4-431 To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, July 1, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 1, 1944

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell

July 1, 1944 Radio No. WAR-59012 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

TOPSEC from Marshall for Stilwell for his Eyes Only.

I have been waiting until the consolidation of the Myitkyina-Mogaung-Kamaing region before taking up with you a difficult problem of command arrangements related both to the SEA and to affairs in central China. However, the importance of the latter phase of the matter makes it necessary for me to trouble you in the midst of your terrific struggles with jungle, monsoons, Japanese, logistics, and scrub typhus complications which beset you to a degree I do not believe any other commander of modern times has experienced.

The British press for a readjustment of command relationships, referring specifically to your position as Deputy Supreme Commander, in view of your continued presence in charge of the fighting on the Ledo Road. This has been the contention of the British Chiefs of Staff from the start of your assumption of command of the Chinese Corps but has become very pressing in the last month.1

On the other hand, and what is to me far more important, the situation in central China appears to be deteriorating at an alarming rate.2 Whether or not there is any possibility of your exerting a favorable influence on this situation I do not know. Whether or not the Generalissimo would agree to your active participation in the affairs of the Central China Forces, assuming you thought you could accomplish some good, I am without an opinion. But I think in view of the gravity of the situation that I should get your views for submission to the President.

The pressure quite naturally is on us to increase the tonnage over the hump both for Chennault’s Air and for the equipment and supply of the Ground Forces. The latter presents the problem of an immense effort in transportation with a poorly directed and possibly completely wasteful procedure.

Would there be any possibility of effecting the following arrangement and if so, would you consider it at all desirable:

The Ledo Road Force to remain under your direction but the immediate leadership to be exercised by a subordinate. You to transfer your principal efforts, once the Myitkyina-Mogaung situation is securely consolidated for the monsoon period, to the rehabilitation and in effect the direction of the leadership of the Chinese Forces in China proper. Throughout such procedure you to have a control through the Joint Chiefs of Staff of tonnage distribution over the hump. On the SEA side Sultan, for example, to be designated as Mountbatten’s Deputy Commander.

The foregoing continues a rather cockeyed diagram of command relationship in that the Ledo Road Force being in Burma would be in the SEA command and you would be controlling it in effect as a subordinate under the British Ground Force Commander while operating on the other side of the hump with the Chinese to establish the Chinese Ground Forces on a more dependable basis.

Let me have your reactions and suggestions3 and don’t let the humidity and difficulties of the day fulminate4 an explosion.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. Mountbatten had wanted Stilwell transferred from the Southeast Asia Command to the China theater. (See Marshall to Stilwell, March 1, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-273 [4: 321-23].) In June 1944, during General Marshall’s visit to England in conjunction with his visit to Normandy, General Sir Alan Brooke, chief of the British 1mperial General Staff, informed Marshall that British opinion was that Stilwell should be removed from his current assignment as a result of his apparent inability to cooperate with Mountbatten’s commanders or the British military in Burma. The British also planned to replace Mountbatten’s ground, naval, and air commanders. (Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Command Problems, pp. 377-78.)

To worsen matters for Stilwell, on June 20 Vice-President Henry A. Wallace arrived in China to inquire into the political-military situation. Vice-President Wallace conferred with the Generalissimo and with Major General Claire L. Chennault and his aide First Lieutenant Joseph W. Alsop. Wallace made no effort to see Stilwell, but he recommended to President Roosevelt that Stilwell be recalled. The Generalissimo had stated to Wallace that Stilwell could not appreciate Chinese “political considerations.” Wallace recommended that Stilwell be replaced by an officer who enjoyed the Generalissimo’s confidence; Major General Albert C. Wedemeyer was mentioned. As an alternative, Wallace suggested that President Roosevelt appoint a political representative to the Generalissimo’s government with direct access to Roosevelt and who would serve as Stilwell’s deputy. (Ibid., pp. 374-77.)

2. The main Japanese offensive in China for 1944, Operation 1CH 1GO which commenced in April 1944, had proven extremely successful, and the Chinese Army seemed incapable of halting the Japanese advance. Chennault’s air offensive was disrupting Japanese supply lines but was not stopping the Japanese advance. Following the war, the Japanese commander in China, Field Marshal Shunroku Hata, stated that “supply conditions chiefly embarrassed the Japanese Forces during the Ichi-go Operation,” rather than Chinese resistance. (Ibid., pp. 316-22, 325-27, 371-74, quote on p. 399.)

3. On July 3 Stilwell indicated his lack of concern over the prospect of being relieved as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, and he recommended Major General Daniel I. Sultan, deputy C.B.I. theater commander, as his replacement. “The British concern over my status as Deputy is in my opinion just a move to put me where I can’t make any more trouble for them,” replied Stilwell. “They consider me a wild man whose ill considered acts are likely to drag them into difficulties. The pretense is that I ought to take up my proper duties as Deputy and help the SAC by going around and straightening out kinks. God knows someone should, but no one can, because no one would be allowed to summarily throw out a British General, even for gross incompetence.” (Stilwell to Marshall, Radio No. CHC-1241, July 3, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

Regarding China, Stilwell indicated his willingness to go, but only if he had complete authority over the Chinese Army. Stilwell then suggested that perhaps it would be better if Sultan took over his command of the Chinese forces in Burma and then appoint Lieutenant General Raymond A. Wheeler as deputy to Mountbatten. “A solution might be to make Wheeler Deputy, or in fact, anybody, since the job means nothing,” wrote Stilwell, “and use Sultan with the CAI [Chinese Army in India].” He suggested that President Roosevelt send to the Generalissimo “a very stiff message” which would contain clear statements regarding American “investment and interest in China.” Stilwell made some suggestions designed to improve the current military situation in China, but then added: “The case is really desperate. The harvest of neglect and mismanagement is now being reaped, and without very radical and very quickly applied remedies, we will be set back a long way.” (Ibid.) For further discussion, see Memorandum for the President from the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, July 4, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-434 [4: 503-6].

4. On the version sent to the Message Center, Marshall had dictated “culminate in” instead of “fulminate.”

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. 500-502.

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