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


The Vice Consul at Mukden to the Minister in China

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.

Respectfully yours,


The Pittsburgh Press (September 20, 1931)

Heavy fighting in Mukden threatens open warfare with China

Casualties mount

Nipponese occupy four cities; Chang continues non-resistance policy

Tokyo, Japan (UP) – (Sept. 19)
Japanese troops occupied the walled city of Mukden and other Chinese military posts tonight after heavy fighting which threatened to flare into open warfare between China and Japan in Manchuria.

Casualties mounted, with a score of Japanese dead and many wounded, dispatches to the War Office reported. The Chinese dead were believed heavy.

The Cabinet in extraordinary session sought under guidance of Foreign Minister Baron Shidehara to minimize the incident. Japanese troops in Korea, ordered to Mukden, were stopped at the border with the exception of aviation units.

Disarms gendarmes

Marshal Chang Hsüeh-liang, the “young general” in command of Manchuria, meanwhile ordered his troops to pursue a policy of non-resistance to prevent further bloodshed. He insisted he had disarmed the Chinese gendarmes and that the Japanese troops “attacked unarmed men.”

The Japanese Foreign Office, following Shidehara’s policy of non-aggression, insisted on immediate evacuation of seized Chinese areas fearing development of open warfare. The War Office, however, following its traditional “strong policy” toward China, demanded the troops be allowed to remain until the safety of Japanese nationals and property in South Manchuria was assured.

Take over airdrome

Dispatches from Mukden said Japanese troops had occupied the native city outside the Japanese-leased railway zone and the Japanese “railroad city” of Mukden, and had taken over the airdrome, completing control of all communications.

Martial law, while not formally proclaimed, was in effect in the beleaguered areas.

The Japanese military action took place first at Mukden, but spread throughout South Manchuria, and a half-dozen cities and military posts were occupied by swift moves of troops stationed along the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railway.

The United States Consul-General in Mukden reported the Japanese had occupied Mukden, Newchwang, Antung and Changchun, along one end of Manchuria’s rich farming lands.

Fighting follows blast

Fighting broke out after an explosion on the South Manchuria Railway outside Mukden early today. Mukden dispatches indicated uncertainty over who started the hostilities. The Japanese claim railway guards heard the explosion and rushed to the spot.

This version said there they encountered Chinese soldiers and that the Chinese opened fire. The Chinese version, countering this, asserted that the Japanese opened fire first. There had been increasing tenseness on both sides since the execution by the Chinese recently of Capt. Shintarō Nakamura, a Japanese officer, shot as a spy.

The Chinese policy of non-resistance, after the first fighting, was said to have prevented high casualties. Japanese troops occupied Kowpangtze, at the junction of the Peiping-Mukden Railway near Newchwang, cutting off the Manchurian forces inside the Great Wall of China.

Chinese dispatches said Japanese artillery fire killed scores of Manchurians near Mukden.

The United States Chargé d’Affaires in Tokyo, in frequent contact with the Japanese government since the outbreak of trouble in Manchuria, called again at the Foreign Office late today presumably to inquire further into the possible application of the Kellogg Pact outlawing war.

The War Office, meanwhile, insisted the troops continue to occupy the strategic posts held during the fighting. It was intimated officials there felt today’s fighting would:

…teach China a lesson and assure protection of Japan’s rights for a long time.

The Foreign Office, disagreeing as usual with the War Office, sent S. Morishima to Mukden to convey the Cabinet’s non-aggression decision to the consul general. The demand that the posts be evacuated was immediately reiterated by this branch of the government.

Damages to the South Manchuria Railroad during the fighting were repaired and traffic restored to normal.

It was announced that 10,400 Japanese troops with 16 field guns are between Antung and Mukden, while the Manchurians have 220,000 troops and 40 big guns available.


Chang blames ‘war’ on Japanese troops

Mukden, Manchuria (UP) – (Sept. 19)
Blame for the fighting between Japanese and Chinese troops in Manchuria was placed on the Japanese today by Marshal Chang Hsüeh-Liang.

