miura 3.miu.21 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

102. Incidents Disturbing Japanese-American Relations.

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

(a) The Okada Incident.

In view of the critical Japanese-American relations, the arising of incidents which were likely to affect public opinion now assumed increasing significance. On June 10, 1941, Ambas-

[359] II, 278.

[360] II, 279.

[361] II, 280.

[362] II, 281, 282.

[363] II, 283.

[364] II, 284.

[365] II, 285.


sador Nomura notified Tokyo that there were grounds for suspecting that the Okada incident had been used by the F. B. I. and the Dies Committee as a means of interfering with Japanese propaganda in the United States. [366]

Lt. Comdr. Okada, a Japanese naval officer stationed on the west coast of the United States, had been arrested and charged with speeding. The Japanese government felt that special consideration should be given their naval officers, and threatened, unless better treatment were forthcoming, to reciprocate in dealing with American naval officers in Japan. Mr. Sadao Iguchi, the Japanese Embassy Counselor in Washington, informed Mr. Hamilton, Chief of the Far Eastern Section of the American State Department, that he would like to receive an explanation of the Okada incident from the State Department, and requested that similar occurrences be prevented in the future. [367]

(b) The Tachibana Incident.

Secret reports to Tokyo revealed that in the case of Commander Tachibana, a Japanese naval officer who had been held by American authorities on charges of espionage, plans were being made to use dubious methods in his defense. Commander Tachibana’s chauffeur was to be paid a subsidy of $25,000 and all court costs so that he would not give damaging testimony. [368]

Another west coast incident arose when a Japanese violated United States immigration laws by crossing the border into Mexico without a visa. [369]

(c) Restrictions on Gasoline Exports to Japan.

The Azuma Maru at Philadelphia was not allowed to load lubricating oil, and this caused Mr. Matsuoka to ask on June 21, 1941 that all facts and background of the case be transmitted to him. He warned that the Japanese government was watching the Tachibana affair, and also the restrictions placed on gasoline exports to Japan, so as to evaluate the sincerity of the United States toward Japan. [370] It was more than a mere coincidence, therefore, that on June 24, 1941 Commander Tachibana was released by American authorities to sail for Tokyo on the Nitta Maru. [371] A Japanese Foreign Office courier, Mr. Yamazaki, was aboard this same ship. [372]

(d) Compromise of Japanese Codes.

Another incident which had greatly disturbed Japan was the searching of the Nichi Shin Maru off the west coast by what were believed to be American customs officials on May 28, 1941. Since naval codes and secret documents had been confiscated during the search, the Japanese immediately filed with the local customs officials a protest demanding their return. The customs officials consented to return them at a later date after an investigation had been made. [373] Ironically enough the United States Communication Intelligence organization had completely broken this cryptographic system and was reading all messages enciphered therein. Thus, the public seizure of these codes was very ill-advised for it meant the almost immediate cancellation of this system by the Japanese.

[366] II, 286.

[367] II, 287-288.

[368] II, 289.

[369] II, 289

[370] II, 291.

[371] II, 292.

[372] II, 293

[373] II, 294-296.

[footnotes 374-377 not used, LWJ]



(e) American Missionaries in Korea.

When a discussion arose as to the fate of some American missionaries, accused of distributing dangerous literature in Korea, Tokyo informed Ambassador Nomura on July 2, 1941 that the Governor General of Korea would cancel the prosecution of the missionaries, if the State Department would evacuate them. [378] Because he believed that the incident involving the missionaries in Korea was similar to the case in the United States of Lt. Comdr. Okada on whom sentence would be passed on July 21, 1941, Mr. Matsuoka again instructed Ambassador Nomura on July 8, 1941 to inform the State Department that Japan desired to have the accused missionaries evacuated. [379]

On July 9, 1941 Counselor Iguchi discussed the incident with Dr. Hooper of the Presbyterian Church, who argued that when the missionaries had translated the English text of their pamphlets into Korean, they had done so in such a manner as to prevent any misunderstanding on the part of Japan. For this reason, Ambassador Nomura suggested that in view of the settling of the Tachibana incident by the United States, and as a friendly gesture, it might be well to drop the matter since three of the missionary group were already returning to the United States. Furthermore, the missionaries had endeavored to cooperate with Japanese authorities by first submitting the pamphlets to the police. [380]

A reply of July 14, 1941 to this suggestion of Ambassador Nomura stated that as far as the authorities in Tokyo were concerned the matter would be settled as leniently as possible by returning to the United States thirteen of the thirty persons involved. Because of illness, a fourteenth member, Mr. Clark, was already scheduled to return to the United States. However, according to Mr. Matsuoka, there was no record of the missionaries having sent the translated material to the police station in spite of an agreement to do so. This violated the Japanese Army-Navy Criminal Law and the Law for the Provisional Control of Disturbing Literature, [381] but on July 17, 1941 Japan was willing to overlook this violation of its publication regulations, and to treat the question as being merely a matter of seditious literature. [382]

Since the interview with Dr. Hooper had revealed that the Presbyterian Church, as a matter of policy, would neither evacuate the missionaries nor issue orders for their evacuation, Ambassador Nomura suggested to Tokyo on July 19, 1941 that a conference be held with local church authorities and the matter settled there. Inasmuch as the pamphlets concerned were translated directly from English into Japanese in Tokyo, and then distributed, he did not see how there could be a problem in this connection. He suggested also that if no solution were reached at the local conference, the matter be dropped. [383]

103. Japan Fears American Seizure of Its Vessels.

In view of the critical diplomatic situation engendered by Japanese aggression in Asia, and since the United States was keeping a strict check on Japanese vessels, [384] Japanese shipping schedules were carefully supervised by Japanese diplomatic officials. Japanese officials in Washington were advised of the schedule of eight cargo Marus, which were to pass through the Panama Canal at the rate of one a day between July 16 and July 22, 1941. [385]

[378] II, 305-307.

