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thought were the highlights of that file. I do not wish to bother you with so much, if you will accept that.
Mr. HINSHAW. That letter will be accepted without objection. (The letter referred to is as follows:)
PHILIPPINE TRUST Co.,
Manila, Philippines, January 28, 1953. Mr. CLIFFORD BLUEMEL, Brigadier General, United States Army,
Yardley, Pa., U. S. A. GENTLEMEN : This is with reference to your letter of December 15, 1952, concerning your prewar checking account with us which had a credit balance of $427,53 at the time it was transferred by the Japanese military authorities to the Bank of Taiwan, Ltd., on September 29, 1944.
We wish to advise you that we have already filed a claim with the Central Bank of the Philippines on June 28, 1951, in behalf of all our depositors whose accounts were transferred following the agreement made by the representatives of the various banks affected and the officials of the Central Bank that each bank concerned shall officially file a consolidated claim of all those accounts that were sequestered by the Japanese military authorities for accommodation only. It must be understood, however, that in filing such claim in their behalf, it should not be construed or considered as recognizing our liability to the depositors for such transferred accounts which had already been the subject of a decision of the Supreme Court in the case entitled, “Everett Steamship Corporation v. The Bank of the Philippine Islands,” absolving the depository bank from liability thereof. Very truly yours,
CIPRIANO B. CASTRO,
Vice President. General BLUEMEL. I found out recently that there is more than just this one man who lost money, that I told you, of the $900. There was a Capt. Karl Baer, the son of a classmate of mine at the Military Academy, and this son died in a Japanese prison camp. He lost $500. And there was a Capt. A. T. Moore who has a wife and two children, and he lost over $1,000.
But one of the reasons I came down here—as you can see I am not going to benefit very much by getting back this amount of money. I have spent considerable of my own funds in the matter, and if it comes back I will have to take it up on my income tax return because I have already dropped it; so I will gain nothing by it.
But the thing I notice is that here somewhere in Washington there seems to be a change of attitude toward us fellows who fought on Bataan and Corregidor. It appears to come from an individual or a group of individuals. Any time there is any effort made to secure some legislation which might benefit us in some way or another, it meets with a great deal of hostile opposition. Where the opposition comes from, other than this one document from the State Department, I would be very much interested to know.
That is one question. Then the other one is: Why? Some of you gentlemen might be able to tell me and make me feel a lot better. I have talked in many parts of the country to great numbers of civilians, and I have yet to find one who is hostile toward us or felt that we were not entitled to some consideration, especially in this case that I brought up here.
And if I may: When I was a prisoner of war, there was a man who wrote to my wife and asked her if she would like to have the back copies of Life magazines. He was even willing to pay the charges of sending them to her. Finally she paid them, though, and he wanted to reimburse her, and she said, "No."
Here is a copy of Life magazine, dated July 20, 1942. It has pictures. I do not care to put it in the record. It has pictures of some of us. I am not in it, but some of the people who were taken prisoners of war at the time are in it. And if I may read this article, it is not too long, and you can see what I am getting at by these questions.
On April 9, after 4 heartbreaking months of continuous fighting, the American soldiers on the Philippine mainland finally accepted a bitter defeat. Ever since the surprise air attack on the first day of the war, which destroyed most of their planes on the ground, they had fought valiantly against impossible odds. They had retreated, foot by foot, through Luzon and Bataan until their backs were to the sea. There was a small trickle of supplies, makeshift defenses, and magnificent bravery. They withstood the imperial army of Japan. Day after day they held their ground, at times even attacking the enemy and forcing him to retreat. So tenaciously did they hold that one Japanese general was reported to have killed himself in humiliation. The stand was gallant but hopeless. They had too much courage and not enough food. At last weakened by malaria and dysentery, with the enemy bombing them day and night and pushing forward by the sheer weight of numbers, they surrendered.
These pictures taken by Japanese photographers on the date of defeat came to the country by way of Switzerland. They were eloquent testimonials of a lost cause. The American soldiers above went to their final defeat feeling that they had been let down by the people at home. They had been promised military aid, and throughout their last terrible days they had expected it to come.
The tragedy of their defeat was added to the bitterness of disappointment. Where the 37,000 American prisoners of war from Bataan are interned, and what the names and organizations are, is still a secret kept by the Japaneses.
