The Acting Secretary of State to the Counselor of the British Embassy (Makins)

My Dear Mr. Makins: Thank you for sending me in Mr. Stettinius’ absence the personal message sent to him by Mr. Eden. I should appreciate it if you would convey the following reply to Mr. Eden.

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“I trust that there is not real divergence of views between us with regard to the Japanese proposal to allow International Red Cross Committee representatives to visit a limited number of camps in areas hitherto unvisited. I ‘believe that we have not neglected to take your interest into consideration in our proposed reply. I do, however, wish to explain our position. As you are aware, from the outbreak of hostilities the Japanese Government consistently refused, despite continued reference to the standards of the Geneva Convention on your part and ours, to authorize visits to the camps in occupied territories. As long as we had nothing to offer but our fulfillment of the Geneva Convention in the continental United States and Hawaii, we got nowhere with the Japanese Government, When the United States began to take Japanese nationals in the Southwest Pacific, the situation changed.

“Last summer the Japanese Government expressed concern with regard to the Japanese prisoners of war held by the United States in New Caledonia.27 In August, the Japanese Government requested a report on the conditions under which Japanese nationals are held on Saipan and the treatment accorded them.28 The United States Government took advantage of this interest of the Japanese Government in its nationals to offer to authorize visits to the camps on Saipan, and to endeavor to obtain permission from the proper authorities for visits to New Caledonia. The United States Government in making its offer again expressed its willingness to abide by its undertakings with regard to the application of the Geneva Convention but this time stated that the United States Government was prepared to authorize visits to Saipan, the Marshalls and New Caledonia29 when the Japanese extended reciprocity for representatives of the protecting Power to visit camps in the Philippines and other Japanese-occupied territories. It was this offer on our part which produced the present Japanese proposal, the first indication as you point out, of the Japanese Government’s withdrawal from its previous uncompromising refusal to allow neutral visits to occupied areas.

“The limited nature of the counter-proposal made by Japan, especially in so far as the United States is concerned, is evident. The United States is asked to offer Saipan, New Caledonia, Guam and Tinian, receiving practically nothing in return. The offer to permit visits to the hospital in Thailand has little value for you or for us. The Japanese have not offered to permit visits to the prisoner of war camps in Thailand over which your people and ours are gravely disturbed. The only offer of any account, and this is very limited, is the offer to permit visits to a prisoner of war camp at Singapore. It is the consensus of War, Navy and State Departments that in the interest of our Allies as well as of ourselves, the United States Government should not forfeit Japan’s interest in her nationals on Guam, Tinian, [Page 327] Saipan and New Caledonia so cheaply. The War and Navy Departments have recommended that the United States Government make acceptance of the Japanese offer conditional on complete reciprocity for visits to all places where American nationals are held. However, out of deference to your contention that this might close the door to the Japanese offer to permit visits to your men at Singapore, the War and Navy Departments are willing not to press for visits to Burma and Java. They have also agreed to permit visits to Guam and Tinian although these were not originally contemplated. The United States Government is not insisting upon visits by representatives of the protecting Power but will accept visits by the representatives of the International Red Cross Committee. It is because of the concern which we share with you over conditions in the camps in Thailand that we propose to inquire of the Japanese Government whether visits to the prisoner of war camp where American prisoners of war are held in Thailand are included in the Japanese offer. Your note intimates that the Japanese Government has offered to permit visits to the prisoner of war camps in Thailand. The proposal made to the United States Government appears to authorize visits only to the hospital. With regard to Singapore we propose to inquire whether visits to the civilian camp where Americans are held are included.

“The United States Government’s offer to authorize visits to Saipan and New Caledonia was originally made primarily in behalf of our men in the Philippine Islands. They have now been transferred to Japan proper. The visits which the Japanese Government has permitted to the camps in Japan, Formosa, Manchuria and China, as you know, have been sporadic and arbitrary. The locations of some of the camps have never even been reported. The records show that of the almost 10,000 American prisoners of war in Japan not more than 2,800 have been visited. The War and Navy Departments insist that the United States should receive assurance from the Japanese Government that the camps in Japan and the adjoining areas be regularly visited and reported upon.

“You will realize that the United States also is faced with a public which is gravely concerned over the welfare of our men in Japanese hands. If the United States Government should accept the Japanese Government’s offer unconditionally without making an attempt to bring about an improvement in the conditions under which our men are held, this Government would be open to severe public and official criticism. It is our belief that the reply which, we propose to send and which was drafted in consultation with representatives of the British Embassy, a copy of which may have crossed your message, will not cause a breakdown in the negotiations. If the satisfactory assurances requested by the United States for visits to the prisoner of war camp in Thailand and the civilian camp in Singapore and for regular visits to all camps in Japan and adjoining areas are received, both your people and ours will benefit since they are together in the camps. In any event, the reply leaves the door open for further negotiations if necessary.”

Sincerely yours,

Joseph C. Grew
  1. Memorandum 156, Ex. 119.01, June 21, 1944, from the Spanish Embassy, not printed; but see memorandum of August 31, 1944, to the Spanish Embassy, Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 1122.
  2. Memorandum 179, Ex. 119.00, August 5, 1944, from the Spanish Embassy, not printed; but see memorandum of September 18, 1944, to the Spanish Embassy, ibid, p. 1126.
  3. For offer to authorize visits to Saipan and the Marshalls, see memorandum of September 18, 1944, to the Spanish Embassy, ibid., p. 1126; for offer relating to New Caledonia, see ibid., p. 1122, footnote 98.