90 years ago today.... (9-18-31)

Remember that date: SEPTEMBER 18, 1931.

A date we should remember as well as December 7, 1941, for on that date in 1931, the war we are now fighting began. The place was Manchuria…

The Pittsburgh Press (September 18, 1931)

Japan’s army might be on march now, but for cool Premier

Executions blamed

Chinese stand 4 alleged spies before firing squad; crisis arises
By William Philip Simms, Scripps-Howard foreign editor

Washington –
While the eyes of the Western world have been focused on their own danger spots, a menacing situation has developed unnoticed in the cockpit of Asia.

But for the political accident that placed the liberal Baron Shidehara in the Foreign Office at Tokyo, instead of the military faction which now and then is in the saddle, the Japanese Army might be on the march in Manchuria.

The alleged murder of Capt. Shintarō Nakamura, Japanese Army officer, in Manchuria Aug. 17 served to bring to a head a crisis of long standing.

Executed as spies

A firing squad of Chinese soldiers, it is claimed, executed Nakamura and another Japanese subject, along with a Russian and a Mongolian, as spies. Tokyo authorities assert the officer and his party held official Chinese permits authorizing them to make maps of the region.

Urgent protests to China went unanswered, it is charged, though press dispatches from Nanking quote Foreign Minister C. T. Wang as saying bandits, not Chinese soldiers, were responsible.

Fanned by the military, a blaze of anger swept Japan. There is a large faction who, all along, have urged a “strong hand” policy in China and for a time, it was feared these might win their point. The Daily Asahi of Tokyo quoted War Office officials as saying they “might resort to force” to bring China to terms and that “a concentration of troops in Manchuria” was being considered.

Premier withstands pressure

Fortunately, however, Foreign Minister Shidehara withstood the pressure. He made it clear that world opinion at this time would not sanction any such warlike move.

Furthermore, he was able to announce that the Mukden government, if not the Nationalists at Nanking, had met his demands. There would be an indemnity, punishment of the guilty parties and assurances that efforts would be made to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The agitation, however, is reported as continuing in Japan, where it is said it is being kept alive by the militarists. A huge mass meeting, organized by reserve officers, was held last week in Tokyo and another demonstration in which more than 10,000 reservists propose to take part, is described as in preparation.

Showdown certain

Tension between Chinese and Japanese in Manchuria has been increasing for years. Observers on the spot are convinced that nothing short of a showdown determining who is boss in that part of Asia will end it definitely.

The Japanese claim a “paramount” interest in Manchuria and Eastern Mongolia. Exactly what they mean by that probably only history can tell. In effect, politically as well as economically, the region has come under Japanese influence bordering on control.

When the Nationalists were marching northward making their bid for control over all China, the Japanese drew a line across the map roughly corresponding with the Great Wall and Manchuria’s southern borders and said “thus far and no farther!”

Japanese spokesmen claim the island empire is too small to produce food and raw materials to keep it going. Not only Korea, which has been annexed, but Manchuria and Eastern Mongolia, are needed if Japan is to survive as a great power.

Held essential to peace

Recognition of these basic facts, they assert, is essential to the permanent peace of the Orient.

China, on the other hand, insists with ever-increasing heat, that the coveted area now and forever belongs to her, and that peace in the Far East depends upon recognition of her sovereignty.

Obviously, the peace of Asia will remain very delicately poised, regardless of whatever is done to the Chinese soldiers charged with the execution of Capt. Nakamura. And this fact will likely influence Japan’s attitude at the world arms conference scheduled to begin at Geneva in February.


and 7th July 1937 and 13th December 1937 (the rape of Nanking). How about another livestream like 9/11 for this or a day by day event? Will the idea take off because of the brutality of the Massacre?


I would need 24-hour live videotape for that, otherwise the livestream will be extremely short. :stuck_out_tongue: I am thinking of making this a day-by-day topic though.

