Japanese bombs damage gunboat; U.S. takes formal action (7-30-41)

U.S. Department of State (July 30, 1941)

793.94/16755: Telegram

The Ambassador in China to the Secretary of State

Chungking, July 30, 1941 — 9:30 a.m.
[Received July 30 — 5:20 a.m.]


During air raid this morning Japanese planes dropped bomb 8 yards directly astern of Tutuila. No casualties to personnel. Ship’s power boats badly damaged. Motor sampan cut loose from moorings and drifting down river. Apparently no underwater damage to ship.

During same raid some damage done to Embassy staff residence.

Sent to Department, repeated to Peiping, Shanghai, Hankow. Shanghai repeat urgently to Tokyo.


793.94/16754: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Japan

Washington, July 30, 1941 — 1 p.m.


  1. Report was received from Attaché at Chungking July 30, giving account of operations by 26 Japanese heavy bombers. In paraphrase:

These bombers approached from northwest at height about fifteen thousand feet in ideal weather conditions. Upon reaching city they changed course to the line crossing directly over the Tutuila and the Embassy. Having crossed the city without firing, they dropped bomb-load on foreshore across river opposite Tutuila. Left center of formation dropping last bombs swept across river and passed directly overhead. One bomb struck near stern Tutuila, shattered an outboard motor boat and threw it upon motor sampan which, sinking by stern, was saved by bowline. Gunboat’s stern superstructure was bent inward by blast and swept by a huge wave which collapsed awning and washed away ship’s gear and gasoline containers. Personnel escaped injuries from fragments only by miracle which apparently was due to funneling of bombs in water. Last bomb was dropped about four hundred yards eastward of and behind Embassy. All this was witnessed by three U. S. officials from Embassy hill immediately overlooking ship. Unanimous opinion of these officials is that the bombing was a deliberate attack on Embassy area and Tutuila which missed its targets only by a fraction of a second.

  1. I called the Japanese Ambassador in this morning. I handed him a copy of the report and asked him for answers to questions as follows: (1) Did this take place upon instruction by or knowledge of responsible authorities; (2) what responsibility, if any, does the Japanese Government assume for it; (3) what precise measures in detail does the Japanese Government intend to take toward effectively preventing recurrence of any such action. I reminded him of the pledge solemnly given by the Japanese Government, with, I understand, the knowledge and approval of the Emperor, at the time of the sinking of the Panay, that such action would not be repeated; also, of the fact similar pledges have repeatedly been given since then and have repeatedly been disregarded.

  2. I desire that you also take this matter up urgently and with great emphasis with the Minister for Foreign Affairs.


740.0011 P. W./425

Memorandum by Mr. Cecil W. Gray, Assistant to the Secretary of State

Washington, July 30, 1941.

In a telephone conversation today between Acting Secretary Welles and Secretary Hull at White Sulphur Springs there was some discussion about the Tutuila bombing and our general program of retaliatory action against Japan generally. The Secretary indicated that he was quite content to leave the forming of such a program to the judgment of those on the ground here in Washington. His own position was summed up as being one of formulating a comprehensive program of action short of war to be placed into effect as rapidly as circumstances permitted.


Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

Washington, July 30, 1941.

The Japanese Ambassador called to see me this morning at my request. I told the Ambassador that I had just received a message from the American Embassy in Chungking and that by direction of the President I was giving him a copy of the message for his information.

The Ambassador read the message aloud.

When he had concluded I said to the Ambassador that by direction of the President I desired to inquire through him of the Japanese Government whether any responsible officials of the Japanese Government had authorized the bombing which had so nearly destroyed American lives and which was so clearly, from the accounts rendered by American observers, deliberately undertaken. I said that I felt I must make this inquiry in view of the official assurances given this Government by the Government of Japan after the Panay incident that every necessary order would be issued by the Japanese Government to prevent any recurrence of such an attack.

I stated further that I desired to inquire of the Japanese Government what measures, concrete and detailed, the Japanese Government proposed to take in order to prevent a further incident of this character.

The Japanese Ambassador asked me three or four times to repeat my inquiry until he repeated it himself correctly. He then said that he was confident that no responsible officer had authorized such an attack, which he believed was due solely to the “green” aviators and that the subordinate officers had been instructed to bomb Chungking but to take the necessary precautions to avoid danger to American lives and property. I remarked that it did not seem to me that if they had received such instructions they had paid any attention to them. I said that, as the Ambassador well knew, the gunboat and the American Embassy were on the other side of the river from Chungking and not adjacent to military objectives, and that I consequently could not accept the Ambassador’s explanation.

