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Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park

In Aachen, Germany, during mid-November 1944, American soldiers found a document from the Suermondt Museum that indicated that the Germans were storing cultural treasures at various locations, including Bad Wildungen, 25 miles southwest of Kassel. The exact storage location in Bad Wildungen was not given. On February 11, 1945, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) issued its first listing of German repositories holding loot and German-owned property. The list included Siegen, somewhere in Bad Wildungen, and the salt mines at Heilbronn and Kochendorf.

On April 2 members of the First U.S. Army reached Bad Wildungen and there found two concrete bunkers, specially designed and built for the purpose of storing cultural property. Once entry was gained the soldiers determined that it contained paintings and sculptures from a number of the finest collections in Western Germany. This and subsequent inspections revealed that the bunkers contained approximately 2,500 paintings, Greek and medieval sculpture, famous musical instruments, and other objects of the greatest cultural and artistic value. Many of the works of art were from Frankfurt’s Städtische Galerie, Freies Deutsches Hochstift (Goethemuseum), and Städelsches Kunstinstitut. There were about 90 uncrated paintings and 9 cases with applied art and smaller objects from the Landesmuseum and Kastner Museum of Hanover. There also were many works of art from Mainz and Kassel. Additionally, the bunkers also contained some of the most valuable church property in Western Germany, including cases of stained glass. Among the church property were 14 choir windows and 9 figures from the high altar from Marburg’s St. Elisabethkirche.

First U.S. Army Monuments Man (Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives [MFA&A] specialist) Walker Hancock based in Marburg, during the latter part of April visited Bad Wildungen, thirty miles northeast of Marburg, and determined that the bunkers were ideally adapted for the safeguarding of works of art and therefore he did not believe that the items in the bunkers needed to be moved in the short term. And, at this point, Hancock had little time to deal with most of the repositories in his area of responsibility, including Bad Wildungen. Near the end of April, Hancock, reported to Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, Advisor, MFA&A, G-5 Internal Affairs Branch, SHAEF, that the work of checking repositories in his area was hampered by restrictions upon civilian circulation and the meagerness of the transport that could be afforded for this purpose by Military Government Detachments. Webb wrote that the project of dealing with the repositories was a large one and could not be undertaken seriously without some special provision of transport and personnel. He added that:

One MFA&A Officer at headquarters without even the aid of a typist is well nigh powerless in the attempt to cope with the urgent requirements of the situation. Because of the lack of assigned transport it is impossible to make overnight trips which would greatly reduce the time required for visiting a number of sites. In fact, many places are too remote to be visited in one day. Furthermore, in view of the restrictions against traveling alone in enemy territory [and] the lack of enlisted person creates other obstacles in the way of making the required number of inspections.

The trips made, he noted, could be said to amount to no more than a “check.” So frequently, he wrote, that even during these situations had been “encountered demanding immediate action that it may safely be assumed that the dearth of transport and personnel has resulted in failure to prevent much unnecessary damage to works of art and archives.” Hancock suggested that two officers with assigned transport and five enlisted men at Army Headquarters might to some degree keep pace with the demands of the existing situation in regard to MFA&A work. He also suggested that higher headquarters give consideration to the immediate organization of a concrete program within the Allied armies, designed to gather works of art and archives into central depositories for safeguarding. His views regarding central collecting points, shared by other MFA&A officers, would begin to bear fruit by the end of May.

At this point also, Hancock was quite busy trying to get the Central Collecting Point at Marburg up and running, and on May 1 he began dealing with the treasures buried in a mine at Bernterode.

It would not be until July that the Monuments Men returned to check on the status of the contents of the Bad Wildungen bunkers. They were visited on July 6 by Capt. Patrick J. Kelleher and on July 17 by Capt. Hancock, Lts. Sheldon Keck (an art conservator), and Samuel Ratensky (an architect). The three found the condition of contents to be reasonably good, the major fault being the over-concentration of items which they believed, might ultimately cause serious damage to some of the paintings. They made arrangements shortly after their visit for the movement of some of the items to a third, vacant bunker under the supervision of a MFA&A Specialist Officer.

During late July the United States Forces European Theater (USFET) received a request from the British regarding the contents of the art repository at Bad Wildungen. The British were interested in objects that would be returned to their zone of occupation of Germany. USFET asked the Seventh U.S. Army to report which institutions had holdings at the repository. 1st Lt. James J. Rorimer, the MFA&A specialist officer with the Seventh U.S. Army and Lt. Ratensky visited Bad Wildungen on July 28 and several days later the Seventh U.S. Army reported that the repository had been inspected by a MFA&A officer and the holdings were found to be in satisfactory condition and that Dr. Friedrich Bleibaum, the Landeskonservator, under the direction of the Military Government Detachment for Land Hessen-Nassau, was completing inventories of the objects and copies would be forwarded as soon as practicable.

In the latter part of September, Rorimer reported that paintings of the first importance from public German collections at Bad Wildungen included 388 from Kassel; 110 from Hanover; 127 from Mainz; and others from Aix-la-Chapelle. He reported that stained glass, altars, and other ecclesiastical objects of international importance had been brought to Bad Wildungen from many churches. He also noted that private property stored at Bad Wildungen included 1,343 paintings, 63 pieces of furniture, and 23 sculptures. He reported that the two large fire-proof bunkers were very well suited to the safe-guarding of these treasures; that they could be adequately ventilated when the weather outside was less humid than the atmosphere in the bunkers; and that physical security of the bunkers was excellent. Dr. Bleibaum, the Landeskonservator, Rorimer reported, was expected to complete a detailed inventory with photographs by the end of September. With the inventory, Rorimer believed, it would be possible to segregate looted works of art and send them to Marburg for return to the countries of origin; church objects could be returned to the churches; and further decisions about private property would be examined in light of directives which they were to receive from higher headquarters.

During November complete inventories of contents of bunkers at Bad Wildungen were prepared and the return of church art stored at Bad Wildungen was authorized. Very quickly the church property was returned. That month, altar pieces from the Elisabethkirch in Marburg were returned and re-installed in the church.

In the latter part of December 1945, Lt. Col. P. Villemer, French Mission for Restitution, attached to the Office of Military Government, with the Restitution Control Branch, Economics Division, provided the Americans with two inventories covering paintings removed from Mainzer Gemäldegalerie in Mainz (Rhineland): 174 to Bad Wildungen and 33 to Erbach. He requested the Americans to investigate the matter so that return could be made. In short order, Monuments Man Walter Horn, then the MFA&A intelligence specialist with the Economics Division, informed Lt. Cmdr. Thomas C. Howe, USNR, (then acting chief of the MFA&A Section of the Restitution Control Branch, Economics Division), that the bunkers at Bad Wildungen were reported in a Seventh U.S. Army July 1945 report as having the paintings there, but that there was no detailed listing. He recommended that the local MFA&A officer be requested to check the paintings against the list submitted by Villemer. Horn informed Howe that no records showed the existence of 33 paintings from Mainz in Erbach. In early February 1946, Villemer was informed that the Americans were looking into the paintings removed by the Germans from the Gemäldegalerie at Mainz (Rhineland). Of course, since there was no interzonal arrangement made with the French, even had everything been found, it still could not have been returned at this point.

The bulk of the items stored at Bad Wildungen would in March 1946 be transferred to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point and several months later the return to the original owning institutions and individuals began.

Records Concerning the Central Collecting Points Ardelia Hall Collection Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point

Front of a Wiesbaden Central Collection Point Card


Back of a Wiesbaden Central Collection Point Card

The Bad Wildungen story is illustrative of hundreds of the repositories that were located in the American Zone of Occupation and whose contents, in many instances, were eventually sent to one of the Central Collecting Points. It was a slow process, given the resources available to the MFA&A specialist officers and the lack of transportation. These challenges were compounded by the fact that the winter of 1945-1946 was one of the most bitterly cold ones in Europe during the 20th century.


