26. 1944: Year of Nationalist Decline

While Stilwell and the British were preoccupied with Burma, conditions inside China began to assume crisis proportions. The reasons could largely be traced to Nationalist failures to grapple with realities. These at last brought on an American reappraisal of Chiang's regime, gave the Japanese an opportunity to make enormous advances and set the circumstances which dictated China's history for a long time.

In early 1944 the Japanese imperial command prepared for a major offensive. Although Chiang Kai-shek and his generals were certain the Japanese were intent on capturing Chongqing and knocking China out of the war, the real Japanese concern was Chennault's air bases.

The Japanese imperial command was anxious about the fields, with their extremely long runways, being built around Chengdu in Sichuan. These were to accommodate the new American very long range strategic bomber, the B-29, a yet-undetermined threat.1 Far closer were the Fourteenth Air Force's fields in southeastern China. From these, bombers were causing much disuption by attacking river and ocean shipping. The Japanese staked out the bases for destruction.

The imperial command also sought a land connection between Indochina and the protected harbors of Manchuria and Korea. This called for the Japanese to open the rail lines from Beiping to Wuhan and from Wuhan to Liuzhou. From Liuzhou, roads connected with Hanoi and points south.2

A second major problem the Nationalists faced in 1944 was the deterioration of the economy in unoccupied China and the anger among people suffering from Nationalist repression, secret arrests, concentration camps and denial of free speech and expression. Raging inflation was making it difficult for middle-income Chinese bureaucrats and workers to survive. Forced extraction of grains for taxes from peasants was causing great resentment, especially as taxes sometimes left peasants with insufficient food until the next harvest. The privileged groups around Chiang Kai-shek were able to do well by extortion or corruption. But the bulk of the people was becoming angry. This emerged in demands by liberal and academic groups for a new democratic, multiparty government. The idealistic and largely powerless organizations making these demands were known to Chiang's secret police, commanded by Dai Li, and only the vaguest hints of their stirrings penetrated through official censorship.3 Nevertheless, discontent was widespread and support for the Kuomintang declined drastically.4

The third major, and to Chiang the most important, problem was the continued split between the Chinese Communists and the KMT. U.S leaders began to question the Nationalist blockade of the Communist border region around Yan'an which was occupying about 400,000 of Chiang's best troops and preventing them and some 90,000 Red soldiers from being used against Japan.

In 1944 Roosevelt and the American leadership in China began to press the KMT to end the blockade, free the tied-down soldiers, form some sort of working arrangement with the Reds and get on with defeating the Japanese army. For the first time the United States meddled in the internal affairs of China.

* * * * * * * * * *

On January 15, 1944, John Paton Davies, Jr., General Stilwell's political advisor, proposed to presidential aide Harry Hopkins a course he'd recommended previously: that the United States send a military observer team to the Chinese Communist capital at Yan'an.5

Purpose of such a mission, Davies wrote, would be to collect information on the Japanese and on the strength of the Chinese Reds. Beyond that Davies wanted to break the shell of isolation that Chiang Kai-shek had kept around the Reds and to reduce what he feared was Chinese Communist dependency upon the Soviet Union.

Davies told Hopkins only pressure by Roosevelt himself could overcome Chiang's objection. Roosevelt on February 9 asked Chiang to permit a U.S. team to go to Yan'an.6 The Nationalists tried to deflect Americans by charging the Communists with crimes and being in league with the Japanese. Clarence E. Gauss, U.S. ambassador to China, said the Nationalists were guilty of this, not the Chinese Reds.7

While the American diplomatic effort was getting nowhere, the Nationalist government got into a shrill dispute with Western foreign correspondents. After government spokesman denied the Nationalists were blockading the Reds, the correspondents demanded they be permitted to visit Reds areas. After many delays and attempts to turn the reporters away, the Nationalists permitted a team of correspondents to go to Yan'an on May 17. The reporters' visit marked the first Western exposure to the Chinese Communists since the start of the war.8

The usually cynical correspondents were enthusiastic about how the Communists had become self-reliant behind the Kuomintang blockade, transforming parts of the formerly barren countryside by intense cultivation, stock breeding and handicraft industries.9

* * * * * * * * * *

Meantime the first B-29 Superfortress arrived April 2, 1944, at Chakulia airfield west of Calcutta and other B-29s followed closely behind. Operation of the giant planes, weighing over 130,000 pounds at takeoff, had been delayed by overheating of the 2,200-horsepower Wright radial engines. Engineers finally improved engine cooling to the degree that the planes could become operational.10

The bombers of 20th Bomber Command of the Twentieth Air Force were to load up with gas and two tons of bombs in India, fly over the Hump to Chengdu, refuel there, and then fly on to their missions in Japan. Returning, they were again to refuel at Chengdu before flying back to India. The problem for the Matterhorn project, therefore, was identical to the problem that had plagued Allied operations in China from the beginning: the Hump bottleneck. The 20th converted one Superfortress in each squadron into a tanker but buildup of stocks at Chengdu was painfully slow.

