Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman 68
The Japanese vessel Awa Maru, traveling under safe conduct granted by the United States on behalf of itself and the other Allied Governments, was sunk by an American submarine on April 1, 1945. The safe conduct was provided to enable the Awa Maru to discharge at ports in the southern areas (Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Surabaya, Batavia and Muntok) for delivery to American and other Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees in Japanese custody a portion of the relief supplies, furnished by the Allied authorities, that had been picked up last fall at Nakhodka, U.S.S.R., by the Japanese for such distribution.
On only three occasions since the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, the third being the shipment under reference, have the Japanese agreed, after prolonged negotiations, to accept shipments of food, medicine, and other relief supplies urgently needed by American and other Allied nationals in their custody.69 On only two occasions (one in 1942, the other in 1943) has the Japanese Government been willing to cooperate in an exchange of American and Japanese personnel.
Because of the unfortunate circumstance referred to it is believed improbable that the Japanese Government will agree to any further exchanges of personnel70 or accept any further shipments of relief supplies for distribution to Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees in their custody unless the United States furnishes a replacement for the Awa Maru. Furthermore, it is feared that if relief supplies of food, clothing, medicines, and other necessities are not distributed to these persons, they will suffer further serious impairment of health and many of them will die.[Page 464]
For this reason and notwithstanding the serious shipping situation, I recommend that this Government offer to the Japanese Government as a replacement of the Awa Maru a ship of approximately the same size and characteristics selected by the Joint Military Transportation Committee, to be used, in accordance with carefully outlined conditions, in connection with exchanges of Allied and Japanese nationals and for the transport of urgently needed relief supplies.
The Secretaries of War and Navy concur in this recommendation, which has the approval of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
[The Department’s reply to the Japanese Government’s statement of May 16 was dispatched to Bern on June 29 in telegram 2188. The reply acknowledged the responsibility of the United States Government for the sinking of the Awa Maru. On July 31, in telegram 2425, the Department made known to Bern its offer of an immediate transfer to Japan of an American vessel to replace the Awa Maru for the purposes of carrying relief supplies and of engaging in the exchange of Japanese and Allied nationals. The texts of the two communications are printed in Department of State Bulletin, July 15, 1945, page 86, and ibid., August 12, 1945, page 249.]
- Marginal notation by President Truman: “Approved HST 6/16/45”.↩
- Cargoes of American relief supplies were carried by the Gripsholm and turned over to Japanese authorities, once in 1942 and again in 1943. This was done as part of the vessel’s mission of returning to the United States Americans released by Japan under the exchange agreements negotiated in these years. For documentation on these agreements, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. i, pp. 377 ff., and ibid., 1943, vol. iii, pp. 867 ff.↩
- For documentation on efforts by the United States to arrange a third exchange, see ante, pp. 419 ff.↩