393.1123 Winterle/1: Telegram

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

7. (1) Following from Chefoo:

“September 19, 3 p.m. I have the honor to report that on the evening of September 3rd a drunken Japanese consular police officer named Honda is reported to have attacked the Russian wife of an American citizen named Winterle. Subsequent developments threaten to assume serious proportions. Seems to have been made without any provocation. After rescuing wife from second attack same evening Winterle engaged in tussle with the Japanese who now claims that for no reason he was attacked by Winterle and other Americans and beaten, producing several Japanese witnesses. American witnesses refute this statement and after reviewing all evidence presented (except from the Japanese side which has come only through their consulate) I am inclined to believe that the Japanese [Page 1088] are attempting either to make a serious incident of a trivial affair or to save the face of a Japanese official at any cost. Japanese Consul80 yesterday made the following written demands:

  • ‘1. Apology by you to me.
  • 2. Apology to the suffered Japanese by Mr. and Mrs. Winterle and by Mr. Dunlap, American proprietor of the Biltmore bar.
  • 3. Guarantee by you of preventing any case of this kind in the future.’

Full report by mail in despatches numbers 81 and 82 of September 17th and 18th. Embassy’s instructions as to what reply should be made to Japanese Consul urgently requested.

In view of Yamada’s81 veiled threats at a call by the Consul General today of trouble from Japanese Navy in Port Arthur, whom enraged local Japanese community might inform unless national honor is satisfied by an apology from the American Consulate, it is suggested that the Embassy consider requesting a postponement of the departure of some of the American men of war who are now planning to leave September 21st, until the case is settled. Should I suggest that the Americans charged with the disturbance proceed to Shanghai?

Not repeated to the Department or Nanking.”

(2) I have replied as follows:

“September 21, 9 a.m. Your September 19, 3 p.m. to Peiping.

Extraterritorial jurisdiction vested in you requires that you entertain complaint of Japanese against Winterle and that acting judicially you should conduct preliminary hearing for the purpose of determining whether or not there is reason to believe that an attack was made upon the Japanese Honda and that the man Winterle made such an attack. It is not necessary in a preliminary hearing to determine question of provocation or character of evidence. In such a preliminary hearing American defendant’s not on trial and may reserve his answer. If you find that there is reason to believe that an attack was made upon the Japanese complainant and that the American Winterle did make the attack it is obligatory that you hand him over for trial by the United States Court for China. Certified copies of testimony taken with commitment papers should then be forwarded to the United States Court for China.
Facts presented in your telegram under acknowledgment would indicate that proceedings described above should be instituted without delay, Japanese complainant being notified of date and time set for hearing. Consult consular court regulations regarding procedure.
You may inform your Japanese colleague in regard to his written demands that you have referred this phase of the matter to me.
Embassy considers that it would exaggerate situation to suggest naval vessels delay departure and is taking no action in that respect.
Embassy does not understand why matter is only now becoming important since incident occurred on September 3rd.
Your telegram and this reply are being repeated to the Department.”

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(3) Before sending Chefoo the instruction quoted above I sent Peck82 to see Suma83 of the Japanese Embassy informally to explain to Suma that the American Consul at Chefoo had informed us of the receipt of the points quoted above and that obviously the American Consul could not comply with the first and third of these requests. Mr. Suma stated that he had also received similar information from his Consul and although he concurred in thinking it highly desirable to settle the matter without further magnifying it and with the minimum of friction and publicity he showed no disposition to direct the Japanese Consul to withdraw his request. Suma expressed the opinion that a judicial inquiry would be advisable.

The above constitutes developments in this matter known to the Embassy up to the present moment.

  1. T. Tanaka, Japanese Acting Consul at Chefoo.
  2. English interpreter of the Japanese Consulate at Chefoo.
  3. Willys R. Peck, Counselor of Embassy in China.
  4. Yakichiro Suma, First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in China.