The Consul at Tientsin ( Meyer ) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 17—4:11 p.m.]
A–21. [To Embassy:] Under present directives, Marines in Tientsin unable to require Japanese to return movable goods confiscated from Allied nationals against seizure receipts or other valid evidence of confiscation, except where Allied owner is able to find and identify precise merchandise seized. This has been possible in the case of a few motor vehicles belonging to Allied nationals. However, no systematic procedure to facilitate Allied nationals in recovering property now held, for instance, at Japanese Army Supply Headquarters has been developed. Problem is complicated by the fact that the Japanese Military in many instances destroyed their records deliberately so that disposition of confiscated Allied property is not known to them or anyone else. Consequently, it is only by chance that repossession of movable property is possible in individual cases.
The Consulate General urges a broadening of present instructions to Marine authorities at Tientsin, the more essential now due to Chinese application of war booty theory, Chinese disregard of heavy losses sustained by Allied nationals, and lack of Chinese cooperation in enabling them to recover confiscated movable property.
To illustrate: The Japanese have indicated their willingness to deliver from their military stores 20 Singer sewing machines similar to those confiscated from Peking branch of Singer Company, provided Marine agreement is obtained. The Consulate General believes this should be granted.
The Japanese hold substantial quantities of bristles at their Supply Headquarters which could be used to cover claims of Allied firms for confiscated cargo.
Both Frazar, Federal Inc. and Mr. Joseph Morris, American, have lost fleets of motor vehicles for which Marines might turn over similar vehicles taken from Japanese, the recipients guaranteeing to deliver to any Allied national any vehicle to which the latter can establish ownership and agreeing that the delivery is temporary adjustment pending final settlement and liquidation their claims for war losses.
It will be appreciated if the Embassy will obtain the view of the Commanding General China Theater on this problem as a means of minimizing losses to American nationals and the number of claims which eventually will have to be handled through diplomatic channels.
Even should a procedure such as is proposed here be approved, the Consulate General is taking the precaution of informing local Chinese authorities that they are responsible to American citizens for property [Page 1407] confiscated from them by the Japanese which the Chinese recover in the course of applying their war booty thesis and in repossessing abandoned private or public Japanese property.