394.115 Panay/393: Telegram

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

171. Department’s 81, March 9, 11 a.m.

1. On March 4 a member of the Budget Committee of the Lower House interpellated the Minister for Foreign Affairs81 on relations with the United States. He made extended reference to the Panay incident and expressed the opinion that the bombing was due to the excitement of the air force while in hot pursuit of the enemy. The interpolator then put the following question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs [of the Navy].

“Was it not necessary to have the man who commanded this squadron one who was not just a fighter but one who would pay full attention to the complicated international relationships and one who was a deep thinker? Even though a man be careful and considerate it is not unreasonable for him to lose his cool judgment in the ‘heat of battle’ to wipe out the enemy. I would like the Navy Minister to deeply consider the administration of personnel who operate in the complicated sections of war operations and I would like to have the Navy Minister pay attention to the administration of personnel so that such a thing as this (Panay) will not again occur.”

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The office of the Naval Attaché has translated as follows the complete text of the reply of the Minister of the Navy as officially recorded:

“I believe that Mr. Takahashi’s questions can be generally divided into two points; first, the problem of administration of personnel and, second, that of communication liaison. According to the views of the authorities (naval) I understand there was nothing to be desired as far as personnel administration is concerned and consequently there was no connection of any kind between the so-called Panay incident and the question of administration of personnel. I concur in that opinion. Generally speaking the question of administration of personnel is a very serious one. As for myself, I am exerting my best efforts toward the proper administration of personnel and in the future this same policy will be followed. We have hoped that communications in time of battle would be carried out completely and with satisfaction. However, it would be difficult to guarantee that some defect would never occur. Consequently, we are paying full attention so that there will be no repetition of such a breakdown in the future as occurred in the past or that new breakdowns occur in the future.”

2. The Naval Attaché informs me that the correspondent of the International News Service whose story was based on the foregoing statement has attempted to sensationalize the Panay incident and that he has been endeavoring in various ways to keep the incident alive.

3. The Naval Attaché will, as opportunity offers, endeavor to ascertain discreetly what action, if any, has been taken in respect of those officers held responsible for the incident.82

  1. Koki Hirota.
  2. See telegram No. 194, March 22, 6 p.m., from the Ambassador in Japan, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, Vol. i, p. 560.