793.94/16761: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

1138. Department’s 443, July 30, 1 p.m.; Embassy’s 1134, July 31, 1 p.m.

Following the call of the Acting Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs on me this morning I asked for an appointment with the Minister for Foreign Affairs himself. After some delay the Minister’s secretary informed me that Admiral Toyoda desired to call on me at the Embassy at 2 o’clock, later changing the appointment to 2:30. At 2:30 I was informed that the Foreign Minister was then with the Prime Minister and that Admiral Toyoda would be glad to have me come to see him at 2:45, which I did. I am unaware of the reason for the Minister’s change of plans.
I read to the Minister my signed note setting forth the details of the bombing of the Tutuila including the unanimous opinion of three American officials, who had observed the bombing from the hill immediately overlooking the ship, that the attack was deliberate; also that the weather conditions were ideal. I thereupon made the most emphatic representations, and, to indicate the very grave nature of the incident, I read to the Minister the observations which I had made to his predecessor, Mr. Matsuoka, on June 16 (see Embassy’s 830, June 16, 9 p.m.). I also read to him the oral statement made to Mr. Matsuoka on July 8 regarding the attitude of the Government of the United States toward the Japanese request that consideration again be given to the moving of the U. S. S. Tutuila, as set forth in the Department’s telegram No. 350, June 24, 8 p.m. (see Embassy’s 961, July 8, 11 p.m.).50
The Minister said that he had sent the Acting Vice Minister to see me this morning to convey his regrets at the incident and he repeated on behalf of the Japanese Government and himself expressions of sincere regret. He said that so far as he could remember a new instruction had been sent only recently to naval aviation officers carefully to avoid jeopardizing the American Embassy and the U. S. S. Tutuila in their bombing operations over Chungking and as a naval officer formerly in control of aviation he could assure me that these young aviation officers were strictly obedient to orders from their superiors. He could therefore only assume that in proceeding to its military objective the bombing gear of the plane in question had loosened during flight and that the bomb had dropped without any intention on the part of the pilot. The Minister several times repeated his conviction that the incident was purely and simply an accident but he recognized the potential gravity of the results of such accidents and said that once again he would have the most explicit instructions sent out to the Navy’s air arm to avoid such risks.
I repeated to the Minister my own conviction that the incident could not possibly have been accidental, especially in the light of the evidence of the several attacks on our Embassy and ship during the last several weeks. I once again pointed out the deplorable effect which this new incident would have on American public opinion and that in the present tenseness of our relations it seemed to me questionable whether these relations could stand the strain of an American fatality or the sinking of the Tuscaloosa [Tutuila] in the course of further bombing operations.
In closing the conversation I said that my Government must reserve a further expression of its views which I assumed would be communicated through Admiral Nomura50a in Washington.
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Sent to the Department, repeated to Shanghai for Chungking, Peiping.

  1. Telegram in three sections.
  2. Neither printed.
  3. The Japanese Ambassador at Washington.