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even from articles in the tokyo times? They would be in Japanese, so that idea goes out the window

Oh… And as and end sentence for the thread you could write to this day the Japanese government denies it happened.


I’ll let history speak for me.


Man, I wish. Transcribing Japanese is hard enough, transcribing Imperial Japanese is gonna take more effort.


The only time so far I transcribed Imperial Japanese (the Japanese declaration of war):


U.S. State Department (September 19, 1931)

793.94/1794: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — 2:30 a.m.
[Received September 18 — 7:10 p.m.]


Donald, adviser to Marshal Chang Hsüeh-liang, has just informed me of the receipt here by Chang Hsüeh-liang of a telegram from Mukden to the effect that at 10 p.m., on evening of September 18th a squad of Japanese soldiers, having left Japanese barracks and gone southeast of Mukden City, were firing with rifles at the east camp, arsenal and city and with artillery at the rate of one shell a minute. Statement is that some 70 soldiers at east camp had been injured. No knowledge of amount of damage or number of casualties in city. Donald stated that Marshal Chang Hsüeh-liang had ordered all Chinese soldiers within barracks, depoted all arms, and forbade retaliation, adding that Japanese soldiers had apparently run amuck, Japanese consular authorities being powerless. Firing reported to be still going on at 1 o’clock this morning, Japanese soldiers then at west gate apparently surrounding city.

Please inform War and Navy Department[s]. Nanking, commander in chief and Tokyo informed.



Memorandum by the Minister in China of a conversation with Mr. W. H. Donald, adviser to Marshal Chang Hsüeh-liang of Manchuria

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — 2:30 a.m.

Mr. Donald just called me by telephone and said that Marshal Chang Hsüeh-liang had received a telegram from Mukden stating that a little before 10 p.m. the evening of the 18th, a squad of Japanese soldiers had left the Japanese area and proceeding southeast of Mukden had commenced firing with rifles at the east camp and at the arsenal. He said they were also using a cannon and were apparently firing shells on the city at the rate of one every ten minutes; that one had landed somewhere near the Japanese monument. He said that at that time it was reported that some seventy Chinese soldiers had been killed in the east camp but they had no information as to what damage had been done in the city. He informed me that Marshal Chang Hsüeh-liang had issued orders restricting troops to barracks and depoting all arms and had forbade any retaliatory measures.

Mr. Donald stated that he had received a personal message to the effect that firing was continuing at one o’clock this morning and that Japanese soldiers had been seen marching in the direction of the west gate of the city, the inference being that the Japanese were making a move to occupy the city of Mukden. Mr. Donald stated that their information was that apparently the Japanese military had got completely out of hand at Mukden, that the Japanese civilian authorities, namely the consul general, were powerless to do anything.


793.94/1795: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan to the Secretary of State

Tokyo, September 19, 1931 — noon.
[Received September 19 — 2:31 a.m.]


Peiping’s 599, September 19th, 2:30 a.m.

Japanese newspapers today published extras indicating a state of war between Japan and China. The Foreign Office stated to a member of the staff that the facts seem to be a minor clash between Japanese South Manchurian Railway guards and Chinese soldiers growing out of damage to a section of railway track just north of Mukden, which the Japanese Army has since occupied. The Japanese assure us they are determined upon a peaceful settlement of whatever controversy arises.

Under the circumstances I think it would be unwise to cancel voyage home and stay here as such action might be misconstrued so I shall sail on Empress of Japan this afternoon.

Repeated to Peiping.


793.94/1797: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — noon.
[Received September 19 — 5:58 a.m.]


My September 19, 2:30 p.m. [a.m.]

Same source informs me that two train loads of Japanese soldiers arrived Yingkou this morning proceeding thence to Kowpangtze where they disarmed railway police and all others, occupying town. Japanese warship is reported to have arrived at Yingkou this morning. Communication from Mukden ceased at 3 a.m. at which time Japanese soldiers reported entered city.

Mayer, Military Attaché’s office, is proceeding Mukden to ascertain facts.

