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"Admiral H. E. Yarnell, Commander in Chief United States Asiatic Fleet. My Dear Admiral: I have the pleasure of informing you that, in conjunction with the arrangement recently made for the passage down the Yangtze River to Shanghai of H. M. S. Capetown and Italian ship Sandro Sandri, the Japanese Navy is happy to render assistance to vessels of the third powers which are desirous of proceeding down stream from the upper reaches of Nanking to Shanghai under the following understanding: (1) Eight vessels will make one group and with our convoy proceed down once in every 2 or 3 days, (2) vessels will come down at their own risk. In this connection, I wish to make it clearly understood that since the above mentioned arrangement is being made temporary on the occasion of the passage of the two, British and Italian, warships, it is not to be considered by this that the Yangtze River is opened for free navigation. Moreover, in view of the fact that minesweeping operations as well as mopping up operations of the scattered Chinese troops are still going on along the river, it is the desire of the Japanese Navy that foreign vessels including warships will refrain from navigating the Yangtze except when clear understanding is reached with us.

I am, my dear Admiral, yours sincerely, Kiyoshi Hasegawa, Vice Admiral, Commander in Chief Imperial Japanese China Sea Fleet."

The following letter dated 23 December sent in reply:

"Dear Admiral: We have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 21 December on the subject of navigation of the Yangtze River and wish to thank you for your assurance of the assistance of the Japanese Navy in convoying our shipping down river. We agree that such movements must be undertaken at the risk of the vessels themselves.

We agree that notification of the movement of all merchant shipping in the danger areas is necessary at present though we naturally hope for greater freedom as soon as the dangers are removed in accordance with our treaty rights.

With regards to the movement of warships we will of course notify the Japanese authorities on the river of intended movement whenever practicable and will in any case be particular to give information of any intended movements through the Kiangyin barrier for the present. We cannot, however, accept the restriction suggested by your letter that foreign men-of-war cannot move freely on the river without prior arrangement with the Japanese and we must reserve the right to move these ships whenever necessary without notification.

We have the honor to be, Sir, very sincerely yours, H. E. Yarnell, Admiral United States Navy, Commander in Chief United States Asiatic Fleet, Le Bigot, Vice Admiral in Chief, French naval forces in the Far East, Alberto da Zara, Capitano di Vascello, Commandante Superiore Navale in E. O., J. G. L. Dunbas, Captain H. M. S. Folkestone, Senior British naval officer present.["]


393.115 President Hoover/3: Telegram

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

NANKING, August 30, 1937-8 p. m. [Received August 30-11: 55 a. m.]

564. I have this evening sent following note to Minister for Foreign Affairs.29

"Dear Mr. Minister: I regret to inform you that I am just informed by telephone from Shanghai that the American ship S. S. President Hoover was bombed today by Chinese planes while approaching Yangtze Light at the mouth of the Yangtze River 50 miles from Shanghai. The President Hoover which carried all possible identifications as an American ship was damaged above the water line and a number of people on board were injured, some seriously. I hereby protest this inexcusable assault upon an American merchant ship and state that I must hold the Chinese Government responsible for damage done."


393.115 President Hoover/21: Telegram

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

WASHINGTON, August 30, 1937-4 p. m. 194. Reference Commander-in-chief's telegrams of August 30 (hours 1900, 2025 and 2054) 80 and press reports in regard to bombing of steamship President Hoover.


As the Commander-in-chief is apparently of the opinion that the bombing was by a Chinese plane or planes, Department desires that you at once make strong representations to the appropriate authorities of the Chinese Government, drawing to their attention the details set forth in the Commander-in-chief's telegrams under reference, particularly the fact that the President Hoover was anchored in the open sea 17 miles from the Chinese mainland; that there can exist no valid excuse for failure of even an untrained pilot to recognize the identity and nationality of the President Hoover which at the time of attack was engaged in the wholly humanitarian pursuit of removing refugees from the dangers, largely from misdirected bombing, which have existed and continue to exist in Shanghai.

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should add that your Government considers the bombing of the President Hoover a particularly flagrant example of wholly unlawful and unjustifiable bombing of non-combatants.

The Department has just received your 564, August 30, 8 p. m., and approves the action taken by you. The Department desires that you supplement the note which you have sent to the Minister for Foreign Affairs with a further note along the lines indicated above and as under express instruction from the American Government.


393.115 President Hoover/28

Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)

[WASHINGTON,] August 31, 1937.

Conversation: The Secretary of State;

The Chinese Ambassador, Dr. C. T. Wang;

Mr. Hornbeck.

The Chinese Ambassador called this morning at his own request on appointment made yesterday.

