The Department of State to the Swiss Legation
The Department of State refers the Legation of Switzerland in charge of Japanese interests in the United States with the exception of the Territory of Hawaii to memorandum no. 9 (Ex. 150.000) dated January 18, 1945 from the Spanish Embassy60 formerly in charge of Japanese interests in the continental United States and to the Department’s preliminary reply of January 24, 194561 in regard to a protest from the Japanese Government concerning reported attacks on the Japanese hospital ship Kikawa (Hikawa) Maru on November 25, 1944.
Careful investigation by the appropriate United States authorities has revealed that United States aircraft attacked a ship off Bataan Peninsula on November 25, 1944 in the course of a strike against shipping in the Manila Bay area. The ship was not identified as a hospital ship until a diving attack, which began at a high altitude, was well advanced. On pulling out of his dive, the group leader saw what he believed to be a Red Cross on the ship’s side and broadcast a message indicating presence of a hospital ship, whereupon the attack was broken off. Testimony of the pilots involved in this incident, all of whom have been adequately trained in recognition and thoroughly indoctrinated with regard to the immunity to be accorded [Page 460] hospital ships, is unanimously to the effect that crosses were not visible from above and astern.
Careful inspection of photographs taken during the attack fails to reveal any marking characteristic which could be recognized as establishing the identity of the ship prior to attack.
Another group of aircraft, approaching for a horizontal attack was unable to identify the Kikawa (Hikawa) Maru as a hospital ship until altitude had been reduced to 4,000 feet and even at that altitude, no crosses were visible on the superstructure.
The United States Government rejects as without basis in fact the statement of the Japanese Government that the Kikawa (Hikawa) Maru could not have been accidentally bombed and that it is “perfectly evident that United States planes repeatedly attacked her deliberately and intentionally with full knowledge of her being hospital ship.” The attacks upon the vessel are attributed solely to the lack of clearly identifiable markings on the superstructure, which would have provided immunity from aerial attack. The proper indoctrination and good faith of the United States air crews involved are attested by the fact that the ship was not molested after its character was determined.
The United States Government considers the attack upon the Kikawa (Hikawa) Maru to have been regrettable despite the presence of extenuating circumstances. Furthermore, the United States Government gives assurance that its Armed Forces have made, and will continue to make every effort to observe the Tenth Hague Convention of 1907.
- The Department’s reply to this memorandum was ready for dispatch to the Spanish Embassy on March 28 but was not delivered because the Embassy was in the process of relinquishing charge of Japanese interests in the United States. The Swiss Legation assumed charge of these interests on July 21.↩
- Memorandum of acknowledgment not printed.↩