811.5034 (China) American Radio Service/10

The Ambassador in China (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

No. 2435

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 255 of November 13, 1939, 7 p.m., to the Embassy58 in regard to the application for registration as an American firm of the American Radio Service at Tientsin, and to enclose for the information and consideration of the Department copies of Consul General Caldwell’s despatch to the Embassy No. 937 of December 29, 1939,59 in which he sets forth the results of the investigation into the firm’s activities called for in the Department’s instruction in question.


The American Radio Service has denied the allegation of the Japanese authorities that the station is a base of an anti-Japanese terrorist group, and has given assurance that the firm will avoid involvement in political matters. The Consulate General is prepared, subject to approval by the Embassy and the Department, to grant provisional registration to the firm. The Embassy recommends that provisional registration for a period of six months be granted.

The Department will note that Mr. Caldwell reports that he brought to the attention of Mr. Nichols,60 manager-partner of the American Radio Service, the Japanese allegations that the station was serving as a base for anti-Japanese activities, and that Mr. Nichols emphatically denied the Japanese charges orally and in writing. Mr. Nichols stated that he had positive knowledge of the existence in Tientsin of a radio station which was in communication with the Chinese Government at Chungking and he asserted that for this reason there was no need for his Chinese employees to use his station for such purposes. Mr. Nichols added that his Chinese employees were not interested in politics except to the extent that all Chinese were at heart patriotic. Mr. Nichols stated that he had always been willing to agree to any censorship the British Concession authorities desired to impose, but that those authorities had apparently done nothing in the matter; he added that he made a practice of sending to the British [Page 914] Municipal Council copies of all messages in Chinese handled by the station, in accordance with the terms of the license originally issued to the station by the British Municipal Council, even though no license had been issued during the past year.

Mr. Caldwell reports that, at his request, the United States Marine Detachment at Tientsin kept a radio watch over the American Radio Service for three days from December 14 to 17 and he encloses with his despatch a copy of the log (in 22 pages) of that watch.61 He states that there appears to be nothing in the log to justify the Japanese allegations, although, owing to the nature of some of the material copied, he can not express a positive opinion on the matter.

In conclusion, Mr. Caldwell recommends that the American Radio Service be granted provisional registration, subject to cancellation without notice in case it should develop that the activities of the station are detrimental to American interests generally. The Embassy concurs in his recommendation and suggests that the provisional registration be limited to a period of six months, extensions of which to be authorized if considered appropriate. The Department’s instructions will be appreciated.

In connection with this matter, it will be recalled that the Embassy at Chungking stated in its telegram to Peiping of November 17, 1939, 5 p.m. (repeated to the Department in Peiping’s 590 of November 18, 1939, 11 a.m.62), that the Chinese Ministry of Communications had authorized the American Radio Service to set up a radio station at Tientsin and to communicate with Chengtu and Shanghai, although the Ministry reserved the right of cancellation of this authorization at any time.

Respectfully yours,

Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Foreign Relations, 1939, Vol. iv, p. 404.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Walter A. B. Nichols, American citizen at Tientsin.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1939, Vol. iv, p. 406.