Memorandum by the State–War–Navy Coordinating Committee to the Secretary of State
Reference is made to your identical letters to the Secretaries of War and Navy dated December 23, 1944,79 enclosing memoranda dated December 11, 1944, from the Spanish Embassy,80 which transmitted the text of a communication from the Japanese Government concerning alleged attacks by United States aircraft upon the Okinawa Islands on October 10, 1944. It was stated therein that the Department of State has merely acknowledged receipt of the Embassy’s memorandum, and requests the views of the Secretaries of War and the Navy regarding the nature of a further reply to the Embassy, should one be deemed desirable. Reference is also made to your letter of 18 January 1945 to the Secretary of War on the same subject. It is noted that no commitment was given to make a further reply.
A strike against Okinawa Jima was conducted by the aircraft of a task group of the United States Navy on 10 October 1944. The mission of this task group was the destruction of enemy aircraft, ships, aircraft facilities, shipping facilities and enemy defenses. This strike consisted of several raids. After the third raid principal targets had largely been destroyed and certain units on subsequent raids bombed and strafed the building and warehouse area of the town of Naha.
The proximity of the installations and persons, reported in the Japanese protest as having been damaged and killed, to legitimate targets within the town is not possible of determination.
The degree to which the nature of the attacks is accurately described in the communication from the Japanese Government is questionable.
It is felt that to deny that attacks such as described in the Japanese communication are a violation of international law would be inconsistent [Page 471]with the frequently expressed views of this Government. To acknowledge them as such would jeopardize all aviators forcelanded in enemy territory and possibly subject them to treatment as war criminals. A reply on any other basis would lead to lengthy controversy as to the circumstances of the attack and the applicable international law which, as pointed out by your letter of 18 January 1945, is by no means firmly established or universally accepted.
Accordingly, it is the view of the Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy that further reply to the Spanish Embassy is not desirable.81