Report by Mr. Nathaniel P. Davis 70 to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to submit a copy of the report71 of the Chairman72 of the committee of repatriates on board the Japanese repatriation ship Teia Maru which was appointed by the Swiss Delegate on board at the suggestion of the Department.

The report gives a full account of the activities of the committee and may be of value to the Department in planning for subsequent exchanges of nationals. I was a member of the committee and am in agreement with the findings of the chairman.

While the report draws attention to a number of aspects of the voyage of the Teia Maru which might have been better, it is my recommendation that no action be taken with regard to most of them. I am informed that the Japanese government has stated that no other vessel is available for repatriation purposes and that there is some reason to fear that if fault is found with it no vessel at all will be made available. I think I can state categorically that the overwhelming majority of the repatriates, and certainly this was my own attitude, were happy to be repatriated on any vessel and under any conditions, no matter how unnecessarily unsatisfactory they may have been. And I am certain that the majority of our unfortunate fellow citizens still in Japanese hands would prefer a voyage on the Tela Maru to remaining in captivity.

However, I do believe that this government could properly insist on the following:

That the vessel be put in proper seaworthy and mechanical condition. The life boats and rafts should be overhauled and made water tight; it should be made certain that each life boat is provided with food and water; life jackets should be provided for each person [Page 951] on board and passengers should know where the jackets are to be found; the water distribution system should be overhauled and the engineering staff should be familiarized with it so that breakdowns can be repaired promptly. Restrictions on the use of water are not objectionable, but greater efforts should be made to insure that water is available during the hours, and at the places, specified, which times and places should be notified to all passengers.
There should be regular fire and life boat drills.
There should be sufficient men in the steward’s department to insure proper cleaning of the vessel, particularly the public toilets. On the Teia Maru these were in deplorably filthy condition due both to breakdowns in the water system and to inadequate attention from crew members whose duty it was, or should have been, to clean them. The condition of the toilets was a menace to the health of all on board.
Steps should be taken to protect passengers against extortion by the crew. It is admitted that the passengers were partially at fault in this matter in that some of them corrupted some members of the steward’s department with over-generous gratuities as soon as they came on board. Nevertheless, by no means all passengers were at fault, and in any event a greater degree of discipline exercised by the officers of the vessel would have prevented the flagrant extortion which flourished among the stewards.

Particular attention is invited to those paragraphs of the report describing the work of the accommodations committee on pages 12 and following. It is believed that duplication of effort and dissatisfaction on the part of numerous repatriates could be obviated by clarifying the Department’s instructions as to the duties of the committee of repatriates with reference to berthing arrangements for the American ship.

It is requested that copies of the report be sent through diplomatic channels to the Honorable Armando Labra Carvajal and to Dr. Juan Marin, both of whom were members of the committee and who were formerly Chilean Minister to Japan and Chilean Chargé d’Affaires in China respectively. These two gentlemen disembarked in Rio de Janeiro before the report had been completed and both asked that copies be sent to them through the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Respectfully yours,

Nathaniel P. Davis
  1. Foreign Service Officer detailed as Inspector.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Claude A. Buss, formerly Executive Assistant to the United States High Commissioner to the Philippines.