740.00114 Pacific War/127a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Standley)

41. This Government and the American Red Cross have been endeavoring to devise a means by which Americans and other United Nations nationals in Japanese custody in the Far East might be furnished urgently needed supplies to supplement the rations which it is the responsibility of the Japanese to furnish according to the provisions of the Geneva Prisoners of War Convention68 which both Governments have agreed reciprocally to apply to prisoners of war and civilian internees.69 Differences in dietary habits and standards of living require such supplementation and in addition climatic conditions and illness make it imperative that certain medical supplies which the Japanese cannot or will not furnish be made available to these people.

The Japanese Government has refused to agree to several proposals involving the use of specially designated neutral ships to carry such supplies and the only means of transporting supplies at present is on the exchange ships. Space limitations and lapse of time between trips make this means of supply entirely inadequate.

The suggestion has been made that it might be possible to arrange for the shipment of small quantities of supplies as fill-in cargo on ships sailing between the American west coast and the Soviet Union for accumulation at Vladivostok and eventual onward transmission over Soviet railways for delivery to the Japanese at the border of Manchuria or other Japanese controlled territory.

In your discretion please approach the appropriate Soviet officials informally in this matter stressing the desperate situation of the United Nations nationals in Japanese custody and the factors mentioned above which prompt the Department to propose this possible method of transporting supplies. There are thought to be approximately 100,000 United Nations nationals in the Far East to whom it is desired to send medical and supplemental food supplies. The interested Governments would like to send a total of about 1200 tons [Page 800] of supplies per month but if sufficient ship and rail space is unavailable will, of course, be willing to send smaller quantities.

Before inquiring of the Japanese Government whether it would accept supplies in Manchuria for distribution to United Nations nationals in its custody, the Department would like to know whether the Soviet Government would in principle approve the proposal.

Please report action taken.

  1. International Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, signed at Geneva on July 27, 1929; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 336, or 47 Stat. (pt. 2) 2021.
  2. Of the 100,000 United Nations nationals in Japanese custody, it was estimated that there were about 33,000 Americans.