The Swiss Government Memorandum – Hidden by the US for a Quarter of a Century

On the 11 August 1945, the US State Department in
Washington received the following memorandum from the
Swiss Legation in Tokyo, which looked after American
interests in Japan. The contents of the memorandum were
released under the Freedom of Information (Act) during the
1970’s – over twenty-five years later:

“The Legation of Switzerland in charge of Japanese interests
has received an urgent cable from the authorities abroad,
requesting that the US Department of State be immediately
apprised of the following communication from the Japanese
Government, reading, in translation, as follows:

On 6 August 1945, American airplanes released on the
residential district of the town of Hiroshima, bombs of a newtype, killing and injuring in one second a large number of civilians and destroying a great part of the town. Not only is the city of Hiroshima a provincial town without any
protection or special military installations of any kind, but also none of the neighbouring region of this town
constitutes a military objective.

In a declaration President Truman, has asserted that he
would use these bombs for the destruction of docks,
factories and installations for transportation. However, this bomb, provided with a parachute, in falling has a destructive force of great scope as a result of its explosion in the air. It is evident, therefore, that it is technically impossible to limit the effect of its use to special objectives such as designated by President Truman, and the American authorities are perfectly well aware of this.

In fact, it has been established on the scene that the damage extends over a great area and that combatant and non-combatant men and women, old and young, are massacred without discrimination by the atmospheric pressure of the explosion, as well as by the radiating heat which results therefrom. Consequently there is involved a bomb having the most cruel effects humanity has ever known, not only as far as the extensive and immense damage is concerned, but also for reasons of suffering endured by each victim.

It is an elementary principle of international public law that in time of war the belligerents do not have unlimited right in the choice of attack and that they cannot resort to
projectile arms or any other means capable of causing the
enemy needless suffering. The bombs in question, used by
the Americans, by their cruelty and their terrorizing effects, surpass by far gas or any other arm, the use of which is prohibited.

The Americans have effected bombardments of towns in the
greatest part of Japanese Territory, without discrimination
massacring a great number of old people, women and
children, destroying and burning down Shinto and Buddhist
temples, schools, hospitals, living quarters etc. This fact
alone means that they have shown complete defiance of the
essential principles of humanitarian laws, as well as
international law. They now use this new bomb, having an
uncontrollable and cruel effect much greater than any other
arms or projectiles ever used to date. This constitutes a new crime against humanity and civilization. The Government of Japan, in its own name and at the same time in the name of all humanity and civilization, accuses the American
Government with the present “Note” of an inhuman weapon
of this nature, and demands energetically, abstinence from
its use.

(Atomic Servicemens’ Assoc Editor’s note: It is obvious that
the protest document was drafted before the 9 August
1945, when a second nuclear detonation destroyed
Nagasaki. Translation and transmission delays account for it
being delivered in Washington only on the 11 August. The
US State Department was in a quandary. It could ignore a
direct protest from the Japanese Government, but not a
memorandum from the Swiss Government. The letter was
handed over the Special War Problems Division which in turn
passed it on to the State-War-Navy Co-ordinating
Committee, where it was discussed on the 5 September
1945. The following is the result of their deliberations:
(1)The receipt of the Swiss Memorandum be merely
(2) That no reply to this Japanese protest should be made in
view of the events that have transpired since the receipt of
this note from the Swiss Legation.
(3)That no publicity whatsoever be given to the receipt of
this protest from the Japanese Government.

On the 24 September 1945 the Recommendations were
accepted by the US State-War-Navy Co-ordinating
Committee and on the 24 October – six weeks after the
Swiss Memorandum was received – the US State Department
sent the following reply:
“The Department of State acknowledges the receipt of a
Memorandum dated 11 August 1945 from the Legation of
Switzerland in charge of Japanese interests in the United
States with the exception of the Territory of Hawaii,
transmitting the text of a communication from the Japanese
Government concerning the alleged bombing on 6 August
1945 of the town of Hiroshima by United States airplanes.”
Some well known historians questioned why would the State
Department cover itself with possible ridicule by referring to an alleged bombing of Hiroshima? Why six weeks of
deliberations before a reply was made? And why hide the
whole incident from public gaze for a quarter of a century?
The historians state because the Japanese Government’s
account of what had happened to human beings, moderate
as it was, ran counter to Washington’s decision to stress
only the enormous destructive power of the bomb against
material objectives while attempting to cover up what it did
to human victims.
End Editor’s note.)

Next: Radiation sickness suffered by Australians while on board an Australian naval vessel docked at Kure, Japan, 1946.

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