793.94/10089: Telegram

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

379. Embassy’s 335, September 1, 8 p.m., bombing operations in Nanking and elsewhere in China. The Foreign Office delivered to us a reply, of which the following is a translation:

Aide-mémoire. His Excellency the American Ambassador, in an aide-mémoire of September 1st, 1937, conveyed the request of the American Government for the discontinuance of such bombing operations over Nanking of Japanese forces as might result in the destruction of property of nonmilitary character and in the wounding and death of civilians, and also for their abstinence from attacks upon defenseless cities, hospitals, trains, motor cars, et cetera, with a view to preventing danger to the American citizens who are still scattered in the interior of China.

As His Excellency is aware, Nanking is the pivotal base wherein are planned and originated all Chinese hostile operations against the Japanese forces. In view of the fact that the city is defended by many forts; is possessed of numerous other military organs and establishments in and around it, it is quite proper that against these the Japanese should carry out bombing operations. It should be stated definitely that the objectives of their bombing are limited, from the standpoint of humanity, strictly to those military organs and establishments, and absolutely in no instance nonmilitary property and civilians are ever made the direct objectives of attacks. That, in spite of all such caution exercised on our part, noncombatants should sometimes be made victims of the hostilities and suffer unforeseen disasters in respect of their lives and property, is also regretted deeply by the Japanese Government. That, however, has been an inevitable concomitant of hostile operations in all ages. In order to ensure, as far as possible, the safety of noncombatants in the present case, it is believed that, in parallel to the caution exercised by the Japanese as above stated, the Chinese on their part should take appropriate measures, such as the evacuation of noncombatants from the neighborhood of their military organs and establishments.

The Japanese Government, as has repeatedly been made known, are most solicitous for the security of the lives and property of the nationals of third countries, including American citizens, in China, and are prepared to do whatever lies in their power to facilitate their withdrawal to places of safety and to afford protection to their property. And they wish to assure Your Excellency that nothing is farther [Page 531] from the thought of the Japanese forces than to make attacks, such as are referred to in the American aide-mémoire, upon defenseless cities, hospitals, trains and motor cars, which are not used by the Chinese for military purposes. September 15, 1937.”

Repeated to Shanghai for relay to Nanking.