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Memorandum for the President
July 14, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
Our records indicate that approximately 18,978 American prisoners (white) are now held by the Japanese in the Philippines. A short time ago the Japanese government submitted the names of 1,664 American prisoners who have died from preventable causes such as beri-beri, malaria, dysentery, and colitis. Unconfirmed reports obtained from escaped prisoners and clandestine radios indicate that as many as 5,000 may have died from these causes and another report indicates a casualty percentage even as high as 40 per cent. It is difficult to obtain information regarding these prisoners because of the Japanese refusal to permit inspection of the camps by the International Red Cross or by neutral governments. It is apparent, however, that the American prisoners in the Philippines are in a distressing situation and every possible effort must immediately be made to improve their condition.
To this end a list of essential remedies and concentrated vitamin foods has been prepared with the idea that these would be transported as cargo in the U.S.S. GRIPSHOLM in connection with the exchange of Japanese civilian internees. Sufficient space has been reserved on the GRIPSHOLM for 4 months’ medical supplies and for a two months’ supply of concentrated food. Also, we are taking up with the Soviet government the matter of establishing a stock pile of medicine and concentrated foods at Vladivostok with a view to reshipment of these articles in Japanese bottoms to our prisoners in the Philippines.
The quickest means of providing relief appears to be through the GRIPSHOLM, but it is understood that agreement between the State Department and the Japanese involving the use of the GRIPSHOLM has not been accomplished because of the hesitancy of The Attorney General to release for exchange certain important Japanese internees who, because of information presumably in their possession, might be of assistance to saboteurs.
In view of the reported conditions under which these American soldiers are now living and the mounting death rate, the War Department feels that the potential risk of releasing the Japanese internees should be taken. Also involved in the matter is a continuous pressure being exerted by the families of the soldiers, many of whom are members of National Guard units recruited en bloc from small communities.
Under these circumstances it is recommended that instructions be given to the Secretary of State to clear the GRIPSHOLM at the earliest possible moment.1
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. The Gripsholm, a Swedish ship chartered by the United States government, had made a voyage in 1942 to exchange interned Japanese and American officials and their families. It departed on its second such voyage from New York Harbor on September 2 for the exchange point in G