740.00116 PW/1–645: Telegram

The Ambassador in China ( Hurley ) to the Secretary of State

20. War Crimes Commission. Embassy’s despatch 3213, December 9.75 At meeting of Sub-Commission January 5 at which Atcheson [Page 899] represented me, question was again raised as to date on which war is to be considered as having begun in China.

No report of decision having been made by Main Commission, London, has reached us. Hurst76 in personal message to our Chairman77 has suggested “preliminary discussion” of question here and only crimes Chinese Commission has so far put forth for consideration occurred after outbreak of hostilities in 1937.78

While not fully acquainted with the reasons behind Australian suggestion that events in China prior to December 1941 be made subject of a special commission we feel strongly that we should not by any means permit possibility that Jap war criminals responsible for thousands of the most brutal and unspeakable atrocities in months after July 1937 may escape punishment through legalistic consideration that war in China was “undeclared War”. Those atrocities were committed not only on Chinese but on Americans and British and other foreigners and we believe that the purpose of the Sub-Commission will be largely vitiated unless date of commencement of the war is regarded as July 8, 1937 especially as number of atrocities susceptible of proper consideration which have occurred in China since 1941 December appears to be comparatively small. In addition we feel that we should support the Chinese point of view in this respect as a matter of general policy.

We respectfully and urgently recommend that steps be taken to expedite decision in this most important question.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. i, p. 1399.
  2. Sir Cecil Hurst, British Chairman of the United Nations War Crimes Commission, London.
  3. Wang Chung-hui, former Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Chinese member of the Court of International Justice at The Hague.
  4. For documentation on the beginning of the undeclared war between Japan and China in July 1937, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, pp. 313 ff., and Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. iii, pp. 128 ff.