740.00117 Pacific War/111

The Spanish Embassy to the Department of State

No. 97
Ex. 111.00


The Spanish Embassy presents its compliments to the Department of State and with reference to its memorandum of February 8, 194429 regarding a reported attack of Hospital Ships, presumably Japanese, begs to transmit a memorandum received through the “Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores” in Madrid from the Japanese Government which reads as follows:

Memorandum—May 10th, 1944

“1. United States Government attempts to evade their responsibility for attacking and sinking of Japanese hospital ship Buenos Aires Maru by United States aeroplanes alleging in their memorandum of 5th February that attack was due to fact of markings of ship not being distinct enough for discerning her as hospital ship.

As results of detailed reinvestigation of circumstances surrounding incident, Japanese Government assert that allegations of United States Government are entirely contrary to true facts.

2. (A) Buenos Aires Maru was not only perfectly marked in accordance with provisions of convention for adaptation of principles of Geneva Convention to maritime war, but also bore following Red Cross markings:

Markings for Air:

A red cross whose bars were respectively 36 and 40 metres long and 3.80 metres wide bars extending to whole width of ship and whole length of deckhouse respectively and crossing each other at funnel.
A red cross each of whose bars was 11 meters long and 1.20 metres wide over poop-deck.

[Page 1159]


A red cross each of whose bars was 14 meters long and 2.50 metres wide on each side of ship.
A red cross each of whose bars was 4.15 metres long and 0.40 metres wide one each side of funnel.
A red cross each of whose bars was 6 metres long and 0.60 metres wide on stern facing backward.

Above mentioned red cross of 36 x 40 metres size placed over deck house is of largest and best conceivable kind especially designed in view of repeated attacks on Japanese hospital ships by the United States aeroplanes and it has been experimentally proved that it is perfectly discernible from height of 6000 metres.

As was pointed out in previous protest, sky was clear, wind light, and sea calm, at time of attack.

Two large sized enemy planes came from behind Buenos Aires Maru with rays of morning sun behind them and after dropping bombs flew through lower part of space between stratus (1,000 metres high) and cumulus (1,400 metres high) and disappeared among clouds.

From these circumstances it is inferred that planes dropped bombs from height approximately of 1200 metres. Judging from weather conditions and height from which attack was made all such outward appearances indicative of hospital ship as white painting and green band as well as above mentioned red cross markings must have been discerned at a glance. Moreover, planes were flying with their backs towards morning sun in clear atmosphere. They could not expect more favorable conditions for discerning their objective. Keck-lessly and unscrupulously was attack in such circumstances made.

(B) Details of attack on lifeboats fully laden with wounded and sick soldiers on first December, were as follows:

How Enemy planes Came:

Two enemy planes passed overhead at about 0810 on 29th November.
After[ward] on same day an enemy plane circled once overhead and flew away.
At about 0910 on First December a large sized four-engined enemy plane circled overhead and gradually descended to height of 150 metres. However, it noticed red crosses made of red cloth 1.50 metres long and 0.30 metres wide stretched over boats and without making any attack, flew away.

How They Attacked:

1. At about 1500 on First December a Consolidated B–24 came flying and circled at height of 500 metres. A red cross made of red cloth was displayed over each boat as on previous occasion. But enemy plane gradually descended till it circled at height of 100 metres and then from altitude as low as 70 metres, twice swept boats with 13 milimetre machine-gun bullets. Eight of the wounded and sick soldiers fell victims to this attack.

2. At the time there were 17 lifeboats laden to capacity with wounded and sick forming a circle of about one and half miles diameter. All boats were painted white and bore green bands and red crosses. Attacking plane was at so low altitude that inmates [Page 1160] of attacked boats clearly discerned United States mark and white mark like skull painted on plane and even smiling faces of three of four members of crew of plane.

There is no doubt therefore, that occupants of plane must have unmistakably discerned not only markings of lifeboats, but also white clothes worn by sick and wounded soldiers and red cross arm bands worn by members of medical corps.

3. From above-mentioned facts Japanese Government come to conclusion that occupants of United States plane deliberately attacked Buenos Aires Maru, in spite of their distinct recognition of her markings and of their consequent unmistakable knowledge of her being a hospital ship.

Reckless manner in which attack was carried on further shows that attackers committed this offense from shocking motive of taking pleasure in murder of wounded and sick who were without means of defense.

Japanese Government regret that they cannot but conclude that there exists no sufficient sincere willingness on part of United States Government to look into accurate facts of case in order to elucidate where responsibility lies and to effect a fair and just settlement of matter so as to prevent any recurrence of such inhuman acts.

Japanese Government hereby notify United States Government that they are unable to accept as satisfactory United States reply of 5th February and demand of United States Government reinvestigation of matter, punishment of persons responsible and guarantees for future.

Japanese Government also declare that they reserve all rights relating to unlawful acts under review.”

  1. Memorandum to the Spanish Embassy quoted the text of a message in telegram 416, February 8, to Bern, not printed, which was to be delivered to the Japanese Government through the Swiss Legation in Japan; see telegram 1457, April 27, to Bern, p. 1153.