Please inform War and Navy. Repeated to commander in chief and Tokyo.


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793.94/1804: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — 2 p.m.
[Received September 19 — 7 a.m.]


My 599, September 19 and 600, September 19, 11 a.m. [noon].

Wellington Koo has just come to me from Marshal Chang Hsüeh-liang to confirm reports contained in my two telegrams above referred to and to say that Japanese military forces were in occupation of the city of Mukden and that they had placed troops at all administrative offices including the Marshal’s headquarters. Occupation of Kowpangtze cuts Manchuria off completely from China. Koo stated that Marshal Chang had reported matter to Nanking. In the course of conversation Koo brought up League possible action on the part of China or powers either under the Covenant of the League, the Kellogg pact or article VII of the Nine-Power Treaty regarding principles and policies. With reference to the treaty regarding principles and policies he suggested possibility of the United States starting a discussion among interested powers.

I told Koo that I had informed Department of incidents thus far reported to me, that I was not in a position to know what attitude my Government would take as to the basis for the dispute and that I thought it would take a little time to learn what it was about and what should be done. Koo departed asking me to inform him of any views that Washington might have in regard to this matter.

In a separate telegram I am communicating substance of conversation member of staff had with Counselor of Japanese Legation at noon today regarding Japanese version of last night’s events at Mukden.


793.94/1805: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — 3 p.m.
[Received September 19 — 7 a.m.]


Legation’s 602, September 19, 2 p.m.

Member of my staff called on Counselor of Japanese Legation in the absence of the Japanese Minister who is in Shanghai. He was informed that the Mukden incident appears to have been caused by an attempt on the part of some three or four hundred Chinese soldiers to blow up the line of the South Manchuria Railway immediately to the north of Mukden. A Japanese force was sent to investigate and prevent further damage to the line but when they arrived they were opposed by the Chinese soldiers and a brief engagement ensued. The Japanese thereupon decided as a precautionary measure to occupy certain parts of the city. In reply to a question he stated there may be no connection between the events of last night and the representations the Japanese Government had made regarding other incidents and that, on the contrary, they had been encouraged by the conciliatory attitude the Chinese had recently shown in connection with the Nakamura [case?]. When asked whether it was true that Japanese troops had occupied Kowpangtze he replied he did not know but doubted it very much.


793.94/1798: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — 5 p.m.
[Received September 19 — 7 a.m.]


Military Attaché’s office informs me as follows:

Japanese Military Attaché and Naval Attaché state that three [or] four days ago several Japanese pickets were ambushed and killed by Chinese soldiers on South Manchuria Railway, that South Manchuria Railway was cut north of Mukden and that due to these events and Nakamura case they have seized Mukden, Changchun, Yingkou and Kowpangtze and railway connecting with last two places. That arsenals in Mukden have been seized and that fighting has occurred there and at Changchun. Chinese troops in neighborhood of Mukden have been disarmed. Further state that occupation of territory laterally from South Manchuria Railway will only be in depth to guard their flanks.


793.94/1796: Telegram

The Chargé in Japan to the Secretary of State

Tokyo, September 19, 1931 — 5 p.m.
[Received September 19 — 7:33 a.m.]


Embassy’s 150, September 19, noon.

Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs informs me that according to information at hand the South Manchuria Railway guards at Mukden discovered last night about 10 o’clock that part of the track north of Mukden was being torn up. They called assistance and proceeded to break up the interference when they were confronted by several hundred Chinese soldiers in uniform coming out of the north camp. The Japanese military authorities thereupon sent out a force sufficient to drive off the Chinese and by 10 o’clock this morning had occupied the whole of Mukden and its environment. I am now informed that a special Cabinet meeting was held today and orders have been dispatched to the Japanese commander in chief of the army in Manchuria to stop all further aggressive military operations. The Foreign Office has promised to keep me advised.

Copy to Peiping.


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793.94/1799: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — 8 p.m.
[Received September 19 — 10:10 a.m.]