  • ETO-Wiesbaden Reports: Status of Collecting Point and Consolidated Field Reports for March [1946] [2 of 2] [AMG-385], MFA&A Field Reports, 1943-1946, (NAID 1537270) Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission), RG 239 (Roll 80 of NARA Microfilm Publication M-1944).
  • 312.1 Miscellaneous Correspondence, RD&R Division USGCC 1945, General Correspondence (Central Files), 1944-1949, (NAID 6923852) Records of the Economic Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260.
  • 35.7 Germany MFA&A, General Records of the Section Chief, 1944-1949, (NAID 1571282) Reparations and Restitution Branch, Records of the Property Division, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 2 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1949).
  • Repositories: Bad Wildungen-List of Contents of Bunker I and Bunker II, Records Relating to Status of Monuments, Museums, and Archives, 1945-1951, (NAID 2435815) Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 62 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947).
  • Repositories: Works of Art and Archives in Germany, Records Relating to Status of Monuments, Museums, and Archives, 1945-1951, (NAID 2435815) Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 63 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947)
  • Monthly Report: United States Forces European Theater, October 1945-November 1945, Activity Reports, 1945-1951, (NAID 2435804) Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 54 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947).
  • Repositories: Oberlahnkreis-Correspondence, Records Relating to Status of Monuments, Museums, and Archives, 1945-1951, (NAID 2435815) Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, Records of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) OMGUS, Records of United States Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 260 (Roll 63 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947)
  • AMG 292, 12 Army GP, Subject File Aug 1943-1945, (NAID 612714) Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.
  • 17.16, Jacket 10, Historical Report-12th Army Group-April 1945, Numeric-Subject Operations File 1943-July 1945, (NAID 611522) Historical Section, Information Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.
  • SHAEF/G-5/751, Public Monuments-Fine Art, Numeric File Aug 1943-Jul 1945, (NAID 610059) Secretariat, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, RG 331.
  • Walter Hancock, “Experiences of a Monuments Officer in Germany,” College Art Journal (vol. V. No. 4, May 1946), p. 309.
  • James J. Rorimer, Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War (New York: Abelard Press, 1950), p. 231.

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park

The Civil War was swiftly coming to an end on April 3, 1865, when the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, his wife Varina, and their children abandoned Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. On April 9, as General Robert E. Lee was surrendering his Army, Davis was attempting to avoid capture by the Union forces, apparently desiring to eventually make his way across the Mississippi River to lead southern forces that had not yet surrendered. Five weeks later, after traveling through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and into Georgia, on May 9, Davis and his party made camp near Irwinville, believing they were still one step ahead of their pursuers. But the pursuers, members of the First Wisconsin Regiment of Cavalry and Fourth Michigan Regiment of Cavalry, were nearby, ready to pounce on the Davis party the following morning.

Early on the morning of May 10, the camp was awakened by the sound of gunfire and very quickly it was surrounded by the Union cavalrymen. The Confederates did not fire a shot. In a somewhat confusing situation, Davis attempted to escape. In a letter of June 5, 1865 to Montgomery Blair, Varina Davis wrote that when her husband saw the Union soldiers, “I pleaded with him to let me throw over him a large waterproof raglan which had often served him in sickness during the summer season as a dressing gown and which I hoped might so cover his person that in the gray of the morning he would not be recognized. As he strode off, I threw over his head a little black shawl which was around my own shoulders, seeing that he could not find his hat.” She added “He attempted no disguise, consented to no subterfuge.” In his Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881), Davis wrote that as the Union forces arrived he impulsively reached for what he thought was his raglan and threw it over his shoulders, either anticipating that he would need to keep warm if he escaped, or using it to hide his light-colored gray suit against the dark forest. By mistake, he had picked up his wife’s raglan because it was “so very much like my own as to be mistaken for it. As I started, my wife thoughtfully threw over my head and shoulders a shawl.” It should be noted that in the 1860s, both men and women wore shawls. In fact, President Abraham Lincoln often wore one over his shoulders during chilly weather.

