740.00114A Pacific War/261a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Harrison)

2814. Request the Swiss Government to have its Minister in Tokyo communicate the following to the Japanese Government:

From American citizens repatriated from Japan and Japanese-controlled territories, the Government of the United States has learned of instances of gross mistreatment suffered by American civilians and prisoners of war in the power of the Japanese Government [Page 833] in violation of the undertaking of that Government to apply the provisions of the Geneva Prisoners of War Convention of 1929 to American prisoners of war taken by Japanese forces and, in so far as they may be adaptable to civilians, to American civilian internees in Japan and Japanese-controlled territories. It is evident that the Japanese Government has failed to fulfil its undertaking in this regard and that some officers and agencies of that Government have violated the principles of the Geneva Convention in their treatment of certain American nationals not only by positive mistreatment but by failure to provide for these American nationals necessities of life that should, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, be furnished by the holding authorities. The Government of the United States, therefore, lodges with the Japanese Government a most emphatic protest and expects that the inhumane and uncivilized treatment accorded American nationals, both civilians and prisoners of war, will be made a matter of immediate investigation and that the Japanese Government will give assurances that treatment inconsistent with the provisions and spirit of the Geneva Convention is not now and will not in the future be inflicted upon American nationals detained, interned, or held as prisoners of war in Japan or Japanese controlled territory. The American Government also expects the Japanese Government to take necessary disciplinary action with regard to agents or officers of that Government who have inflicted mistreatment upon American nationals or who have neglected their obligations to supply to American nationals in their care necessities of life which the Geneva Convention provides shall be supplied.

There follows a statement citing cases of mistreatment of American nationals in Japanese hands:

A. Civilians

I. Conditions in Prisons and Internment Camps

Americans incarcerated in jails were furnished unhealthful and inadequate rations of common criminals. Those interned were supplied a meager diet for which they were sometimes compelled to pay, or they were given no food and had to provide their sustenance under difficulties. This situation apparently still exists in certain areas. It is in direct contrast to the treatment accorded Japanese subjects in United States who are provided hygienic quarters with adequate space for individual needs, sufficient wholesome food, in preparation of which allowance is made for national differences in taste, and in addition allowances of money or tobacco, sweets and toiletries.

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1. Bridge House, Shanghai.

More than 53 Americans have been imprisoned for varying periods up to over 6 months in Gendarmerie prison, Bridge House, where they were crowded into vermin-infested cells with common criminals, some of whom suffered from loathsome contagious diseases. Sanitary facilities were primitive and inadequate, food was far below standard necessary to maintain health, no heat was supplied from December to June and medical care was virtually nonexistent. Americans were compelled to sit by day and to sleep by night, provided only with filthy and inadequate blankets, on cold floor. They were not allowed to converse with each other or smoke at any time. An outstanding example of effects incarceration this prison is condition J. B. Powell, who through lack medical attention developed gangrene and lost front half of both feet.

2. Army Prison, Peiping.

Floyd F. Spielman, R. E. McCann, C. J. Eskeline, J. B. Sherwood, E. X. Mills and P. H. Benedict were taken in handcuffs from Tientsin on March 11 to Army Prison at Peiping, where conditions were as bad as those at Bridge House. During 89 days imprisonment their first exercise was for 5 minutes after 37 days in cells. At one time they went without bathing for 23 days and as result of unhealthful food and harsh treatment they lost an average of 40 pounds in weight.

3. Tsingtao.

Frank G. Keefe, Grady Cooper, Frank R. Halling, Charles Liebgold, C. J. Meyer, N. H. Mills and H. J. Zimmerman were confined in unheated common jail Tsingtao for period 3 weeks. They were forced to sleep on floors or benches without covering in coldest winter months.

4. Fort Santiago, Manila.

Roy Bennett, Robert Abbott, and other Americans are reported to be imprisoned under barbarous conditions in Fort Santiago. They were reported practically unrecognizable in June as result hardships and mistreatment suffered. This Government insists that they be released immediately and receive medical care.

5. Camp Stanley, Hongkong.

Americans Hongkong were taken on January 4th and received no food and very little water during first 48 hours. On January 21 they were placed in Fort Stanley, where they were forced to provide most of their bedding and other necessities. Food given them was insufficient, amounting to 900 calories daily per person. They were subjected to indignities and insults by gendarmerie, and their faces were frequently slapped. Result malnutrition average loss weight among these internees was 30 pounds.