The ruler of three Manchurian provinces said he suspected the “Japanese intended to provoke an incident” and declared they “themselves destroyed the railway.”

Marshal Chang told the United Press correspondent:

I ordered the troops outside Mukden disarmed several days ago, suspecting the Japanese intended to provoke an incident. The Japanese therefore attacked unarmed men.

I am informed the Japanese themselves destroyed the railway and used this as a pretext for occupation of strategic points.

A communiqué said Japanese gunfire killed “numerous Chinese” in Newchwang and Changchun, northern terminus of the South Manchuria Railway.

Japanese troops went into the Chinese city here and at half a dozen other places along the railway, disarming police and taking control. Marshal Chang ordered a policy of non-resistance and troops and police alike submitted. Prisoners totaled 1,600.


Chinese protest Japan’s action

Nanking, China (UP) – (Sept. 19)
A protest against Japan’s occupation of Mukden and other strategic points in Manchuria was lodged today with the Japanese government through its minister here.

The protest was handed Minister Shigemitsu by Dr. C. T. Wang, Foreign Minister. It demanded immediate cessation of:

…hostile action by Japanese forces and immediate withdrawal to their original posts.

The Chinese Chargé d’Affaires in Tokyo was ordered to lodge a similar protest direct with the Japanese government.

Anti-Japanese demonstrations were feared as tension spread following reports of fighting in Manchuria.

A hurried session of the central political counsel was called, but adjourned without acting to await a more complete report on the incident.

Gen. Chiang was on his way to the battlefront in Hunan Province, in south-central China, where bandits, communists and rebel forces threatened Nanking’s authority.

A dispatch from Peiping said the authorities in the north had telegraphed Canton, in the far south, informing the rebel “government” leaders of the Japanese action in Manchuria and urging a truce enabling China to present a united front against Japan.


U.S. State Department (September 21, 1931)

793.94/1812: Telegram

The Chargé in Japan to the Secretary of State

Tokyo, September 21, 1931 — 10 a.m.
[Received September 21 — 3:33 a.m.]


Embassy’s 150, September 19, noon.

I have since learned by telegram from the Consul at Dairen that the Japanese have occupied Antung, Newchwang and Changchun. This was confirmed from Japanese sources and by the Chinese Chargé.

The Chinese Chargé told me that he had presented a note by instruction from Nanking asking the Japanese (1) to refrain from further military operations and (2) to withdraw their armed forces. He said that the Foreign Office had informed him that orders had already been issued to stop military operations; that in regard to (2) the Japanese Government was deliberating but they were determined to safeguard the lives and property of the civilian population, Japanese and foreign as well as Chinese. I understand that the Japanese authorities are operating all public services at the occupied areas.

Recent reports indicate consistent unrest in the Chientao region on the Korean border. I have been unable as yet to ascertain just what is taking place there.

Repeated to Peiping.


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793.94/1815: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 21, 1931 — noon.
[Received September 21 — 10 a.m.


Your 330, September 19, 3 p.m., received September 21, 9 a.m.

  1. In my 604, September 19, 4 p.m., I suggested that it seemed to me wise that I be in Peiping for the present to watch the situation. It seems also wise to be here where I can consult with my British colleague about local matters…

  2. My telegrams sent on the 19th and 20th will have given Department all of the factual information which has come to my knowledge. No one appears to be able to give satisfactory reason for chain of incidents which began about 10 o’clock on the evening of September 18th and which by steady progress have resulted in putting all of Manchuria south of Changchun and east of the Peking-Mukden Railway line under Japanese military control. Legation has endeavored to keep Department informed of details of Nakamura case. It is my belief that it was this incident which precipitated the chain of events above referred to. Travelers and visitors in Manchuria have informed me that for some two or three weeks past Japanese soldiers have been carrying out daily and nightly maneuvers and sham fights in and around the railway settlements along the line of the South Manchuria Railway from Changchun to Liaoning, using blank cartridges. British Minister, who was in Changchun the other day, described to me such a sham fight which occurred in and about the railway station while he was having money changed and which created a tremendous disturbance.

