The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France ( Wallace )

No. 283

Sir: The Department has received a number of inquiries from naturalized American citizens of French descent and from persons born in the United States of French parents, regarding their liability to punishment for their failure to comply with the military service regulations of the French Government, in the event that they return to or visit France for a temporary sojourn for business or personal reasons.22 In a great majority of these cases the persons in question have fully complied with the military service laws and regulations of the United States. The matter has been taken up with the French Embassy at Washington in two notes of June 28, 1919, and September 15, 1919, respectively, copies of which are enclosed,23 but up to this time the French Government has not replied to the notes. The French Government has, however, given certain assurances in respect to persons who were regarded as French citizens but who were serving or had served in the American Army. The substance of these assurances is contained in the Department’s note of August 3, 1918, a copy of which is also enclosed.24

The Italian Government, whose military service laws appear to be no less strict than those of France, has given this Government formal assurances that American citizens, of Italian extraction, as well as persons who have retained their Italian nationality, who were under obligations of military service in the Kingdom of Italy and who did not return to that country for such service, may freely visit Italy without molestation, provided they carry with them their discharge from the American Army or an extract from the records showing that they have served in the American forces, or were exempted or given deferred classification for such service under the laws and regulations in force in the United States. The assurances of the Italian Government with respect to American citizens have been embodied in a statement bearing date of April 12, 1919, which was prepared by the Department for the information of American citizens, [Page 938] of Italian birth or parentage, desiring to return to Italy. A copy of this statement is enclosed for your information.25

The Department has also taken the matter up with the Greek Government, and is just now in receipt of a cable from the American Minister at Athens, in which it is stated that he has been formally notified that American citizens, of Greek origin, and all other Greeks who have served in the American Army will be exempted from further service in the Greek Army.26

You are instructed to inquire whether, in view of the Convention of September 3, 1919 [1918], between the United States and France, providing for reciprocal military service;27 in view of the fact that this Government and the Government of the French Republic were associated as cobelligerents in the war against Germany and Austria; and in view of the attitude taken by the other Governments enumerated above with respect to similar cases, the French Government will not furnish this Government with an assurance that American citizens who may, by law be considered liable to military service in the French Army, but who have fully complied with the military service laws and regulations of the United States during the present war, will, upon their return to France for a temporary sojourn, be free from molestation, provided that they present official documentary evidence of their compliance with the military service laws and regulations of the United States.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Alvey A. Adee
  1. Inquiries not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 2, p. 718.
  4. Not printed.
  5. See telegram no. 861, Nov. 18, 1919, from the Minister in Greece, vol. ii, p. 164.
  6. Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 2, p. 723.