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Editorial Note on Operations in the China-Burma-India Theater
At the end of April 1943 Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, commander of United States Army Forces in the China-Burma-India Theater, and Major General Claire L. Chennault, commanding general of the Fourteenth Air Force in China, arrived in Washington for meetings. Both attended a conference with Marshall and Arnold on April 30. The personalities of Stilwell and Chennault created a delicate situation as the basic question of ground versus air operations was studied. (Minutes of Conference with Stilwell and Chennault, April 30, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 8, Book 9]. See Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, pp. 84-88.) Stilwell and Chennault had separate meetings with President Roosevelt. On May 1 Stilwell sent a memorandum to Marshall in which he summarized Chiang Kai-shek’s message to Roosevelt, which Stilwell had presented orally to the president, in which the generalissimo complained of the low morale of the Chinese army and people and called for increased United States aid. The low morale was the fault of the Chinese leaders, Stilwell countered, and he warned against increasing supplies. “Unless a strong answer is made to this message, demands will increase out of all reason,” he wrote. (Stilwell Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 1, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, 381].) Stilwell sent another memorandum the same day in which he stated that operations in the China-Burma-India Theater should be tied in with those of the Southwest Pacific Area in a general plan. “Without a general plan, U.S. units in China will be at the mercy of the often whimsical and unsound decisions of a commander whose actions are often dictated by local politics.” The Chinese and British, he maintained, should be held to their commitments for ANAKIM. (Stilwell Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 1, 1943, ibid.) The president decided in favor of Chennault’s air program. (See Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Mission to China, pp. 320-27.)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 674-675.