In late April, 1944, the Japanese launched their offensive, code-named Ichigo. If they had driven on Kunming, they could have upset Allied strategy in Burma and China. But planners paid little attention to overall strategy and were concerned only with opening new land routes and destroying Fourteenth Air Force bases. The first phase was an attack south from the Yellow river directly down the railway line to Wuhan. General Hata Shunroku, commander of the China expeditionary army, used less than a sixth of Japanese strength in China (totaling 820,000 men and 230 aircraft). Although the Chinese had far superior numbers, they put up little resistance and retreated in haste. The Japanese reopened the Beiping-Wuhan railroad by the end of May.11

Chennault had promised that his air force could halt the advance by air interdiction alone. But, though they tried valiantly, his airmen failed.12 Chiang Kai-shek, still believing in Chennault's promise, told Stilwell on June 5 he wanted all aircraft, including B-29s, to be used. The situation, he said, was "to be solved by air attack."13

Though Stilwell knew air power would not stop the Japanese, he diverted most Hump allocations to Chennault.14 When Chennault asked to use the B-29s to bomb Hankow (Wuhan), Stilwell radioed Marshall for permission. Marshall responded almost immediately, despite preoccupation with the Normandy invasion, denying the request and telling Stilwell the B-29s were being held to bomb Japan's industry and not to be used otherwise.15

On June 6, General Hap Arnold radioed Colonel K.B. Wolfe, 20th commander, he wanted a B-29 mission to Japan on June 15 to support an "important operation," the landing on Saipan in the Marianas. The target was the most critical single objective in Japan's steel industry, the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata (now part of Kitakyushu) on Kyushu. Because the pilots were not suffienctly trained to fly in formation and bomb in daylight, Arnold reluctantly agreed to a night mission, with planes bombing individually.

Sixty-eight B-29s got aloft on June 15, 1944. One crashed and burned on takeoff. Japanese radar picked up the bombers long before they crossed the China coast and Yawata was blacked out. Forty-seven B-29s bombed the target but damage was minor: only one hit on the Imperial shops and that not a coke oven. Six B-29s went down on the return flight to Chengdu for a loss of fifty-five men. Wolfe had to borrow fifteen-thousand gallons of fuel to get his aircraft back to India. It was an unimpressive beginning of the Superfortress offensive and it was apparent that staging through Chengdu was going to be difficult, slow and expensive in terms of supplies and lost men and aircraft.16

Two days afterward, Arnold ordered a raid against steel mills at Anshan in Manchuria and (from Ceylon) against oil refineries at Palembang on Sumatra. Wolfe spelled out the difficulties he was having getting B-29s in the air. But Arnold, who wanted action immediately, ordered Wolfe to pack his bags and come home. Major General Curtis LeMay took charge but the B-29s continued to find the Hump bottleneck daunting and by September Japanese aircraft began erratic raids on the Chengdu strips. Attempted precision bombing against the coke ovens was not working. Japan's steel industry was little damaged.17

* * * * * * * * * *

The solution to the problems of B-29s in China already was unfolding at Saipan and in the waters of the Philippine sea immediately to the west. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz had assembled an awesome armada to carry out the conquest of the Marianas, including four marine and army divisions, fifteen assault carriers mounting 956 aircraft and assorted escort carriers and other warships.18

For the Japanese, possession of the Marianas was a necessity. They had strong garrisons on all three major islands and believed they were almost invincible.19 The Japanese navy also knew that here the decisive battle of the Pacific war had to be fought. The naval commander, Admiral Toyoda Soemu,20 hoped to lure the American carriers into waters west of the Marianas and there destroy them. However, his plan miscarried because Nimitz's carriers destroyed most of the land-based Japanese aircraft on the Marianas and shot down 346 of Toyoda's 473 aircraft on nine carriers. The Japanese pilots were mostly inexperienced, whereas American airmen were extremely well trained and mostly veterans. The battle, on June 19, 1944, went down in U.S. naval history as "the great Marianas turkey shoot." In addition, U.S. submarines slipped in and torpedoed two Japanese carriers while American aircraft the next day sank one carrier, damaged four others and destroyed all but thirty-five of Toyoda's remaining aircraft. The Japanese fleet pulled away toward Okinawa. The scales had tilted fatally against the Japanese navy. Never again could it meet the American fleet except on suicidal terms.

Meanwhile American marines and soldiers assaulted Saipan, Tinian and Guam and, though suffering heavy casualties, captured them by early July after nearly all Japanese defenders had died.

The U.S. had cracked the Japanese inner defensive barrier, not only seizing a platform for a relentless air bombardment of Japan but opening a path to invasion of the Philippines.

In Tokyo two of the emperor's senior advisors, Admirals Yonai Mitsumasa and Okada Keisuke, confirmed privately that the loss of Marianas made further war efforts futile. However, they and other advisors shrank from attempting to seek peace because the fighting services still insisted on recklessly pursuing the war. The only hope, they concluded, was the intervention of the emperor.

Meantime, Marquis Kido Koichi, lord privy seal, and other leaders decided Premier Tojo Hideki had to be ousted. Although Tojo tried to cling to his post, his cabinet and imperial advisors forced him to resign on July 18. Choice of his replacement fell on retired General Koiso Kuniaki. Koiso wanted to return to the active army list in order also to become minister of war. But the army, still controlled by Tojo, refused, weakening Koiso's position. Seeking army support, Koiso committed his government to full prosecution of the war.21

* * * * * * * * * *

President Roosevelt was getting worried about election to a fourth term in November. By spring he had an urgent concern: conservative Democrats, especially southern-state politicians who delivered "the solid South," were dissatisfied with the liberal and internationalist leanings of the U.S. vice president, Henry A. Wallace, and didn't want him on the ticket. FDR believed Wallace would cost a million votes. He seized on the idea of dispatching Wallace to China to get him out of the country and prevent him from lining up support for renomination.