[379] II, 308.

[380] II, 309-310.

[381] II, 311.

[382] II, 312-313.

[383] II, 314-315.

[384] II, 316.

[385] II, 317-319.


Ambassador Nomura believed that the State Department’s plan for according to Japanese merchants, entering the Philippines as international traders, the same treatment which was accorded Filipinos arriving in Japan, was an attempt to get written promises from Japan because the Japanese-American Trade Agreement was no longer extant. [386] Calling on the American Chief of the Far Eastern Section in Washington on June 13, 1941, Consul Iguchi asked if it were necessary that Japan inform the United States government exactly what it intended to do in this matter. The section chief replied that it would be well for the Japanese to submit their plans to the State Department. [387]

More discord occurred on June 16, 1941, when the Japanese learned that the granting of permits for export of scrap iron from the United States would be discontinued. [388] In retaliation, and to lessen losses which might later be incurred by the stoppage of Japanese vessels to America, as well as to impress upon American authorities the need for reconsideration, they discussed rerouting Japanese vessels which were transporting essential products to America. Mr. Matsuoka informed his minister at Manila on June 18, 1941 that the shipment of materials to the United States was under discussion. [389]

In calling on the President of the Philippine Islands on July 2, 1941 to present a Japanese official, Mr. Koyama, the Japanese Minister expressed regret concerning the absconding of Japanese fishermen with fishing boats of Philippine registry, but seized the opportunity to point out that Philippine control over Japanese fishermen had been excessively severe. The Philippine President replied that he would like to have a special conference on the subject at a later date. [390]

On July 3, 1941, the Captain of the Awajisan Maru, informing Japanese authorities that he could not procure a permit for passage through the Panama Canal, asked for authorization to proceed to Japan by way of Cape Horn. [391] Tokyo was then informed that the exits to and from the Canal had been closed on July 5, 1941 while an investigation was being conducted. [392]

Other protests concerning the treatment of Japanese vessels in American ports were also being lodged with United States authorities. On July 11, 1941, the Asuka Maru at Boston had been boarded and searched by a party of approximately twenty Coast Guardsmen, and the ship’s bottom had been inspected on the following day, the Norfolk Maru had been delayed a day at Baltimore because of an inspection of its bottom; and the Yamatsuki Maru had been delayed while waiting to pass through the Panama Canal. [393]

America was not the only nation imposing restrictions on foreign shipping, for the British Embassy in Washington announced that beginning with July 15, 1941, all materials going by way of England would require import permits. Ambassador Nomura reported that freight would be seized in case no permits were obtained. [394]

Following the closing of the Panama Canal to Japanese ships, the statement of General van Voorhis to the United States’ Press was sent to Tokyo. General van Voorhis, in charge of the

[386] II, 320

[387] II, 321.

[388] II, 322

[389] II, 323.

[390] II, 324.

[391] II, 325-326.

[392] II, 327.

[393] II, 328

[394] II, 329.


Canal Zone’s defenses, had stated on July 21, 1941 that the delay in allowing ships to go through the canal was a temporary measure owing to the emptying of the locks for repairs, and that ships of many countries, as well as the Japanese, were going around Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. [395]

The Japanese were much concerned during July, 1941 lest the seizure of their ships interfere with the speedy evacuation of their nationals from Panama and the Philippines. [396] Although assured by Acting Secretary Welles that permission to leave port would be granted, on July 30, 1941, the Japanese instructed the captain of the Tatsuta Maru to delay entry into San Francisco since American authorities had avoided making a definite commitment when Ambassador Nomura had called at the State Department. No guarantees had been made by American authorities with regard to the freight carried by the vessel, although a definite reply in this connection had been requested. [397]

In spite of the difficulties experienced by Japanese ships with schedules and cargo routing in American ports, [398] a request from New York for additional vessels was directed in early July 1941 to Japan. Mr. Matsuoka replied, however, that it would be impossible, because of the shortage of bottoms, to dispatch ships to the Atlantic Coast of North America, although there would be changes in ship movements to the Pacific Coast. [399]

The reason behind such a decision, as explained by Tokyo, was the fear that the United States would seize Japanese vessels, just as it had taken German and Italian ships. Although the Philippine Islands had granted permits for the exportation of military goods to Japan, it was hardly fitting that Japanese vessels should be used for the transportation of military goods between the Philippines and the United States. Thus, the decision was reached to take some of the Japanese vessels off the Philippine-United States route. [400]

Rumors that Japan was withdrawing her ships from the Pacific spread to Rome, where Ambassador Horikiri inquired of Tokyo on July 10, 1941 as to whether or not this order included all ships plying regularly between North and South America. [401] Foreign Minister Matsuoka reassured him that trips between Japan and the Philippines would continue, but that the operation of ships between the Philippine Islands and the east coast of North America would be discontinued. After August 1, 1941, all Japanese shipping on the east coast of North America was to be stopped, and Japanese ships on the east coast of South America were to operate around Cape Horn. [402] Only one sailing was to be maintained after September 1941 to the west coast of North America. [403]

To minimize the disturbance of public opinion created by the order affecting the disposition of its merchant ships, Japan declared that the reasons for the order were the shortage of ships in the seas near Japan and various circumstances which precluded loading on the eastern coast of the United States. Japanese diplomats were ordered to give widespread dissemination to this explanation of the new shipping order.

Ambassador Nomura was concerned with the pacifying of Japanese nationals in the United States who were cooperating with him fully, but who were cognizant also of the fact that Tokyo’s

[395] II, 330.

