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5-294 Memorandum of Conversation, December 11, 1945

   
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 11, 1945

Subject: Postwar


Memorandum of Conversation

December 11, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

NOTES ON A MEETING OF GENERAL MARSHALL

WITH THE PRESIDENT, MR. BYRNES, AND ADMIRAL LEAHY

At 3:30 PM, Tuesday, December 11, 1945

The President took up the question of our policy with China, the announcement he might make, the immediate instructions for the U. S. Chiefs of Staff regarding Wedemeyer’s requirements as to shipping, etc.

The President stated that he wished to have a clear and complete understanding among us as to just what was the basis on which I was to operate in China in representing him. Mr. Byrnes outlined the policy of this Government as he understood it and advocated it. In effect he stated this, that first of all we, that is the Army and Navy, were being authorized to proceed at once with the arrangement of shipping for the transfer of the armies of the Generalissimo to Manchuria and for their logistical support; also for the evacuation of Japanese from China; and finally, though this was to be maintained in a status of secrecy, for the present, for the transfer of the Generalissimo’s troops into North China for the purpose, on our part, of releasing the Japanese forces in that area and facilitating their evacuation and deportation to Japan.

Mr. Byrnes stated that the reason for holding secret for the present the preparations for the movement of the Generalissimo’s troops into North China was to enable General Marshall to utilize that uncertainty for the purpose of bringing influence to bear both on the Generalissimo and the Communist leaders towards concluding a successful negotiation for the termination of hostilities and the development of a broad unified Chinese government.

The President stated his concurrence with the proposition outlined by Mr. Byrnes and informed General Marshall that he would back him in his, General Marshall’s, efforts whatever they might be to bring about the desired result.

General Marshall stated that his understanding then was that he would do his best to influence the Generalissimo to make reasonable concessions in his negotiations with the democratic and communist leaders, holding in abeyance the information that this Government was actually preparing shipping to assist the Generalissimo in moving his troops into North China for the purpose of releasing the Japanese in that region and, incidentally, taking over control of the railroads. That, on the other hand, he, General Marshall, was to utilize the same uncertainty as to the attitude of our Government toward the establishment of the Generalissimo’s troops in North China in the effort to bring the Communist leaders to the point of making reasonable concessions in order to bring about desirable political unification. That in the event that the Communist leaders refused to make what, in General Marshall’s opinion, were reasonable concessions, he was authorized to back the Generalissimo by assisting in the movement of troops into the region for the U. S. purpose of removing the Japanese.

Finally, General Marshall stated, that if the Generalissimo, in his (General Marshall’s) opinion, failed to make reasonable concessions, and this resulted in the breakdown of the efforts to secure a political unification, and the U. S. abandoned continued support of the Generalissimo, there would follow the tragic consequences of a divided China and of a probable Russian reassumption of power in Manchuria, the combined effect of this resulting in the defeat or loss of the major purpose of our war in the Pacific. Under these circumstances, General Marshall inquired whether or not it was intended for him, in that unfortunate eventuality, to go ahead and assist the Generalissimo in the movement of troops into North China. This would mean that this Government would have to swallow its pride and much of its policy in doing so.

The President and Mr. Byrnes concurred in this view of the matter; that is, that we would have to back the Generalissimo to the extent of assisting him to move troops into North China in order that the evacuation of the Japanese might be completed.

There was some discussion and Mr. Byrnes re-stated the policy of this Government adding specifically that it was not the purpose of the U. S. to send additional troops, divisions—he mentioned, to China, that he was opposed to that and that it would be contrary to the expressions of policy he had made public up to this time. The President agreed with this point of view of the Secretary of State.

The President approved the paper from the State Department containing the draft for a release to the press regarding our policy in China. This draft was in accord with the agreements reached on the previous Sunday morning at the State Department by the Secretary of State, General Marshall, General Hull, the Under Secretary of State and Mr. John Carter Vincent.1

The President stated that he had given formal approval to the memorandum from the State Department to the War Department stating the immediate terms under which General Wedemeyer and the Army and Navy could proceed for the organization of shipping to transport Chinese and Japanese troops. The President also stated that he had approved the proposals of the previous day, Monday, from the Chiefs of Staff regarding the same matter.2

The Secretary stated that he was having a draft of a letter prepared for the President to General Marshall formally stating these various policies. The draft was not then available.

It was also stated at this meeting, either by the President or the Secretary of State that General Marshall would have the authority in dealing with the Generalissimo to indicate the assistance this government would give in economic, financial, and similar matters.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, China Mission, Memoranda-Messages-Cables, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Lieutenant General John E. Hull’s memorandum on the Sunday, December 9, conversation—which covered many of the same subjects as the December 11 meeting with the president—is published in Foreign Relations, 1945, 7: 761-63. Concerning the public version of “U. S. Policy Towards China,” see note 1, Marshall Memorandum of Conversation, December 14, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-301 [5: 393-94].

2. The State Department’s memorandum is in Foreign Relations, 1945, 7: 760-61. Concerning the Joint Chiefs of Staff document on the allocation and deployment of shipping to repatriate Japanese and move Chinese forces (J.C.S. 1586), see Joint Chiefs of Staff to CGUSAFCT Shanghai, CINCAFPAC Tokyo, and CINCPAC Pearl Harbor, Radio No. WARX-88411, December 13, 1945, NA/RG 319 (G-3, China Aid Program Files, Binder 25).

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. 384-386.

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