711.94/1899: Telegram

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

7. Peiping’s 2, January 2, 4 p.m. Major Miyamoto called on Colonel Turnage late yesterday afternoon with an interpreter. Secretary Benninghoff, Japanese speaking officer of this Embassy, was present at the request of Colonel Turnage, and there follows a memorandum of the interview prepared by Mr. Benninghoff:

“Major Miyamoto said that after his former interview with Colonel Turnage, the appropriate Japanese authorities had caused another investigation of the incident to be made by persons who previously had no connection with the case. These investigations resulted in the same Japanese account of the incident previously communicated to Colonel Turnage. Accordingly the Japanese found it impossible to agree to the Colonel’s three conditions and on the other hand felt that if he persisted in his stand the Japanese might feel compelled to [Page 461] ask him to apologize, et cetera, et cetera, as the Americans were in the wrong.

Colonel Turnage replied to the effect that he was satisfied with the facts as they were brought to light in the testimony of his men and that he was convinced that the incident was deliberately provoked by a Japanese who had gone from table to table and glared at the marines and then had jostled another in the cloakroom and drawn a gun. Other marines intervened and disarmed him; quiet was restored and the pistol was returned. Ten minutes or so later the place was raided by 12 or 15 gendarmes with drawn pistols and swords. Five marines were rounded up and taken away during the course of which four were brutally [beaten] up and they were not released until 5 p.m. the next day. Under these circumstances, said Colonel Turnage, he could not for a moment consider apologizing for the conduct of his men.

Major Miyamoto tried to counter this argument by stating that the Japanese had his pipe knocked out of his mouth without provocation by a marine and that this was the cause of the incident. Colonel Turnage refused to entertain this version on the basis of his investigations. He continued by stating that although the original incident was important he attached even greater importance to the manner in which his men were treated during and after their arrest, that he considered their treatment an insult to his men and to the American people and that if the Japanese were not disposed to agree to his conditions for a settlement of the case he would have to refer the matter to higher authority. Major Miyamoto made no attempt to defend the arrest of the marines beyond saying that the Japanese who telephoned headquarters regarding the incident was a timid and excitable person and that the gendarmes who went into the cafe were under the impression that a Japanese was being killed.

Major Miyamoto then said that as the attitudes of the two sides were seemingly unalterable, there was nothing to do except to discontinue negotiations and to consider the incident as ‘pending’. Colonel Turnage remarked that ‘We don’t seem to be getting very far’. Major Miyamoto remarked that if the Americans could in some manner moderate their conditions, the Japanese might do that likewise. The Colonel paid no attention to this. Colonel Turnage then asked explicitly, ‘Is this final?’. Major Miyamoto answered in the affirmative.

I am convinced that on his departure Major Miyamoto clearly realized that Colonel Turnage had no intention of moderating his attitude.”

The above memorandum has been shown to Colonel Turnage who concurs therein.

Further developments will be reported.

Sent to the Department. Repeated to Chungking, Tokyo, Shanghai and to Manila for the information of the Commander-in-Chief Asiatic fleet.