711.94114 Supplies/4–1045: Telegram

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

1396. Request Swiss communicate urgently following textually to Japanese Government:

Information has been received that at about midnight April 1 east longitude date a ship was sunk by submarine action at a position approximately forty miles from the estimated scheduled position of the Awa Maru. No lights or special illumination were visible at any time. The ship sank almost immediately. One survivor has stated that the ship was the Awa Maru. If in fact the ship sunk was the Awa Maru, the Government of the United States deeply regrets the occurrence of this incident and will furnish the Japanese Government additional information as it becomes available.

As indicated above, a degree of uncertainty still remains as to the actual identity of the ship. If the ship in fact was the Awa Maru, the question of primary responsibility for this incident has not as yet been determined. The Government of the United States assures the Japanese Government that the investigation of this incident is proceeding in all sincerity and good faith.66

It is hoped that there will be no change in the plans of the Japanese Government to pick up in the immediate future a further consignment of Allied relief supplies67 at Nakhodka.


[The Japanese Government’s protest of April 26 regarding the sinking of the Awa Maru was transmitted by Bern on May 4 in telegram 2623. The Department’s interim reply was despatched to Bern on May 18 in telegram 1841. In the meantime, on May 16, the Japanese Government sent a further statement demanding that the United States Government apologize to the Japanese Government for the sinking of the vessel, punish those responsible, and pay indemnities. [Page 463] The statement was transmitted by Bern on May 30 in telegram 2959. The texts of the three communications are printed in Department of State Bulletin, June 3, 1945, pages 1033–1035, and ibid., July 15, 1945, page 86.]

  1. In telegram 1675, May 2, the Department directed Bern to “Request Swiss inform Japanese Government in sense of following: The sole survivor in American hands from the Awa Maru is Kantaro Shimoda, age 45, a steward. He is in excellent health, is now at Guam, and has been accorded the status of a protected person.

    “Further details concerning this incident are not as yet available. The submarine commander is being brought to trial by court martial. Additional information as developed will be communicated promptly to the Japanese Government.” (711.94114 Supplies/4–2645)

  2. For Japanese intention to use the Awa Maru for further distribution of relief supplies, see telegram 2125, April 11, from Bern, p. 409.