Guests in hotels state that during such sham fighting Japanese soldiers would enter hotels, seek out vacant rooms, plant machine guns in windows and on roofs and immediately commence firing to the disturbance of everyone. It is my present belief that much of this was deliberately staged for the purpose of accustoming the populace to the maneuvering of Japanese soldiery day and night and to the sound of machine and other guns.

  1. Japanese statement contained in my 603, September 19, 3 p.m., Tilson’s telegrams September 19, 1 p.m., and September 19, 6 p.m.,) is to the effect that this chain of incidents was not precipitated by Nakamura affair but was started because of clash between Japanese guards and armed Chinese soldiers attempting to break South Manchuria Railway tracks.

It seems to me absurd to believe that mere destruction of railway tracks would warrant occupation of Manchuria, and to imply that chain of events above mentioned was accidental or occurred on the spur of the moment leaves out of consideration the fact that whole series of incidents involving military occupation of places as far apart as Changchun, Newchwang, Antung, Kowpangtze and Hulutao implies a degree of staff work which could not [have been?] improvised. Furthermore it is our understanding here that Japanese military headquarters were transferred almost immediately from Port Arthur to Mukden.

  1. There has been ample indication in the situation arising out of Nakamura affair of indignation on the part of the Japanese military over the whole situation in Manchuria and a desire to avenge Japan for indignities due to unsettled cases and in particular the alleged execution of a Japanese military officer upon active duty.

I understand that Japanese military believe this necessary to restoration of their popularity. Some ten days ago I was informed by Dr. J. C. Ferguson of his belief that Japan intended to occupy Manchuria within three months. There have been other statements of this kind although I have been unwilling to put too much faith or credence in them, but now that the event has transpired I cannot escape the feeling that it is the result of careful planning. I am without any information as to what Japan next proposes to do but I imagine that before Japan retires from points now in occupation she will demand and receive satisfactory settlement of all points at issue at least in regard to Manchuria.

  1. It will be interesting to see what bearing all this will have upon Extraterritorial negotiations between Japan and China.

  2. The situation today is that Japan is in possession of South Manchuria. Train service between Peiping and Mukden is open but I understand that entry into Manchuria along usual lines of communication is only accomplished with the permission of Japanese authorities.

Repeated to Tokyo.


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793.94/1817: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 21, 1931 — 5 p.m.
[Received September 21 — 11:45 a.m.]


Assistant Military Attaché of this Legation called on Japanese Military Attaché this afternoon and obtained from him following information:

Japanese subjects in Harbin and Kirin are in a dangerous position. In Kirin they have all been collected in the Japanese Consulate and have sent an appeal to the military authorities in Mukden for protection. Chang Tso-hsiang, Governor of Kirin, is apparently away and his second in command says that he is unable to protect Japanese subjects. In Harbin the situation is also grave, accordingly General Honjo has ordered the Second Japanese Division to proceed to Kirin and Harbin from the neighborhood of Mukden. This movement as I understand it has not begun as yet. Japanese Military Attaché said that Chinese troops were gathering for an attack on Szepingkai, the Fushun coal mines, and implied that they were also about to attack Japanese in Kirin.

When asked as to what Soviet Russia would say to the occupation of Harbin he replied that he did not think they would actually fight or move any troops but that Japanese would be exposed to all kinds of subversive tactics.

He further stated that a mixed brigade was being held on the Yalu River under readiness for duty in Manchuria and that he considered that reinforcements of the Manchurian garrison were absolutely necessary although he claims that he does not know that these reinforcements will take place.

Japanese Military Attaché denies that Kowpangtze and Hulutao have been occupied.

Repeated to Tokyo.