Then the next paragraph tells where these pictures were gotten.
Now, the thing, as I say, that I don't understand, if that was the attitude of the American people at that time, is why this hostility has grown up now.
Mr. HINSHAW. I can assure you, General, that the hostility does not reside in the Congress.
General BLUEMEL. Thank you. I certainly am pleased to hear that.
Mr. HINSHAW. The Congress was, has continued to be, and still is very much upset by a number of events which occurred during that time, which they have not been able to establish, let's say, for the public record. But we do know from testimony from others that the attack in the Philippines was contemplated certainly as early as the middle of October of 1941, and that certain orders and letters passed between the United States and the Philippine commanders and diplomatic representatives at that time which indicate a clear knowledge, a foreknowledge, of the event. And if it had been desired to do so, the entire American population could have been evacuated in plenty of time. That is, the entire American population of the Philippines.
General BLUEMEL. Well, what was decided on at that time is not for me to comment on, and I am not commenting on it.
Mr. HINSHAW. I think that any reference to that particular series of events by persons other than those involved will be found to be, well, blanketed, so to speak; cold blanket, wet blanket, no blanket, or something or other. Anyhow, they don't want it to come out.
General BLUEMEL. Well, we did the best we could with what we had over there. I can assure you of that.
I am not going into details, but if anyone is interested, it is written in history, and they can see what we had.
I might add another statement in connection with this letter from the State Department. The Japanese repeatedly told us that our country did not want us back and we need not plan on coming back.
"That information was imparted to us very frequently. I won't say how many times a month or anything like that, but many times. And reading this letter from the State Department, it seems that perhaps that was approved by someone who was the instigator of that letter to General Devereux.
Now, I think after all the talk it might be well for me to express my personal attitude here. I feel this is a great country, and I am one of the few people who lost their freedom and got it back again. I appreciate my freedom, and I think all of us who fought on Bataan and Corregidor really appreciate the freedom that we have in this country. And these people who are preaching communism and that sort of stuff don't realize what they are doing, because once you lose your freedom and don't get it back, it is one terrible thing. And I would say at my age, if it is necessary, I will go out and fight again.
Mr. HINSHAW. Very good, General. We thank you for this expression in regard to this bill, 6407.
Perhaps some member of the committee has a question.
Mr. BEAMER. I just want to comment that the general is to be commended on his very patriotic statement.
The bell has rung, and I think we probably will have to continue some other time.
Mr. HINSHAW. About 1:30 this afternoon, we will continue this session if there is no objection on the part of the committee. We will l'ecess the hearing at this point until, say 1:30 or quarter to 2, depending upon when we can get back.
And at that time we will hear another witness, and any others who wish to express themselves who may be in the room.
I notice a number of attorneys, local attorneys, and perhaps those from out of town, who may want to express themselves in behalf of their particular clients, and if so we will hear them at that time. The hearing is recessed. (Whereupon, at 11:30 a. m., a recess was taken until 1:30 p. m.)
Mr. HINSHAW. The hearing will resume.
We will hear Mr. Adin M. Downer, assistant legislative representative of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
STATEMENT OF ADIN M. DOWNER, ASSISTANT LEGISLATIVE
REPRESENTATIVE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE
Mr. DoWNER. Mr. Chairman, I should like to make a very brief oral statement.
At the outset, I should like to say that the real interest of our organization in this matter is, of course, the protection of the property rights of the members of the Armed Forces.
By way of explanation of our position I should like to mention that 3 years ago our organization adopted a resolution calling for legislation to reimburse members of the Armed Forces for the sequestered
Philippine bank deposits. The following year, that resolution was not continued because of the uncertainty that then existed as to the matter of payment and the availability of funds for the payment of certain prisoner-of-war claims which we considered had a higher priority. After the legislation of last year providing for the payment of additional sums to prisoners of war, our legislative committee, meeting in Washington on the 1st day of November 1953, again reenacted or readapted a resolution providing for the reimbursement of the Armed Forces personnel for the sequestered bank accounts.
