393.11/2008: Telegram

The Consul General at Shanghai (Gauss) to the Secretary of State

495. Without any intimation to me, the British Commander-in-Chief and Acting Consul General yesterday broadcast a statement to their nationals advising women and children to evacuate and providing facilities by steamer leaving tomorrow.

As reported yesterday, Commander-in-Chief United States Asiatic Fleet and I had agreed that action should be taken quietly to advise American women and children to leave, and the President [Page 260] Taft bound for Seattle has taken a number of American passengers, some of whom will land in Japan without visas.
The public action of the British without prior notice or consultation with us caused hysteria in the American community. I released a broadcast message last evening that we were conferring with Admiral this morning and would announce American plans today.
At meeting this morning Admiral, Commander of United States Marines, Chairman American Emergency Committee and myself it was agreed that we must take immediate emergency measures to provide facilities for American women and children to leave Shanghai for Manila. There was no possible moment to be lost for consultation with Washington or Nanking.
General Manager of the Dollar and American Mail Lines was summoned and agreed to cooperate fully provided he was given official orders.
Arrangements were made substantially as follows: President Jefferson arriving here today en route to the United States to be held, filled to capacity with American refugees, and returned direct to Manila. President McKinley due tomorrow from the United States, to be loaded to capacity and to proceed to Manila via Hong Kong. President Hoover, now at Manila, to proceed with all speed to Shanghai direct carrying only Marine detachment and upon arrival here about the 21st to be loaded to capacity and returned direct to Manila. First two sailings have been announced. Information concerning Hoover being reserved for the moment. Passengers to be prepared to pay expenses of transportation in cash or by arrangement acceptable to steamship company. Emergency destitute cases to be referred to American Emergency Committee who will, if necessary, provide transportation from funds allocated by me from the Red Cross appropriation. Preference is to be given to expectant mothers, women with small children, women and elderly persons, but men travelling with their families will be given consideration. Commander-in-Chief expected me to join with him in his directions to steamship companies and I have done so without hesitation, in view of emergency situation requiring that American women and children be given opportunity to remove from this war area. I will communicate text of joint order to the steamship line.
Criticism is heard that we have not provided evacuation at Government expense. I shall do everything possible to avoid heavy Government commitment without authorization, but in the name of humanity we could not do less than done.
Must request for the present that Department depend on press reports for information on local military developments, but air raids are almost continuous and the Settlement and French Concession are [Page 261] hourly becoming more unsafe due to the stray bombs and shells, probably anti-aircraft, falling indiscriminately at intervals in this area. My staff under heaviest pressure is doing everything possible to handle the situation.

Repeated to the Department, Nanking and Tokyo.