The Secretary of State to the Minister in Yugoslavia (Wilson)

No. 59

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 96 of April 3, 1934, relative to the law regarding military service in the Kingdom [Page 744] of Yugoslavia, and has carefully noted the enclosures which accompanied your despatch. It appears that on February 16, last, the Yugoslav Vice Consul, in New York City, stated in a letter to an American citizen that a Yugoslav citizen naturalized in a foreign country has a right to visit his homeland three months every three years without being compelled to serve in the army. It is noted that in the letter of March 19, 1934, addressed to you by the American Consul at Belgrade, it is stated that if such a right exists, the Ministry of War apparently is not aware of the fact. It is noted that you placed this matter before the Royal Ministry for Foreign Affairs and asked to be informed whether or not the statement of the Royal Yugoslav Consulate General may be taken as correct, and that in the Ministry’s reply of March 26, 1934, you are informed that in accordance with Article 45 of the law of September 6, 1929, regarding the organization of the army and navy, as amended by Article 28 of the law of October 28, 1931, such persons have a right to visit their native land and remain there for a period of six months every three years without being subject to service in the Royal Army.

The Department notes the Legation’s opinion that instead of making it possible for a naturalized American citizen to return to Yugoslavia every three years for a short residence without molestation, the amendment of Article 45 of the law of September 6, 1929 by Article 28 of the law of October 28, 1931, tends to tighten the regulations regarding military service in Yugoslavia.

The Department has very carefully read the translation of the law as amended and believes that the interpretation contained in the Note of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be regarded as proper in the cases of naturalized American citizens who have not regularized their status under Article 45 of the law of September 6, 1929 as amended by Article 28 of the law of October 28, 1931. Inasmuch, however, as it appears from your despatch that the Yugoslav military authorities do not administer the law in accordance with that interpretation, the Department cannot advise American citizens in the sense thereof. In this connection, the Department infers from your despatch that so far as the administration of the law is concerned, naturalized American citizens of Yugoslav origin who have not complied with the provisions of the above law as amended are inducted into military service without being allowed any period of unmolested sojourn in Yugoslavia.

It is requested that you ask as discreetly as possible the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss this matter with the Ministry of War so that the information furnished by the former and the practice of the military authorities may be harmonized and in order that the Department may be properly advised as to the rights and liabilities of naturalized American citizens of Yugoslav origin while in Yugoslavia. [Page 745] Of course, you will on every occasion present to the Yugoslav authorities the Department’s view, based on Section 1999 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, which freely recognizes the principle of the right of expatriation, that a naturalized citizen of the United States should not, upon his return to Yugoslavia, be obliged to perform military or other obligations or be held liable for failure to perform such obligations which had not actually accrued under Yugoslav law, prior to his emigration to the United States.

It is desired that you request the Foreign Office to issue appropriate instructions to the Consulate General in New York City in order that the information which was given by that office in the case above referred to may not be repeated, at least not while the practice of the military authorities is known to be contrary to such information.

The Department will await a report from you as to the result of your action in this matter.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Wilbur J. Carr