[396] II, 331-332.

[397] II, 333.

[398] II, 334.

[399] II, 335.

[400] II, 336.

[401] II, 337.

[402] II, 338.

[403] II, 339.


official reasons were designed to serve as explanations only for Americans. In spite of orders issued by the Japanese navy, control by Japanese diplomats over Japanese nationals in the United States was becoming more difficult since confidence in the government of Japan was weakening. [404]

In view of the circumstances, Japanese representatives at Manila warned Tokyo on July 7, 1941 that unless a “show-down economic war” were resolved upon and prepared for, Japan might find herself in a predicament. It was feared that Philippine shippers would abandon the use of Japanese ships, thus making it impossible for Japan to take advantage of the privileges enjoyed by the Filipinos under the American export license system. It was also believed that the United States might prevent the exporting of goods which were then permitted to be shipped, or would resort to the freezing of assets. [405] Meanwhile, Japanese representatives were explaining that the stoppage of shipments from the Philippines to America had resulted from a shortage of ships and the reduction of exports to Japan, rather than from a sudden change in the diplomatic situation. [406]

Tokyo replied on July 7, 1941 that it was conscious of the difficulties created by its orders, but that measures for protecting its shipping against the United States had been decided long ago and must now be enforced. Shipping contracts for 22,000 tons of Filipino goods would have to be canceled by government order owing to necessary changes in ship dispositions. However, since precedence for such cancellations existed in international law, the Japanese Foreign Minister pointed out that there was likely to be no great trouble over it. [407]

Ambassador Nomura was notified by the State Department on July 31, 1941 that Japanese ships carrying cargoes which were to be sent back without unloading would have until 2:00 p.m. Saturday, August 2, to enter an American port, and would then be given a reasonable time to depart. Japanese ships with cargoes destined for American ports were to change the manifests to indicate that the cargo was being shipped elsewhere. This would obviate compliance with a customs regulation requiring the unloading of goods manifested for American ports before a vessel could be given clearance. [408]

On August 2, 1941, Foreign Minister Toyoda issued instructions that the Tatsuta Maru stop at Honolulu, [409] while at the same time he inquired of his representative in San Francisco concerning a Domei dispatch which stated that a part of the cargo of the Tatsuta Maru had been seized for the owners. [410] Fearing that the cargo of the Heian Maru at Seattle would be attached by the owners, as in the case of the Tatsuta Maru, it was decided on August 2, 1941 after a conference to have the entire cargo unloaded at Vancouver. [411] It was learned however, that the Heian Maru had left Seattle hurriedly on August 4, 1941, for Japan, although nothing had been taken aboard but food and fuel for the ship. [412] A special inquiry was made by the Japanese concerning the arrival in American waters of the special duty ship, Shiriyo, scheduled to enter port on August 9, 1941. [413]

[404] II, 340-341.

[405] II, 342.

[406] II, 343.

[407] II, 344-345.

[408] II, 346.

[409] II, 347.

[410] II, 348.

[411] II, 349.

[412] II, 350.

[413] II, 351.



104. Japan Analyzes the Silver Shirts Movement.

Japanese plans to carry on sabotage in the United States included the use of Negroes and members of the Silver Shirts movement. In acquiring control of the Silver Shirts, Mr. Iwasaki, a Japanese agent in America, was to be sent to Japan for instructions, since indoctrination in Japanese plans “to establish justice in the United States” was thought to be a more suitable objective for their agents than mere pecuniary considerations. [414].

On June 28, 1941 Mr. Yoshio Muto submitted to Tokyo a report concerning the origin and principles of the Silver Shirts movement, but advised against Japan’s having anything to do with it. He feared the Silver Shirts could hardly succeed in America since they were being investigated by the Dies Committee as a subversive activity and, thus, could not act openly. The organization had been dissolved in 1940, after six years of existence, but then an underground movement with similar objectives had sprung up. Its publications, heavily subsidized, were shipped from Indianapolis to points all over the country.

According to Mr. Muto, Chief Pelley of the Silver Shirts had asked Mr. Iwasaki on April 20, 1941, if the Japanese government would not help out with his plans, and he had also requested Jiro Koga, of the Japanese Society of Brethren Overseas, to contact the German Ambassador in Tokyo in case Japan would not grant this help. On several occasions Mr. Pelley had asked for a reply to this request for Japanese aid.

The Japanese reported that the Silver Shirts stressed the following principles in their published propaganda, some samples of which were later shipped to Tokyo: The Roosevelt administration was shot through with international Judaism and Communism, and was coming under the influence of British royalty, which was under the thumb of these elements; America should be defended from them, and America’s foreign policy should save the human race from the enslaving grasp of the international Jews; as for the Orient and Europe, the United States should not interfere, but should look after its own interests. [415]

105. Japan Attempts to Employ American Negroes as Spies.

Since official reports were not too favorable towards their use of the Silver Shirts as subversive agents, Japanese intelligence agents turned their attention to American Negroes. [416] In a long Japanese report on the economic and social status of the Negro in the United States, it was pointed out that Negroes were not organized into a strong racial group, and instead of looking toward a social revolution, they were following the single principle of elevating themselves. The report stated that certain progressive organizations, such as the Negro Congress, the Negro Alliance and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were working toward the equalization of the Negro, with the largest Negro organizations financed by Jews. The Japanese expected great results from cooperating with these organizations since two Negro men, were being used to disseminate propaganda and to interview Negro leaders of great ability. Since some Negroes were being employed in navy arsenals and military establishments, considerable use could be made of them in gathering military intelligence. [417]

[414] II, 352.

[415] II, 353.

[416] II, 354.