In consideration of that matter, our legislative committee voted to endorse the bill before you, introduced by Mr. Rogers, which also provides for reimbursement of certain banks in the Philippine Islands who have paid American military personnel. The question was raised in our consideration of the matter as to whether or not we should seek the introduction of a bill limited specifically to the military personnel, and since Mr. Rogers' bill had already been introduced and was pending in the Congress, and in discussions of the matter, the memTers of our committee decided that the Rogers bill was meritorious and that we could properly support it because of the fact that if we were not to reimburse the banks who had performed their obligation to our personnel, if we were not to do that, it would amount to penalizing those who had performed their obligation and rewarding those who had not; because by paying or reimbursing depositors of the banks who had defaulted on their obligation or had refused to recognize it, by paying their depositors for them we have discharged their obligation to the depositor and have rewarded them for renouncing their obligation; while, on the other hand, the bank who has paid its depositor and performed its obligation, we would be penalizing him for having done so.
So along that line of thinking our organization voted to endorse the bill of Mr. Rogers, H. R. 6407.
I merely wanted to make that explanation to you and to inform you that, of course, our real interest is in the military personnel.
And I should like to call attention to the fact that the war has been over now for nearly 9 years; which is a very substantial portion of the adult life of these people. Many of them—we don't know how many—but undoubtedly many of them have already died, and we think the hour is growing late and would like to urge upon the committee our view that this is a matter that merits very hasty action.
I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for permitting me to express the views of our organization. If you have any questions as to any other aspects of the bill, I should be pleased to try and answer them as well as I can.
Mr. HINSHAW. We thank you very much, Mr. Downer. We are glad to have the views of yourself and the VFW.
And not by way of excuse nor by way of explanation, but merely for the record, I might inform you that this committee has had before it within the last year or so and has had almost continuously since, such cases as the Black Tom case in World War I.
As I say, that is not an excuse for not handling this business, but it is in some wise, as you might put it, an indication that not everything can be settled overnight.
Mr. DoWNER. I am well aware of that, Mr. Chairman, and my organization is well aware of that. I do not wish it to be understood that it is criticizing this committee for this state of affairs. I realize it is a very, very complex problem, much more complex than most people realize.
I merely want to point out that 9 years have elapsed and we are very anxious to see these military personnel and their survivors reimbursed as rapidly as possible.
Mr. HINSHAW. On the question of nationals versus citizens, of course, nationals include the members of the Philippine Scouts and they were also, at the same time, Filipinos and had normal processes of doing business, if any, with the Philippine banks. On the other hand, United States citizens, members of the Armed Forces sent over from the United States, did business with the Philippine banks by virtue of there being no other banking institutions available, so far as I know, although there may have been branches of New York banks and San Francisco banks.
But the accounts which they kept in these banks were undoubtedly just merely casual accounts. They were probably not main accounts of the individuals concerned.
I do not say that any member of the Philippine Scouts had any large sum of money, but it is possible that such a thing may have happened and that, as nationals of the United States, they would be considered to be reimbursable just the same as military forces of the United States.
Therefore, would you have any objection to limiting this provision to not only members of the Armed Forces, but members of the Armed Forces who were citizens of the United States?
Mr. DoWNER. I think, of course, Mr. Chairman, our first obligation is to ourselves. Assuming that the fund is adequate, more than adequate to take care of our own citizens—and I think they should clearly be of first priority-then it seems to me, from my understanding of the proposition, that what we are confronted with is what shall be done with assets that we have taken from the enemy.
Mr. HINSHAW. Now, just a minute. We did not take the assets that belonged to the Philippine banks nor the Japanese banks in the Philippines;
we only took those assets which were in the United States. Mr. DoWNER. I understand that, Mr. Chairman. Mr. HINSHAW. We did not have the other side of this bank account.
Mr. DoWNER. I understand that. What I mean is that my understanding is that the claims that we are considering allowing by legislation are to be paid from a fund. The fund comes, all of it, from enemy assets which we confiscated. Is that not correct?
Mr. HINSHAW. So far. Mr. DoWNER. With that view of the situation, it seems to me that what we are confronted with is a balancing of the equities. It might be that certain of the individuals to which you refer may have in a measure contributed to their misfortune or may not merit the consideration that some other person would. But it seems to me that the consideration that they deserve, their right to be reimbursed from this fund, should be considered in the light of what is the source of the fund. It is enemy assets. Who would have a greater right to it than they!
That, it seems to me, is what the problem is.
Mr. HINSHAW. The question is whether Filipinos have the same rights to funds that were sequestered in the United States as United States citizens.