5-436 Memorandum for the Generalissimo, May 10, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 10, 1946

Subject: China

Memorandum for the Generalissimo

May 10, 1946 OSE 27 [Nanking, China]

Subject: Possible Basis for Agreement Regarding Manchurian Issues.

General Yu Ta Wei requested me to reduce to writing suggestions of mine for a possible basis of reaching an agreement to put a stop to the fighting in Manchuria. I lack the necessary foundation of knowledge to base with any assurance suggestions regarding the political aspects of the problem. I am better informed, of course, as to the military considerations. With regard to the entire problem, I am taking into consideration the possibilities for agreement on the part of the Communist Party though I have made no proposal to them since April 23d1 other than to transmit the proposition stated by your Excellency just prior to our departure from Chungking. In other words, whatever in the following discussion I suggest as a possible basis of compromise in order to reach an agreement for terminating the fighting has not been suggested to General Chou En-lai by me.

Military Considerations

In my opinion, the deployment of the Government forces in Manchuria should not be determined on the basis of an effective resistance to possible offensive action by the Soviet Government. Sufficient Government forces and supplies cannot be maintained in Manchuria adequate to a substantial defense of that nature. Therefore, the decision as to the disposition of the Government forces should, in the first place, I would think, be based on the Government’s uncertainty as to future action of the Communist Party and the possible reactions of the Soviet Government in connection therewith. The deployment should also be based on the facilities for supply and maintenance.

These two considerations would seem to indicate the concentration of National troop strength in the southern portion of Manchuria, with the major concentrations in the vicinity of Mukden and to the northward of Hulutao.

Another consideration is the probability of Communists insistence on a reconsideration of the final military strengths in Manchuria to increase their present agreed upon proportion of one Communist division to 14 National Army divisions. Just what their demand might be I do not know, but my guess would be that they will insist on one army [i.e., three divisions]. If that proved to be the case, the National Government might raise its total by one division which would make the comparison 5 Government armies to 1 Communist.

If this adjustment were to be acceptable, then the next consideration would be the final disposition of these forces and it is in regard to this matter that my lack of basic knowledge regarding the political significance of the areas and other factors makes it difficult for me to formulate a proposal. Off-hand it would seem that the Government should hold its forces to the south of Changchun and might well accept the Communist army (as a future part of the National army) to be disposed in the area to the west of Harbin and toward Manchouli. General Yu Ta Wei has insisted that one National army should be distributed between Changchun and Manchouli as a sort of symbolic recognition of the power of the Central Government. I think such a disposition not only would be seriously weak, even from a symbolic standpoint, but that it would probably block negotiations, and even if agreed upon, would be a future source of constant disturbance. I am inclined to think that the Government would do better to accept a Communist army in principle as a portion of the Government forces and agree to locate it in this region.

With regard to the dispositions along the railroad there are three factors, it seems to me, that must be considered. First is the Sino-Soviet treaty provisions which the Central Government is intensely interested, from an international viewpoint, in strictly carrying out. The second is the fact that the Soviet military in Manchuria have, at least by negative action, made it exceedingly difficult for the Central Government to carry out its responsibilities under that treaty. And the third is the question as to whether or not that particular treaty relationship regarding the railroad is of such overwhelming importance that a calamitous civil war must be accepted rather than to compromise the execution of the agreement, or that it is of such importance that rather than compromise the treaty agreement the Central Government would surrender any possibility of influence over the greater part of Manchuria.

In the present troop situation, I am of the opinion that should a northern advance of the National army on Changchun be carried out, before a possible basis of agreement is reached regarding the cessation of hostilities, there would remain small prospect of reaching any agreement, except by the destruction of the Communist military forces in Manchuria, which I do not think is within the power of the Government. Incidentally, if such an advance should be undertaken and it should be repulsed, then the Government’s position would, in my opinion, be so seriously compromised that little could be done towards a peaceful solution without an unacceptable sacrifice of prestige on the part of the Government.

I have not been informed as to whether or not the Communist Party would accept the proposal of your Excellency for them to evacuate Changchun and agree to the occupation of that place by troops of the Central Government before any agreement for the cessation of hostilities would be signed and before any negotiations regarding future military dispositions and political reorganizations would be entered into. It is my impression that the Communists will not agree to the immediate occupation of Changchun by the troops of the National Government. I do not know whether or not they would agree to the evacuation of Changchun by their forces, but it is my hope that they might be prevailed upon to agree to that phase of your Excellency’s proposal and could be induced to accept some compromise arrangement regarding the actual occupation of Changchun. If that proved to be the case, it is my suggestion that the issue be met by the proposal to have an advance headquarters of the Executive Headquarters, established in Changchun to control that city during the period of negotiations with the authority to organize Peace Preservation troops and to take such other measures as might be necessary to facilitate the operation of the railroad and restore local conditions to a normal basis. It might be that an agreement could be found for the eventual occupation of Changchun by National forces, say in three months after reaching an agreement in the negotiations.