[417] II, 355-357.


106. Rumors of a British-German Peace.

The possibility that Russia might be quickly shattered by the German army, and the consequent threat of a German invasion of England stimulated discussion of a British-German peace parley in July, 1941. Ambassador Nomura reported on July 8, 1941, that the United States was serving as a check or a brake on Germany, and that there were men in the State Department who favored peace in order to prevent the annihilation of the British Empire. The Secretary of Commerce, Jesse Jones, was of this opinion, Ambassador Nomura said; and Colonel Lindbergh and predicted that peace talks would bud in July and blossom in the autumn of 1941. [418]

Though assured by Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop that the peace rumors were but machinations of England and the United States, which were designed to drive a wedge between Germany and Japan, on July 10, 1941 the Japanese Foreign Minister hurriedly directed his Ambassador in Berlin to check German official opinion as to the interpretation of such activity. [419]

107. Japanese Reports on American Industrial Expansion.

To keep Tokyo informed as to the extent of the American expansion and acceleration of defense work, details concerning current contract amounts and items of production assigned to the automobile industry in the Chicago area were reported to Japan. Contracts of the United States armed forces with General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and Packard corporations were enumerated as well as the type of machinery for which they had contracted. [420]

108. Japanese Interest in Russian-American Friendship.

On August 2, 1941, Mr. Morito Morishima, in New York, reported to Tokyo that Mr. Denny, an editorial writer for the Scripps-Howard Newspapers on diplomatic questions had said that since Germany and Russia were so deeply involved in the war, Russia was demanding not only complete material assistance, but also that joint British and American military activities be concentrated in Germany’s rear and in Norway as well. This comment had been occasioned by Mr. Hopkins’ mission to Russia, although officials in Washington explained that he had gone there to confer only on aid to the Soviets.http://LOUIS-J-SHEEHAN.US

Mr. Morishima declared that it could not be predicted whether or not Mr. Hopkins and Commissar Stalin would be able to decide upon an agreement, but that it would seem clear that such was the object of his mission. [421] Furthermore, the State Department on August 4, 1941 announced that the validity of the American-Soviet Trade Agreement of August 6, 1937 had been extended to August 6, 1942. [422]

109. Japanese Security Precautions.

The problems of maintaining the security of their codes and of determining the reliability of the information relayed to Tokyo continued to be a matter of concern to the Japanese. On May 20, 1941 Ambassador Nomura began to identify the more reliable intelligence with “Joko”, whereas “Jō otsu” was used to identify messages containing less reliable information. [423]

[418] II, 358

[419] II, 359.

[420] II, 360.

[421] II, 361

[422] II, 362.

[423] II, 363-364.



Because of the critical international situation, Japan had instructed Ambassador Nomura as early as May 1941, to separate all secret documents into a special class, and to burn all other documents, with the exception of a few that might be currently needed. Ambassador Nomura suggested, in addition, that all account books be burned, except those for the last three or four years, that all outstanding funds be collected, and that Japanese land on N Street in Washington be sold. [424] To effect these objectives, Ambassador Nomura asked on May 17, 1941 that an assistant be selected and sent to him immediately by the San Francisco Consul General. [425] On July 2, 1941 he requested permission to burn certain codes, some of which would be of no future use and others which were rarely used. [426]

In accordance with Tokyo’s orders, Ambassador Nomura dispatched twenty-two boxes containing records and other materials on the Norfolk Maru, which sailed from Baltimore for Japan on July 12, 1941. In view of Japanese-American relations, it was suggested that entry into ports of call in South America be canceled, if speed were necessary in returning these records to Yokohama. [427]

Tokyo also instructed Washington that in case of difficulty, use would be made of the intelligence dispatches sent out from Japan each night. However, to reach Tokyo from Washington, it would be necessary to have a wireless set in the Washington office, with an operator of exceptional ability, relaying dispatches via South America and the Jaluit Atoll. For this purpose Tokyo inquired on July 7, 1941 as to the feasibility of assembling a 100 or 200 watt transmitter under the guise of amateur apparatus, and of making trial communications of short transmissions. Such equipment would be advantageous in case extreme limitations or prohibitions were placed by the United States upon the use of radio in general. [428] However, on July 23, 1941 Ambassador Nomura, after concurring with Japanese naval experts, pointed to the inadvisability of installing the transmitter since it would be impossible to keep it concealed from American detectors. Furthermore, interference would make for inefficient transmissions. [429]

To assure the security of code machines and code books still in use, Tokyo planned to ship a special size safe to the United States. Since the matter of space in a Japanese telegraphic office and the place of landing the safe had to be considered, Ambassador Nomura suggested that the facilities in Washington be expanded, and that the safe be landed in Baltimore for delivery to Washington. [430]

Mr. Matsuoka stressed the extreme need of security in a dispatch of June 2, 1941 to all his diplomatic representatives throughout the world. Emphasizing the progress of the science of cryptography and cryptanalysts in various countries, he concluded that no absolute confidence could be placed in the secrecy of a code. He asked that the strictest attention be paid during the transfer and tenure of codes, and directed that code messages in a certain special system be sent only to Tokyo. [431] The sending of all other code messages was to be discontinued, thus alleviating the excessive load imposed on communication clerks because of the vigilance necessary for communication security. The duties of Japanese communication clerks were increasing. [433]  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

[424] II, 365.

[426] II, 366.

[428] II, 367.

[427] II, 368.

[428] II, 369

[429] II, 370.

[430] II, 364, 371-372.

[431] II, 373.

[432] (Not used, LWJ)

[433] II, 375.


