom, the three Japanese came into the cloakroom and one grabbed the overcoat of a marine, who jerked loose and then took off his coat. As this same marine started to leave the cloakroom one Japanese without any provocation whatsoever deliberately shoved him, but even then the marine merely warned the Japanese to stop. The Japanese thereupon rushed at the American marine, who knocked him down, and a general fight ensued. Hearing the commotion in the cloakroom, some of the American marines in the dance room, including those on special patrol, went into the cloakroom and stopped the fighting, disarming one of the Japanese who was in the act of drawing a pistol.

Order was temporarily restored, but in about five minutes a group of some fifteen Japanese gendarmes rushed in. The rapid arrival of these gendarmes would seem to indicate that they had been waiting in the neighborhood. Without making any attempt to ascertain the cause of the trouble or the person or persons responsible, the gendarmes fired shots into the air and brandished swords and pistols, sticking their revolvers into the stomachs or backs of the American marines present in the cafe. When one marine, a member of the special patrol, endeavored to hand over to the gendarmes the armed Japanese civilian, the marine was promptly arrested by the Japanese gendarmes, who released the armed Japanese. Immediately thereafter, the gendarmes without reason or provocation took four more marines into custody, at the same time threatening all marines present with pistols and swords. While this so-called arrest was being made, three marines were subjected to brutal treatment by Japanese gendarmes and civilians and suffered bruises and cuts about the head and face as a result of being beaten with the butt of a pistol, kicked, and struck.

One of the marines in the cabaret telephoned to the regular uniformed marine patrol, which promptly arrived on the scene in a truck but was prevented by the Japanese gendarmes at the point of drawn pistols from functioning or taking custody of the five marines detained [Page 709]by the gendarmerie. Upon learning of the arrest of these marines, an American marine officer was sent to the gendarmerie office at 1.30 a.m., December 31, and requested the release of the American marines. This request was refused. At 6 a.m. Colonel Turnage, commander of the American Embassy guard at Peiping, called at the gendarmerie office and requested the release of his men, which was refused on the ground that, in the words of the Japanese gendarmerie, “the investigation had not been completed”. At 12 noon Colonel Turnage made a formal demand for their release, which was refused on the ground that the matter was being transferred to another office, later learned to be the headquarters of the Japanese Army in North China. At 5 p.m. the five men were released.

During the investigation at the gendarmerie office one American marine was manhandled and kicked by the gendarmes and forced to sign a statement to the effect that the affair had started when he knocked a pipe from the mouth of a Japanese.

On the basis of a careful and painstaking investigation of the facts by the responsible officers of the Embassy guard, my Government is convinced of the general reliability of the above account of the incident. Aside from any question of the propriety of the action of Japanese gendarmes rushing upon a group of American citizens and firing shots into the air and brandishing swords and forcibly seizing those Americans, my Government takes a serious view of, first, the refusal of the Japanese gendarmes to surrender custody of the arrested marines to an American marine patrol in uniform upon request that they do so; second, the maltreatment by the Japanese military authorities of American marines while those marines were in custody; and, third, the refusal of the Japanese authorities for a period of some seventeen hours to release those marines despite insistent requests by officers of the American Embassy guard that they be released.

The Japanese military authorities have been unresponsive to the moderate and appropriate requests made in connection with the incident by the commanding officer of the American Embassy guard at Peiping. If the attitude of the Japanese military authorities at Peiping accurately reflects the attitude of the Japanese Government, my Government can only conclude that there does not exist a disposition on the part of the Japanese Government to make any real effort toward settlement of the incident. Under these circumstances my Government is forced to assume that no useful purpose would be served by a further discussion of the matter and it therefore will have to add this case to the list of unsettled cases involving infringement by Japanese agencies of American rights and interests in China of willful abuse by these agencies of American citizens and of affronts to American official agents.