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To Mr. and Mrs. Edmund P. Coles1
from Katerine T. Marshall
August 26, 1946 Kuling, China
Dear Edmund and Sadie:
I am up here in lovely Kuling, six miles up stone steps in the mountains. I came up the middle of July with Madame Chiang and the Generalissimo. Nanking was 110º and the dust, heat, and filth were beyond description. Both Chungking and Nanking were an endurance test. They are Chinese cities with no foreign concessions, so we lived right in the midst of the thousands of Chinese refugees who had crowded into these cities. Our house had been the German Embassy. It had a lawn, but you might as well go out and sit in a “Chick Sales”2 for a pleasant evening as to sit out there. There were high walls all around it, with guards night and day.
We had ten officers, George’s staff, living in the house, two in a room, and breakfast was the only time George and I had together. He was in conference all day and the lower part of the house was packed with Chinese. I ate my other meals at the regular mess (!!) with all the staff. After two months of this I was pretty low. What with the aftermath of eight years of war, inflation, civil war, famine, and epidemics of cholera, it was a pretty grim diet. The charm of China that I had heard so much about was certainly not evident in Nanking or Chungking, the Japs had left little but disease and filth. So you know how glad I was to come up here and breathe this mountain air, have picnics on these lovely peaks and see some fresh, clear mountain streams. George comes up three days out of each week and our house, a lovely little stone one with trees and a lawn, is just across a gurgling mountain stream from Madame Chiang’s. When George is not here she comes over each day and has lunch with me and I have dinner with them. They have been wonderful friends and endless in their thought for our comfort.
On week-ends when George comes up we always have a picnic supper high up on one of the peaks. You go in mountain chairs carried by six coolies, or chair bearers. They dress in royal blue and the chairs have white-fringed tops. There are never less than 20 guards who go in front and in back of the chairs, and it looks like some mediaeval procession as we wind up these mountain paths. The scenery is magnificent and the air cool and bracing. It has worked wonders for both George and me. He continues to hold conferences up here, as it is the summer capital. Three times he has had a stop-fighting order all but signed when new outrages on the side of the Communists or Nationalists have broken out overnight and negotiations come to a standstill again. The hatred is so bitter on both sides that it is hard to get them to see any side but their own. These poor people, I feel so sorry for them—pawns between two political parties—all they ask for is peace. George has had a cruel year and looked as though he had been put through a wringer in Nanking.
I had hoped we would be home in September, but I know that as long as there is a possible chance of his stopping civil war George will not give up, so heaven knows when we can come home. The mail pouch is my greatest joy. I was so glad to hear from you.
There are the most exquisite mountain lilies of all varieties up here. Madame Chiang and I have gotten 355 bulbs for me to take home. Now George says he doubts if they will let me bring them in! I have helped here with her garden and have to laugh—she will have 25 men working on it at once, and moves trees and builds stone work in one day as if it were nothing. I showed them how to build a grill and now they do all their entertaining out on the lawn and love it. Also have showed the Generalissimo how to play Chinese checkers and after dinner each night we have several games. He speaks no English but says now he does not need a tongue.
Madame brought her tailor up here with her and has had five lovely Chinese dresses made for me. I wear them each evening, which pleases the Chinese greatly. I see very little of Americans. There are only a few missionaries up here and now and then one of the diplomats. The cheap shopping in China is no more. Silk is hard to get and is $4 and $5 a yard. Servants are eight times what they used to be. Oranges cost $9 a dozen, shoes $40 a pair. Inflation is everywhere.
George joins me in sending love,
Document Copy Text Source: Katherine T. Marshall Papers, Correspondence, 1941–49, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Edmund Coles was the brother of Marshall’s first wife, Elizabeth Carter Coles (1874–1927). Most of Katherine Marshall’s letters from China were handwritten; this one was typed, presumably by Sally Chamberlin.
2. An “outhouse.” Charles “Chic” Sale (1885–1936) had been a “character” comedian of the 1920s; he performed as a hayseed whose specialty was building outhouses. (See his book The Specialist [St. Louis: Specialist Publishing Company, 1929].) Widely read war correspondent Ernie Pyle used the term “Chic Sale” as late as 1943.
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. 668–669.