711.94114 Supplies/120a: Telegram

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

319. Please transmit a communication to the Soviet Government in the sense of the following:

“Although the Soviet Government’s cooperative attitude in respect of the proposal put forward by the Japanese Government and made known to the Soviet Government in the Embassy’s note (based on Department’s 205 to Kuibyshev, April 17, 194361), in regard to the development of a means whereby regular shipments of relief supplies for distribution to Allied nationals in Japanese custody in the Far East might be made via Soviet territory, was made known to the Japanese Government in May 1943, the latter has thus far failed, despite repeated representations made by the United States Government, to indicate a means satisfactory to Japan whereby supplies sent from the United States to Soviet territory might be moved onward to Japan and to Japanese-controlled territory, there to be taken over by the appropriate agencies for distribution in prisoner-of-war and civilian internment camps.

[Page 1161]

From all reports the conditions under which Allied nationals are held by the Japanese authorities have deteriorated to such an extent that unless prompt assistance can be extended to these persons the already high death rate not only will continue but will increase.62 It has, therefore, become even more imperative than before to make every endeavor to develop a means whereby the medical, food and clothing supplies necessary for the maintenance of health and of life itself may be sent to these nationals; that such of the civilian internees as the Japanese authorities may agree to release be repatriated and that seriously sick and seriously wounded prisoners of war either be repatriated or evacuated to an area where their essential needs may be provided for and unnecessary deaths prevented.

The Government of the United States would therefore like to put forward to the Japanese Government an entirely new plan of relief as outlined below. As the assistance and cooperation of the Soviet Government would, however, be required in order to give effect to this plan, the Government of the United States inquires whether the Soviet Government would be prepared to extend the necessary assistance and cooperation, and earnestly hopes that the Soviet Government will find it possible to return an affirmative reply.

Under this plan Japanese nationals selected from those held in the Western Hemisphere, together with a quantity of relief supplies, would be put aboard a vessel provided by the United States to be manned by a Soviet crew and to travel under safe conduct from a United States West Coast port to a Russian Pacific port to be designated by the Soviet Government. From this point the ship would be taken on to Japan either by the Russian crew or by a Japanese crew to be sent from Japan to the designated Russian port. Upon arrival in Japan it would unload and pick up American nationals for repatriation to the United States, via the reverse of the same route. The plan envisages that the ship would make as many voyages as might be required to exchange all personnel which the respective Powers would be willing to release. It would also be proposed that seriously sick and seriously wounded military personnel be put aboard the ship but that if the Japanese Government objected to the repatriation of such personnel to the United States those persons might be accommodated in the Soviet Union for the duration of the war as provided in category B of the Model Agreement annexed to the Geneva Prisoners of War Convention.63 The Government of the United States assures the Soviet Government that all expenditures in funds, shipping, or materials connected with the execution of this plan will be borne by the Government of the United States both in connection with the transportation of these nationals and their care during their sojourn on Soviet territory, and that the cooperation and assistance of the Soviet Government will not involve any expense on its part or any diminution either in shipping space or the amount and character of [Page 1162] supplies being made available to the Soviet Union under the Third Lend-Lease Protocol.64

The Government of the United States attaches the greatest importance to this matter and hopes that the Soviet Government will find it possible to inform the Government of the United States in the very near future of its willingness, in principle, to be of assistance in the manner proposed above in order that the Government of the United States may then seek to obtain the Japanese Government’s agreement. While the Soviet Government’s agreement to this proposal is being requested at this time in principle only, it would be helpful if the Soviet Government would indicate the Pacific port it would be willing to make available for this purpose.”65

  1. Ibid., p. 801.
  2. Statements had been made about Japanese atrocities by the Secretary of State at a press conference on January 28, 1944, and by Joseph C. Grew, former Ambassador to Japan, at this time Special Assistant to the Secretary. See Department of State Bulletin, January 29, 1944, p. 115.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 363.
  4. The text of this Third (London) Protocol of October 19, 1943, is printed in Department of State, Soviet Supply Protocols, pp. 51–85. For correspondence concerned with wartime assistance from the United States for the Soviet Union, see ante, pp. 1032 ff.
  5. A communication in accordance with this telegram was made by the Ambassador in the Soviet Union to Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyshinsky on February 18, in which “the great interest of the United States Government in this matter” was stressed. (711.94114 Supplies/121)