5-396 Press Conference Statement, March 16, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 16, 1946

Subject: China

Press Conference Statement1

March 16, 1946 Washington, D.C.

General G. Marshall, holding his first press conference today since his return yesterday from three month mission in China as President Truman’s personal representative, told of progress being made in uniting that country, and of importance of its unity to the world.

“If the world wants peace”, he said, “China’s effort must succeed, and that success will depend largely on other nations.”

General Marshall revealed that he will be going back to China soon.

General Marshall authorized direct quotation of the following statement made at the beginning of his press conference:

“The Chinese people are engaged in an effort which I think should command the cooperation of the entire world. It is an effort almost without precedent. Their leaders are making daily progress towards the settlement by peaceful discussion of deep-seated and bitter conflicts over the past twenty years.

“They are succeeding in terminating the hostilities of the past twenty years. They have reached agreements and are now engaged in the business of demobilizing vast military forces and unifying, and integrating the remaining forces into a national army. They have agreed to the basic principles for the achievement in China of political and economic advances which were centuries coming to western democracies.

“If we are to have peace, if the world wants peace, there are compelling reasons why China’s present effort must succeed and its success will depend in a large measure on action of other nations. If China is ignored or if there is scheming to thwart the development of unity and present aspirations, why of course, their efforts inevitably will fail.

“The United States, I think, at the present time is best able to render material assistance to China. I feel quite certain of the sympathetic interest of the U.S. people in China, but I am not quite so certain as to their understanding or the understanding of their political leaders of the vital importance to the United States of the success of the present Chinese efforts towards unity and economic stability if we are to have the continued peace we hope for in the Pacific.

“Incidentally, I do not believe any nation can find justification for suspicion as to our motives in China. We are asking for no special preferences of any kind whatsoever regarding economic or similar matters. We are placing no price on our friendship. I must say, though that we have a vital interest in a stable government in China and I am using the word `vital’ in its accurate sense.

“The next few months are of tremendous importance to the Chinese people and, I think, to the future peace of the world. I am now using that term in its longer sense, that is, through the years. Stable governments in Asia are of great importance to us not to mention what they mean to the people who have suffered to a degree which the Chinese have during the past decade.

“I have met on every hand the most generous reception, the most remarkable reception, I might say, and it seemed to me a very understanding cooperation towards whatever efforts I might be making. The situation of course has been most complicated throughout my brief stay in China, first by the disturbed conditions in this country,2 in the army in the Pacific,3 and then later by the critical state of affairs in Manchuria.

“Despite these difficulties I think tremendous progress has been made.

“I would like to have you understand something of an organization that has been established in Peiping which we call Executive Headquarters. That is the most important instrument we have in China at the present time. Agreements are all very well but unless you have a means for carrying them out, particularly when they are intended to resolve bitter differences of large groups of people, you must have some means of implementing those agreements.

“So we have in Peiping a headquarters consisting of three commissioners, the Chairman of which is an American, the other two members representing the Government and the Communist party, and then we have an American Chief of Staff and under him is a group of about 250 officers. The core of the organization is American with the representatives of the National Government on one side and the Communists on the other, and they are brought together with this framework of an American staff. They are represented out in the field throughout the critical portions of China by little teams of three men, one American, one Governmental representative and one Communist representative, and the force and effect of these agreements and the detailed orders to carry them into effect are in that way carried upon the group at the scene of the trouble, whether it is fighting, whether it is restoration of communications, whether it is relieving the encirclement of a city, the evacuation of Japanese, or, as is now coming up, the demobilization, reorganization, and integration of the armed forces in China.

“We would have gotten nowhere without that headquarters. It is absolutely essential in every step of the way in connection with these agreements which have application to the military situation which of course includes communications.

“Now the last evening I was in China, up to ten minutes before my departure, we were reaching agreements regarding sending those teams into Manchuria. We reached a general agreement and they had certain details to work out after my departure. They should be on their way now.

“It is of great importance that they get there as soon as possible. You must understand that it is exceedingly difficult with the best intentions in the world to transmit orders where there are very limited radio communications and almost no highway communications over these great forces [that] are not well-knit organized units. I found it necessary to make a trip of about 3,500 miles to the principal region where there was still trouble. I was accompanied by the Government representative and part of his staff, and the Communist representative with part of his staff.

“I found in the case of the latter, they hadn’t seen some of the leaders, for two years and had very limited communications with them from time to time. We were able to resolve almost every difficulty once we got the people together. It was very remarkable how quickly we could straighten out what seemingly were impossible conditions and which had their tragic effect on the Chinese people. A single conference of a few hours in an afternoon would raise the encirclement of what amounted to ten or twenty beseiged cities where people were starving. It only took that long to straighten out but until we arrived nothing could be done.

“Now in Manchuria they have no representative of the Executive Headquarters there up to this time. The situation has been very fluid, troops moving here and there and of course all sorts of minor clashes occurring. There is no doubt whatever in my mind in many instances, particularly on the communist side, that they are almost unaware of the agreement we have reached, therefore, it is most important that we have these teams appear in that country as quickly as possible.

“I would like to say the American officers in these small groups are rendering a very remarkable service not only under the difficult conditions of the task but under extremely difficult conditions of life. I repeat again that without the headquarters of the nature that we have established in Peiping with its representatives, it would be literally impossible to carry out any of these agreements, even with the best intentions of the world at the top.

“I saw General MacArthur in Japan and talked over with him the representation of Chinese troops in the army of occupation. He was very happy to have them and I think you will shortly read of an announcement by the Generalissimo to that effect.”

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office 1917- (RG 407), Operations Reports, History—Peiping Executive Headquarters, Appendix 5, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. On March 20, Executive Headquarters sent copies in English and Chinese to all field team personnel.

2. The news in the United States during Marshall’s mission had heretofore been dominated by labor-management problems. Despite Truman administration efforts after the war’s end, the number, size, and duration of strikes increased rapidly. Marshall had hardly arrived in China when the auto industry strike (targeting the General Motors Corporation) began; this 113-day strike was finally settled during Marshall’s trip to Washington. Meanwhile, there had been a pattern-setting steel strike and wage agreement. By the time Marshall reached the U.S. capital, the rate of inflation was beginning to rise rapidly, and there were many indications that labor-management disputes would escalate.

3. The pace of manpower demobilization proceeded more rapidly than anticipated after the war’s end, and by late 1945, President Truman and the army’s planners were increasingly worried that the ground and air forces would fall below the July 1, 1946, target of 1,550,000. On January 4, 1946, the War Department issued a press release noting that nearly 5,000,000 people had been separated from the service, but that this pace had to slow down. “If all shipping now available were used to the maximum, all men overseas who will become eligible for return could be brought back in three months, but such a program would cripple the Army in carrying out its occupational duties and those incident to closing out various supply and other installations overseas. . . . There will be about 1,553,000 men to be shipped home over a period of six months rather than three months.” (John C. Sparrow, History of Personnel Demobilization in the United States Army [Washington: GPO, 1951], pp. 320-21.)

This announcement, combined with a number of other factors—including a well-publicized press statement by Secretary of War Robert Patterson during his tour of Pacific bases that seemed to imply that he did not know how demobilization was going—led to two days of large-scale soldiers’ protest meetings in Manila on January 6 and 7 and soon thereafter in other cities, including London, Paris, and Shanghai. (Ibid., pp. 164-67.)

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. 504-507.

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