711.94/1893: Telegram

The First Secretary of Embassy in China (Smyth) to the Secretary of State

1. There follows the substance of a report made this morning by Colonel Turnage,2 commanding the Embassy guard, to the Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet3 in regard to an incident between the members of his command here and Japanese.

(Beginning of summary.) On December 30 about 11 p.m. at the International Cafe on the Hatamen Street in Peiping an intoxicated Japanese civilian, without any provocation whatsoever, struck, shoved and trained a pistol on an American marine entering the cafe. Three other marines came to his rescue and disarmed the Japanese, then after locking it handed the gun back. Quiet was restored, but 10 minutes later about 12 Japanese gendarmes entered the cafe and with drawn pistols proceeded to clear out the place, firing several shots into the air, sticking their revolvers into the stomachs or backs of the 9 marines present in the cafe, 3 of whom were members of the shore patrol. Five marines were arrested and carried off to gendarmerie headquarters. As a result of this brutal, illegal and unwarranted arrest 4 of the arrested marines suffered bruises and cuts about the head and face although fortunately not seriously. None of the marines in the cafe was disputing or disorderly.

Upon learning of the arrest, a marine officer was sent to the gendarmerie office and at 1:30 a.m. December 31st requested their release, which was refused. At 6 a.m. I called the gendarmerie office and again requested their release which was refused on the ground that “the investigation had not been completed”. At 12 noon I made a formal demand for their release which was refused on the ground that the matter was being transferred to another office which turned out to be the headquarters of the Japanese Army in North China. Finally at 5 p.m. the five men were released. One marine reported [Page 455] that during the investigation at the gendarmerie office he was manhandled and kicked by the gendarmes and forced to sign a statement that the affair started when he knocked the pipe from the mouth of a Japanese.

The affair was evidently premeditated by the Japanese. The marine officers were allowed to be present during the Japanese “investigation”. A Japanese spokesman from army headquarters called late yesterday afternoon and expressed a desire to close the case, but I propose to enter a strong protest to the Japanese and request an apology from the gendarmerie. (End of summary.)

The Embassy is of the opinion that only the excellent discipline and self-control of all the American marines concerned averted what might have led to fatal results.

The Japanese-controlled telegraph office here declined to accept a message on the matter from the local American correspondent of the Associated Press.

Further developments will be promptly reported.

Sent to the Department. Repeated to Chungking, Tokyo, Shanghai.

  1. Col. Allen Hal Turnage, U. S. M. C.
  2. Adm. Thomas C. Hart, U. S. N.