The Adviser on Liberated Areas for the Far East (Moffat) to Captain H. L. Pence of the Occupied Areas Section, Navy Department

My Dear Captain Pence: With reference to the questions bearing on the segregation of Japanese civilians which you sent me on March 20,36 the following statement has been approved by the Inter-divisional Area Committee on the Far East and may be accepted as the informal opinion of the State Department.

Segregation of Japanese Civilians

It is, unfortunately, impossible at this time for the State Department to formulate the definitive policy of the United States relative to the disposition after the war of Japanese civilians, including civilian officials, in the Mandated Islands and Formosa. With regard to the Mandated Islands, the policies to be adopted will be dependent on the formal disposition of the Islands; with regard to Formosa, the determination will rest finally with China after sovereignty is restored to her. The Department has no information regarding any Chinese views as to the final settlement of Japanese civilians now in Formosa, and considers that it would be inadvisable to make inquiries on this subject at this time. It is possible that a determination of the question of repatriation of Japanese civilians from all territories to be taken from Japan may be the subject of international action after the conclusion of hostilities.

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It is urged, therefore, that no action be taken on policies adopted during the period of military government which might impair complete latitude of decision by the United States Government at the conclusion of the war.

During the period of military government, the military authorities (a) should be guided by accepted international law, (b) should undertake no mass segregation, internment or removal except such as may actually be required by military necessity, and (c) should not attempt to anticipate a decision which must be predicated on agreements which it is not likely will be concluded with other countries until after the war.

Formosa has been under Japanese sovereignty for half a century. Although technically all Formosans, therefore, are enemy nationals, the State Department looks upon the Chinese Formosans and the Formosan aborigines as quite apart from the persons of Japanese blood who live on the island. It anticipates that the Military Governor will act generally on the assumption that the Chinese Formosans, who speak Chinese and are of Chinese or of mixed Chinese and aborigine origin, are to be restored to Chinese citizenship after the war, and that the tribal aborigines, who are akin to the non-Christian peoples of Northern Luzon, are neither Japanese nor Chinese, but more properly to be considered as wards of whatever government has control of the island.

The Marshall, Caroline and Marianas Islands, on the other hand, have been held by Japan only under mandate and the natives of these islands have never become Japanese nationals. They should be treated as wards of the military government. A number of Koreans may be found in the islands. If so, special consideration should be given them.

About half of the Japanese civilian population of Formosa comprise officials, corporation executives, technicians and some business entrepreneurs; the other half are largely urban laborers and small businessmen.

In the Mandated Islands, a far greater proportion of the Japanese civilian population will be found to be farmers and laborers, primarily workers on the sugar plantations in the Marianas, brought for such purpose from the Liuchiu Islands.

It is quite possible that if there is intensive fighting in Formosa the Japanese civilians will be found segregated at one or more points, in which event, clearly, the United States military authorities should continue such segregation at least until stable conditions are restored.

In the Mandated Islands, such segregation of the Japanese civilians does not seem probable.

Unless there has been actual segregation as indicated, it is believed that the Military Governor should not undertake a mass segregation [Page 1244] or internment of the Japanese civilian population in any area under naval control unless or until such action is clearly established as necessary for the security of the occupying forces or of the Japanese themselves or to protect the military effort. Politically, we believe such forbearance to be wise. It is hoped, instead, that only officials and others who may be in a position to affect adversely the security of the occupation will be interned at first. Strict warning should be given all other Japanese that they will be interned promptly for any lack of cooperation with the occupying authorities. It is possible that the non-segregation of many Japanese could be turned to substantial advantage in maintaining the administration and economy of the island.

In the Mandated Islands, many of the Japanese could also be of value in maintaining and developing the agricultural production of the islands.

The Military Governor may, however, find it a matter of military necessity to intern Japanese civilian official personnel and other civilians whose activities may be harmful to the military occupation and to segregate the entire remaining Japanese civilian population, including men, women and children. This may be necessary either for the security of the occupying forces or as a matter of protection for such civilians.

Such mass removal of the Japanese civilian population to segregation areas or internment camps, if deemed a matter of military necessity by the Military Government, is permissible under international law. Although Axis propagandists may endeavor to make the most of any action which our military authorities may take, provided that such segregation or internment is carried out under decent American standards it is believed the Military Governor need not permit such possible propaganda to outweigh the more immediate military considerations confronting him.

With regard to any of the civilians so segregated or interned there would clearly be a special duty, because of our treaty obligations and our concern for Americans in Japanese hands and for the reputation of the United States, to make adequate provision for their housing, feeding, health, and recreation. It is agreed that the experience of the War Relocation Authority37 would be useful and it is possible that the services of some of those who have had experience with that agency might be available. It is suggested that valuable records on similar problems might be obtained by consulting with the Middle East Command which handled the problem of repatriation and resettlement of Italians in East Africa and from the records of the International Refugee Resettlement Commission, which arranged the [Page 1245] transfer of populations between Greece and Turkey twenty years ago. Both of these sources might also provide experienced personnel.

The location of segregation centers or internment camps and whether these are to be concentrated or to be at different points in each area must be decided by the Military Governor, having in mind military considerations and the adequacy of the proposed sites from the point of view of housing, feeding, health and recreation. Unless military necessity clearly so requires, the Department believes that during the period of military government the Japanese civilian population in the Mandated Islands should not be evacuated to points outside the Mandated Islands. All civilian persons who are interned should be accorded treatment compatible with the Geneva Convention of 1929 relative to the treatment of prisoners of war so far as such Convention is adaptable to civilian internees.

Work projects may be imposed upon those interned or segregated, provided that labor on such projects is in accordance with international law as set forth in the Annex to the Hague Convention, No. 4, of October 18, 1907.38 Those so segregated or interned may not be compelled to work on any military project, and they must be paid for such other work as they perform. Work projects under these circumstances would be entirely different from the German practices of mass removal in order to provide forced labor, to secure a change in regional economy, or to give vent to racial hatreds.

With regard to the property of any Japanese civilians segregated or interned by the military government, it is felt that there is definite obligation on the part of the Military Governor to take reasonable steps to protect such property. It is believed that the United States would not admit of claims for direct or indirect losses or damages on account of such segregation or internment, except, possibly, where gross negligence on the part of the military authorities can be shown. Regardless, however, of the question of liability every reasonable effort should be made to protect such property. This will include property known to have been illegally acquired, as restitution of this should be made after the war in accordance with legal arrangements yet to be worked out.

It is especially important that the Military Governor take steps to protect and furnish custodial care and management for the large sugar and pineapple estates in Formosa nearly all of which are owned and operated by Japanese companies. Aside from any legal requirements under international law to protect this property, this is important in order to protect the Formosan economy and especially in order to assure food surpluses which may be urgently required by the Military [Page 1246] authorities or by UNRRA39 to meet civilian relief needs in other Far Eastern areas.

The United States Alien Property Custodian has no jurisdiction over property in enemy areas nor does any American statutory law apply in such areas. The situation with regard to Japanese property and possessions will be quite different from that of German property in Italy. It is hoped that more effective measures than merely posting property or appointing a neighbor as caretaker can be devised.

Although, as has been indicated, it is believed that no action should be taken which will in any way impair latitude of decision as to the post-war disposition of Japanese civilians in the Mandated Islands or Formosa, it is thought that those Japanese civilians who desire to return to Japan after its surrender should be permitted to do so whenever arrangements for their return can be effected. Such arrangements, naturally, will be conditional upon the consent of the Military Governor of Japan, the availability of shipping priorities for the return of Japanese from other liberated areas and other considerations. On the other hand, no Japanese civilian who does not wish to do so should be compelled to return to Japan during the period of military government.

Of those who desire to return to Japan, those whose families or basic ties are there, and who were only temporarily in the Islands or in Formosa (viz. higher officials, executives, etc.) should be sent first. Those who have heretofore lived in the Islands or in Formosa but want to start afresh in Japan will have to await arrangements for resettlement which quite possibily will not take place until after the period of military government is over.

It would seem probable that only a very few Japanese will want to stay in Formosa under Chinese sovereignty. There are few Japanese other than public officials or representatives of Japanese concerns who are not dependent for their livelihood on the presence of other Japanese. Japanese-run hotels, stores, barber shops, and the like cater only to Japanese. With the departure of the official and executive class, the remaining Japanese will face ruin and have no incentive to remain.

In the Mandated Islands, a larger percentage than in Formosa may desire to remain to continue as farmers or farm laborers if the sugar plantations are to be continued. If, after the war, the sugar plantations are largely abandoned, it is thought that a large part of the Japanese civilian population now in the Mandated Islands may want to return to Japan.

Sincerely yours,

Abbot Low Moffat
  1. Not printed.
  2. Cf. pp. 1099 ff.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, pp. 1204, 1207.
  4. United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.