Daniel F. Cleary Papers
The papers of Daniel F. Cleary consist of correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, printed material, a diary, and other items mostly pertaining to Cleary's work as chairman of the War Claims Commission from 1949 to 1953. The collection documents the U.S. government's response to claims for financial compensation from individuals and organizations affected by German and Japanese actions during World War II.
1.6 linear feet (about 3,200 pages)
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The papers of Daniel F. Cleary consist mostly of documents relating to his career as chairman of the War Claims Commission from 1949 to 1953. A native of Chicago, Cleary was educated in Catholic parochial schools and earned his baccalaureate and law degrees from Loyola University. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, Cleary worked for the Retraining and Reemployment Administration and later became a senior attorney with the Veterans' Administration. In 1948-49, he actively sought appointment to the newly created War Claims Commission, receiving important support from such prominent Illinois Democrats as Senator Scott Lucas, Senator Paul Douglas, and Cook County Democratic Chairman Jacob Arvey. President Truman nominated Cleary for the post, and he was subsequently confirmed by the Senate and elected to serve as the commission's first chairman.
The War Claims Commission was created by the War Claims Act of 1948, and was responsible for investigating and adjudicating war claims arising out of World War II. Claims for financial compensation were filed with the commission by individuals and organizations that had been victimized by German and Japanese actions during the war. Many of the cases involved offenses committed by Japanese occupation forces in the Philippines; the claimants included ex-prisoners-civilians as well as military personnel-and religious organizations. The commission was charged with determining the appropriate amount of compensation for each claimant, based on the provisions of the War Claims Act. The commission was also required to submit semiannual reports on its activities to Congress, and prepare a general report to Congress on the problem of World War II claims that were not covered by the War Claims Act.
A quasi-judicial independent agency, the War Claims Commission was mandated by law to terminate its activities no later than March 31, 1955, and its three commissioners were appointed to serve for the duration of the commission's existence. In 1953, however, the new Eisenhower administration sought to replace the Truman appointees with commissioners of its own choosing. Cleary and his two colleagues resisted these efforts on legal grounds. The stress resulting from this controversy and from conflicts within the commission may have contributed to Cleary's fatal heart attack in December 1953. He was only forty-three years old.
Cleary's papers are organized into three series. The first series, the Correspondence File, contains correspondence, memoranda, printed material, and other items mostly documenting Cleary's chairmanship of the War Claims Commission. Included is his correspondence with organizations representing veterans, ex-prisoners of war, and former civilian internees; with individual claimants or their representatives; and with the President, members of Congress, and other government officials. The support Cleary received in his candidacy for appointment to the War Claims Commission in 1948-49 is reflected in correspondence with prominent political figures, Catholic clerics, and other friends. The Correspondence File also contains some documentation of Cleary's dispute with other members of the commission over the settlement of claims by religious organizations, and his conflict with the Eisenhower administration over the status of the Truman appointees. The series includes some personal correspondence and a considerable amount of biographical information concerning Cleary.
The Subject File includes a diary covering Cleary's career with the War Claims Commission from September 1949 to December 1953. Apparently maintained by Cleary's staff, the diary is not very informative concerning the first few months of his tenure, but beginning in January 1950 it provides a daily summary of the chairman's appointments, telephone calls, and other activities. This series contains a great amount of additional material documenting the work of the War Claims Commission, including memoranda, reports, application forms, press releases, and congressional testimony. The Subject File also features newspaper clippings and other printed material relating to Cleary, his work on the commission, and his involvement with the Democratic Party.
The last series, the Printed Materials File, contains published items mostly relating to the War Claims Commission. Included are relevant congressional hearings, as well as many of the semiannual reports of the War Claims Commission to Congress. In 1950, the commission submitted a report to President Truman and Congress in fulfillment of its assignment to consider the problem of claims not covered by the War Claims Act. Among other things, the commission concluded in the report that both Germany and Japan had engaged in wholesale violations of the rights of prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. Both this report and a 1953 supplement are included in the Printed Materials File.
More information about Daniel F. Cleary, the War Claims Commission, and war claims arising out of World War II can be found at the Truman Library in the papers of Harry S. Truman (Official File 751) and Frank A. Waring.