740.00116 Pacific War/12–3044

The Secretary of State to the Secretary of War ( Stimson )

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I refer to the Department’s letter of December 23, 194475 and to a memorandum76 addressed by Colonel Charles W. McCarthy77 to Mr. Harold Moseley78 of this Department regarding a protest from the Japanese Government concerning an alleged attack by United States aircraft upon certain objectives in the Okinawa Islands stated by the Japanese Government to be of a non-military character.

This Department has given consideration to the request contained in Colonel McCarthy’s memorandum that the Department of State indicate whether the alleged attack by United States aircraft constitutes a violation of international law and what the reaction would be if (1) we agree to discontinue such attacks, (2) reply stating that we are continuing them, although they are a violation of international law, and (3) if we reply stating that in the opinion of the United States Government they are not a violation of international law.

The Department of State, on the basis of the information available to it concerning the alleged attack, would prefer to express no opinion regarding the status of the alleged attack under international law until more detailed information regarding the alleged attack is made available. Pending clarification of the facts, consideration of the matter would appear to be of a hypothetical character.

As the War Department is doubtless aware, the rules of international law relative to such an attack as that protested by the Japanese Government are by no means firmly established or universally accepted. Under the circumstances, it is believed that most serious consideration [Page 470] should be given the question whether it is deemed desirable to engage at this time in any legal controversy with the Japanese Government over a question as uncertain as that raised by the protest under consideration.

It will be recalled in this connection that the receipt of the protest from the Japanese Government was merely acknowledged by this Department and that no commitment was given to make a further reply.

Sincerely yours,

Edward E. Stettinius, Jr.
  1. Not printed; it transmitted to the War Department a copy of memorandum 251, Ex. 150.000, December 11, 1944, from the Spanish Embassy and stated: “For the present this Department is merely acknowledging receipt of the Embassy’s memorandum. I should, however, appreciate receiving your views regarding the nature of a further reply to the Embassy, should one be deemed desirable.” (740.00116 PW/12–1144) For memorandum 251, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 1169.
  2. Dated December 30, 1944, not printed.
  3. Acting Secretary of the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee.
  4. Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of European Affairs.