740.00115 PW/5–2345: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Harrison)

1869. Request Swiss Government to transmit textually to Japanese Government on urgent basis the following:

The United States Government has been informed44 that the Japanese military authorities at Shanghai have requisitioned the premises occupied by the Columbia Country Club and Yu Yuen Road Civilian Assembly Centers and that the internees from these centers have been transferred to the former Sacred Heart Hospital which is not properly equipped to receive them and which is situated in the Yangtzepoo industrial area of Shanghai.

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The Japanese Government voluntarily undertook to apply, in the treatment of civilian internees, the humane provisions of the Geneva Prisoners of War Convention. The action of the Japanese Government in transferring the internees, who have already been subjected to the rigors of internment for more than 2 years and among whom are many women and children, many aged and infirm persons, and many individuals who are ill, to a camp unprepared to receive them in the heart of an industrial district abounding in docks, warehouses, factories and other military objectives constitutes a serious abandonment of the Japanese Government’s commitments and a grave dereliction of its duty toward these defenceless civilians in its care. The removal of these civilian internees to an area containing military objectives can only be construed as being for the purpose of attempting to render that area immune from attack and is a grave violation of Article 9 of the Geneva Convention which prohibits exposing those held in custody to the fire of combat zones or using them to give protection from bombardment to certain points or regions by their presence.

The United States Government demands that the Japanese Government, in fulfillment of its obligations, put forth exceptional efforts to remove the internees without delay to camps adequately equipped to receive them and situated in areas of safety where they will not be exposed to danger, injury or harm.

It is reported that plans are also under consideration involving the transfer of the civilian internees from the Chapei and Lincoln Avenue Centers. The United States Government demands that the Japanese Government abandon any plan which may be under consideration for the removal of the internees of these centers to areas which are military targets. Should it in fact be deemed necessary to remove the internees from the Chapei and Lincoln Avenue Centers, the United States Government expects the Japanese Government to honor its obligation to place them in safe areas, to provide suitable quarters and sanitary facilities, to furnish necessary camp equipment, and to make adequate provision for the care of the sick; the United States Government also expects that the Japanese Government, in compliance with its professions that it at all times extends humane treatment to the enemy nationals in its custody, will not fail to give special consideration to the women and children, the aged and infirm and those who may be suffering from ill health.

The United States Government states again that it holds the Japanese Government responsible for safeguarding the lives of the civilian internees in its custody. It solemnly warns the Japanese Government that no Japanese individual will escape accountability for any responsibility he may bear for the exposing of civilian internees to danger [Page 338] through attempts to render certain points or areas immune from bombardment by their presence.

  1. Airgrams A–671, May 3, and A–689, May 7, from Bern; neither printed.