5-334 To Harry S. Truman, January 23, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 23, 1946

Subject: China

To Harry S. Truman

January 23, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 98. [Chungking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mr. President:

The following are the developments since my last message dated January 16: My time was largely consumed last week in furthering special actions to suppress fighting in isolated regions, which finally culminated in my taking in my plane with me National and Communist officers to Shanghai, securing and instructing American officers there to head two field teams or groups, procuring radio equipment and operating personnel, also planes, and starting these two teams off last Sunday one due north to Suchow [Hsüchou] and one north of Hankow to Kwangshan. The Peking headquarters was unable to reach these two trouble spots due to bad weather and great distance. Reports now indicate that the general situation is getting well under control, and that the three commissioners in Peking headed by our man Robertson are working in commendable harmony and sufficient three man teams have been organized and gotten into the field. Bad weather at first hampered all movements, assembly of staff and dispatch of teams.

My short time in Shanghai Saturday evening to Monday morning was also devoted to numerous demobilization and reorganizational details with General Wedemeyer; also agreements with Admiral Cooke commanding Seventh Fleet involved in handling Chinese troops to Manchuria and repatriating Japanese.1 I went over UNRRA situation with Kizer2 and heard views of leading American business men in Shanghai.

Another subject: Here in Chungking I have moved quietly and very carefully since completion of “cease firing” mediation meetings to avoid criticism of barging into position of dictating. Formal request for me to act as advisor in three man group to determine on the nationalization of Chinese military forces had not been forthcoming, though the Generalissimo in writing had expressed such a desire to the Chinese two members of the original mediation group.3 Chou En-lai, Communist, had indicated his willingness to accept my services but had not addressed me formally. Today the Government member sent me a formal request for my services and I am told that the Communist member had been prodded to do the same.4 Meanwhile the Government member of the Military Nationalization Committee called on me and stated the case from the Government side and I have provided him with a lengthy written presentation of my draft of the necessary instructions to be promulgated by the Government after agreement by the two sides. He will discuss this with me tomorrow and he hopes to bring about a meeting with General Chou, the Communist, and me the following day.

On my return from Shanghai the Generalissimo sent me that evening, Monday, a representative to convey his view of the situation regarding agreements to be reached, political as well as military,5 and requested me to see him Tuesday at 11 AM. I did so. He first discussed the procedure regarding the nationalization of the army which I have outlined above: He favored delaying meetings until completion of political discussions but accepted my suggestion that there should be no repeat no delay.

He then turned to the political situation, the progress of the work of the Political Consultative Conference now in session which is to reach agreements on the formation of a coalition government and the question of representatives to the Constitutional Convention on May 5. This conference was to have terminated its session today but he stated its committees had failed to reach agreements regarding very important points. He asked me if I would be willing to see the Communists and endeavor to persuade them to make the necessary concessions. I replied that informally I would be quite willing to do my best to bring about a solution, but that I myself was completely confused by the debates and that no one had as yet produced a definite program or proposed action in writing; that I must be better informed before taking any personal action, both regarding the Government’s proposals and the Communist proposals and by proposals I did not mean speeches. I meant written documents. In anticipation of some such situation, since the debates and exchanges of written stipulations or generalities seem to have made little head way in settling the “cease firing” problem in the past, and in the present struggles, I had prepared an extremely brief act to be promulgated by the Government, setting up an interim coalition government reposing in the Generalissimo power of control as President of all China rather than as at present as head of the Kuomintang Party, over the non-Communist held portion of China, and including a brief Bill of Rights and a provision for the drafting of a constitution for submission to the Convention in May.6 This provided a definite basis for discussion and incidentally furnished at least one example of specifically how to go about the establishment of an interim coalition government preliminary to the formation of a constitutional government. The Generalissimo studied my paper over night and discussed it with me for two hours this afternoon. Part he did not understand but does now. Part he thought it dangerous to concede to the Communists, etc., etc. The bulk of the document he agreed with. It did not change the governmental structure except on the highest level, but did set up a Bill of Rights. I characterized it as a dose of American medicine, to his amusement. Incidentally, he is much concerned to have the fact of my having submitted such a plan kept now and for the future completely secret. Therefore, please destroy the record of this radio, for a leak in the press would be disastrous to my mission.

The Generalissimo gave me several lengthy Government proposals to study and I am to meet him again tomorrow to see just what definite proposals he will actually make to the Communists and to what degree I would be willing informally to press them to accept. I have decided that even if I am formally requested, as has now been intimated in the China press, to act as a mediator in the political struggle regarding the formation of a coalition government, I will decline to accept. But I will personally or unofficially do my best to secure the necessary concessions by both sides in order to reach an agreement.

I have told the Generalissimo that two factors in my opinion make it imperative for him to find an agreement with the Communists for a unified government and army at an early date. First, that in the present situation China is very vulnerable to low level Russian infiltration methods to the strengthening of the Communist regime and the progressive weakening of the National Government’s position in Northwest China and Manchuria reference Russia, and secondly, that it is apparent that United States military and naval forces can not be continued for long in China. He is much disturbed by Russian actions the past week involving sporadic firing on Chinese troops, failure to evacuate localities and in some instances increasing local garrisons and heavy pressure to secure Chinese agreement to Russian joint participation in the operation of certain heavy industries.7


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. Vice Admiral Charles M. Cooke, Jr., had spent most of World War II as navy assistant chief of staff for plans. In December 1945 he was assigned to command Seventh Fleet, which included East Asian waters under its purview.

2. Benjamin H. Kizer, a sixty-eight-year-old lawyer from Spokane, Washington, had been director of the China Office of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration since October 1944. The U.N.R.R.A. was providing civilian relief, mainly in areas formerly occupied by the Japanese.

3. Chiang Kai-shek Memorandum for Marshall, January 16, 1946, Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 191.

4. Chang Chun to Marshall, January 22, 1946, and Chou En-lai to Marshall, January 23, 1946, ibid., pp. 192, 193–94.

5. See Minutes of Meeting between General Marshall and General Shang Chen, January 21, 1946, ibid., p. 138, and summary above, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-333 [5: 426–27].

6. See Charter for the Interim Government of the Republic of China, Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 139–41.

7. Under Secretary of State Acheson told the president: “After reading General Marshall’s very fine telegram . . . I am prompted to suggest that you may wish to send him a brief telegram expressing your approval of the General’s work.” President Truman presumably used Acheson’s draft as the basis of his message to Marshall, which said, in part: “I wish to tell you that my confidence in your judgment and ability is again being amply justified by the manner in which you are handling this mission.” (Acheson Memorandum for the President, January 25, 1946, HSTL/H. S. Truman Papers [Official File 840]; Truman to Marshall, January 25, 1946, Foreign Relations, 1946, 9: 380.)

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. 427-430.




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