Following the receipt of this dispatch, Ambassador Nomura requested on July 3, 1941 that the clerical staff of his office be expanded because of the ever-increasing load of telegraphic communications, and since Mr. Watanabe, the telegraphic clerk, had been able to accomplish all the work only by his extreme diligence. [434]

In order to prepare for more critical developments, and because he had given up the probability of finding a separate building, on July 24, 1941 Ambassador Nomura again suggested an expansion of the Washington business office, since it had been necessary to change the reception rooms into document and night duty rooms. Additional office space would have to be made available to equip the telegraph room for an increase in personnel, and to make room for special safes. To effect these changes, Ambassador Nomura requested that $2,700 be appropriated. [435]

With the increase in the telegraphic load, not only was the Washington office short of clerks, but Mr. Morishima, in New York, was forced to request two members from other offices. On July 30, 1941 he asked Washington to send an aide from the Japanese Embassy. [436] In Washington, the Military and Naval attaches asked that they be permitted to move their offices to the Embassy, in view of the dangerous situation prevailing at that time. This request was submitted to Japan for approval. [437]

Since there was a possibility that their offices might be closed without warning, precautions for the safety of the Emperor’s portraits in New York and Chicago were being taken by the Japanese. A student clerk, Mr. Hashizume, planned to take them on July 30, 1941 by train to San Francisco, where Minister Kaname Wakasugi would transport the pictures to Japan on the Asama Maru. [438]


(b) Japanese-Mexican Relations

110. Japan Establishes an Espionage Net in Mexico to Acquire Intelligence from the United States.

Minister Yoshiaki Miura was informed on June 2, 1941, that Japan had appropriated 100,000 yen to be used in Mexico City to collect intelligence concerning the United States. According to Mr. Matsuoka, Mexico City was the natural geographical center for an intelligence base, although Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Santiago would also be useful. The Japanese Minister in Mexico was reminded that in cooperation with Japanese officials in Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, and New York, these funds were to be used principally for intelligence relating to the United States. If the United States entered the war, Japan would endeavor to use Japanese nationals to the best advantage in dividing the Rightist and Leftist labor organizations, and in promoting their anti-American revolutionary influence. [439]

[434] II, 376.

[435] II, 377-379.

[436] II, 380.

[437] II, 381.

[438] II, 382-383.

[439] II, 384.


In line with Japan’s policy of bringing “fifth columnists” to Japan for instructions, Consul Katsuya Sato, in Mexico, was preparing to send to Tokyo, Jose Llergo, an outstanding Mexican news reporter, whom he thought capable of greatly influencing the Mexican press. [440] Trips to Japan for two other men, underlings of Maximino Camacho, to facilitate their future use in propaganda, were also suggested by Minister Yoshiaki Miura. One of these, a Mr. Isaac Diaz, had been investigated by the Japanese Minister, but approval for the financing of his trip had not been granted by Tokyo. [441]

111. Japan Seeks Essential Military Supplies in Mexico.

On June 24, 1941 Minister Kiyoshi Yamagata in Mexico was attempting to negotiate for needed military materials, proposing payment by either the barter system or compensatory trade. However, he believed that there existed little likelihood of his succeeding by approaching Mexican authorities through the usual channels, inasmuch as additional pressure was being exerted by the United States, and because Mexican businessmen expected that sooner or later an embargo or export license system, affecting the export to Japan of mercury and other materials, would be initiated. Mr. Yamagata thought it advisable, therefore, to make purchases as quickly and as secretly as possible. Since he felt that political trends in the Caribbean and Central American countries should also be taken into consideration, Mr. Yamagata planned to visit Panama, Colombia and Peru. [442]

Experiencing difficulty in achieving satisfactory trade relations and in organizing intelligence activities, the Japanese Minister to Mexico, Yoshiaki Miura, had discussed with Mr. Yamagata the expansion of the Mexican office to meet wartime needs. Since Secretary Keizo Fuiji, appointed as First Secretary of the Japanese Legation in Mexico, was finding it difficult to leave Spain because of lack of steamer accommodations, Minister Miura suggested the sending of a capable person in his place, who, in addition to taking general charge of the Mexican office, would have responsibility for either the trade or intelligence work. This would leave Secretary Sato free to look after other duties. Replacements were suggested for Mr. Kataoka and Mr. Samijima, who, although capable men, had been there too long to help in creating a new atmosphere in the office. [443] The suggestion that Mr. Sotomatsu Kato of Mexicali be sent to the Mexico City office was later thought to be inadvisable in view of current conditions, [444] and probably because of Mr. Kato’s intelligence activities. [445]

112. Japanese Apprehension Concerning the Prospective Effects of the American-Mexican Negotiations.

Fearing that Japanese-Mexican trade would be seriously affected by negotiations under way between America and Mexico to exchange necessary war materials, Minister Miura, referring to an Associated Press release of a statement issued by the Mexican Foreign Office, thought that it would be best to discuss the matter openly with the Mexican Foreign Minister. He advised on June 27, 1941 that a detailed report would be forthcoming shortly. [446]

[440] II, 385.

[441] II, 386.

[442] II, 387-390.

[443] II, 391.

[444] II, 392.

[445] II, 393.