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The Chinese Chargé to the Secretary of State

Washington, September 21, 1931.

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I am instructed by my Government to bring to your attention the occupation of Chinese territory by Japanese troops in Manchuria.

Japanese troops near Shenyang (Mukden), without the slightest provocation, opened an attack on the Chinese barracks on September 18, at 10 p.m. and continued bombarding the Chinese camps and arsenal, killing a large number of Chinese people in spite of the complete nonresistance of the Chinese troops. The whole city of Shenyang and its vicinity were occupied by Japanese troops by September 19, at 6:30 a.m. The occupation of Antung is already confirmed, and possibly other places also are now under Japanese military control.

As the United States, China and Japan are all signatory powers of the Kellogg Pact, and as the United States is the sponsor of the sacred engagements contained in this Treaty, the American Government must be deeply interested in this case of unprovoked and unwarranted attack and subsequent occupation of Chinese cities by Japanese troops, which constitutes a deliberate violation of the Pact. The Chinese Government urgently appeals to the American Government to take such steps as will insure the preservation of peace in the Far East and the upholding of the principle of peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Accept [etc.]


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793.94/1816: Telegram

The Minister in Switzerland to the Secretary of State

Geneva, September 21, 1931 — 2 p.m.
[Received September 21 — 11:30 a.m.]



Relative to armed clash in Manchuria between forces of China and Japan, Sir Eric Drummond could offer no unprejudiced information and he queried of me whether you would furnish him with facts for his own guidance.

Drummond desires to have also your opinion on the involvement of the Kellogg Pact in this matter and the basis for your views.


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793.94/1821: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva to the Secretary of State

Geneva, September 21, 1931 — 5 p.m.
[Received 7 p.m.]


Consulate’s No. 116, September 20, 4 p.m.

The Secretary General circulated to the Council late this afternoon a note which he had just received from a representative of China on the Council. The Secretary General in agreement with the President of the Council has convoked the Council to meet tomorrow morning to take up this matter.

The Chinese note dated today is as follows:

I am instructed by the National Government of China to bring to your attention the facts stated below and to request that in virtue of article 11 of the Covenant of the League of Nations you forthwith summon a meeting of the Council of the League in order that it may take such action as it may deem wise and effectual so that the peace of nations may be safeguarded.

Through statements made to it at its meeting on September 19 by the representatives of China and Japan, the Council was advised of the fact that a serious situation had been created in Manchuria. In his statement at that meeting the representative of China declared that the information which he then had, indicated that the situation had been created through no fault on the part of the Chinese. Since September 19 the undersigned has received from his Government information which discloses a situation of greater gravity than had appeared by the first report and which revealed that beginning from 10 o’clock of the night of September 18th regular troops of Japanese soldiers without provocation of any kind opened rifle and artillery fire upon Chinese I soldiers at or near the city of Mukden, bombarded the arsenal and barracks of the Chinese soldiers, set fire to the ammunition depot, disarmed the Chinese troops in Changchun (Kwangchengtse) and other places, and later took military occupation of the cities of Mukden and Antung and other places and of public buildings therein, and are now in such occupation. Lines of communication have also been seized by Japanese troops.

To these acts of violence the Chinese soldiers and populace acting under instructions from the Chinese Government have made no resistance and have refrained from conduct which might in any way aggravate the situation.

In view of the foregoing facts the Republic of China, a member of the League of Nations, asserts that a situation has arisen which calls for action under the terms of article 11 of the Covenant. I am therefore instructed by my Government to request that, in pursuance of authority given to it by article 11 of the Covenant, the Council take immediate steps: to prevent the further development of a situation endangering the peace of nations; to reestablish the status quo ante; and to determine the amounts and character of such reparations as may be found due to the Republic of China.

I will add that the Government of China is fully prepared to act in conformity with whatever recommendations it may receive from the Council, and to abide by whatever decisions the League of Nations may adopt in the premises.


