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decided: June 2, 1952.



Vinson, Black, Reed, Douglas, Jackson, Burton, Minton; Frankfurter, not having heard the argument, owing to illness, took no part in the disposition of the case; Clark took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Douglas

[ 343 U.S. Page 719]

 MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, a national both of the United States and of Japan, was indicted for treason, the overt acts relating to his treatment of American prisoners of war. He was

[ 343 U.S. Page 720]

     convicted of treason after a jury trial (see 96 F.Supp. 824) and the judgment of conviction was affirmed. 190 F.2d 506. The case is here on certiorari. 342 U.S. 932.

First. The important question that lies at the threshold of the case relates to expatriation. Petitioner was born in this country in 1921 of Japanese parents who were citizens of Japan. He was thus a citizen of the United States by birth (Amendment XIV, § 1) and, by reason of Japanese law, a national of Japan. See Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81, 97.

In 1939 shortly before petitioner turned 18 years of age he went to Japan with his father to visit his grandfather. He traveled on a United States passport; and to obtain it he took the customary oath of allegiance. In 1940 he registered with an American consul in Japan as an American citizen. Petitioner remained in Japan, his father returning to this country. In March, 1941, he entered Meiji University and took a commercial course and military training. In April, 1941, he renewed his United States passport, once more taking the oath of allegiance to the United States. During this period he was registered as an alien with the Japanese police. When war was declared, petitioner was still a student at Meiji University. He became of age in 1942 and completed his schooling in 1943, at which time it was impossible for him to return to the United States. In 1943 he registered in the Koseki, a family census register.*fn1 Petitioner did not join the Japanese Army nor serve as a soldier. Rather, he obtained employment as an interpreter with the Oeyama Nickel Industry Co., Ltd., where he worked until Japan's surrender. He was hired to interpret communications between the Japanese and the

[ 343 U.S. Page 721]

     prisoners of war who were assigned to work at the mine and in the factory of this company. The treasonable acts for which he was convicted involved his conduct toward American prisoners of war.

In December, 1945, petitioner went to the United States consul at Yokohama and applied for registration as an American citizen. He stated under oath that he was a United States citizen and had not done various acts amounting to expatriation. He was issued a passport and returned to the United States in 1946. Shortly thereafter he was recognized by a former American prisoner of war, whereupon he was arrested, and indicted, and tried for treason.

Petitioner defended at his trial on the ground that he had renounced or abandoned his United States citizenship and was expatriated. Congress has provided by § 401 of the Nationality Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 1137, 1168, as amended, 8 U. S. C. § 801, that a national of the United States may lose his nationality in certain prescribed ways. It provides in relevant part,

"A person who is a national of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by:

"(a) Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state . . . ; or

"(b) Taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state; or

"(c) Entering, or serving in, the armed forces of a foreign state unless expressly authorized by the laws of the United States, if he has or acquires the nationality of such foreign state; or

"(d) Accepting, or performing the duties of, any office, post, or employment under the government of a

[ 343 U.S. Page 722]

     foreign state or political subdivision thereof for which only nationals of such state are eligible; . . . ."

The court charged that if the jury found that petitioner had lost his American citizenship prior to or during the period specified in the indictment, they must acquit him even if he did commit the overt acts charged in the indictment, since his duty of allegiance would have ceased with the termination of his American citizenship. The court further charged that if the jury should find beyond a reasonable doubt that during the period in question petitioner was an American citizen, he owed the United States the same duty of allegiance as any other citizen. The court also charged that even though the jury found that petitioner was an American citizen during the period in question, they must acquit him if at the time of the overt acts petitioner honestly believed he was no longer a citizen of the United States, for then he could not have committed the overt acts with treasonable intent. The special verdicts of the jury contain, with respect to each overt act as to which petitioner was found guilty, an affirmative answer to an interrogatory that he was at that time "an American citizen owing allegiance to the United States, as charged in the indictment."

Petitioner asks us to hold as a matter of law that he had expatriated himself by his acts and conduct beginning in 1943. He places special emphasis on the entry of his name in the Koseki. Prior to that time he had been registered by the police as an alien. There is evidence that after that time he was considered by Japanese authorities as a Japanese and that he took action which might give rise to the inference that he had elected the Japanese nationality: he took a copy of the Koseki to the police station and had his name removed as an alien; he changed his registration at the University from American to Japanese and his address from California to Japan;

[ 343 U.S. Page 723]

     he used the Koseki entry to get a job at the Oeyama camp; he went to China on a Japanese passport (see United States v. Husband, 6 F.2d 957, 958); he accepted labor draft papers from the Japanese government; he faced the east each morning and paid his respects to the Emperor.

The difficulty with petitioner's position is that the implications from the acts, which he admittedly performed, are ambiguous. He had a dual nationality, a status long recognized in the law.*fn2 Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325, 344-349. The concept of dual citizenship recognizes that a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.

[ 343 U.S. Page 724]

     The mere fact that he asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other. In this setting petitioner's registration in the Koseki might reasonably be taken to mean no more than an assertion of some of the rights which his dual citizenship bestowed on him. The deposition of the Attorney General of Japan states that the entry of a person's name in the Koseki is taken to mean that one has Japanese nationality. But since petitioner already had Japanese nationality, he obviously did not acquire it by the act of registration. The Attorney General of Japan further deposed that all Japanese nationals, whether or not born abroad, are duty bound to Japanese allegiance and that registering in the Koseki is "not necessarily a formal declaration of allegiance but merely a reaffirmation of an allegiance to Japan which already exists." From this it would appear that the registration may have been nothing more than the disclosure of a fact theretofore not made public.

Conceivably it might have greater consequences. In other settings it might be the equivalent of "naturalization" within the meaning of § 401 (a) of the Act or the making of "an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance" to Japan within the meaning of § 401 (b). Certainly it was relevant to the issue of expatriation. But we cannot say as a matter of law that it was a renunciation of petitioner's American citizenship. What followed might reasonably be construed to mean no more than recognition of the Japanese citizenship which petitioner had acquired on birth -- nationality that was publicly disclosed for the first time in Japan by his registration in the Koseki. Cf. 3 Hackworth, Digest of International Law (1942), p. 373. The changing of his registration at the police station and at the University, so as to conform those records to the public record of his

[ 343 U.S. Page 725]

     Japanese nationality, might reasonably mean no more than announcing the fact of his Japanese nationality to the interested authorities.

As we have said, dual citizenship presupposes rights of citizenship in each country. It could not exist if the assertion of rights or the assumption of liabilities of one were deemed inconsistent with the maintenance of the other. For example, when one has a dual citizenship, it is not necessarily inconsistent with his citizenship in one nation to use a passport proclaiming his citizenship in the other. See 3 Hackworth, supra, p. 353. Hence the use by petitioner of a Japanese passport on his trip to China, his use of the Koseki entry to obtain work at the Oeyama camp, the bowing to the Emperor, and his acceptance of labor draft papers from the Japanese government might reasonably mean no more than acceptance of some of the incidents of Japanese citizenship made possible by his dual citizenship.

Those acts, to be sure, were colored by various other acts and statements of petitioner. He testified for example that he felt no loyalty to the United States from about March, 1943, to late 1945. There was evidence that he boasted that Japan was winning and would win the war, that he taunted American prisoners of war with General MacArthur's departure from the Philippines, that he expressed his hatred toward things American and toward the prisoners as Americans. That was in 1943 and 1944. This attitude continued into 1945, although in May or June, 1945, shortly before Japan's surrender, he was saying he did not care "which way the war goes because I am going back to the States anyway."

On December 31, 1945, he applied for registration as an American citizen, and in that connection he made an affidavit in which he stated that he had been "temporarily residing" in Japan since August 10, 1939; that he came to

[ 343 U.S. Page 726]

     Japan to study Japanese; that he possessed dual nationality from birth but that his name was not entered in the census register until March 8, 1943; and that he had "never been naturalized, taken an oath of allegiance, or voted as a ...

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