394.115 Panay/93: Telegram

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

343. The Japanese Ambassador called upon me today70 in regard to the bombing and sinking of the gunboat Panay and made statements substantially as follows: Japanese officials had received reports that Chinese troops were retreating up the river on boats; naval airplanes were sent to attack them and by mistake the Panay was bombed and sunk. Japanese officials had been informed by United States authorities regarding the whereabouts of the Panay and therefore the bombing of this vessel was considered a very grave blunder. The Foreign Minister had instructed him to convey to this Government full and sincere apologies and regrets which he was undertaking to do. The Japanese Navy, upon receiving a telegram from Ambassador Johnson regarding the sinking of the Panay, was attempting to send a war vessel with hospital and other supplies for relief, but owing to fighting this was proving difficult.

I stated to the Ambassador that we here were never quite so astonished at an occurrence as at the news of this promiscuous bombing of vessels of third countries on the Yangtze; that we were most diligently undertaking to assemble all essential facts, and that we will comment to the Japanese Government in the light of these facts. I then read the following memorandum from the President:

“That the President is deeply shocked and concerned by the news of indiscriminate bombing of American and other non-Chinese vessels on the Yangtze, and that he requests that the Emperor be so advised.

That all the facts are being assembled and will shortly be presented to the Japanese Government.

That in the meantime it is hoped the Japanese Government will be considering definitely for presentation to this Government: [Page 497]

Full expressions of regret and proffer of full compensation:
Methods guaranteeing against a repetition of any similar attack in the future.”

I stated that the contents of the President’s memorandum were wholly reasonable, especially in the light of what the Ambassador described as a “very grave blunder.” I again expressed my amazement and the hope that the Japanese military officials operating in the Nanking area would realize the extreme danger of their unprecedented conduct.

There have been released to the press the texts of the President’s memorandum, the Department’s 340, December 12, 11:45 p.m.,71 and your 622, December 13, 3 p.m.,72 as well as the substance of the Ambassador’s statements to me.