Davis escaped into the woods and was quickly captured. Besides seizing Davis’ cloak, shawl, and spurs, the Union soldiers took possession of three of his pistols, a bullet mold, two toothbrushes, a plug of tobacco, and other sundries. Very quickly a story circulated that Davis attempted to escape into the woods wearing his wife’s clothing.

Davis would be imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He demanded a trial as the best forum for proving the constitutionality of secession, and the government requested numerous delays to prepare its case. He was released from custody on bail in May 1867. Bail was posted by, among others, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Horace Greeley, and Gerrit Smith, the radical abolitionist who helped to fund John Brown in 1859. Although an indictment for treason against Davis was finalized in March 1868, the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson further delayed the case.

That summer Congress adopted the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Section 3 provided:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

This certainly applied to Davis, who had served as an army officer, member of Congress, and Secretary of War.

The U.S. Circuit Court, Virginia, finally heard preliminary motions in December 1868, when the defense asked for a dismissal claiming that the 14th Amendment already punished Davis by preventing him from holding public office in the future and that further prosecution and punishment would violate the double jeopardy restriction of the 5th Amendment. The court divided in its official opinion and sent the question to the United States Supreme Court. Fearing the court would rule in favor of Davis, President Johnson released an amnesty proclamation on December 25, 1868, issuing a pardon to all persons who had participated in the rebellion.

Most of the items that had been taken from Davis were sent back to him between 1874 and 1880.  He would die in New Orleans on December 6, 1889, most likely of pneumonia.

In 1914, the Davis pistols were obtained by descendants of the former Confederate chief executive. On April 26, 1915, the Army Judge Advocate General responded to a request from the Assistant Secretary of War for an opinion regarding the Attorney General’s opinion of January 7, 1914, whether the War Department was authorized to turn over to Jefferson Hayes-Davis, a shawl, waterproof cloak, and spurs worn by Davis at the time of his capture. E. H. Crowder, the Judge Advocate General, wrote that the articles were in the possession of the War Department and Jefferson Hayes-Davis was the grandson of Jefferson Davis and had requested the return of the articles on behalf of the next of kin of the former owner. Crowder wrote:

In the opinion referred to the Attorney General considered whether the Secretary of War had authority to return to the executor of Jefferson Davis’ estate on the written order of all of his next of kin, a couple of pistols and accessories captured by Union soldiers in June, 1865, and sent to the War Department where they had remained thereafter, and it was held in substance that inasmuch as such property was never condemned and forfeited under the Confiscation and Abandoned Property Acts, the owner retained an interest in them, and that by reason of the President’s proclamation of amnesty and pardon of December 25, 1868, the owner’s title and right of possession thereto were revived and upon the latter’s death passed to his personal representatives, to whom the Secretary of War was authorized to surrender the property.

Crowder wrote that he was unaware of anything indicating that the principle governing the property then under consideration was different. He observed:

I do not think the fact that the shawl, waterproof cloak and spurs were worn by Jefferson Davis at the time of his capture, while such may not have been the case with respect to the other property heretofore surrendered, makes any difference in principle or affects the question of the Department’s authority to surrender them. Accordingly, you are advised that it is the view of this office that under the Attorney General’s opinion of January 7, 1914, the Department is authorized to return to Jefferson Davis’ personal representatives the shawl, waterproof cloak, and spurs referred to.

For whatever reason, the shawl, waterproof cloak, and spurs were not returned. They continued to reside at the War Department. But thirty years later that would change. In May 1945 the War Department offered the items to the National Archives. The National Archives, for some reason, accepted them. In retrospect, the National Archives and War Department probably should have determined, as was the case thirty years earlier, that the articles were private property and should be given to the Davis family. Or, the War Department could have off-loaded the artifacts on the Smithsonian Institution.

Not long after the National Archives received the articles, the Historian of the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy wrote Senator Harry F. Byrd about the Davis shawl, which she believed was in a safe at the War Department and requested that the Virginia Daughters of the Confederacy were desirous of having it presented to them to place in the Confederate Museum at Richmond, Virginia. Upon receiving this request Senator Byrd wrote Robert P. Patterson, the Secretary of War, forwarding the request and asking advice with respect to the matter. Byrd’s letter was forwarded to the Adjutant General who wrote the Judge Advocate General, requesting information on which to base a reply. The Office of the Judge Advocate General informed the Adjutant General that in its opinion the shawl “must be considered to be private property.” They enclosed a copy of the 1915 memorandum and indicated that research had disclosed that no authority existed for the presentation of the shawl to the Virginia Daughters of the Confederacy to place in their museum, in accordance with their desire. With this information in hand, and after informal coordination with the War Department Records Office of the National Archives, the Acting Adjutant General wrote the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of War with summary information regarding the shawl and enclosed a letter for him to send to Senator Byrd advising him that the shawl must be considered the private property of the next of kin of Jefferson Davis and that no authority had been found under which it could be presented to the museum.

At the end of November 1945, the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of War wrote Senator Byrd that the shawl had been delivered to the Secretary of War on May 24, 1865, and had remained in the War Department until May 9, 1945, on which date it was transferred to the War Department Records Office of the National Archives. Senator Byrd was informed that it was the opinion of the War Department that the shawl must be considered the private property of the next of kin of Jefferson Davis, “and for this reason, we do not have the authority to present it to the Confederate Museum at Richmond.”

Jefferson Davis’ private property would remain in the National Archives until the eve of the centennial of the Civil War. On February 9, 1961, the General Services Administration (which oversaw the National Archives and Records Service – the predecessor to the National Archives and Records Administration) announced that the Jefferson Davis cloak, shawl, and spurs would be, at the request of Davis’ heirs, including Jefferson Hayes-Davis, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, turned over to “Beauvoir,” the memorial to the Confederate President near Biloxi, Mississippi. The items now repose there.

In signing S. J. Res. 16 “Restoration of Citizenship Rights to Jefferson F. Davis” into Law (Public Law 95-466) on October 17, 1978, President Jimmy Carter stated:

In posthumously restoring the full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the Congress officially completes the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States. Earlier, he was specifically exempted from resolutions restoring the rights of other officials in the Confederacy. He had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier, Member of the U.S. House and Senate, and as Secretary of War. General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship was restored in 1976. It is fitting that Jefferson Davis should no longer be singled out for punishment.

Our Nation needs to clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation and to discredit the principles on which it was founded. Our people need to turn their attention to the important tasks that still lie before us in establishing those principles for all people.


This blog is based primarily on records found in File 000.4 Historical (9 Oct 45), Adjutant General Decimal File, 1940-1945 (NAID 895294), Records of the Office of the Adjutant General, 1917-, Record Group 407.

Clint Johnson’s Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution, and Surprising Release of Confederate President Jefferson Davis (New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2008).

Also useful were:

Michael P. Musick’s “War in an Age of Wonders: Civil War Arms and Equipment,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, vol. 27, no. 4 (Winter 1995)

“U.S. Will Yield Garb of Jefferson Davis,” The New York Times, February 9, 1961, p. 37

“Memorial to Get Davis’ Clothing,” The Washington Post, February 10, 1961, p. B3.


Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and Dr. Sylvia Naylor, archivists at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Midway through World War II it became apparent that the United States Government had increasing need for comprehensive financial information on American property interests in foreign countries, particularly enemy and enemy-dominated nations. This need arose from the so-called “freezing controls” administered by the Treasury Department to military phases of the war, and to preparations for peace negotiations.

The Foreign Funds Control (FFC), established in the Office of the Secretary, Treasury Department in April 1940 immediately after the invasion of Norway and Denmark by Germany, had taken a census of foreign assets in the United States in 1941. In 1943, the FFC was given a new responsibility for taking the so-called census of American-owned assets in foreign countries to provide the needed data.

This 1943 census of American-owned assets in foreign countries was one of the many activities of the FFC in carrying out the responsibilities of the Secretary of the Treasury in the financial warfare program of the United States Government. In the beginning the FFC had been responsible for placing restrictions on foreign exchange transactions, on the export or withdrawal of gold, silver, coin and currency, on transfers of credits, securities or any other evidences of ownership or of indebtedness involving property of the countries or nationals of the countries that had been invaded by the German and Russian armies. After the United States entered the war, the FFC was responsible for severing all financial and commercial intercourse between the United States and any countries outside the Western hemisphere that directly or indirectly benefited the Axis, for the prevention of all financial and commercial transactions between the United States and any other American republic that directly or indirectly benefited the Axis, and for stopping all financial and commercial activity on the part of persons or corporations in the United States whose influence or activity was deemed inimical to the security of the Western Hemisphere. With the increase in its functions the FFC was formally established as a separate administrative unit of the Department on September 11, 1942, with the status of a bureau and with a director as its head.

To carry out the census of American-owned assets in foreign countries, the FFC utilized the central office and field organization that had been developed in the activities of its Licensing and Enforcement Divisions in “freezing” assets of enemy and enemy-dominated nations, in preventing the use of frozen or “blocked” assets by the Axis, in licensing transactions in such assets, and in investigatory work. Interagency representatives of the Departments of State and Commerce, the Board of Economic Warfare (late the Foreign Economic Administration) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System all reviewed the reporting forms and instructions to ensure that the census would serve the needs of the whole Government as well as to eliminate the necessity for recurring or overlapping demands on investors and others in the nation. The proposed forms and instructions also were discussed with representatives of banks, industry, and insurance companies to insure that accurate and useful data could be obtained economically and expeditiously.

The census of American-owned assets in foreign countries on the TFR-500 forms was announced on June 3, 1943, through the issuance of Special Regulation No. 1, under Executive orders 8389, as amended, and 9193. Detailed instructions concerning the reporting requirements were stated in Public Circular No. 22 which was issued on July 1, 1943, and amended from time to time. These forms were obtainable in the central office in Washington and in the field at Federal Reserve Banks, and outside the continental United States from the Government officials in the territories and possessions or United States consuls.

The basic requirements as to liability for filing the Form TFR-500 reports were very broad but certain exceptions and exemptions were provided. According to Public Circular No. 22, reports were required to be filed by “(1) every person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States having at the close of business on May 31, 1943, any interest whatsoever, direct or indirect, in any property in a foreign country on such date and by (2) every person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States with whom any foreign organization was allied on May 31, 1943.” The word “person” was defined to include an individual, partnership, association, corporation, or other organization. The following were considered as subject to the jurisdiction of the United States:

Any citizen of the United States whether in the United States or in a foreign country. Any corporation or other organization created or organized under the laws of the United States, or any state, territory, district, or possession there of; Any individual resident in the United States on May 31, 1943, including any individual continuously within the United States for 3 months next preceding that date; and, Any person not otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to the extent that on May 31, 1943, such person had any branch, office, or representative within the United States.[i]

Newspapers throughout the country spread the word about this new federal requirement. The Chicago Tribune ran an article on July 16, 1943 entitled, “TFR-500, It’s a Form You Should Know.” Many banks also took out ads in newspapers around the country in late October 1943 to remind U.S. citizens of their responsibilities and to offer the bank’s services in completing the forms. These bank ads, titled “To Owners of Property in Foreign Countries,” stated:

The U.S. Treasury is seeking to ascertain as nearly as possible the total American stake all over the world.  It believes with this information available that the government’s hand will be strengthened on all war fronts, at the peace conferences and in the post-war world-wide economic readjustments.

Under the law, holders of foreign property ARE REQUIRED to file reports of their holdings on Form TFR-500 by DECEMBER 1, 1943.

If you have any foreign investments—dollar bonds, bank balances, real estate or other tangible property—and have not yet filed your report, we would be happy to assist you in obtaining the proper forms.

The Chicago Tribune added that failure to comply with the reporting requirement could result in a $10,000 fine or 10 years in prison, or both.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt compiled with the regulations and submitted his Form TFR-500 on February 12, 1944. He reported his property on Campobello, a small Canadian island located at the entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay, adjacent to the entrance to Cobscook Bay, and within the Bay of Fundy. His parents, who summered at Campobello’s hotels, later purchased land and built a cottage. From 1883, when he was one year old, until he was stricken by polio in 1921, Roosevelt spent every July, August, and part of September on the island. Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor, and their children sailed, canoed, golfed, hiked, and picnicked in a beautiful and rugged outdoor environment.

Eleanor and the five children visited Campobello during the summer of 1925, but convalescence and his involvement in active politics (including being Governor of New York for four years) prevented Roosevelt returning during the 1920s and early 1930s.

In June 1933 after a grueling first hundred days in office, President Roosevelt decided he needed a good vacation. He sailed on the schooner Amberjack II from Marion, Massachusetts on June 18, bound for Campobello. He was at the helm for much of the trip. He returned again for brief visits in late July 1936 and mid-August 1939.

On August 20, 1964, with Prime Minister Lester Pearson and President Lyndon Johnson in attendance, the Roosevelt Campobello International Park opened.  The Park is jointly owned and managed by both Canada and the United States, created by a treaty that honors the memory of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The focal point of the Park is the Franklin D. Roosevelt summer cottage, reported on the TFR-500.


Case Files of Individual Summary Reports, 1943-1945 (NAID: 6850899; Entry NC-8 1); RG 265 – Records of the Office of Foreign Assets Control

“TFR-500, It’s a Form You Should Know.” Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1943.

“To Owners of Property in Foreign Countries.” Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma), October 24, 1943.

“To Owners of Property in Foreign Countries.” The Star-Democrat (Easton, Maryland), October 29, 1943.


[i] Certain overall exceptions were made to the foregoing general provisions, to the extent that the person came within the following categories on or after May 31, 1943, and remained therein until the final reporting date: Citizens of the United States in enemy or enemy-occupied territory.  Members of the armed forces of the United States serving outside the continental United States, and Officers or employees of foreign governments and members of immediate families of such persons, provided they were not citizens of the United States.

Subsequently (as of March 23, 1945) citizens of the United States in enemy or enemy-occupied territory were required to report as soon as consular offices were opened in such territory.  Special forms, all bearing the TFR-500 number, were provided for different classes of reporters. Series A-I was for the use of individuals, series A-II for corporations and other organizations, series A-III for executors, administrators, or trustees, and series A-IV for custodians and nominees in this country who held property for persons not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Each of these forms called for data with respect to the reporter and for a summary by countries of the reporter’s foreign property.



Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, a long-time medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), died recently.  Her obituaries describe a long and distinguished career at the FDA but highlight her role in preventing the approval of the drug Thalidomide for use in the United States.  When used by pregnant women, that drug caused fetal death or birth with serious deformities.

Unmentioned in the discussion of Dr. Kelsey’s successful effort to block use of Thalidomide in the U.S. is the role of the Department of State and the Foreign Service.  In late October 1961, at the request of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (parent department of the FDA), the Department of State sent an instruction to the field “clarifying the responsibilities of the Food and Drug Administration and defining the type of information desired from foreign countries.”  Among other things, it noted that the FDA was interested in the development of new and unusual foods and drugs and “[i]nformation on foods, drugs, devices, and cosmetics that have caused injury . . . .”  Such reports were to be marked “Attention FDA” to ensure proper distribution.

Just one month later, the U.S. embassy in Bonn, West Germany, reported the withdrawal of four drugs containing Thalidomide because they allegedly caused deformities in children born to mothers who used them during pregnancy.  The report also noted the establishment of a commission of experts to determine if there was a relationship between the drugs and the deformities.

In late December 1961, the Scientific Attaché in the embassy in Bonn submitted the following comprehensive and scientific report, written by Dr. Herman Chinn, the deputy Scientific Attaché.

According to a contemporary Department of State publication, Dr. Kelsey credited this despatch as a key document in her case against Thalidomide.