[446] II, 394


Meanwhile, the safety of Japanese fishing ships in Mexican waters was a problem, although Minister Miura assured Tokyo on June 24, 1941 that it should merely watch coolly the course of events since for the time being there was nothing to worry about. [447]

On July 2, 1941, Minister Miura, disturbed by Associated Press reports from Washington to the effect that the pending American-Mexican treaty was designed to prevent the shipment of American materials anywhere outside the American countries, paid a visit to Foreign Minister Ezequiel Padilla. When asked if these reports were true, Mr. Padilla answered that Mexico was considering an agreement of this kind, but that the matter concerned only American powers, and had nothing to do with other countries. [448]

Minister Miura further inquired as to the possibility of Mexico’s being prevented from selling her surplus materials to the Japanese. Admitting that the gist of the American proposal was that American goods were not to be shipped out of American states, Mr. Padilla said that Mexico was still considering the matter, but had as yet not decided. Minister Miura then pointed out that should such an agreement be concluded, the friendly relations which had existed between Mexico and Japan for a long time would be marred. Foreign Minister Padilla replied that the Mexican government was hesitating because disruption of the Japanese-Mexican relationship would be most regrettable, but that, since Mexico had to obtain machinery and other goods, it was necessary to sell Mexican goods to the United States. To say that Japan, instead of the United States, could sell the machinery to Mexico was quite beside the point.

Arguing that Japan was now in position to sell surpluses of heavy industrial goods, Minister Miura referred to a list offered by the Japanese Chief of the Commercial Section which Minister Yamagata had brought to Mexico. The Foreign Minister, however, avoided discussion of this by saying that these points were being studied by experts in various departments. Minister Miura assured the Foreign Minister that goods purchased by Japan would not be reshipped to Germany, and stated that it was the feeling of the Japanese government that the European war would end sooner than expected. Mr. Padilla, in closing the interview, said that he would consider the Japanese Minister’s remarks in examining the treaty. [449]

113. Japan Establishes Espionage Routes from the United States to Mexico.

On June 28, 1941 Mr. Matsuoka, requesting Minister Miura to establish communication between Mexico and the United States at once in connection with the intelligence network to be organized, asked that regular reports concerning its progress be made. [450]

Mr. Kato, in Mexicali, reported on July 2, 1941 that if intelligence work were to be carried on, it was absolutely necessary that both new funds and personnel be supplied. Although there were many Japanese inhabitants in his vicinity, not one of them belonged to the intelligentsia. Minister Miura believed that in spite of the difficulty of conducting intelligence work in a border city having a population of only 15,000, the work there would be useful, provided that the intelligence nets in Los Angeles and vicinity were well organized, and especially if the withdrawal of Japanese officials from the United States should become necessary. For this reason, Minister Miura proposed to establish connections with Los Angeles and make necessary preparations. [451]

[447] II, 395.

[448] II, 396.

[449] II, 394, 396-398

[450] II, 399.

[451] II, 393


By July 4, 1941, impressed with the necessity of haste in view of the delicate Japanese-American situation, Minister Miura was attempting to establish an international route by which intelligence could be relayed from the United States to Tokyo. He planned to use Mexico City as headquarters for the collection of observations and opinions gathered from the espionage net in the United States. To effect quick passage into Mexico, he suggested that Japanese intelligence agents in the United States be reduced at once from their official status to that of civilians, thereby allowing them to make representations as individuals to the Mexican government.

Urging that before it became too late, Japanese agents in the border areas should secure passport visas and should begin to perform their intelligence duties, Minister Miura advocated the opening of offices in Laredo, El Paso, Nogales, and Mexicali to establish a route for the transmission of intelligence. On a trip to New Orleans and Houston, the Japanese Minister had discovered that the organizing of an intelligence net had been given not the slightest consideration. Mr. Yamagata’s party, passing through Los Angeles, had discovered a similar situation. However, by July 4, 1941, these offices, under orders from Tokyo, had gradually brought their plans to a head.

Disclaiming responsibility for the organization of an espionage net in the United States, Minister Miura declared that this activity was definitely a function of Japanese diplomats in the United States. Believing that the establishment of the intelligence transmission route was separate from the creation of an espionage net, he argued that it was quite impossible for officials in Mexico City to bring the latter into being. To avert working at cross purposes, however, Minister Miura asked Tokyo for additional information. [452]

On July 22, after a conference with Messrs. Terasaki, Ito, and Kato, it was decided to abandon the idea of using Mexicali as an intelligence center. Mr. Miura argued that its location and its transportation and communication facilities were disadvantageous, and that its Japanese citizens were under the closest surveillance. Mexicali, he concluded, would not be suitable for any intelligence activity. [453]

To complete plans for the establishment of an espionage net, Consul Ito and Secretary Terasaki went to Mexico on an itinerary which included Mexico City, Panama, Port of Spain, and Rio de Janeiro. [454] After conferring with Secretary Terasaki and Consul Ito, Minister Miura, having had a change of mind, warned Tokyo that Mexico, as compared with Brazil, Argentina and Chile, should not be considered as a main base of intelligence, although a study of plans for intelligence routes and connections in Mexico should be continued. Aside from the fact that the general feeling in Mexico towards Japan was not pleasant, and that Mexico might be viewed as a dependency of the United States, difficulties in attempting to get information about internal conditions in the United States would occur. If Mexico went to war, it would be impossible, because of communications, to transfer or expand the Japanese intelligence organization. [455]

To support the establishment of the Japanese intelligence net, which was to have its headquarters in Mexico City, three routes to Mexico from the United States, via Laredo, Ciudad-Juarez and Mexicali, were being considered. A Chilean route from Manzanillo to Mexico, and

[452] II, 400-403.

[453] II, 404.

[454] II, 405-409.

