3-637 Memorandum for General Stilwell, May 3, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 3, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Stilwell

May 3, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


I talked to the President yesterday regarding China matters and found him completely set against any delay in Chennault’s program. He had drawn the conclusion from his interview with you that the air activities were in effect largely to be suspended while the more tedious ground build-up was being carried out.

I explained to the President that we had certain planes in China, that we were building up supplies to permit Beebe’s group of four-engined bombers to get to work,1 probably about this time, and that what you felt was the urgent and vital necessity towards the maintenance of an air operation was the immediate conditioning of the Yunnan Force sufficiently to prevent a successful Japanese operation against Kunming; that the failure to prepare the Yunnan Army could well result in the loss of air communication with China; and that the Generalissimo’s desire to divert all tonnage away from this Force would be fatal to his purpose as well as to ours.

The President accepted the proposition that the necessary supplies for the Yunnan Force should be sent in, that he would handle Chiang Kai-shek on that, but he stated that politically he must support Chiang Kai-shek and that in the state of Chinese morale the air program was therefore of great importance.

Your oral message and Chennault’s oral message from the Generalissimo to the President, and the written message from Dr. Soong to the President,2 all have made their impression. The important thing is to keep out in the clear the fact, as we see it, that all communication with China will be terminated if Chinese troops in Yunnan are not adequately prepared to resist the Japanese.

As to ANAKIM the President was for this on a modified basis, that is, in the north but not in the south, at Rangoon. Also I think he felt that nothing for ANAKIM should delay Chennault’s air operations.

I think the proper approach to the problem at the present time is a draft of a message from the President to the Generalissimo and I should like you to prepare such a draft, acknowledging the oral messages delivered by you and Chennault, stating that he had discussed these matters with you both, acknowledging the special message delivered by Dr. Soong and then stating the President’s attitude and decisions.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 10, Item 70, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Colonel Eugene H. Beebe, who had been an aide to General Arnold, commanded the 308th Bomber Group which flew aviation fuel and supplies into China required for their bomber missions against the Japanese. “In general, my pilots have taken the hump in their stride and their experience is growing,” reported Beebe to Arnold. “We now have on hand in China 65,000 gallons of fuel, 159-1,000 pound bombs, 121,000 rounds of caliber .50, and sufficient 100 pound practice bombs to keep the bombardiers in trim. . . . Our organizational equipment which we need just as bad as our blood will arrive in India in another 15 days. The job then is to try and get it sent to Chabua where we can start bringing over essential things.” (Arnold Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 9, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 8, Book 9].)

2. In his April 29, 1943, letter to Harry Hopkins, Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs T. V. Soong had transmitted Chiang’s request to Roosevelt that the entire air transport tonnage during May, June, and July be devoted to Chennault’s air operations. “It is the Generalissimo’s view that since initiation of the air effort is both most urgent and presently feasible and since the ground effort has been deferred until next Autumn, military logic demands the requested alteration in schedules.” The generalissimo was confident that “in the event the enemy attempts to interrupt the air offensive by a ground advance on the air bases, the advance can be halted by the existing Chinese forces.” (Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Mission to China, pp. 318-20.)

3. Stilwell drafted a message to the generalissimo from the president which Marshall edited. A reply to the generalissimo’s April 29 note, the message said that Chennault could not receive all of the air transport tonnage and that the matter was still under study. “The diversion of the total tonnage of the ferry line to an air offensive would so delay the equipping and training of the Yunnan Army that very serious danger of the loss of all air communication with China would result, through the inability of the Yunnan troops to withstand an attack in that province.” (Message to the Generalissimo from the President, May 4, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, 381].) In a handwritten letter to Roosevelt on May 12, Soong sought the president’s approval of Chiang’s request. “I am very anxious about the decision on the Generalissimo’s request to devote the entire India-China air transport capacity in the next three months to air supplies.” (Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Quebec, 1943, p. 288.) For further information on this subject, see Marshall Memorandum for the President, May 18, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-660 [3: 695-96]; Marshall Memorandum for Mr. Harry Hopkins, May 19, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-661 [3: 696-97].

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. 675-676.

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