393.115 President Hoover/28

Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)

Conversation: The Secretary of State;
The Chinese Ambassador, Dr. C. T. Wang;
Mr. Hornbeck.

The Chinese Ambassador called this morning at his own request on appointment made yesterday.

The Ambassador said that he had come to express the sincere regrets of his Government with regard to the bombing of the S. S. President Hoover. He was instructed to say that his Government greatly regretted this unfortunate occurrence, assumed full responsibility, and was prepared to make indemnification both in regard to damage to property and in regard to injuries to persons. He stated that according to his information the Chinese aviator involved had observed what he thought to be a Japanese transport; that there were two Japanese war vessels nearby; and that he had dropped his bombs under the impression that he was attacking an enemy vessel. The Ambassador said that he had intended to come to express regret before receiving instruction from his Government, but that now he had received the instruction and he was speaking for his Government. His Government greatly regretted what had happened.

The Secretary inquired how far off the coast the incident had occurred and how near were the Japanese naval vessels. The Ambassador replied that the Hoover was some distance off the coast but that he did not know how near to it the Japanese vessels had been; he assumed that they were at distances such as are usual in navigation.

The Secretary said that we had already had reports of five cases in which Chinese aviators had caused bombs to fall in places where they should not fall. The Ambassador gave an expression of surprise and inquiry. Mr. Hornbeck remarked that he could give the Ambassador the details. The Secretary made an observation to the effect [Page 475] that careless dropping of bombs, especially bombing which resulted in taking the lives of non-combatants, was deplorable and reprehensible. The Ambassador replied to the effect that it was deplorable.

The Ambassador then said that he wished to speak of China’s intention to make an approach to the League of Nations.31 His Government hoped that the American Government would look with favor on such a move and be inclined to cooperate with the League. The Secretary stated that this Government is still represented on the Advisory Committee, to which we send an officer who is authorized to participate in discussion and deliberation but without a vote.

The Ambassador repeated an expression of the regret of his Government over the bombing of the Hoover and an assurance of its willingness to make amends.

At the end of the above-recorded conversation, Mr. Hornbeck gave the Ambassador an account of bombs which had struck near various American naval vessels in the Whangpoo, made mention of the Chinese bombs which have dropped in the International Settlement, and said that such occurrences necessarily make a very bad impression and tend to aggravate and complicate the whole situation. The Ambassador said that in each case these things had occurred by accident or through misapprehension and that, so far as the ships in the Whangpoo were concerned, those ships were within the area of military operations. He expressed regret that any of the occurrences had occurred.

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. See pp. 1 ff.