4-406 To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, June 7, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 7, 1944

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell

June 7, 1944 Radio No. WARX-47843 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

TOPSEC eyes only for Stilwell from McNarney.1

Papers referred to in your CHC 123 of 30 May 1944 have just arrived.2 General Marshall has left for UK to be absent 2 weeks. Arnold also. In view of the current situation in China and the political aspects of this case, it is not believed wise to take positive action at this time. This seems particularly advisable in view of the action already taken as requested by Sultan for you in increasing tonnage for 14th AF and also the fact that should your recommendations be effected and the situation in Central China develop as badly as might well be possible the responsibility would inevitably be charged against you.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 17, Item 6, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. General Marshall extensively edited and made additions to the original two-sentence draft, including changing the addresser from Marshall to Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph T. McNarney. The draft with Marshall’s handwritten alterations and additions is located in NA/RG 165 (OPD, Exec. 17, Item 6).

2. Stilwell notified General Marshall on May 30 that he was sending papers by courier to explain a case of direct disobedience of his orders by Major General Claire L. Chennault. He reported: “Chennault had an estimate prepared which in my opinion was calculated to create suspicion in the Generalissimo’s mind, discredit me, and criticize established policy. I ordered Chennault not to submit any such paper except through Theater Headquarters. He did submit it without going through our Headquarters. . . . The only reason I have not already relieved him is because of political implications.” (Stilwell to Marshall, Radio No. CHC-1 23, May 30, 1944, ibid.)

On April 8 and 10 Chennault had written to Stilwell that he needed more supplies for air operations in China. Although Stilwell did not receive Chennault’s April 8 letter until around April 21, he meanwhile notified Chennault on April 12 that he appreciated the conditions which Chennault described and that steps were being taken to improve the situation. Stilwell warned Chennault that if he had any intention of communicating to the Generalissimo on this subject, he was to be sure it went through theater headquarters. (Stilwell to Chennault, Radio No. SH-18, April 12, 1944, ibid.) At the Generalissimo’s request, on April 15 Chennault as chief of staff for air, Republic of China, submitted an estimate of the air situation: “The combined air forces in China, excluding the VLR Project, may not be able to withstand the expected Japanese air offensive and will certainly be unable to afford air support to the Chinese ground forces over the areas and on the scale desired. . . . Drastic measures to provide them with adequate supplies and adequate strength must be taken.” (Chennault Memorandum to the Generalissimo, April 15, 1944, ibid.) Chennault informed Stilwell, in explanation of his “apparent disregard” of Stilwell’s instructions, that on his way to see the Generalissimo he had taken the report to Stilwell’s headquarters in Chungking for clearance by Major General Thomas G. Hearn, but he was unable to see Hearn who was absent ill. (Chennault to Stilwell, May 14, 1944, ibid.) On May 27 Stilwell requested that Chennault be relieved of his duties as commander of the Fourteenth Air Force and “devote his full time to the supervision of combat and training of the Chinese Air Force.” (Stilwell to Marshall, May 27, 1944, ibid.) For further discussion of this subject, see Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Command Problems, pp. 311-16, 324-26.

3. “You are right of course. Send the papers back and forget the incident. I will handle it here,” replied Stilwell. Referring to the recent Allied invasion of Normandy, Stilwell concluded: “With the performance going in the main tent you can’t be bothered with side shows. Good luck.” (Stilwell to McNarney, Radio No. CHC-1175, June 9, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 17, Item 6].) On June 9 the papers were returned to Stilwell without action by the War Department. (Major General J. E. Hull to Stilwell, June 9, 1944, ibid.)

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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 475-476.

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