Your Excellency has stated that you would not entertain any compromise regarding the proposal of conditions that I communicated to General Chou En-lai in your name, however, it seems to me that if an agreement cannot be secured in a very few days to that proposal, it is greatly to the interest of the Central Government to attempt to find some acceptable basis of compromise because I feel that time is definitely working against the Central Government and in favor of the Communists. And also I feel extremely concerned about the situation in North China which is trembling on the verge of a serious break which would inevitably involve a general civil war.

Political Negotiations

I have already referred to my uncertainty regarding these matters and therefore submit my suggestions with considerable hesitation. I am informed by American members of the press who were in Changchun and had lengthy interviews with Communist leaders, that the military, political and propaganda headquarters in Manchuria have been established in that city and that elections of some character have been held to select governors for eight of the nine provinces. From conversations which have already taken place between the representatives of the Democratic League and myself and between General Chou En-lai and myself, it would appear that the reorganization of the Political Council and the Economic Council in Manchuria would facilitate all other negotiations. What apparently is desired is the removal of the Council from military domination and representation on the Council of both Communists and residents of Manchuria. I assume that domination of the Council by the Government would be acceptable provided that there was reasonable representation of the other groups.

The Communists have definitely stated their insistence on having the local governments which have been elected, presumably under their supervision continued in force until the negotiations have determined the future political arrangements in Manchuria. I suppose they would probably endeavor to maintain at least a portion of these local governments under the final arrangements, but I also suppose that they will make a point of insisting on some representation in the matter of provincial governors. Here, specifically, I am without the necessary knowledge to submit suggestions with any assurance of their soundness, but reasoning from a map, the possibility occurred to me that the compromise in these matters might be related to the region in which Communist military forces were to be disposed, that is, to the provinces of Nunchang, Hsingan, Liao-pei, and Hei lung chiang. Such a concentration of Communist influence might well be considered highly undesirable, but this undesirability would have to be weighed against the possible effects of a scattering of Communist influence throughout the region and, what apparently you regard as inevitable, contact with the Soviet influence along the border. In view of the present establishment of Communist control in almost all portions of Manchuria from Changchun north, I fear they will be inclined to drive a hard bargain, but that is the problem to be faced unless the larger part of Manchuria is to be completely abandoned—which also involves, I think, a complete disruption in North China.

General Comments

With regard to all of the foregoing, we are confronted with a definite and serious weakness in the Government’s military position and a strategical military advantage of the Communist forces. We are also confronted with the profound desire of the Chinese people for peace and a similar desire on the part of the people of the world. In the circumstances, I do not agree with General Yu Ta-wei that the psychological effect of a certain compromise on the part of the Central Government to achieve peace would be ruinous to the prestige of the Government. On the contrary. I feel, that if it becomes necessary, such a compromise as I proposed for the utilization of the Executive Headquarters—not merely a team—in Changchun would be unmistakeable evidence to the world that your Excellency was making every effort to promote peace, particularly in utilizing an agency that was created solely for that purpose.

In connection with the immediate arrangements for the cessation of hostilities there remains the question of whether or not the Soviet Government would oppose the American participation. There have been no indications that I know of that they were antagonistic to the entry of our teams and I think the necessity for the presence of American mediation is so evident that the risk of Soviet resentment or insistence on representation should be accepted.

Finally, I would submit this thought, some compromise must be achieved, and that quickly, or China is faced with a chaotic situation, militarily, financially and otherwise economically.2

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Department of State (RG 59), Lot Files, Marshall Mission, Military Affairs, OSE Letters, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. See the summary of Marshall’s meeting with Chou En-lai on April 23, 1946, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-417 [5: 529-30].

2. Marshall met with Chiang Kai-shek on May 12 to discuss this memorandum. In his record of the meeting, Marshall noted that Chiang had, in general, “voiced agreement” on the memorandum’s military aspects, but insisted that the Communists not occupy Harbin. As to negotiations, the Generalissimo asked Marshall not to discuss a Manchurian settlement with Chou En-lai until the Communist representative came forward with a proposal. Marshall said that he was deeply concerned over the critical status of affairs in North China and thus was opposed to delays. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 840-41.)

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. 548-552.

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