740.00114 P.W./9–144

The Department of State to the Spanish Embassy


The Department of State refers to memorandum (No. 194, Ex. 119.01 II) dated September 1, 1944 from the Spanish Embassy in charge of Japanese interests in the continental United States transmitting the protest of the Japanese Government concerning the failure of some members of the armed forces of the United States to treat with due respect the remains of fallen Japanese soldiers and referring to a Marine recruiting advertisement which the Japanese Government assumed was related thereto.

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The United States Government shares the profound indignation of nil civilized people for the desecration and profanation of the bodies of men who have fallen on the field of battle. This Government by its commitments to observe the Geneva Convention gave recognition to this fact. It considers violations of the bodies of the dead shameful and assures the Japanese Government that it does not countenance such depravity. It is the desire of the United States Government that the traditional respect which men of all faiths have from time immemorial rendered the dead should during the period of hostilities be observed as scrupulously as possible.

The United States Government informs the Japanese Government that the form in which the advertisement appeared was entirely unofficial, having been devised and printed by a small civilian group. The United States Government did not endorse the action of these individuals and the advertisement never received the official sanction of either the Marine Corps Headquarters or of the Navy Department. So far as is known the form is no longer in circulation.

Prior to the receipt of the Japanese Government’s protest, there had come to the attention of the military authorities of the United States Government the incidents referred to by the Japanese Government. The War Department thereupon issued a message to its commanding generals in the Pacific theater directing that all army personnel be reminded of the provisions of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of the enemy dead, and to the rules of land warfare on this subject. The War Department message also directed that necessary action be taken to make decent and honorable disposition of such parts of enemy bodies as were not yet interred. Since these steps were taken by the authorities, no further offenses of this nature have come to their attention.

The United States Government, however, points out to the Japanese Government that deeply as American sentiment is appalled by profanation of the dead it is equally appalled by cruelty to the living. In considering the Japanese protest, the many and terrible outrages committed upon American soldiers by their Japanese captors must therefore be taken into account. As the Japanese Government is aware, American soldiers in the Philippine Islands were thrown, while living and in full view of their comrades, into their grave and those who tried to rise were beaten down with shovels and buried. The malevolence of the Japanese troops who relentlessly beat and tortured the American airman who parachuted to earth near Aitape, made of his suffering a public spectacle and then, to loud shouts of joy, with six slashes of the saber decapitated him must also be recalled. Another act of horrible cruelty was the pitiless suffering inflicted upon the American private near Arayat, Pampanga, Philippine [Page 1142] Islands. As the Japanese Government knows, he was taken by his Japanese captors to a cemetery, was tied to a tree with barbed wire and used for bayonet practice until he was dead. These are but a few of the terrible acts committed by the Japanese armed forces.

Such vicious conduct on the part of the enemy could not fail to have a profound effect on the men of the United States forces. White the great body of these men do not condone or sanction, under any circumstances, the desecration of the dead, it is not difficult to understand that in certain instances men who had witnessed their comrades tortured in life by the Japanese forces should have failed to treat the bodies of the Japanese dead with the respect to which they are entitled.

With regard to the memorial presented to the President of the United States to which the Japanese Government refers in its communication, the Japanese Government is informed that the proffered gift was refused by the President and that he ordered it to be returned with the suggestion that decent burial be accorded it.

The United States Government desires to emphasize that it considers its obligation to accord honorable burial, even to unidentified bodies of the enemy dead, to be absolute, and that the Commanders and men of the theaters in which American forces are operating-against the Japanese forces are committed to this obligation. The United States Government expects that the Japanese Government will likewise fulfill its obligation and cause its armed forces to desist from their savage behaviour toward the Americans taken captive by them. The civilized and honorable treatment which the Japanese Government expects for the dead, and which American soldiers are prepared to extend to their Japanese opponents both living and dead, can best be assured by humane and civilized conduct on the part of the Japanese armed forces.