5-567 To the Acting Secretary of State, October 2, 1946

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 2, 1946

Subject: China

To the Acting Secretary of State

October 2, 1946 Radio No. GOLD 1587. [Nanking, China]

Top Secret

Dear Mister Secretary:

Since my message to the President of September 22d,1 the following has occurred: Chou En-lai from Shanghai made another demand on me in writing to convoke the Committee of Three stating that he did not believe the Government could boycott a meeting called by me. Meanwhile the Generalissimo had not yet returned to Nanking. On September 26th Doctor Stuart and I jointly addressed a memorandum to General Chou En-lai urging him to return to Nanking expressing our desire to help solve the situation, and stating the Generalissimo was scheduled to return that date, which he did.

The morning of the twenty-seventh, Friday, I saw the Generalissimo and he reviewed the situation stating that he must be prepared for two situations; one, a final rupture with the Communists and two, a method to break the present stalemate. Regarding the latter course, he contemplated a public statement and said he would discuss this with his associates and would appreciate my advice and asked me to consider such a statement. I replied that I had already done so and had taken the liberty of preparing such a statement in order to illustrate importance I attached to his appearing tolerant in attitude and avoiding any provocative or irritating statements and also avoiding generalities and making definite concrete proposals. I handed him draft of a suggested statement which incidentally had been concurred in by Doctor Stuart. (See GOLD 1588)2 Meeting adjourned to enable translation to be made. This was on Friday.

On Saturday [September 28] his representative called on me for an explanation of various portions of the statement. The same day I received a note from Chou En-lai3 thanking Doctor Stuart and me for our message of the twenty-sixth and stating that he would not return to Nanking until the Government gave factual evidence, in reply to his demand for cessation of hostilities, that the negotiations were not to be a smoke screen of delay while an active military campaign was in progress.

On Monday the thirtieth, the Generalissimo saw me and stated that he was agreeable to publishing the statement I proposed if there were added to it a sentence that all the negotiations referred to in that statement must be completed before there could be a cessation of hostilities. I replied that this would vitiate the entire purpose of the statement and that some other approach would be necessary rather than have such a modification of the terms of the statement. I informed him I had no idea what such other course might be.

The Generalissimo then proposed that I inform the Communists that he had agreed to a simultaneous meeting of the Five Man Group under Dr. Stuart and the Committee of Three under me. I told him that I felt certain the Communists would not accept that unless there was an understanding that the Committee of Three would first settle the question of the termination of hostilities and further that I would not carry the message orally but would merely transmit any written proposal he or his representative cared to make. He then directed that such a written proposal be prepared stating “General Marshall’s proposal for simultaneous meeting of the two committees” was acceptable to the Government. I stated that that was not my proposal, that it was but a small part of it and he directed the deletion of that phrase. I added that his Minister of Information should be warned not to permit any announcement that this was my proposal because if he did I would publicly deny it.4

There were several meetings with his subordinates later and the Generalissimo finally decided not to release to the public his limited proposal.

Yesterday, Tuesday, the frank admission was made to Dr. Stuart by T. V. Soong that the Government desired to capture Kalgan before terminating hostilities.5 This reportedly could be accomplished in 10 to 15 days. I should add here that the Generalissimo had agreed, to me in June, that Kalgan was to remain in Communist hands. I also received a letter from Chou En-lai stating that he was instructed to serve notice that if the Kuomintang Government continued the military operations against Kalgan, the Chinese Communist Party would be forced to presume that the Government was thereby giving public announcement of a total national split and that it had abandoned its announced policy for a peaceful settlement.6

I decided that a further participation by me in protracted negotiations or time consuming message-carrying would inevitably be judged in effect as participation in negotiations which were a cloak to the continued conduct of a military campaign. I therefore sent a memorandum to the Generalissimo which concluded with this paragraph: “I will not refer to the circumstances connected with the ineffective negotiations since last March. I wish merely to state that unless a basis for agreement is found to terminate the fighting without further delays of proposals and counter-proposals, I will recommend to the President that I be recalled and that the United States Government terminate its efforts of mediation.” (See GOLD 1589).7

Today, Wednesday, the Generalissimo discussed with Dr. Stuart my memorandum and expressed surprise that I should have raised an issue regarding Kalgan. Dr. T. V. Soong saw me at lunch and went over the situation. I made my position emphatically firm that I would not continue with the negotiations during the conduct of an aggressive campaign. Dr. Soong hoped that some formula for the reaching of an agreement could be found, but his suggestions involved matters of lengthy complication regarding the redisposition of troops in China and Manchuria.

Later in the day, the Generalissimo’s representative brought to me a personal reply to my memorandum.8 In his reply, he proposed a definite compromise regarding the representation in the State Council and tied to it the demand for immediate implementation of the program for the reorganization of the army and location of the 18 Communist divisions to be settled and the dates determined for the arrival of the Communist troops in the assigned place. If those agreements are reached, he would agree to a cessation of hostilities. The second portion involves a complicated logistical re-study in view of the confused state of troops and the paucity of communications. If literally complied with, a considerable time would be involved while the campaign progressed. The Communists I am certain, and I,9 would be opposed to this requirement. I merely transmitted his proposal in writing to the Communist representative. I am aware of the delicacy of the position my communication to the Generalissimo places the United States in its relationship to the situation in the Far East but I do not think our government can be a party to a course of questionable integrity in negotiations and I therefore felt that this fact must be made unmistakably clear to the Government.

I am addressing this message to the Secretary of State rather than the President because of its length and because I felt that while he need not be troubled until the matter progresses further, it is important that the State Department be immediately aware of what is happening.10

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. See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-556 [5: 688-90].

2. GOLD 1588 transmitted to the State Department the draft in Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 238-39.

3. See ibid., p. 237.

4. The Central News Agency published such a statement on September 30; Marshall’s denial was released on October 3. See ibid., p. 280.

5. See ibid., pp. 266-67.

6. See ibid., pp. 258-59.

7. GOLD 1589 transmitted to the State Department Marshall’s Memorandum for the Generalissimo of October 1, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-566 [5: 699-700].

8. See Foreign Relations, 1946, 10: 270-71.

9. The words “and I” are not in the version of this document in Foreign Relations; see ibid., p. 274.

10. In an October 3 recapitulation of a conversation between Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs John Carter Vincent about this letter from Marshall, Vincent noted that they thought “the chances are better than 50-50 that the jig is not up; that there is better than an even chance that the General will be successful in calling Chiang’s hand. General Marshall is obviously mad. . . . He clearly feels that his honor is at stake.” After noting three conditions under which the negotiations might break down, Vincent stated: “In any event we should make it clear to the Chinese and to our own public that we mean to stay with the problem but stay out of involvement in the civil war.” (Ibid., pp. 276-77.)

On October 4, Acheson told Marshall that he had discussed Marshall’s latest messages with President Truman. They continued to have “confidence that you can do the job if it is humanly possible,” and they would do nothing about recalling him until Marshall indicated that it was advisable. (Ibid., p. 289.)

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 700-703.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 5-567

Rights: Public Information