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Memorandum for the President for the U.S. Chiefs of Staff1
July 4, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
The situation in Central China is deteriorating at an alarming rate. If the Japanese continue their advances to the West, Chennault’s 14th Air Force will be rendered ineffective, our very long-range bomber airfields in the Chengtu area will be lost and the collapse of China must inevitably result. Whether or not there is a possibility of our exerting a favorable influence on the chaotic condition in China is questionable. It is our view, however, that drastic measures should be taken immediately in an effort to prevent disaster to the U.S. effort in that region.
The Chinese ground forces in China, in their present state of discipline, training and equipment, and under their present leadership, are impotent. The Japanese forces can, in effect, move virtually unopposed except by geographical logistic difficulties.
From the beginning of the war, we have insisted on the necessity for building up the combat efficiency of the Chinese ground forces, as the only method of providing the necessary security for our air bases in China. The pressure on us from the Generalissimo throughout the war has been to increase the tonnage over the hump for Chennault’s air in particular, with the equipment and supply for the ground forces as incidental only. This presents the problem of an immense effort in transportation, with a poorly directed and possibly completely wasteful procedure. Chennault’s air alone can do little more than slightly delay the Japanese advances. We have had abundant proof of this in our operations against the German army.
Our experience against both the Germans and the Japanese in theaters where we have had immensely superior air power has demonstrated the inability of air forces alone to prevent the movement of trained and determined ground armies. If we have been unable to stop the movement of German ground armies in Italy with our tremendous air power, there is little reason to believe that Chennault, with the comparatively small air force which can be supported in China, can exert a decisive effect on the movement of Japanese ground forces in China. The more effective his bombing of their shipping and the B-29 operations against Japan the more determined will be the Japanese thrusts in China.
Under the present leadership and organization of the Chinese armies, it is purely a question of Japanese intent as to how far they will advance into the interior of China. The serious pass to which China has come is due in some measure to mismanagement and neglect of the Army. Until her every resource, including the divisions at present confronting the communists, is devoted to the war against the Japanese, there is little hope that she can continue to operate with any effectiveness until the end of the war.
The time has come, in our opinion, when all the military power and resources remaining to China must be entrusted to one individual capable of directing that effort in a fruitful way against the Japanese. There is no one in the Chinese Government or armed forces capable of coordinating the Chinese military effort in such a way as to meet the Japanese threat. During this war, there has been only one man who has been able to get Chinese forces to fight against the Japanese in an effective way. That man is General Stilwell.
The British are pressing for a readjustment of command relationships in the Southeast Asia Command, maintaining that General Stilwell’s position as Deputy Supreme Commander and that of Commander of the Chinese Corps in India are incompatible. The British would undoubtedly concur in the relief of General Stilwell from his present assignment.
After full consideration of the situation in China, we recommend:
a. That you dispatch to the Generalissimo the attached message, urging him to place General Stilwell in command of all Chinese armed forces.
b. That you promote General Stilwell to the temporary grade of General, not only in recognition of his having conducted a brilliant campaign with a force, which he himself made, in spite of continued opposition from within and without and tremendous obstacles of terrain and weather, but in order to give him the necessary prestige for the new position proposed for him in China.
We are fully aware of the Generalissimo’s feelings regarding Stilwell, particularly from a political point of view, but the fact remains that he has proved his case or contentions on the field of battle in opposition to the highly negative attitudes of both the British and the Chinese authorities. Had his advice been followed, it is now apparent that we would have cleared the Japanese from northeast Burma before the monsoon and opened the way to effective action in China proper. Had his advice been followed the Chinese ground forces east of the hump would have been far better equipped and prepared to resist or at least delay the Japanese advances.
c. That in case Stilwell goes to China, we propose the following arrangements in the Southeast Asia Command to the British Chiefs of Staff:
(1) Sultan to command the Chinese Corps in Burma under the general direction of Stilwell.
(2) Wheeler, now Senior Administrative Officer on Mountbatten’s staff, to succeed Stilwell as Deputy to Mountbatten.
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE GENERALISSIMO
The extremely serious situation which results from Japanese advances in Central China, which threaten not only your Government but all that the U. S. Army has been building up in China, leads me to the conclusion that drastic measures must be taken immediately if the situation is to be saved. The critical situation which now exists, in my opinion calls for the delegation to one individual of the power to coordinate all the allied military resources in China, including the communist forces.
I think I am fully aware of your feelings regarding General Stilwell, nevertheless I think he has now clearly demonstrated his far-sighted judgment, his skill in organization and training and, above all, in fighting your Chinese forces. I know of no other man who has the ability, the force, and the determination to offset the disaster which now threatens China and our over-all plans for the conquest of Japan. I am promoting Stilwell to the rank of full General and I recommend for your most urgent consideration that you recall him from Burma and place him directly under you in command of all Chinese and American Forces, and that you charge him with the full responsibility and authority for the coordination and direction of the operations required to stem the tide of the enemy’s advances. I feel that the case of China is so desperate that if radical and promptly applied remedies are not immediately effected, our common cause will suffer a disastrous set-back.
I sincerely trust that you will not be offended at the frankness of my statements and I assure you that there is no intent on my part to dictate to you on matters concerning China; however, the future of all Asia is at stake along with the tremendous effort which America has expended in that region. Therefore I have reason for a profound interest in the matter.
Please have in mind that it has been clearly demonstrated in Italy, in France, and in the Pacific that air power alone cannot stop a determined enemy. As a matter of fact, the Germans have successfully conducted defensive actions and launched determined counter-attacks though overwhelmingly outnumbered in the air.
Should you agree to giving Stilwell such assignment as I now propose, I would recommend that General Sultan, a very fine officer who is now his Deputy, be placed in command of the Chinese-American force in Burma, but under Stilwell’s direction.2
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division, Executive File 10, Item 60, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. General Marshall edited more than once the drafts of this document and the enclosure which had been prepared by the Operations Division. Marshall’s handwritten alterations to the drafts are located in NA/RG 165 (OPD, Exec. 10, Item 59 and OPD 384, Case 47).
2. On July 6 President Roosevelt sent this message unchanged to the Generalissimo, and it was delivered to the Generalissimo on July 7, (Sunderland and Romanus, eds., Stilwell’s Personal File, 5: 2406-10.) Stilwell’s promotion to full general was effective August 1, 1944. For further information regarding this issue, see Marshall to Stilwell, July 7, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-439 [4: 508-10].
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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 503-506.