740.0011 Pacific War/1519¼

Memorandum by the Minister to Switzerland (Harrison), Temporarily in the United States

Upon the receipt of a confidential report to the effect that Ambassador Nomura48 and the Naval Attaché of the Japanese Embassy49 would commit hari kari and that this would be played up by Tokyo as murders, I called by direction upon the Swiss Minister50 shortly after noon today and inquired whether he had as yet received instructions from his government to assume the protection of Japanese interests in this country. Mr. Bruggmann replied that while he had been instructed to assume the protection of Japanese interests in the Philippines and Samoa, he had as yet no instructions with regard to the continental United States. The Minister also stated that he had not as yet received word from his government of the consent of the Japanese Government to the protection of American interests by Switzerland in Japan although the Japanese radio had announced that the Japanese Government had given their consent.

The Minister indicated that although he had not received instructions to assume the protection of Japanese interests here he was quite prepared to handle any matters informally.

I then informed the Minister on behalf of Mr. Long51 that the Department had received a report to the effect that Ambassador Nomura and the Japanese Naval Attaché intended to commit hari kari and that this would be called murder by Tokyo which might result in attacks on the American diplomatic personnel and in that event lead to unforetellable incidents. Mr. Long had asked me to say to the Minister that if he felt like doing so we would be very glad if he would call on Ambassador Nomura, inform him of this report and advise us of the result of his conversation.

Mr. Bruggmann stated that he would be happy to carry out Mr. Long’s request and that he would report the results of his visit to the Japanese Ambassador as promptly as possible.

About four o’clock Mr. Bruggmann called upon Mr. Long and said that he had gone to the Japanese Embassy where he had been received by the Minister.52 After a brief discussion about the protection of Japanese interests, regarding which the Minister was no better informed, Mr. Bruggmann asked if he might see Ambassador Nomura. The Ambassador then appeared and when it seemed that the Minister [Page 749] proposed to remain Mr. Bruggmann asked if he might see the Ambassador alone. The Minister then left.

Mr. Bruggmann explained to Mr. Long that he had had some difficulty in understanding the Japanese Ambassador as, perhaps for reasons of language, it was difficult to know whether he spoke in the past, present or future tense. However, after he had informed the Ambassador of the report which had reached the State Department, Mr. Nomura had made reply by explaining that he had done his best in an endeavor to maintain friendly relations between the United States and Japan and that his conscience was clear on this point but that, of course, the decision rested with the god Heroun(?).

Mr. Bruggmann then had endeavored to clear up this somewhat cryptic and possibly evasive reply. In reply the Ambassador had referred to the fact that in the last war the Japanese Minister to Russia and the Russian Minister to Japan had each returned to his own country.

Mr. Bruggmann had appealed to the humanitarian instincts of the Ambassador but had not been able to obtain any definite assurance from him that he would not commit hari kari. However, Mr. Bruggmann had received a somewhat quieting impression of his conversation and, after explaining the hesitation he had felt in presenting the matter to the Ambassador and his hope that he had done so with every appropriate discretion, Mr. Nomura had smiled and their parting had been friendly.

L[eland] H[arrison]
  1. Adm. Kichisaburo Nomura.
  2. Capt. Ichiro Yokoyama.
  3. Charles Bruggmann.
  4. Breckinridge Long, Assistant Secretary of State.
  5. Kaname Wakasugi.