While in China, Roosevelt wanted Wallace to get Chiang to agree to a working arrangement with the Chinese Communists to form a common front against Japan.22 The four-day Wallace visit with Chiang, beginning June 21, 1944, therefore marked the first round of an unparalleled interference in China's internal affairs, a process that continued throughout the remainder of the war and into the postwar period.

Wallace's visit occurred in the midst of a military crisis in eastern China. On May 27 Japanese forces had begun their second phase of the Ichigo offensive. Chinese regional forces put up atrocious resistance and Changsha fell on June 18. This uncovered Hengyang, some ninety air miles south of Changsha, and site of a Chennault air base, which fell on June 26. Chinese forces, however, resisted in the walled city of Hengyang itself, thereby for the moment stopping the drive.23

Wallace's visit also coincided with a personal crisis between Chiang and his wife. For months there had been rumors about the refusal of Chiang to banish a concubine. Madame Chiang left for the United States on July 1 to visit her sister, Madame Kung, in Brazil. Chiang publicly denied infidelity but Madame Chiang remained abroad until September, 1945.24

A few days before flying into China, Wallace rendezvoused with W. Averell Harriman, U.S. ambassador to Moscow, at Tashkent in Soviet Uzebekistan. Harriman passed on to Wallace the views Premier Stalin had given him on June 10. Stalin said Chiang Kai-shek was the best man available under existing circumstances. He maintained the Chinese Reds were "not real Communists" but "margarine Communists." However, they were patriots who wanted to fight while Chiang refused to allow them to do so. Stalin was not sanguine about Roosevelt's hope of Chiang settling with the Chinese Reds and liberalizing his views. Nevertheless, he encouraged the United States to bring China more strongly under its influence, thereby accentuating an attitude already growing in Washington. Stalin said he had no aggressive intentions toward China and recent Xinkiang border incidents were not significant.25

Chiang pulled T.V. Soong out of a year of disgrace to serve as his interpreter with Wallace.26 The vice president offered President Roosevelt's services in the Red-Nationalist dispute, saying both sides might "call in a friend." Chiang didn't want any meddling, though he dissembled by saying he welcomed Roosevelt's assistance.27

The sessions, with both Ambassador Clarence E. Gauss and Stilwell absent, provided Chiang an opportunity to connive for the removal of both men. Chiang asked for Roosevelt to appoint a personal representative to deal with him. Stilwell, he said, had no understanding of political matters. Although he did not mention Gauss by name the implication was that a single representative could also handle diplomatic matters.

Chiang bitterly denounced the Chinese Communists, saying they were under the control of the Comintern and tied to the Soviet Union, despite the announced disbandment of the Comintern the year before. His requirement to cooperate with the Reds was simple: they should obey the Nationalist government, put their armies under Nationalist command and give up control of any Chinese territory. In exchange, Chiang would grant "political amnesty" and give them the right to continue as a political party. It was Chiang's perennial demand and provided no bargaining position. Everyone knew if the Reds gave up their army and territory Chiang would order all shot down or beheaded, as he had done in the 1927 Shanghai bloodbath.

It was thus evident there was no hope for an agreement. Chiang Kai-shek was unwilling to grant the Communists any meaningful role in Chinese politics and the Reds knew their only way to survive was by destroying the Nationalist regime. All else was posturing and public relations. The Nationalists and the Reds correctly viewed each other as mortal enemies. The American effort to bring together these two sides, each dedicated to the other's destruction, was like trying to square a circle.

Chiang's denunciation of the Reds should have warned the U.S. firmly away. Unfortunately it did not. For two more crucial years the vision of a Red-Nationalist coalition government rose before American leaders as the facile solution to the China problem. But it was always a fata morgana, ever receding as they attempted to approach it.28

It took two days of hard negotiation for Wallace finally to press Chiang into authorizing an American observer team to visit Yan'an. The mission marked the first U.S. opportunity to appraise an alternative solution to getting China to fight Japan. But there was no chance the United States would dump Chiang and embrace the Reds, although it advocated and wanted to stand patron to a political union of Reds and Nationalists. Since this was not going to happen, the mission to Yan'an had no purpose except to educate Americans on Chinese Communism.

Vice President Wallace's immediate response to his meetings with Chiang was somewhat upbeat. He accepted Chiang's appraisal of Stilwell, apparently without question, and told the president that "what is needed is an American general officer of the highest caliber in whom political and military authority will be at least temporarily united." He suggested Major General Albert C. Wedemeyer, Lord Mountbatten's American chief of staff, an officer whom General Stilwell considered "the world's most pompous prick."29

In his personal report to the president on July 10, 1944, Wallace was far more pessimistic. Chiang, he said, had hoped that aid from foreign allies "would pull him out of the hole into which an unenlightened administration (supported by landlords, warlords and bankers) has sunk him and China." Now he sought the "communistic menace" as a scapegoat for his shortcomings. "Chiang showed himself so prejudiced against the Communists that there seemed little prospect of a satisfactory or enduring settlement." There was, however, no alternative to support of Chiang, Wallace said. "There is no Chinese leader or group now apparent of sufficient strength to take over the government." The vice president's final advice was prophetic: "Chiang, at best, is a short-term investment. It is not believed that he has the intelligence or political strength to run postwar China. The leaders of postwar China will be brought forward by evolution or revolution and it now seems more like the latter."30

Had Wallace's advice been followed, the U.S. could have avoided enormous efforts to accomplish the impossible and might have come to a more rational policy.

