394.115 Panay/27: Telegram

The Second Secretary of Embassy in China ( Atcheson ) to the Secretary of State

1037. My 1035, December 11, 5 p.m.

Some shells fell close to Jardine hulk then anchored about one half mile above the Panay and near British naval vessels Scarab and Cricket. One reportedly fell within 50 feet of British passenger steamer Whangpoo, some fell on both sides of Standard Oil Company’s S. S. Meiping, and near other merchant vessels including British [Page 486] merchant launch Wookuang on which one Chinese was wounded by shrapnel. As these vessels and the Panay moved up river the firing batteries changed their direction of fire or extended it for the shells appeared to follow for at least 2 miles the line of ships proceeding up the river.
The British Military Attaché and the representative of the German Ambassador who were on a British vessel state that there is no question that the batteries responsible were Japanese and deliberately fired on the ships and continued attempts to hit the vessels as the latter moved up river to get out of range. This is also the independent opinion of the officers and American passengers on the Meiping and several other persons who were endangered by the shelling. The opinion of Captain Roberts,47 with which I am inclined to agree, is that the shells were fired by Chinese batteries in and near Nanking south city, with the object of searching out Japanese troops inshore, because (1) the sound of the guns seemed to come from direction of the south city. (2) The angle of impact of the shells on the river was definitely upstream. (3) At least two and probably more sections were firing well inshore. (4) It had been reported this morning that the Japanese alignment extended by the left toward the river. (5) There were no observation planes in the air although the Japanese have a large number in this area whereas the Chinese have none.
Repeated to Hankow, Peiping, Shanghai. Department please communicate to War Department. Peiping please repeat to Tokyo.
  1. Capt. Frank N. Roberts, Assistant Military Attaché in China.