740.00117 Pacific War/93

The Department of State to the Spanish Embassy


The Department of State refers further to memorandum no. 352 (Ex. 119.01) of December 13, 1943 from the Spanish Embassy22 in charge of Japanese interests in the continental United States regarding alleged attacks on four Japanese hospital ships.

The alleged attacks on the four Japanese hospital ships have been the subject of exhaustive investigation by the United States Government, as a result of which the following conclusions have been reached:

1. Takasago Maru. It is presumed that the alleged attack in this instance was made on 26 April 1942 and not on 26 April 1943, as stated in the protest from the Japanese Government, in view of the fact that there is a record of an attack on the former date against a vessel which later proved to be a hospital ship.

On April 26, 1942, a United States submarine attacked a darkened ship in the position stated. After the attack the vessel switched on lights which revealed Red Crosses on the boat decks. The United States Government can accept no responsibility for damage to a hospital ship which does not take steps to reveal her identity at night.

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In addition if this vessel was the Takasago Maru it is pointed out that she was not notified by the Japanese Government to the United States Government as a hospital ship until June 2, 1942. The United States Government can accept no responsibility whatever for attacks on vessels prior to their notification as hospital ships.

2. Mizuho Maru. Since no information can be obtained of any attack by an aircraft against any vessel on the date and in the locality specified, the United States Government must disclaim all responsibility in this case.

3. Muro Maru. If an attack was made against this hospital ship as alleged, the circumstances of the attack and the absence of hospital ship markings obviate any basis for responsibility on the part of the United States Government or its forces. The only recorded attack upon any vessels at a time and place near those alleged was upon an armed convoy in which none of the merchant vessels was noted to have been marked as a hospital ship.

4. America Maru. An attack by aircraft against shipping took place on the date and in the locality specified but no Red Cross markings were discernible on any ship.

As stated in the Department’s memorandum of February 5, 1944 regarding the alleged sinking by United States aircraft of the Japanese hospital ship Buenos Aires Maru, the terms of the Hague Convention outlining the markings, use and immunity of hospital ships have been made known to all concerned in the armed forces of the United States, and the altered markings of certain Japanese hospital ships, described in the Embassy’s memorandum no. 329 (Ex. 111.00) of November 8, 194323 have likewise been communicated to the armed forces for their guidance. The United States Government is convinced that its armed forces are complying with these instructions to respect the immunity of hospital ships. The fact that the terms of the Convention are known to the personnel of the armed forces and that such personnel make every effort to observe them is demonstrated by repeated reports of the sighting of hospital ships by submarines and aircraft which were in a position to attack, but did not do so when hospital ship markings were recognized. No hospital ship when identified as such has been molested by the armed forces of the United States.

The Department repeats in this connection that the United States Government is deeply concerned over the problem of recognizing hospital ships under all conditions and most earnestly urges the Japanese Government to take every possible step to increase the size of markings and to adopt the maximum measures of illumination of hospital ship markings at night.

While rejecting entirely the validity of the Japanese Government’s protest regarding alleged attacks on the Takasago Maru, Mizuho [Page 1153] Maru, Muro Maru and America Maru, the United States Government reiterates its assurances that it has every intention of continuing to respect the immunity of hospital ships in accordance with its assumed obligations and international practice.