The Ambassador then went on to say that in his judgment there were only one or two alternatives to be followed — either for the Japanese to abandon the bombing of Chungking or for the American Embassy and gunboat to withdraw to a safer place. To this I merely replied that the American Embassy and the American gunboat had been located in places which, in our judgment, were removed from the city of Chungking, and that the second of the alternatives that he mentioned was not, therefore, acceptable.

The Ambassador said that he would immediately report my message to his Government. I stated to the Ambassador that it was unnecessary for me to impress upon him, in view of the situation which unfortunately existed between the two countries, the importance of the reply which might be made by his Government to this message.


The Pittsburgh Press (July 30, 1941)


Welles makes representations after patrol ship is hot during raid on China


USS Tutuila 2
For the second time in as many years the USS Tutuila, a gunboat attached to the United States Yangtze patrols in China, was damaged by Japanese bombing planes today. The vessel was anchored in the so-called safety zone at Chungking. There were no casualties.

Shanghai, July 30 (UP) –
Japanese bombs today damaged the USS Tutuila, a gunboat of the United States Yangtze patrols, during a raid on Chungking. There were no casualties.

The Japanese raiders, Chungking reports said, dropped bombs directly over the Tutuila as the vessel was anchored in the so-called safety zone across the river from the capital.

One bomb was reported to have fallen only eight yards from the gunboat, caving in part of its stern and blowing some loose equipment off deck.

A small motor boat belonging to the Tutuila was sunk.

Another bomb landed 20 yards from the Tutuila, between the gunboat and the United States Embassy. A third bomb damaged the residence of a member of the United States Embassy staff.

Chungking was raided by 27 bombers, authoritative quarters said.

Chungking reports said the raid was one of the biggest the Japanese ever made on China’s capital city.

Five separate attacks were made by the Japanese air squadrons and every section of the much-bombed capital was plastered with bombs.

In June 1940, the Tutuila was damaged in a Japanese bombing of Chungking and it was decided then to equip the vessel with additional anti-aircraft equipment. At that time, a bomb fell within 300 yards of the vessel, the decks of which were spattered by bomb fragments.

The Tutuila, built in 1927, is of 370 tons and normally carries a crew of 58. It is armed with two three-inch guns and machine guns but its armament may have been increased by anti-aircraft weapons.

This was the third successive day on which Japanese planes had raided Chungking. It was feared that at least 50 persons were killed or wounded in Chungking.


Washington, July 30 (UP) –
The United States filed formal representations today with Japan over bombing of the U.S. gunboat Tutuila in the Yangtze River near Chungking, an incident which Congressional leaders branded as a “deliberate act of hostility.”

Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles announced at his press conference that he had filed the representation which he declined to describe as a protest.

The incident, the second involving the famous old gunboat of the Yangtze River patrol and Japanese planes within two years, aroused Capitol Hill.

Attack 'deliberate’

Opening Senate debate on the draft extension bill, Senator Elbert Thomas (D-UT) asserted that:

The American Embassy ion one of the capitals of the world apparently has been used as a target by an air squadron.

Mr. Thomas did not name the capital or the bombing squadron’s nationality, but House Democratic Leader John McCormack, of Massachusetts, was more specific. He said the attack was “deliberate” and clearly demonstrates:

…that Japan is for the time being a front for Hitler in his aggressive moves against the United States.

Speaker Sam Rayburn said that the incident would make Congress more eager to extend the term of military service for the citizen soldiers.

’Serious act’

Mr. McCormack said:

There is no question that the act was deliberate. It is a very serious act of provocation. Our government cannot permit such an act to pass unnoticed.

Acting Secretary of State Welles announced the formal U.S. representation to Japan at his press conference, but declined to describe the United States’ representations as a “protest.”

It was assumed that the representations had been made a few minutes previously to the Japanese Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura who was an unscheduled called at Mr. Welles’ office.

The action was taken to indicate that the United States viewed with extreme seriousness this latest Japanese attack on the American flag.

Reserves comment

Mr. Welles announced that the United States had received word this morning that a flight a 26 Japanese bombers dropped bombs near the Tutuila and near the embassy proper in Chungking.

Mr. Welles said he wished to make no comment at the present other than to call attention to the fact that both properties are on the opposite side of the river from Chungking proper.


Washington, July 30 (UP) –
President Roosevelt has been advised that Japanese planes bombed the U.S. gunboat Tutuila today during a raid on Chungking, capital of Nationalist China, the White House disclosed.