But Roosevelt was pursuing a wholly different approach and gave Wallace's proposals little heed. Not understanding the forces operating in China, FDR applied a typically American direct solution. The Chinese army, because of poor leadership and inadequate training, was failing to stop the Japanese, thereby threatening American air bases and China's continuation in the war. The answer, therefore, was to bring the Chinese Reds and the Nationalists into action. To insure professional military leadership, Stilwell should become the supreme commander of all forces in China and deploy these forces and cashier Chinese generals as he saw fit.

Roosevelt's solution ignored the mortal conflict between Reds and Nationalists, warlord armies that owed only nominal allegiance to Chiang, the refusal of Chiang to arm only forces he controlled personally, trampling of Chinese sovereignty and the almost inconceivably offensive nature of Roosevelt's demand that the supreme commander should be Stilwell, who called the head of the Chinese state "Peanut" and thought China would be greatly benefited if he were eliminated. To expect Chiang to agree to anything that would remove himself from power was absurd. Yet Roosevelt now pursued this course aggressively.

Roosevelt followed the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, men far more direct in their thinking than FDR.31 He accepted the chiefs' recommendations that he promote Stilwell to full general and urge Chiang to place Stilwell in command of all Chinese forces. FDR informed Chiang on July 6, 1944, that "drastic measures must be taken immediately" to delegate to one individual "the power to coordinate all the Allied military efforts in China, including the Communist forces."32

Chiang temporized. He accepted "the principle" that Stilwell command all forces in China directly under himself but looked for any artifice to circumvent Roosevelt's demand. The appointment should not be "carried out in haste." There must be a "preparatory period." More important, Chiang asked that FDR send to China "an influential personal representative who enjoys your complete confidence" to "adjust relations between me and General Stilwell."33 Roosevelt agreed. Chiang had won the first round.34

* * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile the military situation for Japan and its ally, Germany, was deteriorating everywhere except in China and Burma. Americans were laying out B-29 bases on just-captured Saipan. Planners were contemplating an attack on the Philippines. In Europe, the Russian summer offensive was rolling forward. On July 20 plotters attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. They succeeded only in wounding him and sentencing themselves to torture and death by the Gestapo and German courts. On July 25 Americans broke out of Normandy and the sensational race to the borders of Germany began.

In China, the Japanese had been held up by Chinese resistance inside Hengyang. But the major cause of the halt was poor supply. Long stretches of rail to Wuhan had been torn up and Chennault's aircraft harried boats on the Xiang river and trucks on the roads. Chinese forces had a great opportunity to close in behind the stalled Japanese but hesitant Nationalist commanders refused to commit themselves. Hengyang finally fell on August 8. There the Japanese stalled for a month, unable to bring up enough supplies to renew their offensive.35

Meanwhile, the Chinese forces along the Salween river tried once more to open a land route to Burma. By early September, 1944, Wei Lihuang's army in ferocious fighting virtually destroyed the half-strength Japanese 56th Division, though Chinese casualties also were enormous.36 To restore a line, survivors of the Japanese attack on Imphal moved to the Salween front and stopped the Chinese.37

* * * * * * * * * *

While the fighting was going on west of the Salween, Secretary of War Henry Stimson and General Marshall had been mulling over whom to recommend as the presidential representative to Chongqing. Stimson's eye finally fell on Major General Patrick J. Hurley, a political general who had undertaken several missions for Roosevelt. Hurley was tall and handsome with silver hair and in 1944 was 61 years old. His biographer, Russell D. Buhite, says "Hurley was a kind of careerist, an opportunist and an accommodator of people in high position, especially of presidents."38

Although Roosevelt had confidence in Hurley, the Oklahoman knew virtually nothing about China's history, language, politics or current problems.39 Long after he arrived in China, he continued to refer to Generalissimo Chiang as "Mr. Shek."40 It is mystifying why General Marshall, who understood the problem there, acceded to Stimson's choice. Perhaps Marshall was convinced he could depend upon Hurley's loyalty to Stilwell, who liked Hurley when he had been assigned to arrange Chiang Kai-shek's journey to the Cairo conference in 1943. In any event, the U.S. presented Hurley's name to Chiang on August 10, along with that of Donald M. Nelson, formerly of Sears, Roebuck, who had been feuding with his successor as chairman of the War Production board, Charles E. Wilson. The trip offered FDR an opportunity to break up the conflict.41

Chiang was happy with the selection and so was Hurley, who immediately began an ultimately successful effort to parlay the job into appointment as ambassador to China.42

Hurley's instructions from Roosevelt were "to promote harmonious relations between General Chiang and General Stilwell and to facilitate the latter's exercise of command over the Chinese armies placed under his direction." Hurley also believed he was to facilitate the unity of Communist and Nationalist forces. FDR did not spell out this task, although he had already offered services to this end through Vice President Wallace. It is fairly certain FDR talked about the matter and this was why Hurley took a side trip with Nelson to the Soviet Union before going to Chongqing.43

Talking to Hurley and Nelson in Moscow on August 31, 1944, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov denied any Russian connection with the Chinese Communists and insisted they "had no relation whatsoever to Communism."44 It was a blanket repudiation of any relationship with the Chinese Reds and, judged by what happened in the months to come, sincere.

