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Editorial Note on Marshall’s Return to China
April 12, 1946
PRESSURE on General Marshall to return to China to salvage the agreements previously reached and to prevent the complete collapse of ongoing negotiations and an all-out civil war increased the longer he remained in Washington. From Executive Headquarters in Peiping, Walter Robertson radioed on April 6: “It is my carefully considered opinion that the situation is so serious and is deteriorating so rapidly that your immediate return to China is necessary.” (Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, 11 vols. [Washington: GPO, 1969- 72], 9: 735-36.) By April 8, Marshall had established an itinerary for his return to China.
In mid-February, Madame Chiang Kai-shek had invited Mrs. Marshall—who was then at the Marshalls’ cottage in Pinehurst, North Carolina, working on her memoirs—to return to China with her husband. The couple departed Washington, D.C., at 10:00 P.M. on April 12 for Long Beach Army Air Base in California. They spent the day in Hollywood with Frank McCarthy, including a luncheon with motion picture director Frank Capra. That evening they departed for Honolulu, where they spent another day prior to a night crossing to Wake Island, then on to Tokyo. The evening of April 16-17 the Marshalls were guests of General and Mrs. Douglas MacArthur in what Mrs. Marshall thought was “the most beautiful American Embassy I have seen.” The following day (April 17) they flew to Peiping where they remained overnight. Mrs. Marshall toured the Forbidden City, which she wrote was “indescribable in its magnificeense and beauty.”
On the morning of April 18, the Marshalls left Peiping for Chungking. “The flight over China was the most unforgetable sight I have ever seen,” Mrs. Marshall observed.
Every inch of this huge country cultivated- range after range of mountains even on top of these where a flat space was- were squares of winter wheat or rice patties. Mud villages. When I asked how they got out, the answer was they don’t get out- but have been there for hundreds of years. The great Yellow river sprawling through the mountain gorges with mud flats as far as you could see on either side.
She was less enthusiastic about life on the ground in Chungking. “We arrived during a heat wave 100 [degrees Fahrenheit] humidity 90[%]- Mr. Robertson told me in Peekin that in Chungking during the summer you awoke fearing that you would not die- instead of that you would.” As a result of the war, the city’s population was perhaps fifteen times its prewar level. “The dust heat s[t]ench are beyond description.” Inflation was rampant and there was little for a foreigner to purchase, she discovered. Moreover, foreigners, particularly women, attracted considerable attention if they traveled about the city, “so you just do not go out.” The Marshalls’ quarters were an office building where heavy curtains were drawn across all the windows in an attempt to keep out the heat and dust. (K. T. Marshall to Sally G. Chamberlin, April 24, 1946, GCMRL/K. T. Marshall Papers.) Mrs. Marshall would not have to endure Chungking for long, because the government—and consequently nearly all the foreigners—was in the process of moving back to the prewar capital of Nanking.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 525-526.