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The Pittsburgh Press (September 21, 1931)

Japanese planes bomb troop trains in Manchuria

By Martin Sommers, United Press staff writer

Kowpangtze, Manchuria –
Japanese troops were in control of all railways and telegraph lines within 100 miles of Mukden today and Chinese residents were evacuating toward Peiping in panic.

Five hundred Chinese and 100 Japanese have been killed in fighting at Mukden and vicinity, according to unofficial estimates.

Japanese airplanes today dropped bombs on 50 Chinese troops in coaches sidetracked at Shinminfu, 35 miles east of Mukden.

The attack was the first of several bombing expeditions the Japanese were expected to make on Chinese troop concentrations.

A special train carrying newspaper correspondents into the occupied area was stopped here today while efforts were made to obtain Japanese permission to proceed to Mukden.

Chinese civilians swarmed over the train as it arrived, believing international opposition to the Japanese had arrived. They were expelled with difficulty. On every hand, fear of the Japanese was expressed.

A Manchurian communiqué said today that Japanese airplanes had descended with bombs and machine guns on Hsinminton, Pahushan, Tungliao, Taonan and Taotzetsai, scattering troops there.

Japanese detachments occupied Taonan and Kirin, the communiqué said, thus seizing all of Manchuria.

Chinese officers estimated 9,000 troops had left Mukden.

United States Consul John Carter Vincent was seized by Japanese soldiers at Mukden today when he arrived.

Vincent came in on a midnight train and Japanese soldiers became suspicious. They pointed their bayonets at him and ordered him to surrender. The consul was taken to a hotel, where he showed his official papers and received apologies. His baggage was returned. Vincent said he did not plan to make a formal protest.

Japanese Cabinet discusses quarrel

Tokyo, Japan –
The Japanese Cabinet was in session here today, hoping to be able to announce a definite date for evacuation of occupied Chinese territories.

Continued reports of disorders, however, made it appear doubtful if a date could be named. Clashes continued in the Chientao section and military reinforcements were dispatched from Korea.

Gen. Senjūrō Hayashi, commanding in Korea, sent a brigade into Manchuria today, asserting the military necessity of protecting Koreans in Chientao.

Later he notified the General Staff of his action. It informed the Cabinet, which had no choice but to approve.

Baron Shidehara, Foreign Minister, renewed his objections today to the War Ministry’s proposal to dispatch soldiers to Manchuria.

China asks League for intervention

Geneva, Switzerland (UP) –
China today officially requested the League of Nations to intervene in the China-Japan dispute in Manchuria. It is expected that the League Council would be summoned immediately to consider China’s request.

The council was expected to ask Japan and China to withdraw their troops behind the lines, and create a commission to investigate the dispute.

Alfred Sze, Chinese delegate to the League, handed Sir Eric Drummond, Secretary General, a note requesting intervention under Article XI of the League covenant.

Article XI, covering action in case of war of threat of war, provides that such a contingency shall be a matter of concern to the whole League, and that the League shall take any action:

…that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations.

The Chinese delegation said China’s note to the League was couched in grave terms and called the Japanese action at Mukden “a menace to peace.”

U.S. views tension as more serious

Washington (UP) –
The State Department today viewed Chinese-Japanese tension in Manchuria as more “serious” than last Saturday, but has not yet decided to remind Japan and China of their obligations under the Kellogg Pact.

There were indications that the Nine-Power Pact of 1922, calling on signatories to consult in the event of Oriental disturbances might apply to the present situation. Thus far, the State Department has made no move to pacify the combatants.

U.S. State Department (September 22, 1931)

793.94/1825: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 22, 1931 — 11 a.m.
[Received September 22 — 9:55 a.m.]


