740.00117 Pacific War/106

The Spanish Embassy to the Department of State

No. 88
Ex. 111.00


The Spanish Embassy presents its compliments to the Department of State and begs to transmit a Memorandum received through the “Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores”27 in Madrid, from the Japanese Government and which reads as follows:

Memorandum—April 28th, 1944

(A) Japanese Hospital ship Yosino Maru while sailing singly with 6300 wounded and sick soldiers aboard, was attacked by a United States aeroplane apparently a reconnoitring place at 0230 on 26th January at a point 40 miles North of Rabaul, latitude 3 degrees 45 minutes south, longitude 151 degrees 42 minutes east. The Enemy plane, descending to an altitude of 300 metres behind the hospital ship, dropped a bomb, which missed starboard side of bow only by 30 metres, wounding a member of medical corps who was on duty on ship through concussion of air which it had caused.
(B) In accordance with provisions of convention for adaptation of principles of Geneva Convention to maritime war, Japanese Government notified U.S.A. Government in December 1942 that Yosino Maru was used as hospital ship. The ship in conformity with provisions of convention was painted white, and red cross markings, seven in number, were affixed to both sides, stern, both sides of funnel, over bridge, and over poopdeck. All these markings were illuminated at time of attack. The red cross over bridge was 9.60 metres long and 1.30 metres wide, and red cross over poopdeck was 11.60 metres long and 1.20 metres wide. It is presumed that Yosino Maru is that hospital ship which U.S.A. Government alleges was attacked in mistake for a burning ship at a point 30 miles to north of Rabaul on night between 25th and 26th January.28 But illuminated red cross markings of Yosino Maru were large enough to be clearly discerned from height of over 400 metres and therefore could not but have been perfectly visible from so low altitude as 300 metres. Moreover, as illumination of red crosses on Japanese hospital ships is so designed as to prevent diffused reflection, it is impossible to mistake red crosses for flames of a fire on board ship. At time of attack sky was clear, the wind was NW whipped 4 metres, and visibility perfect.
(A) Japanese hospital ship Tatibana Maru while sailing singly, was attacked by consolidated B–24 in latitude 2 degrees 14 minutes south and longitude 124 degrees 37 minutes east between 0230 and 0247 on 14th March. The enemy plane, which was flying at height lower than 200 metres on south eastward course, twice attacked hospital ship at right angles to her starboard side, dropping three bombs and successively sweeping her with machinegun fire. Bombs fell within 100 metres of starboard quarter, and machinegun firing damaged hull.
(B) In accordance with provisions of convention for adaptation of Geneva Convention of maritime war, Japanese Government notified U.S.A. Government in October last year that Tatibana Maru was used as hospital ship. The ship was painted in conformity with provisions of convention, and furnished with many red cross markings. Following six red cross markings especially were perfectly illuminated at time of attack;
A red cross facing skyward over bridge, length 8.50 by 9.00 metres, width 1.06 metres.
A red cross facing skyward over poopdeck length 7.84 by 5.30 metres, width 1.25 metres.
A red cross facing backward on poopdeck, length 4.95 by 5.14 metres, width 0.72 metres.
A red cross on mizzen masthead, length 4.06 by 4.06 metres, width 0.40 metres.
A red cross on each side of funnel, length 4.06 by 4.06 metres, width 0.40 metres. Though sky was cloudy at time of attack, there was moon and visibility was good.
(C) No other ship was in vicinity at the time. From height of 200 metres, at which enemy plane was flying, illuminated red crosses were perfectly discernible. It has been experimentally proved that the smallest illuminated red cross on the ship, which is 4.06 metres long and 0.40 wide, is visible to naked eye at height of 250 metres. There is no doubt, therefore, that illuminated red crosses over bridge and poopdeck were clearly seen from the height from which attacks were made.
Japanese Government regret that despite repeated explanations given by U.S.A. Government of attacks on Japanese hospital ships, and their expression of intention to observe provisions of Hague Convention relating to hospital ships, there should have again occurred these unlawful attacks on Yoshino Maru and Tatibana Maru. Japanese Government lodge protest with U.S.A. Government and demand that U.S.A. Government punish persons responsible and take all necessary steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents. Japanese Government also reserve all rights to take necessary measures for suppression of such cruel acts. In advancing this protest, Japanese Government wish to make particular mention of fact that attacks under review were apparently committed with a malicious motive to molest antagonist, and that such violations of rules of war, it is to be feared, may eventually give rise to an untoward state of affairs which will bear hardly upon both belligerents.”

  1. Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  2. This has reference to telegram 416, February 8, to Bern (not printed), which contained the text of a message on this subject to be delivered to the Japanese Government through the Swiss Legation in Japan; see telegram 1457, April 27, to Bern, supra.