5-301 Memorandum of Conversation, December 14, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 14, 1945

Subject: Postwar

Memorandum of Conversation

December 14, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret

Notes on Meeting with the President

and the Under Secretary of State at

11:30 A.M. Friday, Dec. 14, 1945

The President handed me a final draft of his letter of instructions together with the enclosures and asked me if these were satisfactory to me.1 I replied in the affirmative. The President stated that if I desired a directive from him in any other form for me to prepare it and he would sign it, that he wished to back me in every way possible.

I stated that my understanding of one phase of my directive was not in writing but I thought I had a clear understanding of his desires in the matter, which was that in the event that I was unable to secure the necessary action by the Generalissimo, which I thought reasonable and desirable, it would still be necessary for the U.S. government, through me, to continue to back the National Government of the Republic of China—through the Generalissimo within the terms of the announced policy of the U.S. Government.

The President stated that the foregoing was a correct summation of his directions regarding that possible development of the situation.

The Under Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson, confirmed this as his understanding of my directions.

The President repeated his assurances that the U.S. Government, that he would back me in my decisions, that he had confidence in my judgment.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Department of State (RG 59), Lot Files, Marshall Mission, War Department, Personal China File, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. The enclosures were a memorandum for the War Department by Secretary of State Byrnes, dated December 9, 1945, and the version of the memorandum “U. S. Policy Towards China” that was to be released to the public. The president’s letter and enclosures are printed in China White Paper, pp. 605-9.

In his letter, Truman wrote: “Specifically, I desire that you endeavor to persuade the Chinese Government to call a national conference of representatives of the major political elements to bring about the unification of China and, concurrently, to effect a cessation of hostilities, particularly in north China. . . . In your conversations with Chiang Kai-shek and other Chinese leaders you are authorized to speak with the utmost frankness. Particularly, you may state, in connection with the Chinese desire for credits, technical assistance in the economic field, and military assistance (I have in mind the proposed U. S. military advisory group which I have approved in principle), that a China disunited and torn by civil strife could not be considered realistically as a proper place for American assistance along the lines enumerated.” (Ibid., pp. 605-6.)

The version of “U. S. Policy Towards China” that Marshall took with him is printed in Foreign Relations, 1945, 7: 770-73. A conflation showing the differences between the public and private versions of this memorandum is printed in Larry I. Bland, ed., George C. Marshall’s Mediation Mission to China, December 1945-January 1947 (Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Foundation, 1998), pp. 551-54. The essential points of this document were that since a united and peaceful China was essential to world stability, the United States desired a cease fire, a conference of all important political elements, and the unification of the various armed forces under a reformed and broadened (but still Kuomintang [Nationalist party] dominated) central government. The United States would continue to give the Chinese government economic and military aid, facilitate the repatriation of the Japanese, and retain its Marine Corps forces in China.

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. 393-394.

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