[455] II, 410.


a Brazilian route by way of Vera Cruz were also to be formed. Japanese officials in the United States and Mexico were to work out the details of their own espionage nets so as to coordinate them, and they were to develop a plan for making contacts and exchanges on the border. The means for keeping in contact through telegraph, telephone, memoranda and word of mouth were to be decided upon at a later date. Mr. Matsuoka stressed the importance of preparing such routes against the coming of war, and warned that nothing should be done which would jeopardize their security. [456]

114. Japanese Plans to Operate a Secret Radio in Mexico.

Continuing their preparations for intelligence work in case the United States and Mexican offices were withdrawn, the Japanese planned to install a secret transmitter in Mexico City. If the apparatus were discovered by Mexico, Japanese officials were determined to plead diplomatic immunity. In view of the difficulty of procuring parts for the transmitter, the possibility of assembling the equipment in the United States was suggested. [457]

115. Japanese Concern with Mexico’s Pro-American Attitude.

Summarizing the Mexican situation in a report to Tokyo on July 4, 1941, Minister Miura reiterated that in spite of his best efforts to foster anti-American and anti-war atmosphere in Mexico, he felt that it was impossible to achieve much along these lines. The success of Japanese plans would be determined by the political and foreign policy of Mexico, as directed by President Camacho and his Cabinet, and since these gentlemen were strongly pro-American, it was impossible to procure any information of value to Japan.

Pointing out that the first aim of the Japanese was to undermine the leadership which the United States held in regard to other nations of the hemisphere, Minister Miura felt that it was necessary to break up the so-called “Good Neighbor Policy”, thereby destroying any possibility of future coordination among the American nations. For this reason, and following the suggestions of Military Attaché Yoshiaki Nishi, he advised the supporting of a rebellion in Guatemala which would have to be quieted by United States’ armed forces. This would violate the “Good Neighbor Policy” and would cause a cleavage between the countries on the American continent by upsetting the political balance as far south as Panama. Minister Miura advised that funds be appropriated to begin preparation, if his plan appeared feasible in the light of Japanese national policy. [458]

Commenting on the uselessness of attempting to sway official opinion in Mexico, Minister Miura stated that no other nation on the American continent was so influenced by the United States as was Mexico. [459] He found it difficult to judge whether or not Mexico would follow the United States into war, but, in any case, it was now impossible to carry on trans-Pacific commerce. Considering this fact, Minister Miura, as well as Japanese officials in San Francisco, were arranging for the secret return of the Emperor’s portraits to Japan. One portrait was being returned in the custody of the captain of the Ginyo Maru, and another on the Kamakura Maru. [460] Mr. Matsuoka approved this plan, but warned that care should be taken in dealing with the captain of the vessel. [461]  http://LOUIS-J-SHEEHAN.US

[456] II, 411.

[457] II, 412.

[458] II, 413-414.

[459] II, 415.

[460] II, 416-418.

[461] II, 419-420.


116. Japan Considers the Evacuation of Its Nationals in the United States.

In the event that the Japanese-American relationship was severed, the Japanese Minister in Mexico was considering the evacuation of Japanese nationals from the United States. However, because of the manner in which the United States and Mexico had been treating Germans and Italians, Minister Miura felt that there was no possibility of Mexico’s allowing Japanese residents from other countries to enter its borders.

The question of accommodating Japanese nationals from the United States was not an immediate one, since many Japanese in the United States would choose to remain there. If Mexico took an attitude completely in harmony with that of the United States, the repatriation of the Japanese in Mexico to Japan would be extremely difficult. In the light of this situation, preparations were made in Mexico City to call a meeting of fourteen or fifteen Japanese representatives from various parts of the country to discuss questions of mutual help, the maintenance of liaison between Mexico City and the districts, and the protection of enterprises and property of Japanese residents. [462]

Reporting on this meeting of July 19, 1941, Japanese officials listed several points which had been decided in relation to the best method of solving their problems in Mexico. They planned to establish an efficient system of liaison between the Mexico City office and other districts. The country would be divided into nine areas with a liaison officer in charge of each, and in this way, it would be possible to promote better feeling among the Mexicans toward the Japanese people, and to devise methods to be taken to protect Japanese firms, if indications began to point to the freezing of Japanese assets in Mexico. [463]

117. Japan Attempts to Exert Economic Pressure Against Mexico.

Minister Miura suggested to Foreign Minister Matsuoka, on July 10, 1941, that a Japanese Consulate be established at the port of Manzanillo. Although the port was relatively unimportant, both the United States and Great Britain had established consulates there. Not only was the American Consul bringing considerable pressure to bear on Mexican officials, but since Japan lacked a diplomatic office at this port, Americans were spying upon Japanese vessels to determine what goods were being shipped to Japan. [464] Apparently as a retaliatory measure against the strict control of Mexican exports to Japan, Mr. Matsuoka reported on July 10, 1941 that there was no Japanese export plan for the shipments of artificial silk to Mexico in July, because of the shortage of ships. Explaining that, owing to a government defense order, permits had to be obtained for the exportation of silk thread, he asked that Minister Miura send his opinion concerning the limiting of Japanese exports to Mexico. [465]

Three days later, Minister Miura wired that, although he had been unable to secure an interview with the Minister of Economics, he had cornered him at a social function and, as a result, had obtained an interview on July 12, 1941. In view of the prospective signing of the Mexican-American agreement, Minister Miura declared that should the major part of the present Japanese-Mexican trade come under the terms of the Mexican-American agreement, Japan and Mexico would be unable to continue their present close relations. He pointed out that Mexican mercury and other items were as essential to Japan as Japanese rayon was to Mexico. The Minister of Economics, however, avoided this discussion by saying that until

[462] II, 421.

[463] II, 422.

[464] II, 423.

