5-509 To Harry S. Truman, July 22, 1946

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

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

July 22, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1165. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mr. President:

I took Doctor Stuart to the mountain so-called capitol Kuling Thursday afternoon to present his credentials and to talk to Generalissimo.1 After dinner that night the Generalissimo precipitated a discussion of situation, to which I felt forced to reply with considerable frankness considering the fact that the [Chinese] Chief of Protocol and two Embassy secretaries, [W. Walton] Butterworth and [Robert L.] Smyth, were present. I differed with him as to dangers of present fighting, I feeling that it was heading directly into uncontrollable civil war. I also differed as to his feeling that entire responsibility rested with the Communist, and I was emphatic regarding the effect on world opinion of the assassinations of peaceful Democratic League professors at Kunming, particularly as rumor regarding an organization of a terroristic intimidation of liberals pointed directly at one of the most conspicuous Kuomintang leaders.2

Doctor Stuart had a long talk with Generalissimo the following day and another talk the next morning before his return to Nanking.3 He was also able to exert some additional influence through the fact that the Generalissimo’s secretary was a former student of his, Stuart’s.

Since his return to Nanking Saturday he has seen a number of influential people, notably Chen Li-fu, the political leader of the Government party, and the man most opposed to my efforts: He sees T. V. Soong tonight and also Chou En-lai, who returned this evening from the UNRRA Yellow River project where I sent him in an American plane.

Heavy fighting has been going on not a great distance from Nanking, to north of Yangtze River.4 Communist report successes. I will get Government reports tonight. Will see Chou En-lai tomorrow. The situation is critical but through Doctor Stuart’s great help we may be able to bring about an end to this confused and tragic mess and pass into the acknowledged great difficulties of political negotiations but without violence and the danger of complete chaos.

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. John R. Beal commented in his diary about a meeting he had had with Marshall on July 18: “Marshall was plainly annoyed with the Gimo for leaving for Kuling. His departure stopped the negotiations cold, and Marshall interpreted it as an attempt to do just that and to force the Communists into coming to terms.” Marshall thought that the key remaining problem, the military settlement, was 80 or 90 percent solved, but the opposing armies were “straining to get at each other.” With negotiations suspended, the straining was “very strong and threatens to become really widespread civil war.” (Beal, Marshall in China, pp. 122-23.)

2. On July 11 Li Kung-pu was assassinated and on July 15 Wen I-to. (See Foreign Relations, 1946, 9:  1373–74, 1380–83.)  The U.S. Military Attaché’s Office weekly report observed:  “Daylight shooting in Kunming of two liberal professors has aroused storm of protest even in Kuomintang press but latter denies KMT complicity in murders. . . . Reports from reliable sources indicate many liberals throughout country genuinely alarmed for their safety.” (Military Attaché to War Department, Radio No. 24149, July 23, 1946, NA/RG 59 [Lot Files, Marshall Mission, War Department, Incoming Cables].)

Ambassador Stuart told the State Department on July 17 that the Chinese government insisted that the Communists had done the killings in order to embarrass it.  Government Committee of Three member Hsu Yung-chang wrote to Marshall on July 19 that the attack order Chou had given Marshall was a typical Communist fake created to cover up their own offensive plans. (Foreign Relations, 1946, 9:  1383, 1386.)

3. In reporting to the State Department on these meetings, Stuart observed:  “It was transparently clear in our conversation that he [Chiang Kai-shek] has the greatest admiration for General Marshall and even something in the nature of personal affection for him.  Outspoken as General Marshall has been in his comments, often unfavorable, this has increased rather than weakened the respect of President Chiang and his desire for a continuation of the relationship.” (Ibid., pp. 1388–93; quote p. 1392.)

4. John F. Melby reported on July 23:  “Apparently, the Communists have just finished administering a pasting to their opponents at Nantung across the Yangtze from Shanghai.  That is getting close [to Nanking].  The other night I could hear the artillery fire across the river from the top of my hill.  Ceasefire or no ceasefire, reports of sporadic fighting all over the country have become so persistent and numerous during the last three weeks that there must be a great deal to them, even if any one story bears little measurable relationship to the truth.” (Melby, Mandate of Heaven, p. 140.)

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. 633–635.




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