5-318 To Dean G. Acheson, January 8, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 8, 1946

Subject: China

To Dean G. Acheson

January 8, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 26. [Chungking, China]


Reference WAR-91636 from Davis and your number 28 January 4, 8 PM:1

Robertson is due if current negotiations are successful to be chairman of three man commission in Peking2 administering details of cessation of hostilities, reopening of communications, etc.3 I have arranged to take over personally direct general supervision of Embassy during his absence.

His prestige in vital job in Peking would be seriously damaged by change of status therefore I desire to continue him as Minister for present.

Due to the lack of experienced China service personnel other than Smyth4 I desire that he be held here for at least six weeks after arrival of Butterworth. I hope that two months or less from now Robertson’s special job will have been completed. Thereafter I imagine your arrangements for permanent set up of Embassy can be conveniently put into effect without prejudice to my mission.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Department of State (RG 59), Lot Files, Marshall Mission, Military Affairs, GOLD Messages, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. In a radio message to Acheson on January 4 concerning various mission personnel needs, Marshall noted that the press in China was reporting that the State Department had appointed W. Walton Butterworth, Jr., a career Foreign Service officer, as Marshall’s financial and economic adviser. Marshall said he was already receiving such advice from members of the embassy’s Economic Division and preferred that Butterworth be assigned to the embassy to supplement their services rather than to his mission. Acheson replied that same day that the press reports were incorrect; that Butterworth was to be assigned as counselor of embassy with the personal rank of minister; that when Butterworth was appointed the department did not know that Robertson had agreed to stay in China; and that the department and Butterworth would be happy to do whatever Marshall desired. (Marshall to Acheson, Radio No. 28, January 4, 1946, NA/RG 59 [Lot Files, Marshall Mission, Political Affairs, Messages Out—Embassy]; Acheson to Marshall, Radio No. 28, January 4, 1946, NA/RG 59 [Lot Files, Marshall Mission, Military Affairs, Personnel I].) On Butterworth’s arrival and role, see note 3, Marshall to Acheson, July 5, 1946, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-497 [5: 622].

2. The capital of China between 1421 and 1928 and after 1949 was called Peking, meaning “northern capital” (Beijing in pinyin transliteration). During the period of Nationalist dominance (1928-49), when China’s capital was at Nanking (“southern capital”), the former capital was called Peiping (“northern peace”). The Japanese, during their 1937-45 occupation, used Peking. During Marshall’s mission, he and other Americans often used Peking.

3. Walter S. Robertson had been a banker in Richmond, Virginia, prior to being designated head of the U.S. lend-lease mission in Australia (1943–44).  He subsequently became an economic adviser to the State Department, and in April 1945 he was appointed an Auxiliary Foreign Service Officer and made economic counselor (with the personal rank of minister) to the U.S. Embassy in China.  After Ambassador Hurley left Chungking in September 1945, Robertson became chargé d’affaires and (since Marshall had the personal rank of ambassador but was a presidential agent not the U.S. ambassador to China) remained so until a new ambassador was appointed in July 1946.  Robertson had volunteered for wartime duty only, and even before Hurley departed he had sought to resign.  When Marshall arrived in December 1945, Robertson told him that he wanted to return to Virginia, but Marshall would not hear of it, saying that he too had been drafted from Virginia for China duty.  He offered to arrange for Robertson’s wife and children to come to China; they arrived in late February 1946. (Robertson interview, GCMRL/Pogue Oral History Collection [#107].)

4. Robert L. Smyth—an Old China Hand along with John Paton Davies, Jr., John Stewart Service, John Carter Vincent, and a few others—had been born of American parents in Foochow, China, in 1894.  He joined the Foreign Service in 1920 and had served most of his career in China.  Since 1945 he had been counselor of embassy in Chungking.

Recommended Citation:  The Papers 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. 413–414.

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