Hurley, Nelson and Stilwell arrived in Chongqing on September 6 and quickly got into discussions with Chiang Kai-shek and T.V. Soong, now fully rehabilitated and playing a prominent role. Soong stated one of Chiang's conditions for granting Stilwell command in China: Chinese control of lend-lease. Hurley said no. Chiang insisted the Chinese Reds could not be incorporated into Stilwell's forces unless they would submit to Chiang's command, something he knew they would not agree to do but Hurley didn't.

Chiang suggested that Hurley draw up an agenda. He did so and presented ten points to the Generalissimo on September 12. It was a remarkable document, which could have been created only by a person, like Hurley, who was immensely ignorant of China. Only the last four items bore directly upon Stilwell's powers. Others, if taken literally, would have transformed China. The first item set the tone: "The paramount objective of Chinese-American collaboration is to bring about the unification of all military forces in China." Another item called for "the support of efforts of Generalissimo for political unification of China on a democratic basis." Soong objected to the phrase, "on a democratic basis," and Hurley cut it out, not seeming to notice the symbolism of the exchange.45

Stilwell, having learned little despite two and a half years of exposure to Chiang, had meanwhile blithely prepared an outline of the authority he expected Chiang to give him. These included total control of China's armies and officers, eliminating separate fiefdoms and turfs and making Stilwell the only major source of power in China. The proposed order would give Stilwell authority to requisition supplies to improve living conditions for all soldiers so they "will be at least equal to that of the people in the rear areas." This provision alone would have swept China into hyperinflation and brought on economic paralysis. Everything added up to a total impossibility. That Stilwell didn't recognize the implications of his demands for authority is confirmation of Chiang's view of Stilwell as "100 per cent military" and possessing no competence in politics.46

While Hurley was attempting to get Chiang to agree to the conditions of command Stilwell had laid down and was oblivious to the fact that Chiang would never do so, the Japanese renewed their offensive, striking south from Hengyang, quickly capturing the U.S. air base at Lingling and threatening the base at Guilin, while a force from Guanzhou drove northwest toward the American base at Liuzhou. New late-model Japanese fighter planes began to contest the air successfully with the Fourteenth Air Force, thereby reducing U.S. attacks and permitting more adequate supplies to get through.47

Meanwhile, Chiang Kai-shek had become frightened by the Japanese offensive against the China expeditionary (or Y-) force west of the Salween river. On September 8 he asked Stilwell to take the depleted Chinese divisions that had captured Myitkyina and move them toward Bhamo and the Japanese rear. Stilwell responded that a better solution would be to fill the excessively thinned ranks of General Wei Lihuang's Y-force, which had received no reinforcements since opening its campaign in May. This made no impression on Chiang.48

To Stilwell the greater threat was in east China, where the last of the American advanced air bases were in danger of falling. Chiang ordered Zhang Fakui, commanding in the region, to defend Guilin by placing three divisions inside the walled town, a guarantee of their destruction.

On September 15 Chiang told Stilwell that if the divisions at Myitkyina did not attack toward Bhamo within one week he would pull the Y-force back across the Salween to protect Kunming. The news stunned Stilwell. To do so would end the effort to reopen the Burma road and make all of the sacrifice and effort in vain.

Disgusted and angry, Stilwell poured out his frustration in a message to General Marshall. This message was the catalyst that brought about a dramatic confrontation between Chiang Kai-shek and Roosevelt. This collision ended the first great American effort to intervene in Chinese affairs. However, the conclusive nature of the clash was obscured by a new effort by Hurley immediately thereafter to bring Reds and Nationalists together. Therefore American leaders largely missed the lesson they might have learned about the perils of fishing in another country's troubled waters.

The War Department forwarded Stilwell's message to General Marshall at Quebec, where the second Anglo-American summit conference in Canada was under way. This conference (code-named Octagon) was principally concerned with the final defeat of Germany and postwar arrangements in Europe. But the American chiefs were delighted with a British plan to seize airfields north of Rangoon and capture the Burmese port by amphibious operations. Accompanying this operation (code-named Dracula) was to be operation Capital to attack across the Chindwin river to seize Mandalay.49 Chiang Kai-shek's threat to pull Chinese forces across the Salween, therefore, would completely upset Allied strategy in Burma.