Following telegram has been received from Langdon at Dairen.

September 19, 2 p.m. Consul at Mukden telephones for repetition to you that Japanese took over whole of Mukden at 1 a.m., this morning; they have also occupied Changchun, Antung and Newchwang and are running public services at all these places. Foreigners are all safe.


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793.94/1800: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 19, 1931 — 9 p.m.
[Received September 19 — 10:25 a.m.]


Following undated from American Consul General at Mukden, repeated by naval radio from Shanghai:

September 19, 4 p.m. Please forward to Legation at Peiping. Sano, Japanese Consulate, reports South Manchuria Railway cut about 20 miles north of Mukden by 400 Chinese troops from Peitaiying garrison, 150 Japanese troops engaging Chinese. Desultory artillery fire can be heard from Mukden. Obviously not a severe engagement. Chinese Foreign Office telephoned 1:45. Chinese had requested Japanese cease firing but without avail. Japanese have blocked railway settlement to all including foreigners. No danger to foreigners anticipated although serious political complications will very likely arise.




Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Current Information of the press conference

September 19, 1931

. . . . . . .

CHINA – Secretary Stimson said that the news received by the Department concerning the occurrences at Mukden, Manchuria, substantially confirmed the press dispatches. The contents of the telegrams to the Department have been conveyed to the press, not for attribution to the Department of State, because the news contained therein was from Chinese sources. Asked if the telegrams to the Department substantiated this morning’s press reports concerning the capture of Mukden by the Japanese, the Secretary replied that Mukden appeared to have been taken by Japanese soldiers against the opposition of their Government representatives. The Secretary said, furthermore, that from the press dispatches and the telegraphic dispatches received by the Department it appears to be perfectly clear that the incident was caused by the action of the soldiers against the efforts of the representatives of their Government at Mukden. The Secretary said that he was merely giving the correspondents the reports he had received to date and which, so far, had not been contradicted. A correspondent here observed that when Polish soldiers captured a Lithuanian town they gave out the same story. In reply, Mr. Stimson said he did not remember the details of the Lithuanian incident.

Asked then if the incident in Mukden came under the provisions of the Four-Power Pacific Treaty, the Secretary said he thought not and that, judging from the dispatches received, it was not a clash of Governments, but a clash of subordinates of Governments, and that it would not, therefore, come under either the Kellogg Pact or any of the other Treaties. A correspondent then observed that clashes between governments usually grow out of smaller things. In reply, Mr. Stimson said it might lead to something that would call for the invocation of the Kellogg Pact or other Treaties, but it certainly is not yet an act of war by one Government against another, according to the press dispatches. The Secretary here said that his remarks were not for attribution to himself or to the Department of State and that they were for guidance only. A correspondent then said he thought he had a right to know whether the United States viewed this incident as coming under the provisions of any of the Treaties above mentioned. He was informed, in reply, that the Secretary had given him all he was entitled to know and that the information given above was merely for his guidance. The correspondent then said that the public was not interested in his (the correspondent’s) view and that it is interested in the views of the Department of State. The correspondent then asked if he could obtain some statement which he could publish on the authority of the Department of State. Mr. Stimson then said that our information was very imperfect and that the correspondents were trying to make him jump before he was ready. The correspondent then said that he was not attempting to do such a thing or to do anything that would be unfair to the Secretary of State. In reply, Mr. Stimson said he did not mean to use the word “unfair”, but the fact of the matter is we are just beginning to receive dispatches from the disturbed area. Anyone who has the facts probably would reach the same conclusion which the Department has, which is that so far, the matter does not involve the two Governments and is not, therefore, under the provisions of the Kellogg Pact. The correspondent then said that the above statement was proper news and interesting to the reading public because of the great interest in the Kellogg Pact. Mr. Stimson then said that the correspondents might use the following for attribution: The Department is following the matter carefully, but on the news thus far received there seems to be no ground for indicating any violation of the Kellogg Pact.

