195.7 Jean Nicolet/12–1244: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Switzerland (Huddle)

4184. Request Swiss Foreign Office to deliver following message verbatim to Japanese Government:

“On July 2, 1944 at approximately 1407 hours at position 3° South 74° 30′ East the United States merchant vessel Jean Nicolet was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The vessel sank at approximately 0220 hours July 3. Seventy-five survivors of the Jean Nicolet were murdered when, after leaving the sinking vessel, between 95 and 100 persons from the torpedoed vessel were subjected by the commander and crew of the Japanese submarine to treatment which was in contravention of the laws and customs of war and all humanitarian standards. The United States Government most emphatically protests against the criminal and inhuman treatment accorded these individuals.

[Page 1177]

The United States Government protests that:

The life boats and life rafts were machine-gunned, evidently to render them unusable by any of the survivors of the Jean Nicolet. Survivors of the Jean Nicolet who were swimming were also machine-gunned.
The survivors upon boarding the submarine were robbed of all life belts, papers and other valuables;
The survivors of the Jean Nicolet, after boarding the submarine, were bound either with rope or wire and compelled to sit or kneel with heads down in rows athwartship from bow to stern facing forward on the forward deck;
Approximately half of the survivors of the Jean Nicolet were led separately to the afterdeck of the submarine and compelled to run between parallel rows of Japanese sailors armed with a variety of instruments, including gun butts and bayonets. While running this gauntlet, the men were subjected to severe beating and still bound were forced off the submarine into the water while the vessel was under way with the evident likelihood that they would be caught in the turning propeller.
The submarine suddenly, and with no warning to the survivors of the Jean Nicolet, submerged leaving a large number of them still bound on the deck of the vessel with the result that they were thrown into the water without means of self-preservation.

D. M. Nilsson and Clem Carlin, master and chief mate, respectively of the Jean Nicolet were made prisoners and taken within the submarine, such treatment being similar to that accorded the master and three other survivors of the United States vessel Richard Hovey the Japanese attack on which was the subject of the United States Government’s protest delivered to the Japanese Government on June 19, 1944. The United States Government demands to be urgently informed regarding the present welfare and whereabouts of Captain Nilsson and Chief Mate Carlin.

The United States Government most emphatically protests regarding the treatment accorded the survivors of the torpedoed vessel, such treatment being in violation of all humanitarian and legal principles. The Government of the United States demands a full and thorough investigation from the Japanese Government and that the persons responsible for the incredibly cruel and terrible conduct against the defenseless survivors of the torpedoed vessel promptly be fully punished and that it be informed of the action taken. The Government of the United States demands specific assurances from the Japanese Government that such criminal action will not be repeated in the future.”

Request that Swiss Minister Tokyo telegraph date message is delivered to Japanese Government.54

  1. Date of delivery not clear. Telegram 130, January 9, 1945, 10 a.m., from Bern, reported that the Swiss Legation was “now outside of Tokyo” and that Mr. Gorgé had instructed an aide to proceed to Tokyo on January 5 to present the text of the Department’s message to the Japanese Foreign Office. Presumably he did so on that date. (195.7 Jean Nicolet/1–945)