5-569 To Harry S. Truman, October 5, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 5, 1946

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

October 5, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1600. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister President:

Since my message of October 2d to SecState (GOLD 1587)1 the following has transpired. While I have not yet received a reply from Chou En-lai in Shanghai to the Generalissimo’s proposal of Wednesday October 2d, his representatives did spend two hours with me Friday morning2 explaining that they had sent the message both to Yenan and Chou but no answers had been received. As the message made no reference to Chou’s demand for cessation of advance on Kalgan they pressed me to obtain some answer to that specific point. I told them to put their query in writing and I would transmit it but would no longer be a messenger for oral communications. They wished to know if the Generalissimo would abide by the agreement of January 10th which would require all troops to withdraw to their point of location on January 13th. I replied that while I had no positive information on this point my impression was—actually I am certain—that the Generalissimo will insist on maintaining military occupation of the various places or regions recently occupied. While the interview was lengthy it consisted mostly of repetition of past contentions or events.

Last night, Friday, the Generalissimo called Doctor Stuart and me into dinner. We had a conference of about three hours. He made a lengthy statement to the effect that my memorandum to him of Tuesday, October 1st (GOLD 1589)3 had caused him more distress than anything that had happened in years; that he had searched his thoughts and actions and could not find anything that might have given the impression of ulterior motives or deception; that such would be intolerable for him personally and he felt that we should jointly endeavor to clear up any misunderstandings. He stated that it was unthinkable that I should cease my efforts at mediation and leave China; that this was he thought the most important issue before the world and my mission was of great historical importance. He recited the actions of the Communists which justified his mistrust and which demanded of him, as President, that the security of the country be a first consideration. He referred to the strategical importance of Kalgan as a Communist threat to Peiping as well as a barrier on one rail line south, and for the National Government a point of separation of North China Communists from Manchuria. He said that once Kalgan had been occupied—it may take about ten days or so—he would be ready to cease hostilities.

In reply I summarized the lengthy negotiations of May and June, pointed out the fact that then, when the Government was in a far weaker North China position than today, he had conceded to me that he would agree to the Communists holding Kalgan but insisted that they must evacuate Chengteh—northeast of Peiping. Today with the Government in possession of Chengteh and the surrounding region, he now asserted that the possession of Kalgan was of vital importance to the Government. I was not disputing the importance of Kalgan, that was a matter for the Government to decide, but the course of events and statements made convince me that while the Communists were demanding a cessation of the fighting, the Government was actually pursuing a policy of force. I was also convinced that any negotiations not only specifically included complicated questions which would be time consuming while military operations progressed, but also that the Government’s proposal for negotiations now were definitely made at the point of a gun. I could not serve as a mediator under such conditions. I based my discussion on the grounds that there must be no question regarding the integrity of my position or actions, that I could not place the United States Government in a position where the integrity of its actions as represented by me could be successfully questioned.

There was a lengthy discussion back and forth with frequent references by him to the bad faith or unjustified actions by the Communists and my counter examples of questionable actions by the Government representatives. He insisted that a solution must be found and that he could not accept my withdrawal. But he did not concede an inch regarding the continuation of the campaign against Kalgan. I think his leaders have carefully played their cards to create this situation believing that, because of Soviet considerations, we would be forced to go along with protracted negotiations while the campaign progressed as they desired.

Despite the present vicious Communist propaganda of misrepresentation and bitter attacks, and their stupid failure to agree to the proposal of Doctor Stuart and me for the Five Man Group to settle the State Council issue—actuated, we think, through fear of exactly the delays their refusal has led to with its attendant military crisis for them—my view is that the United States Government cannot afford before the world to have me continue as a mediator and should confidentially notify the Generalissimo accordingly.

I believe that this is the only way to halt this military campaign and dispel the evident belief of the Government generals that they can drag us along while they carry through an actual campaign of force. If I am recalled, Doctor Stuart will be here in a position to negotiate if so desired when the two sides reach an impasse as they undoubtedly will, but just when I cannot estimate with any prospect of accuracy.

I therefore recommend that the procedure indicated by the following suggested message from the President to the Generalissimo be considered, it being understood that if the time involved in deciding on, and in sending, the message and in awaiting a reply exceeds a week the prospect is that the Government will have achieved its purpose in capturing Kalgan. Just what the Communist reaction to that would be, particularly regarding any degree of genuine cooperation in National Assembly or reorganization of the Government, I can only guess. You at home can judge of Soviet reactions. Should you feel that our Government can accept the situation I have outlined until the fall of Kalgan, I will go ahead gladly in my endeavors to bring about a cessation of hostilities.

Suggested message: “Your Excellency: General Marshall has advised me of the situation regarding his efforts in mediation and of his discussions with you. He has recommended that his special mission be terminated and that he be recalled. He has explained to me, as he informs me he has explained to you, that he feels his continuance in the role of mediation under present circumstances of extensive and aggressive military operations would place the United States Government in a position where the integrity of its action, as represented by him, would be open to serious question.

I deplore and I know the people of the United States will deeply regret that his efforts to assist in bringing peace and political unity to China have proved unsuccessful, but there must not be any question regarding the integrity of his position and actions which represent the intentions and high purpose of the United States Government. I therefore with great regret have concluded that he should be immediately recalled, and I do so with a full realization of the great consideration and distinguished courtesy with which you and your people have welcomed and received him.”

If I am recalled for consultation as suggested in Mister Acheson’s message of October 4 (WAR-82325),4 or otherwise, I think a declaration of policy and directions regarding United States personnel in Executive Headquarters and the MAG [Military Advisory Group] can await my arrival home, leaving Doctor Stuart possibly to profit by the effect of my withdrawal. Naturally the contents of this paragraph should not repeat not be made known to the Generalissimo.

The message should be sent through our Embassy here for delivery by Doctor Stuart in order to save time involved in Chinese Washington Embassy use of commercial communications. While there is still time for the Generalissimo to reverse himself, I think it of the greatest importance that no intimation of this action leak into the press where it would do irreparable injury to the Chinese Government in favor of the Communist. Finally I believe that while the Communist would welcome any action from the viewpoint of possibly forcing the Government to terminate hostilities they actually would be much worried to have me leave.

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 to the Acting Secretary of State, October 2, 1946, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-567 [5: 700-703].

2. See Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 281-87.

3. GOLD 1589 transmitted Marshall’s OSE 476 to the State Department. See Marshall Memorandum for the Generalissimo, October 1, 1946, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-566 [5: 699-700].

4. See Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 289.

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. 705-708.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 5-569

Rights: Public Information