Asked if the United States has any extensive commercial interests in the region around Mukden, the Secretary said he understood our trade with that district was small.

. . . . . . .



The Pittsburgh Press (September 19, 1931)

China’s troops fight Japanese invasion; many die in battle

350 Manchurians imprisoned during bombardment of Mukden

Tokyo, Japan (UP) –
Fierce fighting between Japanese and Chinese in the Mukden area, with many casualties, was reported to the War Office today.

Japanese detachments were meeting strong opposition in their attempts to occupy Chinese military posts, advices said. Ten Japanese were reported killed and 40 injured.

Chinese casualties were heavy in an engagement near the north peak of Kirin. 800 Japanese were attempting to occupy the peak and have reportedly surrounded it.

Reattack barracks

According to advices here, 10,000 Chinese appear to have recaptured the eastern barracks at Mukden. The Japanese 29th Regiment of 900 men is reattacking the barracks and considerable casualties were reported.

At Changchun, casualties were reported in occupation of the south peak.

Kirin troops were reinforced by Chinese defending Kwangchengtse and Nanking. Heavy fighting was reported and Japanese reinforcements were en route from Kungchuling.

350 Chinese imprisoned

Japanese soldiers imprisoned 350 Chinese troops during the morning bombardment of the walled city. They were transported in motortrucks to a temporary detention camp behind the Chinese gendarmerie headquarters.

Twenty Chinese policemen and the son of a Chinese general were arrested and questioned by the Japanese.

Later, part of a Japanese regiment at Heijō was reported entraining for Korea.

The Chinese barracks at Peitaiying were reported in flames, presumably as the result of a bombardment. At Antung, Japanese troops disarmed a Chinese gunboat.

Issues proclamation

Gen. Jirō Tamon, commanding the Japanese forces at Mukden, issued a proclamation saying the Japanese would protect property of citizens.

He prohibited mass meetings and demonstrations and said looters would be executed.

Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, Chinese President, was en route to the battlefront in Hunan Province, where National troops were rushed to meet an invasion by Cantonese. It appeared that a large-scale civil war would be added to China’s recent terrific flood damage in the Yangtze Valley and her quarrel with Japan.

Dynamiting of an iron bridge on the main line of the South Manchurian Railway, attributed to Chinese, and an alleged attack by 300 Chinese troops on headquarters of Japanese Railway guards at Peitaiying, three miles north of Mukden, precipitated the fighting, Japanese officials said.


U.S. State Department (September 20, 1931)

793.94/1806: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 20, 1931 — 2 a.m.
[Received September 19 — 10 p.m.]


Following from Mukden via Shanghai:

September 19, 8 a.m. All Americans safe although statement in my earlier telegram regarding safety of foreigners was somewhat premature. Japanese machine guns opened [fire on?] motor car carrying Chinese in International Settlement killing chauffeur, wounding occupant, bullets passing over Mukden Club window and automobiles of Americans standing in compound. Japanese troops now control International Settlement and surround native city. At 5 p.m. yesterday Japanese Consulate General assured me that chance of immediate trouble had practically passed due to conciliatory attitude of Chinese. Believe whole episode complete surprise to Japanese Consulate General. International Settlement now quiet.



793.94/1807: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 20, 1931 — 11 p.m. [a.m.?]
[Received September 20 — 3 a.m.]


Commandant of American Guard who is Senior Commandant informs me that Commandant of Japanese Legation Guard came to him this morning and after informing him of happenings in Manchuria along the lines reported in Tokyo’s 153, September 19, 5 p.m., referred to possibility of attacks upon Japanese nationals resident in Peiping. He asked concerning attitude of the Senior Commandant in such eventuality with special reference to general plan of defense of foreigners and Legation Quarter in case of attack. Commandant of American Guard replied with my approval that present situation involving as it does only Japanese would not warrant invoking of general plan. Senior Commandant suggested that if Japanese citizens are threatened outside Legation Quarter obvious step would be for Japanese authorities to bring them into their own Legation.

