5-449 To Harry S. Truman, May 22, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 22, 1946

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

May 22, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 740. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister President:

As the military situation in North China reaches a critical state trembling on the verge of open general war and the fighting in Manchuria continues, a point has been reached in negotiations that indicates probability of an agreement for termination of hostilities with a reasonable basis for military and political compromises in Manchuria. The time factor is critical as an open rupture in North China would probably fatally defeat the possibility of reaching agreement. The following is the situation and I must ask you and Mister Byrnes to guard this recital against all possibility of a leak, which would wreck any prospects I now have for terminating the present conflict.

On my departure from Chungking for Nanking I, in effect, withdrew as a mediator in the Manchuria problem as having exhausted my resources and found myself in a position where National Government leaders, because of Communist attack on Changchun, felt my advice regarding cooperation with Communists had proved unworkable and Communists were attacking me for assistance they charged U. S. was giving National Government. I said I could no longer through my actions place the U. S. Government in the position of being charged with responsibility for another stalemate and consequent resumption of hostilities, that a firm basis of compromise would have to be found and that appeared quite improbable in view of the determined, rather implacable attitude of the two parties concerned. I therefore confined my activities to efforts to control the situation in North China and prevent a general outbreak there.

In discussions with the Generalissimo I found he would recede from his determination to have his army occupy Changchun and would accept the suggestion that an advanced section of Executive Headquarters, on withdrawal of Communists, take over the management of Changchun while negotiations were completed for the reorganization of the military and political governments in Manchuria. I also found that he would concede certain points in connection with this political and military reorganization. These discussions were a lengthy process.1

Next, General Chou En-lai wished to resume discussions regarding a possible Manchurian settlement. In effect, I declined but explained again why I had withdrawn, at the same time outlining all the factors I would have to be fully informed on to permit me to reconsider my position. He transmitted my outline to Yenan and they in turn discussed the terms with Manchurian leaders. All this being by radio over highly controversial matters in the midst of fighting, was also a lengthy process. He has returned with certain definite proposals which are not too seriously out of line with the Generalissimo’s present attitude. Chou En-lai comes again today to discuss details, on the assumption that if I consider the Communist position not too extreme I will undertake again formally to mediate.

The most critical factor at the moment is not the distance apart of the two parties, but is the rapid development of a crisis which may overtake and wreck negotiations beyond hope of repair. Added to this is the secret intention of the Generalissimo to fly to Mukden tomorrow because, he stated to me most confidentially, he feared his military leaders there were heading into an attack on Changchun which both he and I think would fatally terminate all hope of an agreement. While he is gone negotiations will be largely at a standstill and time presses seriously. I am trying to arrange a basis for terminating the fighting while he is actually in Mukden, but this will be very difficult of arrangement as I cannot press definitely for Communist declarations regarding several critical political points without indicating some response from Government side. But I will try to find a method. Both are reluctant to state their terms, awaiting for a commitment by the other side. I am working against time, otherwise I would be quite hopeful. As it is, success depends on the developments in the field more than on the problems of negotiation. Hence my press release of day before yesterday was in an effort to moderate the vitriolic campaign of propaganda now in progress. I did this in the face of a probable hostile reaction to my interference in a purely Chinese problem as would of course be charged by certain people. But something had to be done to moderate the inflammatory press and radio charges and counter charges and I appeared to be the only person who would do it.

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. See Marshall’s notes on a May 22 meeting with Chiang Kai-shek in Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 880-81.

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. 562-564.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 5-449

Rights: Public Information