5-293 To Eugene Meyer, December 11, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: Postwar

To Eugene Meyer

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


Dear Mr. Meyer:

Thanks for your letter of yesterday concerning my new job in China. I appreciate the indication that you understand the difficulties.1

Your suggestion concerning General Order No. 1 is for consideration along with the other very difficult aspects of the Chinese problem which, as you say, is full of pitfalls.2 You have no doubt considered other of the intricate points than mentioned in your letter. These include the source of the order, which is the Japanese High Command under the direction of General MacArthur after approval by the nations concerned, including of course the National Government of China. Involved in this problem is the final disposition of the arms and equipment of the Japanese surrender. Then there is also the question of the deportation of the surrendered Japanese for which the National Government has few resources and the dissident elements of China none. The individual Japanese probably will be inclined to surrender to the force most likely to get him home, in accordance with the Potsdam Declaration.

Our major preoccupation for the time being, as the Secretary of State has made pretty clear, is the orderly and rapid deportation of both Japanese soldiers and Japanese civilians from China. If the Japanese remain in areas in China and retain their arms they may develop a position wherein, in fact, they would hold the balance of power in certain areas. Alternately, if they are recruited by either faction, the situation would obviously be most unwholesome and would raise the definite question as to whether or not we had achieved the basis for permanent peace in the Far East for which this country sacrificed so much in the Pacific war.

Obviously my first thoughts on the problem should not be made public, particularly before I have had an opportunity to survey the situation in China and discuss matters with the appropriate people. Therefore it would be a very serious matter, a disadvantage for me to have anything credited to me now which might by some chance, because of the unusual complexity of the problem in China, prejudice my freedom of action in reaching conclusions on the ground or handicap me in the intricate and delicate negotiations which are certain to be required in order to obtain anything like a satisfactory solution.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. The editor and publisher of the Washington Post had written: “I think your decision to go to China is an example of public service such as I have rarely encountered. You deserved a rest, yet you are going to a post which will be trying and onerous, and full of pitfalls for your high reputation. It is for this reason that I think I ought to pass on to you an idea for your consideration. Surrender Order No. 1 is our dilemma in China, though the dilemma has been created in part by both the Russians and the Chungking Government not playing the game. I am afraid we shall get more and more bogged down in China unless we ameliorate that order. Is it not possible to amend it? Can we not, on the basis of interim circumstances, fix the areas in Northern China where we will allow the Communists to complete the surrender? I know we have a choice of evils, but this seems the lesser one, and we have as justification the difficulties created by Chiang Kai-shek, not only in respect to the surrender but also in respect of the failure of his negotiations with the Communists.” (Meyer to Marshall, December 10, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)

2. Prepared by the Operations Division and approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then by the Allies, General Order No. 1 was approved by President Truman and sent to General MacArthur on August 15. It was to be issued by Japan’s Imperial General Headquarters “by direction of the Emperor” and prescribed to whom the senior Japanese commanders would surrender, listed what information the Japanese would prepare for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, and gave various orders regarding the conduct of military personnel, disposition and materiel, and handling of Allied prisoners of war. Japanese commanders in Manchuria and Korea north of the 38th parallel, were to surrender to Soviet forces; all other Japanese commands in China were to surrender to Chiang Kai-shek’s forces. (Marshall to MacArthur, Radio No. WAR-48672, August 12, 1945, and Joint Chiefs of Staff to MacArthur, Radio No. WARX-49961, August 15, 1945, NA/RG 218 [Records of the Chairman, William D. Leahy Papers, Folder 52].)

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. 383-384.

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