Stephen T. Early, Secretary to the President, said that Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles had given Mr. Roosevelt all available information on the incident.

The Navy Department, meanwhile, reported that damage to the Tutuila was only superficial, and that there were no casualties among the crew.

The Navy said it had been advised from China that:

…one outboard motor boat was shattered by a bomb landing close by and the superstructure of the stern was bent inward by an explosion from another bomb. There was no injury to personnel.

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, testifying recently before a closed session of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, said that the Tutuila was one of three U.S. ships which have been sunk or damaged by fighting forces of foreign powers since the war began. The other two were the Panay, sunk by Japanese bombs in 1937, and the Robin Moor, sunk by a German submarine in the South Atlantic.

The first damage to the Tutuila occurred last year, when it was hit by a large boulder which in turn had been dislodged by a Japanese bomb dropped on the high bank of the Yangtze River.

The Tutuila is a flat-bottomed 370-ton vessel similar to the Panay. It is attached to the U.S. Embassy staff and in that capacity followed the Chiang Kai-shek government up the Yangtze River.

U.S. Department of State (July 31, 1941)

793.94/16759: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan to the Secretary of State

Tokyo, July 31, 1941 — 6 p.m.
[Received July 31 — 3:10 a.m.]


The Acting Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Yamamoto, called on me at the Chancery in the Embassy at 11 o’clock this morning and said that they had just received word of damage caused to USS Tutuila during a bombing attack on Chungking by Japanese naval planes and that he had come on behalf of the Foreign Minister, Admiral Toyoda, who was absent from the Foreign Office, to express the deep regret of the Japanese Government at this incident. Up to the present, Mr. Yamamoto said, they had received no details.

I said to the Acting Vice Minister that I had just received instructions to see the Foreign Minister himself on this matter and that as soon as my instructions were ready I would ask for an appointment. In the meantime I said that I would withhold any comment but I expressed to him my appreciation of the courtesy of his call and expressions of regret. Sent to Department. Repeated to Shanghai for Chungking.


793.94/16761: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan to the Secretary of State

Tokyo, July 31, 1941 — 6 p.m.
[Received July 31 — 9:40 a.m.]


  1. Following the call of the Acting Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs on me this morning I asked for an appointment with the Minister for Foreign Affairs himself. After some delay the Minister’s secretary informed me that Admiral Toyoda desired to call on me at the Embassy at 2 o’clock, later changing the appointment to 2:30. At 2:30 I was informed that the Foreign Minister was then with the Prime Minister and that Admiral Toyoda would be glad to have me come to see him at 2:45, which I did. I am unaware of the reason for the Minister’s change of plans.

  2. I read to the Minister my signed note setting forth the details of the bombing of the Tutuila including the unanimous opinion of three American officials, who had observed the bombing from the hill immediately overlooking the ship, that the attack was deliberate; also that the weather conditions were ideal. I thereupon made the most emphatic representations, and, to indicate the very grave nature of the incident, I read to the Minister the observations which I had made to his predecessor, Mr. Matsuoka, on June 16. I also read to him the oral statement made to Mr. Matsuoka on July 8 regarding the attitude of the Government of the United States toward the Japanese request that consideration again be given to the moving of the USS Tutuila, as set forth in the Department’s telegram No. 350, June 24, 8 p.m.

  3. The Minister said that he had sent the Acting Vice Minister to see me this morning to convey his regrets at the incident and he repeated on behalf of the Japanese Government and himself expressions of sincere regret. He said that so far as he could remember a new instruction had been sent only recently to naval aviation officers carefully to avoid jeopardizing the American Embassy and the USS Tutuila in their bombing operations over Chungking and as a naval officer formerly in control of aviation he could assure me that these young aviation officers were strictly obedient to orders from their superiors. He could therefore only assume that in proceeding to its military objective the bombing gear of the plane in question had loosened during flight and that the bomb had dropped without any intention on the part of the pilot. The Minister several times repeated his conviction that the incident was purely and simply an accident but he recognized the potential gravity of the results of such accidents and said that once again he would have the most explicit instructions sent out to the Navy’s air arm to avoid such risks.

  4. I repeated to the Minister my own conviction that the incident could not possibly have been accidental, especially in the light of the evidence of the several attacks on our Embassy and ship during the last several weeks. I once again pointed out the deplorable effect which this new incident would have on American public opinion and that in the present tenseness of our relations it seemed to me questionable whether these relations could stand the strain of an American fatality or the sinking of the Tuscaloosa [Tutuila] in the course of further bombing operations.