Following from Mukden:

September 21, 8 p.m. Japanese military occupation is being extended to Kirin for the purpose of maintaining order in that city. Heavy movement of troops and artillery north from Mukden yesterday. Main body of Japanese troops now at Changchun. Practically all Chinese forces have been brought down the Peiping-Mukden Railway to Chinchow and Shanhaikwan. Japanese have taken no point west of Mukden on the Peiping-Mukden Railway. It is estimated that over 20,000 panic-stricken Chinese have already fled on trains towards Shanhaikwan. A provisional administration of Chinese has been appointed in Mukden walled city under the direction of the Japanese in an attempt to reassure Chinese and stop the exodus. Chinese banks have been taken by the Japanese and reports are that they are removing stocks of silver. A request from the Japanese authorities for information concerning Chang Hsüeh-liang bank account was refused politely today by the National City Bank. Mukden has been quiet today.


793.94/1827: Telegram

The Minister in China to the Secretary of State

Peiping, September 22, 1931 — 3 p.m.
[Received September 22 — 10:25 a.m.]


Following from Consul General, Nanking:

September 21, 4 p.m.

  1. In conversations with Hsu Mo and Tyau of the Foreign Office September 21, 3 p.m., I have learned following interesting rumors: Reported from the United States that the Secretary of State has been following Manchurian situation closely and has stated that at time of speaking Kellogg Pact was not involved. This report was given me by a Chinese as being refusal of the United States to intervene against Japan. Second rumor is that at least 24 hours before Japanese action at Mukden the Japanese Government inquired of important Governments, notably Great Britain and the United States, whether they would consent to such action by Japan, the answer being in the affirmative, but that Japan must not push action too far. Third rumor is that Russia has concentrated 30,000 troops near Manchouli.

  2. I urged on Hsu Mo the desirability of my being kept fully informed so that I might in turn keep the Department of State fully cognizant of the changing situation. Apparently in response to this, Hsu Mo told me Karakhan had inquired of Mo Te-hui in Moscow regarding course of controversy with Japan, and the Chinese Foreign Office had replied giving desired information. Answering my question, Hsu said that Karakhan indicated no sympathy for China in the dispute nor any intention of safeguarding by military force Russian interests in Manchuria if or when threatened by Japan.

  3. Central Party Headquarters of the Nationalist Party has declared September 23 day of humiliation for Japan’s recent actions. There is a feeling here that if the Western Powers maintain an attitude of detachment in this controversy, the Nationalist Party, the Chinese Government, and the people of China may seek Russian alliance with far-reaching results.


793.94/1830: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva to the Secretary of State

Geneva, September 22, 1931 — 4 p.m.
[Received September 22 — 12:40 p.m.]


Consulate’s 118, September 21, 5 p.m.

The Sino-Japanese conflict was taken up by Council this morning. After a lengthy debate between the Chinese and Japanese representatives, Lord Cecil made a statement in regard to the procedure which the Council should follow and closed his remarks in the following words:

One other matter I think I ought to mention. We are all aware that [there] are certain treaty obligations – or international instruments, let me call them – which affect this dispute beyond the League of Nations. There is, of course, the Briand-Kellogg Pact – the Pact of Paris, and there is also the treaty relative to the principle[s] and policy concerning China signed by the United States and other powers. In both these instruments the United States of America are very closely interested, in the first place as one of the promoters of the Pact of Paris and in the second as one of the signatories of the latter treaty. It seems to me that we should do well in these circumstances to communicate to the United States a statement of all the proceedings of this Council and of all the discussions which have taken place within it. The United States Government will then be fully informed of what we are doing and they will be able to take any action they think right in connection with the subject.

This suggestion has not yet been formally approved by the Council but there is a strong probability that it will be adopted.

Upon the termination of the discussion the Council was adjourned for 15 minutes to enable the President to draft a resolution dealing with the Sino-Japanese conflict but at the end of one-half hour he announced that the question was not yet in a position in which he could put the resolution before the Council and in order to allow further time for consideration adjourned the meeting until 3:30 this afternoon.

The Consulate will submit a report of the day’s proceedings in a later report.


