Around the World in 175 Days, 1924: Department of State Contributions to the U.S. Army Flight Around the World: Part III: Japan

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in Research Services at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

This is the third in a series of occasional blog posts.  This and the next posts will track the progress of the flight by presenting a few of the reports of U.S. diplomatic and consular posts along the route.

After departing Seattle on April 6, flying through Canada and across Alaska (losing one of the aircraft), and making an unscheduled stop in Soviet territory, the flight traversed the Japanese islands heading for Tokyo.  In doing so, the aircraft were the first to fly across the Pacific Ocean.  Given the Japanese reluctance discussed in Part 1, it was unclear what kind of reception would be accorded there.  The following telegram from the U.S. embassy in Tokyo reported a positive turn in the Japanese attitude.

Telegram from Woods, American Embassy Tokyo to the Secretary of State, April 21, 1924 (NAID 302021)

The actual arrival in Tokyo coincided with the discussion in Congress of the discriminatory 1924 National Origins Act (NAID 5752154) on immigration to the United States.  That law included provisions that excluded Japanese emigration to the U.S. and necessarily provoked issues in the U.S.-Japan relationship.  The embassy, however, was able to report, in somewhat garbled language, that “Notwithstanding the present tendencies feeling over the exclusion question, the Japanese officials are extending themselves in an effort to show every courtesy to our fliers.”  Public interest was high and people were welcoming leading to “considerable comment by the press which ironically contrasts their welcome with the action of Congress…”

Two days later, the embassy sent this brief report, again noting the relationship to the pending legislation. 

Telegram from Woods, American Embassy Tokyo to the Secretary of State, May 26, 1924 (NAID 302021)

The fact that the Japanese seemed to go out of their way to not rain on the U.S. parade is probably what led to the following somewhat effusive message of thanks.  In all other cases, the message of thanks came only after completion of the flight.

Letter from Secretary of State Hughes to American Embassy, Tokyo, May 26, 1924 (NAID 302021)

Despite the positive reception, there were some problems in Japan.  The following telegram reports on the actions of some of the sailors from U.S. Navy ships in Japan supporting the War Department’s flight.

Telegram from Woods American Embassy Tokyo to Secretary of State, May 27, 1924 (NAID 302021)

 Upon receiving a response after this information was conveyed to the Department of the Navy, the Department sent a telegram to the embassy stating “Special instructions have been given by the appropriate authorities to prevent a recurrence of the trouble.”  By that time, the pilots were long gone from Japan.

Sources:  All the documents mentioned above come from file “811.2300” in the 1910-29 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  A listing of those documents will be found in the Purport List for that file, which is available online beginning at frame 510.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *