H.R. 44: Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act

H.R. 44

Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act

Sponsor
Sen. Bernard Sanders

Date
February 23, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On February 23, 2009, H.R. 44 is being considered on the floor under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) on March 20, 2007. The bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife, which has taken no official action.

 

Bill Summary

H.R. 44 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to make direct payments to residents of Guam who suffered injury at the hands of the Japanese in World War II, or their surviving decedents. In addition, the bill would also authorize $5 million to establish a new program to make grants available for projects to memorialize the occupation of Guam by the Japanese during WWII.

The bill would authorize appropriations for victims and the survivors of victims, depending upon the severity of injuries. The awards range from $7,000-$25,000 as follows:

  • $7,000 to descendants of Guam residents who were injured during the occupation.
  • $10,000 for Guam residents who was subject to forced marches or internment, or was force to hide to avoid interment.
  • $12,000 for residents that suffered physical injuries such as scarring or burning.
  • $15,000 for residents who suffered severe personal injuries, rape, or loss of a limb.
  • $25,000 for descendants of residents killed by the enemy during the occupation.


A surviving spouse without any children would receive all of the money. When there is a spouse and children, half would go to the spouse and the other half evenly divided between children. If there is no surviving spouse, the payments would be divided among the parents. If no living spouse, children or parents are present then no award would be given.

Payments would be made in addition to, and without respect of, any payments made the Guam Meritorious Claims Act (GMCA).

The Foreign Settlement Commission would be responsible to verify that these injuries were in fact suffered from being an American citizen in Guam during the time of invasion in WWII.

The bill would authorize the appropriation of $126 million to make these payments.

In addition, the bill allows the Secretary of the Interior to establish a grant program for any organization or individual wishing to memorialize the acts committed on Guam during the occupation. $5 million is provided to carry out this program.

 

Background

Guam ceded to the United States following the Spanish American War of 1898. A year later, in 1899, the U.S. formally purchased Guam and other Spanish-held territories for $20 million. On December 10, 1941, Guam surrendered to the Japanese. During this time the U.S. nationals on the island were subjected to harsh treatment by the Japanese. The Japanese even renamed the island ‘Omiya Jima' or Great Shrine Island. According to estimates, between 900 and 1,100 Guam residents were killed at the hands of the Japanese during the occupation.

In 1944, America regained control of the island and set out to make right the crimes committed against its own people. In 1945, Congress passed the Guam Meritorious Claims Act (GMCA), which authorized the Secretary of the Navy to appoint a claims commission to adjudicate claims of up to $5,000-$59,983 in 2009, when adjusted for inflation-to residents of Guam who lost property or were injured or killed by our enemies in WWII.

P.L. 107-333, signed in 2002, established the Guam War Claims Review Commission (GWRC), which was tasked with reviewing GMCA payments. According to the GWRC, "In short: at least $8,062,464.72 was paid to 4,356 recipients - $4,308,483.20 to 1,234 people for death, injury and property damage in excess of $5,000 - and $3,753,981.52 to 3,113 recipients for property damage below $5,000." In 2004, the GWRC reported back to Congress and recommended that additional payments be made to the citizens of Guam if they or their relatives had been injured or killed by the Japanese in WWII. This legislation would appropriate $130 million to implement additional payments.

Some Members may be concerned that H.R. 44 would authorize $126 million in additional compensation to Guam residents and their descendants for wrongs committed by our then enemies, the Japanese, some 60 years after the events took place and federal compensation was dispersed.

The House considered identical legislation (H.R. 1595) in the 110th Congress. The bill passed the House on suspension by a vote of 288-133.

 

Cost

A CBO score for H.R. 44 was not available. However, according to a score for H.R. 1595, an identical bill considered in the 110th Congress, CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost about $130 million over the 2009-2013 period, assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts.