5-430 To Harry S. Truman, May 6, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 6, 1946

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

May 6, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 651. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister President:

I have delayed in sending this report in the hope that I would have reached an agreement on Manchuria ere this. The following describes the situation on my arrival and the developments to date.

I found a complete break between the Government and the Communists on the Manchurian question with hostilities increasing in intensity and threatening to spread south into China proper. In my opinion the situation grew from the following circumstances: The Communists became fearful of the good faith of the Government party in carrying out the Political Consultative Conference written agreements for the formation of a bona fide coalition interim government and the drafting of a constitution to be submitted to the constitutional convention scheduled for May 5th. This Communist doubt was stimulated by the anti-Communist demonstrations which at times resulted in physical attacks on Communist meetings, newspaper office and individuals. In Manchuria the situation was aggravated by the prolonged unwillingness of the Government to send field teams from Executive Headquarters into that region to suppress sporadic fighting. At the same time the conditions under which the Government had to proceed to reoccupy Manchuria were made exceedingly difficult because of the fact that transportation of their troops by rail to occupy points as evacuated by the Russians was denied them while the Communists appeared free to move in themselves. Also, they apparently gained access to Japanese military equipment and stores, including medium artillery and tanks, which steadily strengthened their military power while the Government military position grew weaker due to the great distances over which its small force of troops had to advance in proceeding northward.

The Communist matched their doubts or fears as to the good faith with which the Government political leaders would carry out the Political Consultative Conference agreements by insisting on some representation in the local government in Manchuria which has been turned over to National appointees from Central and South China.

On the purely military side, the Government generals evidently felt that they had far more military power of action than was actually the case and I think influenced the Generalissimo accordingly. They then precipitated themselves into a seriously weak and dangerous military position of which the Communist were fully aware and seized the advantage accordingly. Changchun was taken from a small National garrison which had been flown in and at the same time and to date the northern advance of the Government forces was successfully blocked to the south of Changchun.

I have endeavored since my arrival to bring about a cessation of fighting and negotiate the disputed points in Manchuria. The Communists have clearly broken the plain terms of the cease firing agreement of January 10 last regarding the freedom of action to be accorded the Government in the establishment of sovereignty in Manchuria. On the other hand the Government itself, up to the time of my return to the States, did not proceed in strict accordance with the terms of the agreement in that it did not admit teams to control the sporadic and I think unnecessary fighting during the northern advance of Government armies, which fighting finally developed into successful Communist opposition. The Communists had joined with me in my proposal to send teams into Manchuria. The Generalissimo stated to me his opposition was based on the fact that the presence of an American officer might cause the Soviet Government to demand equal representation. It was not until the day of my departure for the United States on March 11th that he finally agreed to the entry of the teams but numerous conditions were stipulated which finally brought about the breakdown of this agreement, and when the teams were finally cleared for entry into Manchuria on March 27, their directives were not sufficiently broad to enable them to bring about a cessation of the fighting, which meanwhile developed into a dangerous situation for the Government forces.

In addition to the foregoing there has been a justified complaint by the Communist that the Government commander at Canton has not observed the terms of the cease firing agreement and the Supreme Headquarters of the Government armies at Nanking failed to carry out the specific stipulation of the January 10th agreement to report all movements of Nationalist troops to Executive Headquarters in Peiping. There have, of course, been a number of minor infractions of the agreement by subordinate commanders on both sides.

On my return I found the irreconcilable members of the Government party were firmly in the saddle and the Generalissimo took the position that the Communists were in league with the Soviet Government and could not be relied upon to keep any agreements. In other words, he meant that my efforts in the past to bring about agreements were based on a faulty conception as to the dependability of the Communist representatives.

The Communist in turn had been stirred by the fighting in Manchuria to direct their propaganda against the United States transporting any more troops to Manchuria or ammunition, or the use of troops armed with U S equipment (issued during the war against Japan) against the Communists or the granting of any loans to China. The impasse was complete except that the Communist were willing to submit the future military dispositions and local political reorganizations to negotiations if fighting would be terminated. The Generalissimo declined such compromises on the grounds that the agreement of January 10 clearly gave National troops the right to proceed anywhere in Manchuria necessary to establish sovereignty and took the stand that negotiations regarding political matters would only be considered after sovereignty had been established along the railroad mentioned in the Sino-Soviet Treaty, but was militarily powerless to enforce his demands. A proposal was made by me in keeping, I thought, at the time with the view of the Generalissimo that he could not, and would not, advance further north. But I found the next evening that he had again in mind the use of military power to seize Changchun and overpower the Communist forces in that region. In this conception he was intensely interested in the transportation of two additional armies to Manchuria. One army had just completed its transit by sea to Manchuria in our shipping and another was partially en route. I have permitted the movement of the latter to continue but I declined to authorize the movement of the two additional armies, first, because I could not then tell, and still am in doubt, as to the capability of our Seventh Fleet to move the armies in view of demobilization conditions in June and the complications involved in the change of date for CROSSROADS, the atomic tests in the Central Pacific1—also the urgent necessity to move UNRRA food up the Yangtze River towards Hankow, and secondly, because I would not authorize such a movement—the two additional armies—without taking the question to my Government as it amounts in effect to supporting under the existing circumstances, a civil war. He is greatly concerned over the possibility that his supply communications with Manchuria might be cut off by the withdrawal of Seventh Fleet support and that the provision of munitions might likewise be cut off. I have not expressed myself on this point, but it is my conviction that it would be most unfair for our Government to leave, as it were, his troops now in Manchuria completely in the lurch as the Chinese Government for some months to come will not possess sufficient transportation to maintain their armies in the north. Of course the Communist are appealing or demanding that we do cut off the Government armies.

Meanwhile, the Generalissimo finally came to the point five days ago of proposing the same conditions for the Manchurian settlement that the Communists had actually proposed about six weeks earlier, except that the Communist now hold Changchun, which they did not then. He demands that they evacuate Changchun and permit the National troops to occupy it, thereafter matters to be negotiated both as to military dispositions and political reorganizations.

The successful Communist generals in the Changchun region, jubilant over seizing the place, well armed with Japanese equipment and in a very strong strategical position are now, I feel sure, dominating the negotiations of their representatives. They do not accept such an arrangement and Chou En-lai urges me to withdraw shipping support to force the Generalissimo’s hand. The Generalissimo’s political advisors or backers, and I think his military leaders also, urge a policy of force which they are not capable of carrying out even with our logistical support and presence of Marines in North China ports of Tsingtao, Tientsin and up railroad towards the port of Chinwangtao from which the important coal is shipped south.

In brief, we are now at an impasse with the Generalissimo insistent on his demand for the evacuation of Changchun and his occupation of the city and the Communist refusal, possessing as they do the power to hold the place. I had hoped to break the dead lock day before yesterday, but was not successful. The outlook is not promising and the only alternative to a compromise arrangement is, in my opinion, utter chaos in North China to which the fighting will inevitably spread. I have been laboring the past two weeks, and particularly the past two days to hold the peace in North China and have had to take many measures to meet the critical issues as they arise. All are related in Manchuria and North China to the fear on the side of the Communists that the stalwarts of the Government party do not mean to go through with a genuine coalition government, and the fear on the part of the Government of Soviet Russian influence or assistance, with the successful Communist military operations in Manchuria strongly influencing all Communist party action.

I am in the midst of the problem. At this moment I submit no recommendations. I am merely submitting a too long delayed report of the situation. I am going ahead in the hope that I can resolve the difficulties without troubling you and while I am taking many diplomatic liberties I am trying to do so in a manner that will keep the skirts of the U S Government clear and leave charges of errors of judgment to my account.

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. The test over an anchored fleet of seventy-three surplus ships at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands had been publicly discussed since January. It occurred on July 1.

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. 540-544.

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