[465] II, 424.


the pact had been agreed upon, he was in no position to talk about such a matter, but that in his own personal opinion, a Mexican law would be put into effect restricting the exporting of materials to nations other than those of the American continent. The Japanese Ambassador again argued without success, that his country was in a position to supply Mexico with a great deal of heavy industrial and chemical products. [466]

A rumor that the United States planned to establish a branch of the Treasury Department in Mexico City gave rise to Japanese fears that such a move was being undertaken to ensure that the provisions of the pending treaty were carried out. [467] Feeling that a definite position should be taken by Japan, at this time, in regard to the Mexican-American agreement on July 15, 1941, Minister Miura assembled Japanese businessmen, as well as his military and naval attaches, to discuss plans of procedure. It was decided that as a test of Mexico’s intentions, Mexican officials should be asked to approve the exporting of goods already under contract to Japan. If Mexico refused to cooperate, the use of Japanese shipping would be denied to it, and a stoppage of rayon and other essential goods would ensue. Although two Japanese vessels loaded with rayon had arrived in Manzanillo and had already begun unloading, it was still possible to prevent the unloading of the Heiyo Maru, also laden with rayon, which was scheduled to arrive July 25, 1941. [468]

To an inquiry from Tokyo concerning the information that officials at Manzanillo would not give clearance to the Akagi Maru, [469] Minister Miura answered that, in spite of the pressure exerted by British and American Consuls, the ship had been able to sail, and that no such incident had occurred. The Japanese Minister, declaring that the facts had been misrepresented, asked that the source of the news be traced. [470] Three days later, Tokyo replied that the report had been wired from the American Metal Company of Manzanillo, a Mitsui subsidiary, by way of the company’s New York branch. [471]

118. Japanese Reaction to American-Mexican Agreement (July 15, 1941).

The much feared agreement between the United States and Mexico was announced by official proclamation on July 15, 1941. In an interview with Mr. J. T. Bodet, the Mexican Foreign Minster, concerning this new development, Mr. Miura learned that the terms contained in the proclamation would be carried out without waiting for the completion of details. Mr. Bodet felt that the embargo law would be interpreted in its strictest sense and that even those articles previously contracted for would immediately come under the terms of the proclamation. In spite of the Japanese Minister’s insistence that Japanese businessmen would suffer enormous losses, the Mexican Vice Minister was adamant in interpreting the Presidential proclamation as applicable both to goods previously and subsequently contracted for, and regardless of the nationality of the merchants handling them. [472] These statements were confirmed officially on July 19, 1941, when Minister Miura was asked to call on him.

The problem of keeping the cargo of the Heiyo Maru out of Mexico was a perplexing one, and Mr. Miura felt it necessary again to consult an assembly of Japanese nationals concerning this matter. Considering the difficulty of the ship’s leaving Mexico while still loaded, and

[466] II, 425.

[467] II, 426.

[468] II, 427.

[469] II, 428.

[470] II, 429.

[471] II, 430.

[472] II, 431.



since it would be unable to transport its scheduled cargo from South America, Mr. Miura reported on the advisability of having the vessel peacefully unloaded. In view of the fact that Mexico had no other rayon supply, and that its need and the agitation of the few capitalists controlling raw materials would grow, the best solution appeared to be the authorization of no other shipments of rayon to Mexico. [473]

The proclamation of July 15, 1941, brought to an end the attempts of Japanese officials to work through Maximino Camacho, and thus, plans were laid to obtain materials through another agent. Armed with the assurance that the United States could not supply Mexico’s need for rayon, one of Minister Miura’s agents negotiated with the Mexican Economic Minister to trade 20,000 cases of rayon for 8,000 bottles of mercury. Various details of transportation and created difficulties, but were being discussed. [474]

Approving this move, Tokyo, on July 22, 1941, advised that until definite results could be obtained through their undercover operations, it would be necessary to negotiate officially for the exchange of goods already under contract. Japan’s decision to stop the shipment in August of 7,000 boxes of rayon, was to be explained to the Mexican government by saying that Japan found it necessary to recognize only these contracts which assured Japan of the acquisition of needed goods. Because the amount of supplies which the United States could furnish Mexico would affect its activities to a large extent, Japan asked that all intelligence on this subject be forwarded. [475]

Japanese officials in Mexico were advised on July 23, 1941, that in view of Mexico’s embargo of materials essential to Japan, the Japanese ministries had decided to prohibit the exporting not only of rayon, but of all other general merchandise to Mexico. [476]

Minister Miura, realizing that such a decision would react unfavorably upon opinion in South America, and that Japan could still obtain such items as petroleum products, pine tar, cotton and cotton “linters” declared that this trump card of complete prohibition of exports should be carefully played. [477] Submitting a report on artificial silk, mercury and other mineral products on the same day, he encouraged Japan to delay its embargo, since it was possible that the United States would not be able to supply the necessary amount of materials. [478] The Japanese government, regardless of loss or profit, was prepared to offer rayon at one-half the price of American rayon, if assurances were made that exports necessary to Japan would be sent in return. If this proposal were refused by the Mexican government, it was hoped that this information could be used at least to foster anti-American ideas by publicizing the fact that Mexicans could procure Japanese rayon at half the price at which they were now buying it from the United States. [479]

On July 30, 1941, Tokyo learned that it would be impossible to move a supply of Japanese lead left in Manzanillo. The Mexican Minister of Economics, queried by the Mitsui Company, said that the United States had asked that Japan not be allowed to export the lead, since it was necessary for defense, and that, therefore, he would have to refuse. [480]

[473] II, 432-433.

[474] II, 434.

[475] II, 435-436.

[476] II, 437.

[477] II, 438.

[478] II, 439-440.

[479] II, 441

[480] II, 442.


With expenses mounting, and unable to cash salary checks in Mexico after the freezing of assets in America, Minister Miura suggested that his government find some way to make remittances. Informing Tokyo that he had but $12,000 on hand, he pointed out that expenses for June and July would leave him with a deficit of $600. Furthermore, he reminded his superiors that the Japanese army and navy, on January 24, 1941, had found a way to furnish their personnel with enough money for a whole year. [481]  Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

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