Repeated to commander in chief.


793.94/1820: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva to the Secretary of State

Geneva, September 20, 1931 — 4 p.m.
[Received September 21 — 2:15 p.m.]


Late Saturday afternoon, following a private session of the Council in which the affair was presumably discussed, the Japanese delegate, at the request of the President of the Council, made a brief statement concerning the Mukden incident.

This statement was to the effect that the information received by him was meager and that he had requested further details from his Government and would keep the Council informed of developments. He added that the Japanese Government would doubtless take measures to attempt to insure that this local incident should not lead to more serious complications, and to effect an appeasement of the situation.

Dr. Sze, the Chinese delegate, took the occasion to speak immediately afterwards expressing deep concern in regard to this “highly regrettable incident”. He added that the information thus far at hand seemed to indicate that the Chinese were not responsible for the incident. He stated that he would not fail to communicate to the Council any authentic information which he obtained.

The President of the Council, Mr. Lerroux of Spain, noted the statements and said that the Council had heard with satisfaction that the Japanese Government would take the necessary measures to bring about an appeasement of the situation and expressed the hope for a prompt settlement of the question.

No other member of the Council spoke on the subject. It was evidently the intention of the President to attempt to allay apprehension by the public declarations referred to above.

[Paraphrase] This morning Dr. Sze called on me to say that he was aware of my following in a strategical way the Council’s proceedings, so he thought the Chinese position in this matter might be of interest to me.

I was told by Sze that the chief delegates of certain powers had met informally and privately prior to the Council’s meeting on Saturday and had more or less decided against having the question brought up before the Council. This attitude Sze attributed to Japanese influence. Certain delegates after the meeting approached him as to whether he intended to present the question, and for reasons to be explained later in this telegram, he would not say what he planned to do. He gave as his excuse that he was receiving messages from Nanking which might control his action. In consequence of his reply, another meeting was held by the same delegates, and following this (in this case apparently as a result), the question was presented to the Council by the Japanese delegate. This Japanese action, incidentally, is interpreted here as a Japanese desire (as they do not know Sze’s plans), by taking the initiative, to prevent bringing up the aspect of good faith. However, it resulted in allowing the Chinese delegate to make a move without initiating it in a way which might be interpreted to be tantamount to an appeal to the Council.

I learned from Sze that he was not able and probably would not be able during the present Council session to communicate to it any more authentic information regarding the Mukden situation, since he had been informed from Nanking of the cutting by the Japanese of communications from Mukden to Peiping and Nanking, thereby preventing his getting any information from Mukden. Sze attributed this Japanese cutting of communications as an act to prevent the true facts becoming known before the Council’s meetings have concluded. He also revealed to me that instructions from his Government on the position he should take at Geneva had not yet been received; that his action would be governed by these instructions, but that he would put off this action as long as he could, even if directed to present the question to the League.

After the above statements, it became apparent why Sze had come to see me. The press in Europe has published articles under a Washington date line about the United States considering the relationship of the current situation to the Four-Power Pacific Treaty’s provisions. Sze said he felt that action under this treaty or under the Kellogg Pact of 1928 would be better for China than League of Nations action, since the stronger position of Japan in the League would militate against China. According to Sze, Japan can use its position by employing its relations to questions of Europe as trading points. Sze has no wish to fall between two stools, but if there is a possibility that Washington may take the action mentioned above, Sze does wish to avoid an appeal to the League, especially as he feels that possible American action might be prejudiced by prior League action. From the foregoing it will be noted that neither Japan nor China has as yet requested the League Council to act in this matter.

While listening to Sze’s statements, naturally I made no comments. If the Department should make any public statements or any statements to the press on the situation, I should appreciate having their substance. It is probable that nothing will happen tomorrow, but at the meeting of the League Assembly, scheduled at present for September 22, the matter may come to a head. [End paraphrase]