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6. Santo Tomas, Manila.

Americans at Santo Tomas because of lack of preparation were forced to sleep on floors without mosquito nets or covering for at least 3 nights before they were permitted to obtain necessities from their houses. They were offered choice of being fed by holding authorities at cost of 25 centavos per day or of feeding themselves with funds American Red Cross had in Philippine National Bank. They were refused permission to use Red Cross funds for supplementing food which holding authorities should have supplied and not being able to exist on 25 centavos were obliged to depend entirely on Red Cross funds to feed themselves. These funds may be exhausted and this Government is gravely concerned regarding the welfare of these internees.

7. Davao and other internment camps in the Philippines.

In Davao interned Americans were forced to perform hard labor during first 6 weeks of internment. They were at first provided with an inadequate ration of cornmeal and fish. In April they were informed that they would have to provide for their own sustenance and would have to reimburse Japanese authorities for the food previously furnished.

From information received conditions other internment camps in Philippines appear equally bad.

The American Government expects that the Japanese Government will take immediate steps to fulfill its undertaking to furnish American nationals held by it with suitable and adequate housing and sustenance under humane and hygienic conditions.

II. Mistreatment and Torture

1. Torture and physical violence.

Japanese authorities have resorted to physical torture of American nationals and numerous of them were subjected to great mental torture by being constantly threatened with treatment far worse than that they were already suffering.

Three American missionaries in Korea were subjected to “water cure” and brutal beatings. In Keijo, R. O. Reiner, aged 59, suffered this torture 6 times during period May 1 to May 16. In one instance he collapsed from effect of blows and while lying unconscious on floor was kicked by gendarmerie employee named Syo with such force that his rib was broken. When he requested medical attention and pointed to broken rib gendarmerie employee named Kim struck him vicious blow directly over broken rib. On one occasion Reiner was given 50 or 60 lashes with rubber hose and pulley belting making half inch deep cuts on his arms and legs. Edwin W. Koons, [Page 836] aged 62, suffered same torture Ryuzan Police Station as did E. H. Miller, aged 69, Yongsan Police Station.
In Ichang, Elsie W. Riebe and Walter P. Morse were taken without explanation to Japanese headquarters where she was struck many times with bamboo pole and he was beaten for 2 hours with iron rod one-half inch thick. These acts of cruelty were committed in presence of commanding officer of Japanese police in Ichang.
Joseph L. McSparran was arrested on December 8th at Yokohama, bound with a rope and taken to Yokohama prison. During his imprisonment in dark unfurnished cell he had three hemorrhages from duodenal ulcers, but was denied medical attention despite numerous requests. While undergoing questioning he collapsed from internal hemorrhage and was unable to stand or walk without assistance, yet he was handcuffed as usual when returned to his cell.

2. Solitary Confinement.

Many American citizens were kept in solitary confinement for periods ranging from a few days to many weeks in cells, unheated rooms or other equally unhealthful places, in some cases deprived of all reading matter, and subjected to indignities from their guards. The following are typical cases:

H. W. Meyers, aged 70, missionary in Japan since 1897, after harsh treatment during nearly 5 months in prison at Kobe, was deprived of all books, and on May 1 put in solitary confinement at Osaka until his release for repatriation on June 7.
William Mackesy, solitary confinement in one room of his house at Tsu, Mie-ken, Japan, from December 10, to March 30, 1942.
Mrs. Alice C. Grube, solitary confinement from December 25, 1941, to April 8, 1942 in unheated room of Osaka prison.
J. B. N. Talmadge, aged 57, solitary confinement in common jail Koshu December 8, 1941, to April 9, 1942.
Edward Adams, in a common jail at Taikyu from December 8 to 28.

III. Deaths Due to Mistreatment and Neglect

1. Arthur Duhamel missionary priest on Guadalcanal is reliably reported to have been bayonetted through throat by Japanese soldiers after being held prisoner for 3 weeks.

2. Leo Peloquin, aged 50, requested hospitalization Christian Hospital, Heijo, because of serious heart ailment, but Japanese authorities refused permission and forced his return to Kangai without treatment. He died at Kobe as result of this neglect.

3. Charles Liebgold, aged 67, imprisoned in unheated jail at Tsingtao contracted cold which developed into fatal attack of pneumonia.

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4. George B. McFarland, aged 70, Bangkok, Thailand, succumbed after an operation at Chulalongkorn Hospital in May 1942. Orders issued by Japanese military authorities Bangkok to police guards at his residence fatally delayed emergency operation necessary to save his life.