  • Department of State Instruction GW-3697, October 26, 1961, file 411.0051/10-2661
  • U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Despatch 722, November 29, 1961, file 411.0051/11-2961
  • U.S. Embassy Bonn to Department of State, Despatch 857, December 22, 1961, file 862a.554/12-2261

All in 1960-63 Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw the establishment of numerous newly independent nations in Africa and Asia.  This led to an influx of foreign diplomats from countries not previously represented in Washington.  At that time, the Nation’s Capital was still very much a Southern city and the non-Caucasian diplomats assigned there, and in other U.S. cities, did not always receive a friendly welcome.  Such treatment of African and Asian diplomats presented a serious obstacle to improving relations with those countries, especially as the so-called Third World became a focus of Cold War competition.

One instance of this was brought home to U.S. officials in September 1960, during a visit by W. Averell Harriman, former Governor of New York, to Nigeria.  During the visit, American Consul General John K. Emerson hosted a formal dinner in Harriman’s honor.  In his official report on the event, Emerson noted that Nigerian Federal Minister of Information T. O. S. Benson “told Governor Harriman with considerable fervor of the humiliation” experienced by Nigerian officials in New York City and Washington, DC.  In a subsequent informal letter to his counterpart in the Department of State, Emerson noted that “Benson apparently spoke rather violently” to Harriman.  Furthermore, Emerson noted that Benson seemed un-American, the clear implication being that this was because of the poor treatment experienced by Nigerian officials in the U.S.

In late January 1961, less than two weeks after assuming his position as Secretary of State in the new administration of President John F. Kennedy, Dean Rusk personally drafted the following letter about the issue of discrimination faced by foreign diplomats and sent it to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.  He also sent a copy to Ralph Dungan, a Special Assistant to the President.

Rusk enclosed a six-page memorandum entitled “Housing for African Diplomats” prepared under the previous administration.  That document described the obstacles faced by African nations in locating chancery and ambassadorial residences as well as staff housing.  It ascribed part of the difficulty to a general reluctance by the real estate industry to deal with diplomats because of diplomatic immunity when dealing with issues of damage or destruction of property, but also described in great detail clear examples of straight-up racial discrimination.  The memorandum also described efforts by the Department to deal with the issue by working with the local real estate industry, albeit not always successfully.  It concluded that the Department’s actions had created an awareness of the issue and a desire by the DC government, the real estate industry, community groups, and individuals to make African diplomats welcome.  While the memorandum described the issue specifically in terms of representatives from Africa, its author noted, “We should however keep in mind that the diplomatic representatives of most Asian and some Western Hemisphere countries face similar difficulties, although perhaps to a lesser degree.”  While the original letter and the copy sent to Ralph Dungan are in the files of the Kennedy White House now in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, no answer by Kennedy has been located.

As described in his memoir As I Saw It, Rusk dealt with the issue throughout his eight years as Secretary of State.  Diplomats were asked to report their difficulties to Chief of Protocol Angier Biddle Duke.  Duke and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs G. Mennen Williams then called on the embassies of affected diplomats to listen to their complaints.  Departmental officials also met with local business men and women to press the case.  The Department of State, led by Dean Rusk, recognized that the issue was larger than just the impact on foreign diplomats; the changes needed to be extended to U.S. citizens, too.  Rusk, therefore, put the full weight of the Department of State behind efforts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (NAID 299891) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 299909).  Nevertheless, the issue persisted throughout Rusk’s tenure as Secretary of State, especially in the area of housing.


  • Consulate General Lagos to Department of State, September 7, 1960, Despatch 133, file 811.411/9-750, 1960-63 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • John K. Emerson to Theo C. Adams, September 16, 1960, file 811.411/9-1660, 1960-63 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • Secretary of State Dean Rusk to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, January 31, 1961, file 601.0011/1-3161, 1960-63 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59
  • Also see: Papers of John F. Kennedy: Presidential Papers: White House Central Files HU 2/FG 216 (District of Columbia): Executive and Papers of John F. Kennedy: Presidential Papers: White House Staff Files of Harris Wofford: Alphabetical File, 1956-1962: Civil Rights Miscellaneous, 1960-January 1961.

I greatly appreciate the assistance of my colleagues Cate Brennan and Michael Desmond, Stacey Chandler, and Karen Abramson of the John F. Kennedy Library.