WW2 Japanese ammunition souvenir policy

CinCPac-CinCPOA Bulletin 157-45 “SOUVENIRS” was written sometime after the surrender of Germany, but before the defeat of Japan, with the following guidance on souvenirs. There were likely other similar documents, or changes to this document, issued after VJ-Day as the quantity of Japanese ammunition souvenirs is much larger than might have been smuggled home in violation of the directions here.

(pages 11-13) "It is an offense, punishable by court martial, for unauthorized personnel unnecessarily to handle or attempt to disarm captured ammunitions. Trained personnel are present on each operation to handle enemy munitions as necessary.
The retention as souvenirs of explosives and ammunition, or any part of component thereof, is expressly forbidden. The ‘any part or component thereof’ means that you are just wasting your time if you try to turn a shell into a fancy ash tray, lamp, picture frame or letter opener. The articles are parts of shells and will not be allowed as souvenirs.

It’s very easy to say, ‘I’m sure the shell I am sending home is completely safe’, but there have been too many cases of ‘safe’ shells reaching the states and killing people…"

The complete document can be downloaded as a 6.6MB .pdf from:

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I have had the good fortune to know a few WW2 vets, including family members, who to the man said they were allowed to bring back deactivated ordnance once the item was inspected and deemed inert. Some even had official letter head papers stating that an item had been inspected and was inert.

So another example of rules are made to be broken!


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As I noted, there were probably changes or different instruction s issued at later dates. I suspect some of those may have allowed ammunition items which were declared safe by EOD (or something like that). We see an awful lot of Japanese 20-25-37mm ammunition and knee mortar rounds which have been deactivated. I suspect this was done during the occupation of Japan, not during the war itself.

I would really like to see a copy of those policies, if copies still exist.

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I’ve never seen a written policy, the practice seemed to allowed, but the procedures varied by unit. I know that the accompanying inspection/approval documents are generally known as “bring-back papers”, and can add greatly to the perceived value of the item. The papers can vary significantly in format and type, and are easily lost or destroyed so not a lot of examples (for ordnance) are floating around. Here are a couple from the collection.