5-513 To Harry S. Truman, July 30, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 30, 1946

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

July 30, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1210. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Since my message to you of July 22d, I remained in Nanking four days waiting for delayed return of General Chou En-lai from Shanghai where he had been negotiating matters with UNRRA and CNRRA regarding Yellow River project. During this period the fighting had increased in intensity and in the number of contacts. The Nationalists blamed the Communists for starting fighting in the Kiangsu and Tatung regions while the Communists blamed the Nationalists in Kiangsu, Shantung and Hopei. The facts were hard to determine and the data confusing. Meanwhile the assassination of two college professors of the Democratic League in Kunming and the close surveillance of similar individuals in Shanghai by secret police agents created great excitement and caused the feeling among liberals that terroristic methods were being employed to suppress any spoken or printed opposition to the Government. On Chou En-lai’s return to Nanking, I conferred with him to see if I could find any new basis for conciliatory action and found him strongly condemning what he claimed was the deliberate policy of the Government to stand clear of successful negotiations while pursuing an aggressive military policy to secure every possible advantage over the Communists before entering into political negotiations.

Leaving our new ambassador Doctor Stuart in Nanking to confer with Chou En-lai on a possible basis for initiating a coalition government, I proceeded to the summer capital at Kuling to see the Generalissimo. Doctor Stuart followed a day later and we arranged for him to analyze personally the entire situation for the Generalissimo, that is, the tragedy impending, the overwhelming desire of the people of China for peace and their rapidly growing disapproval of the methods of the Kuomintang Party, the turn of public opinion in the United States, especially following the assassinations and the statement of Madame Sun Yat-sen,1 and the threatened loss of prestige by the Generalissimo. An immediate and drastic step was to be proposed for actual measures to start a coalition government. Since Stuart speaks Chinese fluently and there would be no necessity for the presence of a third party and since he has long been a friend and an admirer of the Generalissimo and is universally conceded to comprehend the peculiarities and conditions of things Chinese, it was thought best for him alone to prepare the way by a very frank statement as indicated before I again participated. Unfortunately immediately after his arrival in Kuling he was stricken by a severe case of dysentery and confined to his bed where he still is. I delayed any action for two days thinking he was about to make a full recovery but when he tried to meet an appointment with the Generalissimo last night he proved to be too weak. I sent to Nanking for American doctors and they arrived this morning at Kuling, pronounced the trouble dysentery—the Chinese doctor had been treating him for malaria—and reported that he should be well on the way to recovery tomorrow.

Under the circumstances I had a long and very frank talk with the Generalissimo today covering most of the ground Stuart was to cover and while no definite result was achieved he was brought to a better understanding of at least the American point of view. Stuart will go into details with him tomorrow Wednesday or Thursday and will either report back to me here at Nanking where I just arrived or I will take Chou En-lai back with me to Kuling.

I can only repeat myself as to the situation. It is extremely critical and what I most fear is the spread of the fighting into the province of Jehol, northeast of Peiping, and then inevitably into Manchuria which we have so far managed to keep quiet. The Generalissimo’s attitude is that of counseling us to be patient, quoting a Chinese proverb to the effect that when the fruit is ripe it will drop into your hands and referring to the Chinese traditional method of dealing severely with an opponent at first and then tempering the action with kindness. My view and that of Dr. Stuart is that his method is leading directly into uncontrollable civil war and that the seeds of distrust and violence now being sown will make later political settlements impossible.

On top of this situation comes today a report of an attack by Communists on a Marine convoy near Peiping with loss of three American lives and a number of wounded.2 I will see Chou En-lai tomorrow and hear what he has to say regarding this incident. It is undoubtedly the result of violent Communist propaganda against so-called American military support of the National Government and the present confusion of military action all over North China. I suppose it will precipitate a strong demand for the withdrawal of Marines. As a matter of fact I notified the Navy three weeks ago to plan for Marine withdrawal initially to start from Tsingtao and informed Commander of Seventh Fleet Wednesday last to proceed with withdrawal as soon as transport and arrangements could be made. This step was taken by me as Government had reinforced its Tsingtao garrison sufficiently to protect the port. This has not yet been done at Tienstin. No press release on commencement of Marine withdrawal will be made until the dates are settled.

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. Madame Sun, widow of the Chinese republican leader and sister of Madame Chiang Kai-shek and T. V. Soong, issued a statement in Shanghai on July 22 denouncing the “reactionaries” who were inflaming a war they could not win but which they hoped would incite war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. that would allow them to crush the Chinese Communists. The American people, she said, “must be told that the presence of United States armed forces on Chinese soil is not strengthening peace and order among the Chinese people. They must be warned that loans should be given only to a reorganized and truly representative Government. They must be told that if America makes it plain she will not supply munitions or military equipment there will be no spreading Chinese war.” (New York Times, July 23, 1946, pp. 1, 5.)

2. On July 29, a regularly scheduled supply convoy of twenty-three vehicles, guarded by forty-three Marines, was attacked shortly after noon on the Tientsin-Peiping road at the village of Anping, about thirty-five miles southeast of Peiping. The convoy commander and two enlisted men were killed (another died later of wounds) and an officer and eleven enlisted men were wounded in the four-hour affair. While the area was loosely controlled by the Communists, it could not immediately be demonstrated that they had been the attackers, and some people asserted that an armed guerrilla band searching for loot might have been responsible. (Ibid., July 31, 1946, p. 6; “Report of Field Team 25 on An Ping Conflict of 29 July 1946,” NA/RG 59 [Lot Files, Marshall Mission, War Department, Anping Incident].)

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. 637-639.

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