811.2222 (1940)/449

The Swedish Minister (Boström) to the Secretary of State

No. 38

Sir: On December 20, 1941, the President approved an Act to amend the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 by providing i. a. for the extension of liability for military service. Under the terms of this Act every male person residing in the United States between the ages of twenty and forty-five shall be liable for training and service in the land or naval forces of the United States. The wording of the Act leaves no doubt that Congress has intended that this liability shall embrace even aliens residing in the United States. Through this stipulation the United States seem to have departed from the principle of international law to which my Government adheres, that a neutral citizen shall be exempt from all military service in the belligerent country where he resides.

Due to the special structure of the American population, in particular the unusually large proportion of aliens, the United States have since the time of the Civil War, through World War I, and up to the time of the enactment of the Selective Service Act of 1940, deemed it justifiable to subject to military conscription aliens who have declared their intention to become American citizens.

The Swedish Government during World War I instructed their Minister in Washington to bring to the knowledge of the American Government that in their opinion the pertinent legislative measures in the Act of May 18, 1917,2 were not compatible with the rights and duties of neutral persons. In regard to the point of view on this subject, which my Government still maintain in principle, I beg leave to refer Your Excellency to Mr. Ekengren’s note to Mr. Lansing of October 10, 1917.3

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The Act of December 20, 1941, now introduces a new principle by making even aliens who have not declared their intention to become American citizens liable for service. To alleviate some of the untenable consequences of such a principle the new law provides:

That any citizen or subject of a neutral country shall be relieved from liability for training and service under this Act if, prior to his induction into the land or naval forces, he has made application to be relieved from such liability in the manner prescribed by and in accordance with rules and regulations prescribed by the President, but any person who makes such application shall thereafter be debarred from becoming a citizen of the United States.

These provisions seem in most cases to offer a practical remedy of the situation, in which the general stipulation places registrants of Swedish nationality. Yet, the Swedish Government consider that this possibility of exemption from service, on account of its accompanying consequences, does not bring the stipulations of the Act in full harmony with the principles of the rights and duties of neutral persons under international law.

Especially in regard to Swedish citizens on temporary sojourn in this country, I can in no way find the stipulations justifiable. Through the convention between Sweden and the United States, of January 31, 1933,4

“a person possessing the nationality of both the High Contracting Parties who habitually resides in the territory of one of them and who is in fact most closely connected with that Party shall be exempt from all military obligations in the territory of the other Party.”

It follows as a matter of course that this rule also applies to a person who possesses only the nationality of the Party to which he is most closely connected.

Under this Convention the United States Government has no right to submit to military obligations a Swedish citizen belonging to this category. The American authorities may well, prescribe the procedure tinder which the exemption from military obligations may be established, but it would not be in accordance with the Convention if Swedish citizens were only allowed to enjoy the privileges of the Convention if they fulfilled a material condition not mentioned in that Convention.

I note that the President, by Section 4 of the Act, has been authorized to specify certain categories of persons who shall not be required to be registered and who shall be relieved from military service. I have the honour to request that Your Excellency be good enough to take the necessary steps in order that, at least, Swedish citizens in the categories [Page 485]just mentioned may be unconditionally exempted from the liability for military service.

Furthermore, I should be much obliged if Your Excellency would kindly request the proper authorities to disseminate in the widest appropriate degree information regarding the exemption clause. I have reason to believe that the changes of principles embodied in the new Act have not been noticed by a great many of the persons affected by the new stipulations. I should, therefore, very much appreciate it, if at the time of registration, every Swedish citizen might be informed of the provisions of the above-named exemption clause and at the same time be given opportunity to make the application mentioned in that clause.

A great number of Swedish citizens who have already been registered in accordance with the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 but who have not yet been inducted into service are mistakenly yet undoubtedly under the impression that the stipulations of that Act—the Act under which they were registered—are still in force. In order to avoid possible misunderstandings I should be very much obliged if the authorities could individually, not later than at the time when his number is drafted, furnish information regarding the above mentioned changes in the new law to every Swedish citizen who has already registered but not yet been inducted.

With renewed assurances [etc.]

W. Boström
  1. 40 Stat. 77.
  2. For text, see Green H. Hackworth, Digest of International Law, vol. iii, p. 609.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. ii, p. 763.