Mukden, September 20, 1931. No. 446
Sir: I have the honor to advise the Legation as stated in my several telegrams of September 19 that at about 1 a.m. on that morning, Japanese troops entered the International Settlement at Mukden and surrounded the Native City. The city itself was invested in the early hours of the morning. Chinese troops were, at the first signs of trouble, ordered to retire without resistance. Insofar as Mukden is concerned the transfer took place with no resistance from Chinese troops and with few indications of any desire to fight on the part of the Chinese. A few unfortunate incidents will be noted in this dispatch. Since the taking over of Mukden, the Consulate General has been informed that Changchun, Newchwang, Antung and Kwangchengtze were also taken over on the morning of the 19th. The International Settlement has been quiet and Americans and other foreigners, although advised to remain at home after dark, have felt fairly safe.
Firing started about 11 o’clock on Friday evening and for some time thereafter it was believed by most people to indicate only the not unusual Japanese sham battle. At about 11:30, however, firing from heavier guns was heard from the southeast of Mukden. Shortly after 12, I proceeded to the Japanese Consulate General and was informed by Vice Consul Miura that Chinese troops had blown up two sections of the South Manchuria Railway at Pei Tai Ying near the Chinese north camp, a few miles north of Mukden; they had also opened fire on a detachment of Japanese troops who had defended themselves and called for enforcements. This was the explanation of the firing then heard. Unbelievable as it may sound, I am reasonably certain that the Japanese Consulate General did not know at that time that it was the intention of the military authorities immediately to occupy Chinese territory. They were, of course, intensely worried as to the probable repercussions of the affair but I very much doubt their having prior knowledge of the actual moving of troops. I was, while at the Consulate General, assured as to the entire safety of foreigners.
On Saturday, the 19th, the Consulate General notified Americans that while it had little doubt as to their safety, as an elementary precaution, it was recommended that they remain at home after dark. In company with the British Consul General I called on the Japanese Consul General at 5 p.m. to inquire as to what measures were being taken for the protection of the life and property of our nationals in the International Settlement and in the native city. The Japanese Consul General assured us that he had made every effort to impress upon the Commander-in-Chief, S. Honjo, the necessity for such protection and while he could not tell us the exact number of police, troops and gendarmes that would be available for this work, he had every hope that his urgings had had the desired effect. Mr. Hayashi told us in confidence that when the military came in charge they were extremely difficult to deal with. This fact has been obvious from the first. Both Mr. Eastes and I had to be satisfied with Mr. Hayashi’s statement with regard to protection. I requested a special military guard for the National City Bank of New York and Mr. Eastes for the Hongkong Bank. It is now the night of September 20 and, although a few shots can be heard from time to time, it is believed that every precaution is being taken for the protection of foreigners.
The two code telegrams sent from this Consulate General early Saturday morning were returned from the Chinese telegraph office and were sent Japanese lines via Shanghai. No assurance could be obtained as to their getting through in code and there was considerable doubt about telegrams en clair. Another telegram was, however, sent en clair and in order to make assurance doubly sure the Consulate General got indirectly into communication with Consul Langdon at Dairen and requested that he telegraph the bare details to the Legation, the Department and the Embassy at Tokyo. Up to this time this Consulate General does not know how many, if any, of its wires have been received by the Legation. True readings of the code telegrams and readings of the en clair telegrams are therefore enclosed.
This Consulate General finds it difficult to give credence to the Japanese explanation of the incident. The movement into Chinese territory was too sudden and too concerted to have been caused by an explosion on the South Manchuria Railway line at 10:30 p.m. Officials of the Consulate General have not given this as their own explanation but they confine themselves to saying “We have been informed by the military authorities that, etc. etc.” At 5 p.m. on the afternoon of the eighteenth I called at the Japanese Consulate General to ascertain if there were any new developments in the Nakamura affair. I found that it was felt to be progressing very satisfactorily due to the conciliatory attitude recently adopted by the Chinese. To quote a statement made to me that day by an official of the Japanese Consulate General when discussing the possibility of trouble:
The Chinese are very wise to adopt a conciliatory attitude and tell the truth in this matter for Japan holds two sabres, the South Manchuria Railway lines from Dairen to Mukden and from Korea to Mukden. But Japan with this strength in the form of these sabres would be very wrong to use it unless something very bad were done by the Chinese and unless they refused to treat the matter fairly.
The “something very bad” happened but I cannot believe that the Japanese Consulate General had any idea that it was going to happen and I do not believe that the Japanese consular officials give any credence whatsoever to the military authorities’ statement that the affair was a matter of Chinese aggression.
Captain Mayer’s telegram of 6 p.m. September 20 gives a very clear account of Japanese military activity so far, which he obtained from the Japanese military authorities. There were a few incidents of what is believed to have been unnecessary terrorism. Japanese troops are reliably reported to have seized the Trench Mortar Arsenal, to have killed the military guards who offered no resistance and to have tossed hand grenades into the workmen’s quarters killing twenty men. The old gateman at the Chinese Post Office made a faint gesture of protest when troops took the postmen’s bicycles and received a terrible beating with rifle butts for his pains. He was sent to the Hospital. It is understood that Chinese policemen were shot in many instances when a few police boxes endeavored mistakenly to resist the Japanese. This morning Mr. Sugden, the British works manager of the Peking-Mukden Railway shops, endeavored to reach his office in his car driven by a Chinese chauffeur and draped with the British flag. The car was stopped the chauffeur beaten and the British flag torn from the car stamped and spat upon. Mr. Sugden escaped with a torn coat. The British Consul General protested strongly to the Japanese consular authorities and Mr. Hayashi, the Japanese Consul General, immediately called in person on the military authorities. An apology is expected soon. As was stated in my telegram of 8 a.m. September 19, a Chinese chauffeur was killed opposite the Mukden Club at about 2 a.m. The owner of the car died in the morning from wounds received. Stray bullets entered the Mukden Club and in addition damaged the motor cars of several Americans in the Club compound. No foreigners were hurt. A protest was made by this office to the Japanese Consulate General and expressions of extreme regret as well as assurances of future safety for Americans were received. However, when it is considered that a city of some 400,000 people changed from Chinese to Japanese hands literally overnight it must be admitted that there has been remarkably little bloodshed and few untoward incidents.
ANDREW G. LYNCH