740.00116 P.W./8–1145

The Swiss Legation to the Department of State

Memorandum

The Legation of Switzerland in charge of Japanese interests has received an urgent cable from the authorities abroad, requesting that the Department of State be immediately apprised of the following communication from the Japanese Government, reading, in translation, as follows:

“On August 6, 1945, American airplanes released on the residential district of the town of Hiroshima bombs of a new type, killing and injuring in one second a large number of civilians and destroying a great part of the town. Not only is the city of Hiroshima a provincial town without any protection or special military installations of any kind, but also none of the neighboring region of this town constitutes a military objective.

“In a declaration President Truman has asserted that he would use these bombs for the destruction of docks, factories, and installations of transportation.83 However, this bomb, provided with a parachute, in falling has a destructive force of a great scope as a result of its explosion in the air. It is evident, therefore, that it is technically impossible to limit the effect of its use to special objectives such as designated by President Truman, and the American authorities are perfectly aware of this. In fact, it has been established on the scene that the damage extends over a great area and that combatant and non-combatant men and women, old and young, are massacred without discrimination by the atmospheric pressure of the explosion, as well as by the radiating heat which results therefrom. Consequently there is involved a bomb having the most cruel effects humanity has ever known, not only as far as the extensive and immense damage is concerned, [Page 473]but also for reasons of suffering endured by each victim.

“It is an elementary principle of international public law that in time of war the belligerents do not have unlimited right in the choice of the means of attack and that they cannot resort to projectile arms or any other means capable of causing the enemy needless suffering. These principles are stipulated in the Convention respecting the laws and customs of war on land and in Article 22, as well as under letter (E) of Article 23 of the rules concerning the laws and customs of war on land.84 Since the beginning of the present war, the American Government has declared on various occasions that the use of gas or other inhuman means of combat were considered illegal in the public opinion of civilized human society and that it would not avail itself of these means before enemy countries resorted to them.85 The bombs in question, used by the Americans, by their cruelty and by their terrorizing effects, surpass by far gas or any other arm the use of which is prohibited by the treaties for reasons of their characteristics.

“The Americans have effected bombardments of towns in the greatest part of Japanese territory, without discrimination massacring a great number of old people, women, children; destroying and burning down Shinto and Buddhist temples, schools, hospitals, living quarters, etc. This fact alone means that they have shown complete defiance of the essential principles of humanitarian laws, as well as international law. They now use this new bomb, having an uncontrollable and cruel effect much greater than any other arms or projectiles ever used to date. This constitutes a new crime against humanity and civilization. The Government of Japan, in its own name and at the same time in the name of all of humanity and civilization, accuses the American Government with the present note of the use of an inhuman weapon of this nature and demands energetically abstinence from its use.”

Reference: I–10

  1. For statement by President Truman, issued to the Press by the White House on August 6, see p. 621.
  2. Signed at The Hague, October 18, 1907; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, pp. 1181, 1204, 1211. Articles XXII and XXIII are part of the Annex to the Convention.
  3. See statement of June 8, 1943, by President Roosevelt, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, p. 406. For documentation on assurance by the Japanese Government that it would not use poison gas provided the United States also did not use it, see ibid., 1944, vol. v, pp. 1169 1170.