  5. In closing the conversation I said that my Government must reserve a further expression of its views which I assumed would be communicated through Admiral Nomura in Washington.

Sent to the Department, repeated to Shanghai for Chungking, Peiping.


793.94/16763: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan to the Secretary of State

Tokyo, July 31, 1941 — 9 p.m.
[Received July 31 — 9:19 a.m.]


At 9:30 this morning the senior aide to the Minister of the Navy called on the naval attaché and, under instructions from the Minister of the Navy, orally expressed the regret of the Navy for the damage done to the United States ship Tutuila by the Japanese naval air forces in raid on Chungking on July 30, and, after giving assurances that the bombing was accidental, stated that the Japanese Navy is prepared to make full reparations for any damage. As he was leaving, the aide stated that the Minister of the Navy was very much worried over this latest bombing incident and had told the aide that the Japanese Navy would do everything possible to prevent a war between the United States and Japan.

Please inform Navy Department.



Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State

Washington, July 31, 1941.

The Japanese Ambassador called to see me this evening at his urgent request.

As soon as he had entered the room, the Ambassador took out of his pocket a piece of paper and read to me a statement. Upon the conclusion of the reading of this paper, I asked the Ambassador if he would be good enough to let me have the statement he had read as an aide-mémoire of the declaration he had made. The Ambassador replied that he felt unable to give me this declaration in writing but nevertheless would be glad if I would take notes from the statement as he had read it to me. He therefore handed it to me and I took notes therefrom.

The statement commenced to the effect that he was instructed by his Government to inform the President officially of the deep regret of the Japanese Government because of the bombing of the USS Tutuila at Chungking.

The Japanese Government desired to assure this Government that the bombing was an accident “pure and simple”.

In order to make sure that no further incident of this kind would take place, the Japanese Government “has decided to suspend all bombing operations over the city area of Chungking”.

The Japanese Government offers to pay full indemnity for any damage occasioned American properties immediately upon the completion of the necessary investigations.

The Japanese Government requested that its decision with regard to the suspension of bombing operations over the city area of Chungking be regarded as strictly confidential.

The statement likewise included the assertion in the name of the Ambassador himself that it was he himself who had recommended this procedure to the Japanese Government.

When I had completed making notes on this written declaration and had returned the paper to the Ambassador, I stated to the Ambassador that I would, of course, immediately submit the declaration made to the President and that I wished to express to the Ambassador personally my appreciation of the position which he had taken in the matter and of the recommendations which he had made to his Government.

The Ambassador said that the situation was indeed difficult but that he wished to do everything within his power to prevent incidents between the two Governments and to make possible the preservation of friendly relations.


The Pittsburgh Press (July 31, 1941)

Fuller answer to protests on bombing sought

Meanwhile, Nippon enacts new measures to put nation on full war footing

Washington, July 31 (UP) –
The United States is not satisfied with Japan’s informal apologies over the bombing of the U.S. gunboat Tutuila and expects a fuller reply, Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles indicated today.

Mr. Welles’ comment on the Japanese apology delivered in Tokyo to U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Grew was made at a press conference.

Asked whether it could be deduced that the Japanese reply so far was not satisfactory and that a fuller reply was expected, Mr. Welles responded that this was a fair deduction.

Mr. Welles explained to questioners that the United States had made simultaneous representations to the Japanese government both here and in Tokyo immediately on being informed of the incident at Chungking yesterday.

Mr. Grew was informed that Tokyo had no information of the details but expressed regret. He said that a representative of the Ministry of Navy at Tokyo had called on the U.S. naval attaché also to express regrets.

Mr. Welles said that Mr. Grew had received only a preliminary reply and that, until definite reply was received, nothing further could be said here.

Mr. Welles explained in some detail the position of Japanese ships which have been promised clearance from West Coast ports if they put in to discharge their passengers.

The issue was raised in connection with the liner Tatsuta Maru which put into San Francisco yesterday with 247 passengers and a $3 million cargo of raw silk. Mr. Welles indicated that the general principle laid down for this ship would apply to several others.

He said that there was nothing to prevent the Japanese ships from discharging their cargoes and obtaining clearance, but that once discharged, the cargoes would be subject to the general Japanese freezing order and be subject to licensing. This rule, he said, would also apply to goods unloaded from the ships even though they were owned by Americans.