The American Government expects that the Japanese Government will take immediate steps to punish the persons guilty of these crimes against American nationals.

IV. Violation of Exchange Agreement

1. Transportation.

American nationals Tsingtao and Chefoo were required to pay for passage to Shanghai. Internees who were forced to pay their fare to Yokohama from Nagasaki were reimbursed only part of sum expended. Accommodations provided on local vessels were in some cases worse than those furnished deck passengers.

2. Baggage limitation and search.

Japanese authorities some areas ruled that Americans being repatriated might take only as much baggage as they could carry themselves, forcing many in Korea, Manchuria, Hongkong and Thailand to leave behind necessary clothing and effects. Americans were forced in some cases to carry own baggage even where there were available porters whom they were prevented from employing. This treatment is in contrast to that accorded Japanese subjects repatriated from the United States who were permitted to take almost unlimited amounts baggage with them.

Baggage was often searched 3 or 4 times and different officials made inconsistent decisions as to what Americans could take. The effects of American officials from Korea were searched in violation of the agreement.

B. Prisoners of war.

Reports have been received of inhuman treatment accorded prisoners of war by the Japanese authorities which is completely inconsistent with the provisions and spirit of the Geneva Convention.

I. Philippines

American and Filipino troops taken at Bataan were forced to march 90 miles despite fatigue, sickness and wounds, to Camp O’Donnel near Tarlac. During march sick and wounded dropped by the roadside and were left without medical care, and when those who survived reached Camp O’Donnel they were without food for 36 hours and without shelter for 3 days, sick and well equally exposed to the elements. Japanese authorities made no effort to give medical care to sick and wounded and American and Filipino nurses and doctors who volunteered their services were refused permission to enter [Page 838] camp. Death rate estimated at 25 percent was the result of this neglect.

Seven American commissioned officers were brought from Zamboanga to Davao, where Japanese authorities forced them to work stripped to the waist in a river bed, as a result of which they were severely sunburned. They were given no medical attention and only after lapse of several days was Filipino doctor permitted to visit them. Their food was entirely insufficient, and Japanese would not allow Filipinos to supplement meager diet with gifts of food. These officers and Filipino officers who were later confined with them were subjected to harsh treatment and indignities from their Japanese guards.

This Government must insist that the treatment of these prisoners be in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention, that their names be reported and that representatives of the Protecting Power be permitted access to them.

II. Shanghai

This Government again most emphatically protests the illegal sentences imposed by a military court at Shanghai on Commander W. S. Cunningham, U.S.N., Lieutenant Commander D. D. Smith, USNR, and Mr. N. J. Teeters for an attempted escape from Woosung camp.

This Government also protests the mistreatment of four United States Marines, Corporals Stewart, Gerald Story, Brimmer and Battles, who after an unsuccessful attempt to escape from the Woosung war prisoner camp were imprisoned in the Bridge House at Shanghai and later transferred to gendarmerie Western District sub-station prison, 94 Jessefield Road, where they were subjected to the so-called “electric treatment” in violation of the provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding admissible punishments.

This Government insists that the sentences imposed on these prisoners be canceled, that their punishment be in accordance with the Prisoners of War Convention and that their treatment be in accordance with their rank.

In presenting the foregoing textually to the Japanese Government, it is requested that the Swiss Minister in Tokyo be asked to point out that the American Government has endeavored to fulfill in every respect its undertakings under its reciprocal agreement with Japan to apply the principles of the Geneva Convention to prisoners of war and civilian internees and that in evidence of its desire to do so, it has welcomed and continues to welcome the cooperation of the Protecting Power for Japanese interests, as well as of the International Red Cross Committee, whose representatives are admitted to all places in American territory where Japanese subjects are held. The Minister should further point out that this Government has always been [Page 839] and continues to be willing to investigate all complaints received by it from Japanese subjects held by it or from the Japanese Government and that it has welcomed and continues to welcome the cooperation of the Protecting Power for Japanese interests in such investigations.

Ask that in this connection the Minister be authorized to request on behalf of the Swiss Government, as the Protecting Power for American interests in Japan and Japanese controlled territory, like cooperation from the Japanese Government.71

  1. In response to telegram No. 5927, December 17, from the Minister in Switzerland, the Department, in its No. 2867, December 19 (740.00114A Pacific War/259), advised that, for the time being, it did not desire to give publicity to No. 2814.