793.94/1822: Telegram

The Chargé in Japan to the Secretary of State

Tokyo, September 22, 1931 — 5 p.m.
[Received September 22 — 10 a.m.]


My 155, September 21, 10 a.m.

I am informed that (1) four thousand troops from Chosen have been sent to Mukden and (2) one brigade has been sent from Changchun to Kirin at the request of the Japanese residents there. The Government states orally that there have been no disturbances in any of the occupied areas in the past two days. The Chientao region is not occupied by Japanese troops, I understand.

The occupation of so large an area seems out of proportion to the alleged cause. The military undoubtedly had detailed plans like every army for every contingency they could think of. It seems probable that the incident referred to was seized upon by the Army authorities and the whole area occupied as a military measure to force a general liquidation of outstanding issues.

I am inclined to think that the Foreign Office and perhaps other branches of the Government here have been genuinely surprised by the action of the Army at this time.

Repeated to Peiping.


793.94/1832: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva to the Secretary of State

Geneva, September 22, 1931 — 6 p.m.
[Received September 22 — 4:17 p.m.]


Consulate’s 120, September 22, 4 p.m.

Mr. Wilson was formally handed a resolution presented by the President of the Council and passed by the Council at its session this afternoon, together with a covering letter enclosing also the minutes of the Council meetings held today relating to the appeal from the Chinese Government under article 11 of the Covenant, together with other documents relating to this question. These papers are being forwarded to the Department.

The resolution referred to above reads:

My colleagues and I have listened this morning with the closest attention to the statements of the representatives of China and Japan. We take due note of the request of the representative of Japan to adjourn the discussion of the question until the next meeting.

I request the Council to authorize me:

  • First, to address an urgent appeal to the Governments of China and Japan to abstain from any act which might aggravate the situation or prejudice the peaceful settlement of the problem;

  • Second, to seek in consultation with the representatives of China and Japan, adequate means whereby the two countries may proceed immediately to the withdrawal of their respective troops without compromising the security of life of their nationals or the protection of the property belonging to them.

I ask the Council to decide to forward for information the minutes of all the meetings of the Council together with the documents relating to this question to the Government of the United States of America.


793.94/1816: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland, at Geneva

Washington, September 22, 1931 — 1 p.m.



You may inform Drummond that I too am insufficiently informed of the facts of the situation. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the Japanese military have initiated a widely extended movement of aggression only after careful preparation with a strategic goal in mind. The military chiefs and Foreign Office are evidently sharply at variance as to intention and opinion. Consequently, it would be advisable, in preparations to strengthen and support treaty obligations, that Japanese nationalistic feeling be not aroused against the Foreign Office and in support of the Army. The Department is watching with concern the development of events there and the relationship of the events and situation to obligations under the treaties, especially the Nine-Power Treaty of February 6, 1922, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928.



Memorandum by the Secretary of State

Washington, September 22, 1931.

I opened the conversation with the Japanese Ambassador by referring to our last talk on September 17 when we had both expressed our feeling that the relations of our two countries were in such a satisfactory condition. I said I had been profoundly surprised and concerned by what was taking place in Manchuria and that I had sent Dr. Hornbeck to see the Ambassador on Saturday and now as the matter had developed I wished to see him myself. He said yes, that he had seen Dr. Hornbeck and he had told him of how surprised he (the Ambassador) had been and how concerned he was and how impossible it was for him to understand the causes of what had taken place.

