893.00/12491: Telegram

The Minister in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

812. Legation’s 809, October 24, 5 p.m. Following from American Consul General at Hankow:

“October 25, 5 p.m. Legation’s October 24, 5 p.m. Navy informs me that seven missionaries from the nearby interior have arrived at Wanhsien due to the disturbances in the vicinity of their stations. There is some Chinese evacuation from Wanhsien and Hankow merchants [Page 535] are receiving requests from agents in Wanhsien that no cargo be shipped to that port for the present.

The USS Palos at Ichang reports British are holding up river ships there pending decision of Chungking authorities as to commandeering of vessels for transportation of troops. Tutuila at Chungking reports that British steamer Wantung is being held at Chungking by agents and Consul pending receipt of instructions from the British Minister since unfavorable reactions feared should she sail before receipt of reply. Tutuila reports that thus far Chinese requests for troop transportation have been in the form of pleas with no hint of threat.

Our registration records show 11 American citizens at Wanhsien, 2 at Yunyang and 1 at Wushan, both places being in gorges below Wanhsien.

The Tutuila is needed at Chungking in connection with the safeguarding of Americans and the Palos is required at Ichang. The Guam left Hankow yesterday for Ichang and will be available for Wanhsien. I am suggesting to Admiral Wainwright that, if possible, the Guam endeavor to get in touch with the Americans at Yunyang [and] Wushan on her way to Wanhsien.”

British Legation informs me that it has matter under consideration and will inform me of decision reached.

2. Following from American Consul General at Shanghai:

“October 25, 4 p.m. Referring to telegram from USS Tutuila to Commander in Chief October 23 regarding transportation of Chinese troops to Wanhsien by American vessels, Admiral Upham requested my opinion on the question and stated as follows:

  • ‘(1) While it is no doubt entirely legal that American merchant vessels be chartered by the Central Government to transport their troops, such must be done with distinct understanding that United States naval protection is no longer available.
  • (2) However, this procedure appears to be undesirable in any case lest it lead to trouble at some subsequent time when rebel troops may control an armored cruiser and demand the use of American merchant vessels to transport their troops, and when our merchant ships would not wish to do so—in such case the rebels might well seek to impress them into service, and thereby precipitate conflict with American naval forces.’

I replied that case in question occurred in Hankow district but that I was fully in accord with the views expressed in his paragraph 2 above. Have so informed Yangtze Rapid’s Shanghai office.”