4-086 To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, August 26,1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 26, 1943

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell

August 26,1943 Radio [Washington, D.C.]


From Marshall for Stilwell’s eyes only.

You will probably have seen the press announcements of last night that Mountbatten has been chosen by the British for a new Southeastern Asia Command. This has been accepted by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff. While full details will be sent to you both by radio and staff officer, the following brief of arrangements is passed on for your immediate information:

Mountbatten is to have a combined staff. Wedemeyer is to go with him and is already working on the American sections.1 Mountbatten arrives here today and with Wedemeyer will work out details arrangeable at this end of the line.

He is to operate under the Combined Chiefs of Staff and while the constitution of India will not permit his being given supreme authority over logistical matters in India pertaining to his operations, it is being arranged so that he will have control of the army commander who does control communications in Assam.

This is of course an abnormal arrangement but everything connected with this theatre has of necessity been set up frankly on such a basis because of Indian government considerations and the Generalissimo’s position and methods.

You are to be Mountbatten’s deputy but at the same time you will command all American troops, air and ground, and will be his medium of arranging coordinated operations by Chinese troops. This will mean that once the plans of operations have been agreed upon on a basis that you think can be implemented as to American and Chinese units, your job will be to see that the American groupings are set up in proper relation to the task and that the Generalissimo permits the coordination of the Chinese effort described. You are to continue as the Generalissimo’s Chief of Staff. Your status will be dual and on an ordinary organizational basis is illogical, but there appears to be no other way to meet the complexities of the situation.

Dr. Soong I believe will leave for China shortly. General Chu I know is going immediately. They were at Quebec and were told the bare outlines of the arrangement. Nothing was said to them regarding your assignment as deputy or to infer at that moment that we were attempting to place Chinese troops under Mountbatten but they were told most emphatically that we were setting up the basis for unity of command and it was imperative that wholehearted cooperation be given the enterprise.2

The President is considering sending out a special envoy to the Generalissimo but in view of Soong’s departure he may not do so. Mountbatten will call on the Generalissimo as quickly as he can manage. In the meantime it is the President’s view that the matter should not be taken up with the Generalissimo unless he precipitates the issue with you but even then it should be on a most guarded basis until Soong has gotten there with my emphatic views as to the mandatory requirements of cooperation.

This is a hastily prepared radio and exact details will be sent you as soon as possible. The main point is that the Prime Minister is endeavoring to vitalize the effort as regards Burma. Mountbatten is full of energy, drive and imagination to a point that irritates staid British high officials. He is very likeable and has enthusiastically entered into cooperation with American proposals time after time. It was his leadership and first combined staff that developed most of our landing craft and air, ground and naval technique, communications, etc., for amphibious operations. You will find him a breath of fresh air.

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. In his memoirs, Wedemeyer asserted that he was not pleased to be “eased out to Asia,” a “remote and relatively unimportant sphere,” by the British, who wished to get him out of planning because he “held out for the American point of view.” He was promoted to major general in September (“a promotion that was no promotion”) and departed for India in October. (Albert C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports! [New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1958], pp. 246-49.)

2. Chinese Foreign Minister T V. Soong and Major General Chu Shih-ming, China’s military attach

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