By Robert Bellaire, United Press staff writer

Tokyo, July 31 – (by Trans-Pacific Telephone to New York)
Admiral Teijirō Toyoda, Foreign Minister, apologized to American Ambassador Joseph Clark Grew today for the bombing of the United States gunboat Tutuila. He told him that new and urgent orders had been issued to all Japanese forces to do their utmost to avoid damaging American property.

In token of the seriousness with which it viewed the bombing of the little American gunboat yesterday by Japanese Navy planes in a raid on Chungking, the Chinese capital, the Japanese government clamped down a blanket on messages regarding the incident for many hours.

Three protests on ban

It was not until 12:30 p.m. today (11:30 p.m. Wednesday EDT) after Ambassador Grew had protested vigorously to the Foreign Office three times that the ban was lifted and American correspondents were permitted to send messages regarding the bombing.

A telephone cable between the limited Press Tokyo and New York bureaus was arranged by the Japanese Foreign Office at the request of the American Embassy, but with the understanding that no controversial news would be transmitted.

In addition to protesting the news ban, Ambassador Grew cabled to the State Department at Washington reporting it and asking it to issue a statement there to insure distribution free of any censorship.

Informants said that in a 20-minute talk with Mr. Grew, Foreign Minister Toyoda apologized as well as expressed the government’s regret over the Tutuila bombing.

Public uninformed

Previously Acting Vice Foreign Minister Humaichi Yamamoto had visited Mr. Grew to express regret for the Tutuila bombing and the chief aide of Admiral Koshirō Oikawa, Navy Minister, had expressed the Navy’s regret to Commander Henri Harold Smith-Hutton, American naval attaché.

Because of the censorship inside Japan, the Japanese public knew nothing of the bombing of the Tutuila amd stocks remained normal because traders likewise knew nothing of the incident.

Government spokesmen declined comment on the bombing on the plea that they had no information.

The newspapers published special dispatches from a Japanese naval base asserting that nine naval air squadrons, the largest single formation since the outbreak of the Chinese-Japanese war, had raided Chungking yesterday for seven hours without pause, thoroughly destroying military establishments.

Industry reorganized

It was in this raid on the much-bombed Chinese temporary capital that the 307-ton Tutuila, lying in the Yangtze River with its complement of about 60 officers and men, was involved in the bombing.

United Press dispatches from Chungking and Shanghai said that one of the Tutuila’s boats was destroyed by bombs. One bomb fell eight yards from the Tutuila, another, 20 yards away. Bombs fell near the American Embassy and the Standard Oil Company Building.

Foreign Minister Toyoda had been scheduled to call on Mr. Grew in connection with the Tutuila bombing. At the last moment he asked Mr. Grew to call on him instead.

Japan moved further to bring its industry under strict government control today when the General Mobilization Committee approved an ordinance authorizing the reorganization of industries to insure government priority in essential goods.

Harps on encirclement

Another special ordinance was approved for the reclamation on a national scale of iron and copper.

The newspaper Nichi Nichi, commenting on the ordinances, said it was vitally important to strengthen the internal structure because of the gradual tightening of encirclement.

Nichi Nichi said:

Not only have Britain and the United States induced the Netherlands East Indies to take part in encirclement but they are trying to bring Latin American countries into their camp.

Nichi Nichi charged also that an American-British-Chinese “offensive” against Japan was becoming more aggressive, and that the Japanese people should nemade aware that:

…the waves of a super-crisis period, threatening to overwhelm Japan’s surroundings, have become higher.

Alliance charged

Quoting Thai newspapers, Nichi Nichi said negotiations for a British-American-Chinese military alliance was making progress. Under the “alliance,” it said, Britain would send China supplies and would establish assembling plants in India and Burma and at Singapore to make planes ready for China. Attempts would be made to induce Chinese residents of South Seas areas and the natives to support the “alliance.” Nichi Nichi said, and finally,

…simultaneous with Britain’s declaration of war on Japan.

China’s troops would be sent southward (toward Burma and Malaya) to fight under British command.

The National City Bank, which had closed pending clarification of the Japanese and American fund freezing orders, reopened today.

The Standard Oil Co. resumed sale of oil throughout Japan after a one-day suspension because of uncertainty regarding the freezing orders. The sales were resumed when the government gave permission for the company to deposit receipts.

Gen. Eugen Ott, the German ambassador, conferred for 40 minutes this afternoon with Vice Foreign Minister Yamamoto.

National City Bank operators today were limited to American, British and Dutch withdrawals solely for payment of Japanese employees and Japanese taxes.