The Ambassador said that he had come to express the sincere regrets of his Government with regard to the bombing of the S. S. President Hoover. He was instructed to say that his Government greatly regretted this unfortunate occurrence, assumed full responsibility, and was prepared to make indemnification both in regard to damage to property and in regard to injuries to persons. He stated that according to his information the Chinese aviator involved had observed what he thought to be a Japanese transport; that there were two Japanese war vessels nearby; and that he had dropped his bombs under the impression that he was attacking an enemy vessel. The Ambassador said that he had intended to come to express regret before receiving instruction from his Government, but that now he had received the instruction and he was speaking for his Government. His Government greatly regretted what had happened.

The Secretary inquired how far off the coast the incident had occurred and how near were the Japanese naval vessels. The Ambassador replied that the Hoover was some distance off the coast but that he did not know how near to it the Japanese vessels had been; he assumed that they were at distances such as are usual in navigation.

The Secretary said that we had already had reports of five cases in which Chinese aviators had caused bombs to fall in places where they should not fall. The Ambassador gave an expression of surprise and inquiry. Mr. Hornbeck remarked that he could give the Ambassador the details. The Secretary made an observation to the effect

that careless dropping of bombs, especially bombing which resulted in taking the lives of non-combatants, was deplorable and reprehensible. The Ambassador replied to the effect that it was deplorable.


The Ambassador then said that he wished to speak of China's intention to make an approach to the League of Nations. His Government hoped that the American Government would look with favor on such a move and be inclined to cooperate with the League. The Secretary stated that this Government is still represented on the Advisory Committee, to which we send an officer who is authorized to participate in discussion and deliberation but without a vote.

The Ambassador repeated an expression of the regret of his Government over the bombing of the Hoover and an assurance of its willingness to make amends.

At the end of the above-recorded conversation, Mr. Hornbeck gave the Ambassador an account of bombs which had struck near various American naval vessels in the Whangpoo, made mention of the Chinese bombs which have dropped in the International Settlement, and said that such occurrences necessarily make a very bad impression and tend to aggravate and complicate the whole situation. The Ambassador said that in each case these things had occurred by accident or through misapprehension and that, so far as the ships in the Whangpoo were concerned, those ships were within the area of military operations. He expressed regret that any of the occurrences had occurred.


893.20/617: Telegram

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

NANKING, August 31, 1937-4 p. m. [Received August 31-2 p. m.]

572. My 566, August 30, midnight [12 noon].32 Please communicate the following to Commander-in-Chief Asiatic Fleet:

"I have following to offer regarding control, training and discipline of Chinese aviators after a conversation this noon with Malley, British adviser on aviation to the Chinese Government. Control has only been centralized during past year under an Aldermanic [Aeronautical?] Commission headed by Madame Chiang.33 It was previously and for a considerable time shot through with petty politics. Ground command has been driving fliers continuously since beginning of hostilities who are now suffering from nervous tension and lack of sleep. This applies particularly to few youngsters who have shown some skill,

31 See pp. 1 ff.

32 Not printed.


Wife of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and Secretary General of the Commission of Aeronautical Affairs.

courage and nerve in their operations. I do not believe that what has been done has in the least been intentional on their part or due to defiance of instructions, discipline or control. The above is not offered as an excuse for incident to President Hoover but in an attempt to answer your 0030-2054." 33a

Sent to Shanghai.


393.115 President Hoover/15: Telegram

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

NANKING, August 31, 1937-10 p. m. [Received August 31-1:14 p. m.]

578. Department's 194, August 30, 4 p. m. Following reply dated August 31 to my note of August 30 has been received from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs:

"Dear Mr. Ambassador: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of August 30 informing me that the S. S. President Hoover was bombed yesterday afternoon by Chinese airplanes while approaching Yangtze Light at the mouth of the Yangtze River and that the ship was damaged, while a number of people on board were injured, some seriously.

As a result of an immediate investigation of the incident, it was found that a Chinese airplane mistook the President Hoover for a Japanese military transport and dropped two bombs which unfortunately hit the vessel. I think I need not assure you that nothing is further from the minds of the Chinese aviators than to direct any deliberate attack on any American ships.

The Chinese Government, which feels most regretful for this deplorable incident, accepts full responsibility therefor and is ready to take immediate steps for making amends."

In view of above and my telegram No. 565, August 30, 11 p. m. and my No. 568, August 31, 10 a. m.34 which show that Chinese admit responsibility and are prepared to make immediate amends, does the Department still wish me to deliver note quoted in its telegram under acknowledgment?


393.115 President Hoover/34: Telegram

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

WASHINGTON, August 31, 1937.

198. Your 578, August 31, 10 p. m. General purport of Department's 194, August 30, 4 p. m., has been announced to press here and Department desires that you present note as soon as possible.

33a Not printed.

34 Neither printed.

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