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Notes on The Memoirs of Cordell Hull
by William P. Meyers

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Page 15
Dodging Neutrality in Asia, the Panay Incident

In 1937 the Japanese Premier, Prince Konoye, had a son, Fumitaka, studying at Princeton University who delivered "a warm expression of friendship" to President Roosevelt. [556]

Roosevelt had not proclaimed a conflict between the Japanese and Chinese because then he would not have been able to give economic and military assistance to the Chang Kai-shek regime, in effect dodging the intent of the Neutrality act. "The Japanese, on their part, told us they regarded the invasion of China merely as a punitive expedition and had no desire to acquire Chinese territory." The Chinese and Japanese still had official diplomatic relations with each other. The Chinese believe the Japanese government had no control over their own military. The U.S. continued to trade in Chinese ports during this period. [557]

However, on September 14, 1937 Roosevelt announced that U.S. government-owned merchant ships would not be allowed to carry arms to either Japan or China, and that privately-owned ships would do so only at their own risk. [558]

The U.S. repeatedly protested Japanese bombings that resulted in civilian deaths in China. Ambassador Grew noted that even if the Japanese government requested restraint, they had "very little influence" over their military. [558-559]

The U.S. State Department supported the League of Nations on bombing civilians: "any general bombing of an extensive area wherein there resides a large population engaged in peaceful pursuits is unwarranted and contrary to principles of law and of humanity." [559]

Apparently Americans and their property were at times injured by Japanese bombs, but in most cases this was because they were allowing the Chinese army on those properties. The Japanese suggested evacuation of Americans. On December 12, 1937 "Japanese planes bombed and sank the United States gunboat Panay and destroyed three Standard Oil Company tankers twenty miles up the Yangtze River from Nanking. Three Americans were killed ... and many wounded." The Panay was well-marked. Cordell Hull believed the attack was deliberate. The next day Ambassador Sato apologized profusely, as did Foreign Minister Hirota. [560-561]

A British gunboat, Ladybird, had also been hit by bombs, and the British were upset that the U.S. did not consult with them and make joint demands on Japan. [561-562]

Two days later "we learned that Japanese planes machine-gunned the survivors of the American ships as they made for shore." Also the Japanese Navy boarded the Panay before it sank. The Japanese public reacted negatively to the incident. On December 23, 1927 the Japanese met American demands: an apology, an indemnity of over $2 million, a promise to not attack Americans, and punishment of the officers involved. [562]

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