3-357 Memorandum for the President, October 6, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 6, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

October 6, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Situation relative to General Stilwell.1

Support of General Stilwell

The Secretary of War and I have personally had lengthy discussions regarding General Stilwell. We feel that at least for the time being we should continue to support him in the accomplishment of what is an extraordinarily difficult mission. Our great objective is to reoccupy Burma sufficiently to open up a supply route into China. The British cannot do this alone; the Chinese certainly can’t manage it; neither side would admit of leadership by the other. So our only hope as I see it is to secure guidance by an American. He must be a troop leader rather than a negotiator or supply man who would only serve to promote harmony at Chungking. We have searched our resources and at the moment we do not see any officer with a sufficient knowledge of the Chinese and with sufficient standing as a troop leader to hope to secure either British or Chinese acquiescence for control of a campaign.

Stilwell has spent almost ten years in China. I believe an officer without some such experience would be utterly helpless in dealing with Chinese methods, particularly in resistance to Occidental methods.

I know that Mr. Currie feels that Stilwell should be relieved but I do not believe Mr. Currie realizes what this is going to mean towards the accomplishment of our military objective in Burma.

Clarification of the situation

It is hoped that your reply to the Generalissimo’s three demands, a draft of which I recently submitted for your approval, will go a long way towards clarifying the situation.2

Officer en route to China

Colonel Timberman of the General Staff is departing by air today for China to survey the entire situation.3 He has had years of experience in China. I should not like to take any final action prior to his return.

It is therefore recommended that no action relative to General Stilwell should be taken at this time.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. On October 3 President Roosevelt sent Marshall a memorandum that read: “What is the situation in regard to Stilwell in China? Apparently the matter is so involved between him and the Generalissimo that I suppose Stilwell would be more effective in some other field.” (NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 10, Item 56].)

2. On June 29, 1942, Chiang Kai-shek handed Stilwell a memorandum on the “three minimum requirements essential for the maintenance of the China Theater of War”: (1) three United States divisions to help recapture Burma; (2) five hundred aircraft at the front plus replacements; (3) air transport to China of five thousand tons of materiel per month. These were to be effected by August and September 1942. Stilwell worked during the summer to arrange a compromise whereby the United States would supply more lend-lease and the Chinese demand less. By the end of September, the War Department had prepared a draft response to the Three Demands, and on October 12 a message from the president on the demands was sent to Stilwell for presentation to Chiang. There would be no combat troops provided, but China would receive five hundred aircraft, one hundred planes would be operating on the air supply route by early 1943, and the United States would do its best to help retake Burma and reopen the supply line via the Burma Road. (Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Mission to China, pp. 172-73, 177-81, 222-25; quote on p. 172.)

3. Colonel Thomas S. Timberman (U.S.M.A., 1923) was chief of the Asiatic Theater Section of the Operations Division. Between October 1931 and March 1935 he had been assigned to Peiping as a language student.

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. 386-387.

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