123 Sturgeon, Leo D.

Consul General Leo D. Sturgeon to the Secretary of State

Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegram no. 606, April 10, 6 p.m.,11 and Shanghai’s no. 647 April 16, 4 p.m.,12 I have the honor to present below a detailed statement relative to my recent trip to Dairen and my reasons for departure following discussions with Soviet authorities and the making of arrangements for reestablishment of consular representation.

It is believed that consideration of this matter should be prefaced by reference to certain background material which had to do with preparations and our approach to the problem of reestablishing a Consulate at Dairen. This appears especially pertinent because of [Page 1160] the uncertainty which prevailed for a considerable time as to what might be done in regard to American consular representation in Soviet controlled areas of Manchuria.

Originally it was indicated in the Department’s instructions that our Consulates would be reopened when and as the Chinese Government was able to take over control of the various districts in question. The taking over process met with so many obstacles and was so slow that as late as mid-February the Chinese Foreign Office informed our Embassy at Chungking that it would “not be practicable for the time being” for American consular officers to return to Manchuria.13 With the exception of Mukden there was no prospect of the Chinese Government being able to take over at an early date, and rather clear indication that the Soviet authorities were expected to remain in Dairen indefinitely. The result of this was that we had little reason to believe in Shanghai that the Department intended opening consular offices in Soviet controlled areas. The Department’s telegram no. 261 of February 19, 7 p.m.,14 assigning Consul General Clubb to Mukden where, the message stated, “there are understood to be numbers of Chinese officials and troops,” appeared to confirm our understanding that offices would be opened only in Chinese-controlled territory.

In these circumstances food supplies and the like, assembled for Dairen at the expense of officers concerned, were not held together, resulting in difficulty in again obtaining them when instructions were unexpectedly received to proceed to Dairen. However, when the Embassy informed us, in response to a request for instructions as to extent of my functions at Dairen, that the chief purpose of the trip was to “determine whether or not Russian authorities will refuse entry of our consular officers into Manchuria,” it was generally thought here that our mission could properly be regarded as exploratory. Restriction of accompanying consular personnel to one assistant appeared also to indicate this (see Shanghai’s 123 of February 26, 4 p.m.,15 and Chungking’s no. 378 of February 27, 5 p.m. to Department16).

The Department is of course aware that the trip to Dairen was, finally, placed on an urgent basis with regard to departure from Shanghai.

The conditions here outlined resulted in our arriving in Dairen without necessary supplies, equipment, or personnel to establish effective [Page 1161] consular representation. I am anxious, however, to have this considered simply as a statement of circumstances which had bearing on subsequent judgments and action.

The decision to depart from Dairen was taken only after numerous discussions with Soviet authorities, including the Commanding General for the Dairen area. After several days of negotiations, with results which were reported telegraphically, it appeared that satisfactory groundwork had been laid for the resumption of consular representation. In view of our lack of essential supplies and equipment (materials unavailable locally) and personnel, however, it did not seem advisable immediately to open an office. It was realized that the Department would not wish unduly to delay doing so, but it did not appear in the interest of American prestige to make an inadequate beginning in an area where the early development of an influential position seemed necessary and vital. There seemed also every reason to believe that the Department would want prompt and fairly complete reports on the situation at Dairen which could not be made from within the area owing to restrictions upon communications. This was a factor which I regarded as of considerable importance.

Because of these considerations my proposal to depart from Dairen temporarily, for purposes of obtaining supplies, and personnel, and making necessary reports, was telegraphed to the Embassy and the Department. As recalled in Shanghai’s no. 647 of April 16, 4 p.m.,17 the proposal was made on a contingent basis and carried out only when no instruction to the contrary was received. It was my intention to return as soon as the stated purposes should be accomplished. The Soviet were informed of this, gave every indication that it was understood, and offered assurances that no difficulties would be encountered in connection with re-entry.

Finally, it may be well to add that none of the Department’s substantive instructions relative to the opening of the Consulate at Dairen and the functions to be undertaken were received prior to my departure from Shanghai for Dairen. Therefore practically all matters in connection with the mission to Dairen, including negotiations with the Soviet authorities, were of necessity undertaken along lines determined by me in the light of the situation found there. It appeared that we had been successful in regard to the important matter of establishing necessary relationships with the Soviet authorities and in arranging for consular representation in an unusual situation, i. e., an area under Soviet military control. The subsequent re-entry, without difficulty, of Consul Benninghoff with permanent personnel now appears to confirm this.

[Page 1162]

In the event the Department has found reason to question judgments made in the circumstances outlined above it is hoped that, on the other hand, recognition can be given with respect to the results of the mission, which I believe may be regarded as one of considerable importance and extreme difficulty. It was gratifying to me to have the opportunity to perform this service and I am desirous that any questions concerning it be answered as clearly as possible.

Respectfully yours,

Leo D. Sturgeon
  1. Not printed; Mr. Sturgeon was requested to submit a detailed statement of his reasons for unauthorized departure from Dairen.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See telegram No. 314, February 16, 4 p.m., from the Counselor of Embassy in China, p. 1133.
  4. See footnote 12, p. 1133.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Ante, p. 1135.
  7. Not printed.