I explained that as he well knew, I had the utmost confidence in Baron Shidehara and his desire for peace and correct international relations. I told him that I had learned from Dr. Hornbeck’s report of what Debuchi had said Sunday – that there was a sharp cleavage between Shidehara and some of the militaristic elements of his government. He said that that was so. I said that what I was now doing was seeking to strengthen Baron Shidehara’s hand and not to weaken it. The Ambassador said he understood that perfectly. I then took the memorandum which had been prepared (a copy, of which is annexed) and read it very slowly to the Ambassador, paraphrasing the language into more simple words wherever it seemed at all necessary in order that he should fully understand it. He repeated many of the sentences, showing that he did understand. When I had finished I said that this was not to be taken as a formal note or an official action on the part of my government, but as the memorandum of a verbal statement given to the Ambassador for the purpose of enabling him to understand and report to his government how I, with my background of friendship towards Japan, felt towards this situation. I said that the Ambassador was at liberty to send it to Shidehara or not, as he saw fit. He said he understood perfectly and that the memorandum did not represent an official note but that if the situation was not remedied he understood that it might be followed by official action on our part later. He said he would communicate its contents to his government that evening.

I then told him that there was one thing however that I would like to ask of him and that was that he postpone his departure for Japan until this situation was in better shape. I told him I felt confidence in him from our long relations together and that it would be easier to handle the situation if he was here. He expressed himself as very much touched by this and said that he was glad to be able to say that this morning he had, after having purchased his tickets and made all his plans, decided to postpone his departure and had told Madame Debuchi and his daughter to that effect, and had telegraphed out to the Japanese Consul in San Francisco to cancel the appointments he had made.

I spent quite a little time after reading the memorandum in pointing out what a serious impression it would make in this country if the situation of Manchuria is not restored to the status quo. He said he fully understood that and he had been surprised at the moderation of our American press thus far and attributed that to the care which I had taken in the press conferences. He begged me that if the time should ever come when I did wish to act officially in this matter I would first inform him. I said I would try to do so.




Without going into the background, either as to the immediate provocation or remote causes or motivation, it appears that there has developed within the past four days a situation in Manchuria which I find surprising and view with concern. Japanese military forces, with some opposition at some points by Chinese military forces, have occupied the principal strategic points in South Manchuria, including the principal administrative center, together with some at least of the public utilities. It appears that the highest Chinese authority ordered the Chinese military not to resist, and that, when news of the situation reached Tokyo, but after most of the acts of occupation had been consummated, the Japanese Government ordered cessation of military activities on the part of the Japanese forces. Nevertheless, it appears some military movements have been continuously and are even now in process. The actual situation is that an arm of the Japanese Government is in complete control of South Manchuria.

The League of Nations has given evidence of its concern. The Chinese Government has in various ways invoked action on the part of foreign governments, citing its reliance upon treaty obligations and inviting special reference to the Kellogg Pact.

This situation is of concern, morally, legally and politically to a considerable number of nations. It is not exclusively a matter of concern to Japan and China. It brings into question at once the meaning of certain provisions of agreements, such as the Nine Powers Treaty of February 6, 1922, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

The American Government is confident that it has not been the intention of the Japanese Government to create or to be a party to the creation of a situation which brings the applicability of treaty provisions into consideration. The American Government does not wish to be hasty in formulating its conclusions or in taking a position. However, the American Government feels that a very unfortunate situation exists, which no doubt is embarrassing to the Japanese Government. It would seem that the responsibility for determining the course of events with regard to the liquidating of this situation rests largely upon Japan, for the simple reason that Japanese Armed Forces have seized and are exercising de facto control in South Manchuria.

It is alleged by the Chinese, and the allegation has the support of circumstantial evidence, that lines of communication outward from Manchuria have been cut or interfered with. If this is true, it is unfortunate.

It is the hope of the American Government that the orders which it understands have been given both by the Japanese and the Chinese Governments to their military forces to refrain from hostilities and further movements will be respected and that there will be no further application of force. It is also the hope of the American Government that the Japanese and the Chinese Governments will find it possible speedily to demonstrate to the world that neither has any intention to take advantage, in furtherance of its own peculiar interests, of the situation which has been brought about in connection with and in consequence of this use of force.

What has occurred has already shaken the confidence of the public with regard to the stability of conditions in Manchuria, and it is believed that the crystallizing of a situation suggesting the necessity for an indefinite continuance of military occupation would further undermine that confidence.