Perhaps it was this latest indication of Chiang's capriciousness that angered General Marshall so much. In any case, he prepared an extremely sharp message which Roosevelt sent unchanged to be delivered personally by Stilwell.50 At Chiang's residence, Hurley was talking with the Generalissimo, T.V. Soong, He Yingqin and several other senior Chinese generals. Stilwell called Hurley out of the meeting and showed him the message. Hurley immediately recognized it as in an ultimatum and urged it be paraphrased to reduce its severity. Stilwell refused. He told Hurley he was under orders to deliver the message personally. Stilwell doubtless was anticipating revenge upon Chiang for all the pain and anger he had suffered for years and, based on the doggerel rhyme he composed after the occasion, relished the occasion.51

Stilwell handed the message to General Zhu Shiming to read aloud to Chiang Kai-shek and thereby humiliate him in front of the assembly. Hurley acted swiftly, taking the message from Zhu and handing the Chinese translation to Chiang with the excuse that it would save time.52

Roosevelt's message was couched in terms seldom used by one head of state to another. FDR himself thereby treated Chiang like "the sultan of Morocco" which he had once insisted was improper when dealing with the chief of a "great power" like China. FDR told Chiang he was convinced "you are faced in the near future with the disaster I have feared." The Chinese expeditionary force west of the Salween should not be withdrawn but reinforced. So should Chinese forces around Myitkyina. Otherwise, "we will lose all chance of opening land communications with China and immediately jeopardize the air route over the Hump." FDR lectured Chiang that he had "urged time and again" that Chiang take drastic action to resist disaster, yet he had still not named Stilwell supreme commander. "We are faced with the loss of a critical area in east China with possible catastrophic consequences. The Japanese capture of Guilin will place the Kunming air terminal under the menace of constant air attack, reducing the Hump tonnage and possibly severing the air route." FDR said "the only thing you can now do in an attempt to prevent the Jap from achieving his objectives in China is to reinforce your Salween armies immediately and press their offensive, while at once placing General Stilwell in unrestricted command of all your forces." If done, FDR indicated U.S. aid would continue. If not, he hinted it might cease.53

Stilwell in his diary wrote that Chiang Kai-shek "turned green but never batted an eye." It is a comment on Stilwell's insensitivity that he didn't realize Chiang was angry until two days later and then only when Hurley told him so.54

However humiliating, Roosevelt's message gave Chiang the opening he needed to get rid of Stilwell. Chiang adopted the position that his old friend Roosevelt would never have sent such a message unless put up to it and chose to blame Stilwell, not the president.55

Chiang asked for Stilwell's recall. Stilwell, Chiang said, "had no intention of cooperating with me, but believed that he was in fact being appointed to command me." Stilwell, Chiang insisted, was unfitted for command of Chinese armies. "Almost from the moment of his arrival in China he showed his disregard for that mutual confidence and respect which are essential to the successful collaboration of allied forces."56

It took Washington two weeks to respond to Chiang's message.57 The silence masked the reappraisal about China's role in the war that had been going on for some time, nourished by the American capture of the Marianas and by the failure of Chiang Kai-shek to pull his oar.58 When he did reply, FDR accepted the removal of Stilwell as chief of staff in China but wanted Stilwell to command Chinese forces in Burma, including Y-force. He directed that Lieutenant General Daniel I. Sultan, Stilwell's deputy in India, take over responsibility for delivering supplies over the Hump.59

Chiang would have none of this. He refused to accept Stilwell in any capacity and pressed for the uncritical Patrick Hurley to take his place as FDR's representative. To show seeming cooperation, he even lied directly: "It is my purpose to increase the Communist troops in the regular forces of the national army."60

It was a sad and unfortunate denouement. Stilwell should have been relieved long before. He was the wrong man for the job. But the man who eagerly stepped into his place, Pat Hurley, was at least as wrong and, moreover, was supremely ignorant about China and did not have the saving cynicism and healthy mistrust that permitted Stilwell, for all his shortcomings, to see right through Chiang Kai-shek.61

The American leaders were preoccupied with defeating Germany and working out some reasonable postwar relationship with the Soviet Union. They paid little attention to China at this juncture. It is sad no one recognized that, though the U.S. attempt to take over China's army had failed, China's importance in the war had shrunk to minor importance. Therefore, the only major question remaining was whether the U.S. should entangle itself in the political crisis between the Nationalists and the Communists. No one in power addressed this issue. Hurley, an inadequate envoy to begin with, already had lost his objectivity. He believed what Chiang said. The Communists had little hope of getting their message through this barrier.

Because of Hurley, the United States found itself pressing for a shotgun wedding between Reds and Nationalists. Instead, it should have been standing back and studying the political elements bringing on the Red-Nationalist confrontation. There were outstanding foreign service officers demonstrating the conflicts and contradictions between the two sides. American leaders ignored most of the evidence and kept on trying to be matchmakers. Everybody, in the end, was hurt. And two great nations began their collision course.

* * * * * * * * * *

Roosevelt informed Chiang on October 18 he was recalling Stilwell immediately. He declined to name an officer to command Chinese forces. The U.S. effort to run China's armies ended abruptly. FDR ordered Ambassador Clarence Gauss home and soon named Hurley in his place. He separated China into a new theater and named Major General Albert C. Wedemeyer as commander and nominated him as Chiang's chief of staff. To run the new India-Burma theater he selected General Sultan. Roosevelt was cold and businesslike. There was no more talk about China as a great power. Chiang had failed to rise to the challenge. FDR turned away and accommodated the Soviet Union at China's cost.62

Chapter 27: The Dixie Mission >>

1. General Henry H. Arnold, U.S. air force chief, described the B-29 and its operations on September 14, 1944, to the Combined Chiefs of Staff at the second Quebec conference. He said it was a "very long range, fast, heavily armed precision day bomber." Its maximum combat gross weight was 140,000 pounds. At this weight it operated up to 30,000 feet at a top speed of 370 miles an hour and cruised at 220 miles an hour. Pressurization provided atmospheric pressure equivalent to a height of 8,000 feet for the eleven-man crew. The aircraft possessed central fire control whereby three centrally located gunners could handle twelve 50-caliber machine guns and one 20-millimeter cannon, all remotely controlled. The airplane could be operated from 8,500-foot runways at maximum gross loadings and from 7,500-foot runways when loaded to 135,000 pounds. Its range was about 4,000 miles under a full load of ten tons of bombs. See FRUS, Quebec, pp. 340; Birdsall, p. 323.

2. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 406-07.

3. There was one bizarre American mission in China that operated throughout the war largely on its own. It was the Navy Group, China, commanded by Captain (later Commodore) Milton E. (Mary) Miles. Its function was to watch the weather and ships. It also combined with elements of Chiang Kai-shek's Gestapo-like secret service under the unsavory Dai Li, whose major job was to hunt down persons suspected of being against Chiang. Dai was director and Miles deputy director of the Sino-American Special Technical Cooperative organization (SACO). As part of SACO, the Navy Group trained and equipped guerrillas. John Paton Davies, Jr., General Stilwell's political advisor, said Miles was "fundamentally ignorant about China" and refused to have any American on his staff who spoke Chinese or had experience in China. This made his group dependent upon English-speaking Chinese who might or might not be sympathetic to American interests. Miles was able to resist control by the theater commander because he was under patronage of Admiral Ernest J. King, navy chief. See Davies, pp. 287-8; Romanus & Sunderland, Time, p. 158. Miles wrote his own book about his experiences, A Different Kind of War, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1967.

4. On June 20, 1944, John S. Service, foreign service officer, wrote a long summary of Nationalist failures, printed in FRUS, White Paper, pp. 567-70. For reports on criticism of the Nationalist government see FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 241-2, 302-03, 312-3, 319-26, 385-7, 396-7, 410, 414-5, 431-2, 435-7, 439-41, 447-8, 448-52, 454-5, 485-7; Tuchman, p. 581-2.

5. FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 307-08; Davies, p. 303-04; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 302-04.

6. FRUS, China, 1944, p. 329.

7. Ibid., pp. 348-9, 390-1, 412-4, 425-6.

8. Ibid., pp. 349-51, 352-3, 364-7, 371-3, 375, 389-90, 394-5, 405-7, 408, 420, 424-4, 468, 479-81, 482-3.

9. Ibid., p. 480.

10. Birdsall, pp. 31, 41-48.

11. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 316-21, 327, 371; FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 77-78.

12. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 322-7, 384; FRUS, White Paper, p. 551.

13. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 326, 367-9.

14. Ibid., pp. 362-4.

15. Ibid., pp. 367-9.

16. Birdsall, pp. 51-58.

17. Ibid., pp. 58-72.

18. Liddell Hart, World War, pp. 617-20; Morison, pp. 322-48. James V. Forrestal succeeded Frank Knox as U.S. secretary of the navy upon Knox's death from a heart attack on April 28, 1944. Forrestal, a former investment banker, became undersecretary of the navy in August, 1940.

19. Kase, p. 73.

20. Admiral Toyoda succeeded Admiral Koga Mineichi after Koga and his flying boat were lost in March, 1944, when withdrawing his headquarters from Truk to Davao in the Philippines.

21. Kase, pp. 73-87.

22. Dallek, pp. 482, 490; Schaller, pp. 160-1.

23. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 372-3, 399.

24. Tuchman, p. 626.

25. Davies, pp. 305-06; Dallek, pp. 489-90; FRUS, White Paper, p. 550.

26. Davies, p. 306; FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 227, 231-2, 238-40; 245, 460-3; FRUS, White Paper, pp. 549-59; Schaller, pp. 161-2; Dallek, pp. 490-1.

27. FRUS, White Paper, p. 559.

28. The situation was perfectly well understood in Washington, although not acted upon in any decisive way. John Paton Davies, Jr., Stilwell's political advisor, reported on a discussion he had on September 4, 1944, with presidential aide Harry Hopkins in which both men agreed that civil war was inevitable in postwar China and that if Chiang Kai-shek didn't suppress the Reds, they would remove him. See Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 420-1.

29. FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 235-7; Schaller, p. 164.

30. FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 240-4; Wallace's full report is more critical than the printed version contained in FRUS above; it is found in the president's secretary's file: Wallace, box 190, Roosevelt Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt library, Hyde Park, N.Y. Cited by Schaller, p. 163.

31. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 381-7; Schaller, pp. 165-6; FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 120-1, 124-6; Tuchman, pp. 598-603.

32. Triumph, p. 162; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, p. 378; Tuchman, pp. 596-7.

33. Tuchman, pp. 601-02.

34. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 413-5.

35. Ibid., pp. 399-405.

36. Ibid., pp. 389-98, 435.

37. Ibid., pp. 423-4.

38. Buhite, pp. xi-xii, 323.

39. Ibid., p. 147.

40. White, p. 246.

41. Schaller, p. 166; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, p. 415-6; Dallek, p. 493; Buhite, p. 150; FRUS, China, 1944, p. 248.

42. FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 125-6, 247-8; Buhite, pp. 148-9; White, p. 245.

43. Buhite, pp. 149-51; FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 216, 250-1, 253-6; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 416-7.

44. FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 253-6; Buhite, pp. 151-2; Davies, p. 327.

45. The narrative relating to the Hurley-Nelson mission and the issue of naming Stilwell commander of Chinese forces is drawn from FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 154-5, 157-8, 165-6, 183, 256-9; Davies, pp. 327-32; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 422-72; Buhite, pp. 154-6; Schaller, pp. 168-71; Tuchman, pp. 617-45. Hurley's other eight points were as follows: cooperate with China to bring closer relations with Russia and Britain; unify all military forces under Chiang; marshal Chinese resources for war; submit present and postwar economic plans for China; define Stilwell's powers as field commander; define Stilwell's powers as Chiang's chief of staff; prepare a diagram of command, and discuss future control of lend-lease. See FRUS above, p. 259.

46. In talks with Stilwell on September 12, 1944, Chiang said, "In the past your work has been 100 per cent military." In taking over a command in China, Chiang said his work would be "60 per cent military and 40 per cent political." He also told Vice President Wallace on June 24, 1944, that Stilwell "has no understanding of political matters—he is entirely military in outlook." See Romanus & Sunderland, Command, p. 426; FRUS, White Paper, p. 559.

47. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 433-6.

48. Chiang could not order the divisions at Myitkyina to move because they operated within the Southeast Asia command theater under Lord Mountbatten.

49. FRUS, Quebec, pp. 315, 336, 447-8, 475; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 439-40.

50. FRUS, Quebec, pp. 374, 376, 380-1; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 441-2. Marshall told the Combined Chiefs what he'd done and FDR asked Marshall also to tell Churchill.

51. Buhite, pp. 155-6.

52. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, p. 445.

53. The full message is printed in FRUS, Quebec, pp. 465-6 and Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 445-6. Roosevelt's phraseology in regard to the implied threat about aid to China was as follows: "The action I am asking you to take will fortify us in our decision [to attack in Burma] and in the continued efforts the United States proposes to take to maintain and increase our aid to you. This we are doing when we are fighting two other great campaigns in Europe and across the Pacific. I trust that your far-sighted vision, which has guided and inspired your people in this war, will realize the necessity for immediate action. In this message I have expressed my thoughts with complete frankness because it appears plainly evident to all of us here that all your and our efforts to save China are to be lost by further delays."

54. Stilwell in his diary wrote that, when Chiang read the message, "the harpoon hit him right in the solar plexus." His doggerel verse regarding the event reads as follows: "I've waited long for vengeance—, at last I've had my chance. I've looked the Peanut in the eye, and kicked him in the pants. The old harpoon was ready, with aim and timing true, I sank it to the handle, and stung him through and through. The little bastard shivered, and lost the power of speech, his faced turned green and quivered as he struggled not to screech. For all my weary battles, for all my hours of woe, at last I've had my innings, and laid the Peanut low. I know I've still to suffer, and run a weary race, but oh! the blessed pleasure! I've wrecked the Peanut's face." See Schaller, pp. 169-70; Romanus & Sunderland, Command, p. 445, 448; Joseph W. Stilwell, The Stilwell Papers, edited by Theodore H. White, New York: William Sloane, 1948, p. 334.

55. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 447-56.

56. Ibid., pp. 451-4.

57. Ibid., pp. 456, 459.

58. Ibid., p. 457; FRUS, Quebec, pp. 265-78, 340-1, 377-83, 474.

59. The text of the president's message is in FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 165-6, and in Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 458-9.

60. Chiang's messages to FDR and Hurley are printed in FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 166-70. See also Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 460-4; Tuchman, pp. 638-42.

61. Hurley was so unsophisticated as to believe that the only issue between Roosevelt and Chiang was Stilwell. He liked and trusted Chiang, asked few difficult or embarrassing questions and was taken in by Chiang's careful nourishing of a friendly relationship with Hurley by means of dinner invitations and long discussions. Hurley also didn't understand the fundamental conflict between the Communists who wanted to transform China's society from top to bottom and Chiang and the Nationalists who insisted on maintaining the status quo, with all of its inequities and privileges for the rich and privileged classes. Hurley tried to apply American political standards to China. He was used to two American political parties that were willing to accommodate each other. Hurley thought of the Chinese Communists and the Nationalists as potentially cooperative political parties on the order of Democrats and Republicans. See Buhite, pp. 160-2.

62. Romanus & Sunderland, Command, pp. 468-70; FRUS, China, 1944, pp. 177-8, 183, 185-6, 188-90; Tuchman, pp. 642, 644, 648, 662-3, 668, 674-5. Stilwell remained in Chongqing only forty-eight hours after notice of his recall. He departed on October 21, 1944. General Marshall could immediately find a job only as commander of army ground forces in the states (which handled troop training) and imposed a ban on public statements by Stilwell until after the presidential election. On June 23, 1945, Stilwell took command of the U.S. Tenth Army, then engaged in the conquest of Okinawa, upon the death by a shell blast of the commander, General Simon Bolivar Buckner. After the war he served briefly as president of the War Equipment board in Washington and then as commander of the Sixth Army at San Francisco. He died of cancer on October 12, 1946. On November 3, 1944, the State Department directed Ambassador Gauss to return to the United States "for consultation." He left Chongqing on November 14 and arrived in Washington November 24. After a short period of talks, he went on leave and retired from the foreign service on May 31, 1945.