893.20/674: Telegram (part air)

The Ambassador in Germany (Wilson) to the Secretary of State

286. Department’s 77, May 26, 7 p.m.

1. The Chief of the Far Eastern Section of the Foreign Office in the course of a conversation stated that the German Ambassador at Hankow57 had informed the various German ex-army officers who have been acting as military advisers to the Chinese Government that it was “out of line with Germany’s neutral position” for them to continue their service.

Von Schmieden went on to say that the German Government had taken this step with considerable reluctance and had indeed deferred doing so until the present. It had been hoped that the conflict coming to a close would render such action unnecessary but that now that hostilities had assumed proportions of large scale warfare, the problem of neutrality became more definite. In answer to an inquiry he said that he assumed that the majority of the individuals involved would withdraw but that some might continue in the service. He admitted that the reason why some might continue was that they were presumably persona non grata to the present German Government. He said as respecting individuals that the matter was somewhat complicated as each was under a separate contract with the Chinese Government. He added that there were numerous German nationals in civil positions under the Chinese Government including ex-officers in the police services. He said that none of these were involved but only those whose duties were distinctly and unquestionably military.

In commenting on other matters, von Schmieden said that he had noted that the United States had obtained compensation for the Panay affair but that Berlin had been less successful in obtaining repatriations [reparations?] which they had claimed from Tokyo and that [Page 192] cases were still pending. Respecting the recent bombing of Canton he said that he could not understand Japanese terrors which were serving to unite all China against them. He characterized the bombing of Canton as a cheap victory and said he believed it was to place before the Chinese people as an “answer” to the flight over Japanese territory by Chinese planes which had made a marked impression on the Japanese public. He commented on the cynicism of Tokyo in declaring that the bombing of Canton was for military purposes. Although the Japanese had apparently ultimately reached certain military objectives, the loss of civilian life could have been avoided by an advance notification.

2. The Chinese Ambassador confirmed the notifications for withdrawal to German ex-officers serving with the Chinese General Staff and said that on May 29 the German Embassy at Hankow had informed the Chinese Foreign Office that such notifications had been issued. The Ambassador had been so apprised by his Government and instructed to lodge a protest with the German Government against this action. He had made such a protest but as yet had received no reply.

3. It has been characteristically impossible to obtain any satisfactory information respecting any possible stoppage in the shipment of German military supplies to China.

  1. Oskar Trautmann.