393.115/581: Telegram

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

136. Department’s March 17, 6 p.m., via Peiping.

In conforming to the Department’s desire (which has my hearty concurrence) that I protest to the Japanese Government against bombings of American property in China, I propose to make these representations in the most formal and emphatic manner possible. I am telegraphing (see my 137, March 20, 4 p.m.28) the text of a draft, first person note to be delivered personally to the Minister for Foreign Affairs29 later this week immediately after I shall have received the Department’s comment. In my view, this draft note should be a self-contained document on the subject of American property so that when published it will present all the pertinent facts.
At this juncture, when the Japanese people have been deeply and almost universally moved by the action of our Government in sending home on an American cruiser the remains of the late Ambassador Saito30 and are proclaiming their desire for friendship with the United States, the effect might be salutary if this continual bombing of American property in China by Japanese forces could be brought to their [Page 304] attention. The Japanese people are of course in almost complete ignorance of these outrages. The press is probably not permitted to print, and in any event does not print, reports of bombings of American property, and the public is persuaded to assume by periodical statements emanating from the military authorities that the behavior in this respect of the Japanese forces in China is exemplary. Typical of such statements is one made in the Diet on March 11 by the Minister of War:

“The army takes advantage of every opportunity to give warning or notice prior to any large engagement, and it is endeavoring to avoid doing damage by urging third party nationals to take refuge and to mark clearly their property. All this causes some inconvenience in the carrying out of military operations, but that must be borne. I shall cite one or two actual examples. During the recent operation at Kuling, notwithstanding the fact that these operations were under way, troops were assigned for the protection and transporting of supplies for the considerable number of foreigners remaining at that place. The next case is by way of being an old story, but during the operations between Shanghai and Nanking there was within the Chinese lines Hukiang [Shanghai?] University which is operated by Americans and was then occupied by the Chinese forces. When the Chinese forces were driven back and the property occupied by the Japanese forces, it was immediately returned to the Americans operating the University. Here is another example. A church maintained by Americans was bombed during the operations near Tsinan, and the army at once presented a substantial ex-gratia payment, and the case was settled on the spot. Also in the vicinity of Tsinan there is a Standard Oil warehouse which the Japanese forces guarded to prevent pillaging on the part of lawless Chinese, for which protection very warm thanks were received.”

If the Department therefore were to give publicity to our note its substance would probably find its way into some sections of the Japanese press, and certainly into the Japan Advertiser which is read by a considerable element of educated Japanese. The Japanese people are inclined to look lightly on our official protests with regard to interference with our economic and financial rights and interests in China and to dismiss them with a shrug on the ground that we do not yet understand “the new order in East Asia” which the Government must more carefully explain to us. But the Panay incident31 stirred the Japanese people profoundly and were they to know of these continual bombings of marked American property and the injury of American citizens, including the killing of an American child, their reaction might conceivably influence even the miltary.
If the draft note, subject to such modifications as the Department may consider desirable, and the proposed procedure, including that [Page 305] of release by the Department of the text of the note after delivery, are approved by the Department, I shall inform the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time of delivery that release is to be made in Washington.
Of course the Department is in a better position than am I to determine whether the probable effect on American public opinion of the publication of such a note is desirable.

Repeated to Shanghai for Chungking and Peiping.