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The Dixie Mission to the Chinese Reds

Excerpt from The Strange Connection: U.S. Intervention in China, 1944-1972, by Bevin Alexander, pages 18-19

The Dixie mission [sent to the Chinese Red capital of Yan’an in July 1944] was an agglomeration of talented but very junior American officers. It included military men like [army Colonel David D.] Barrett and foreign-service officers like [John Stewart] Service, some Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operatives, and apparently an informer for Navy Group China under Captain Milton (Mary) Miles that had connections with Chiang Kai-shek’s secret service chief, Dai Li.

Although the Communist leadership believed the mission indicated a strong American concern for their movement and a disillusionment with the Nationalists, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was interested in it as a lever to maneuver the Reds and Nationalists into a coalition. He probably never contemplated a separate alliance or even an agreement with them. Ever since the Tehran conference, FDR had anticipated the entry of the Soviet Union into the Pacific war. He believed this would increase Red Chinese pugnacity and make Chiang Kai-shek’s position weaker unless a Red-Nationalist agreement could be reached quickly. FDR didn’t want separate American agreements with or independent military aid to the Communists because either would make it harder for Chiang to deal with the Reds. As events were to show, high American officials followed FDR’s policy line faithfully, irrespective of calls for direct ties with the Reds that came from some of the mission members.

The American association with the Chinese Communists opened in friendliness and hope on both sides. The Americans looked toward the assistance of the 470,000 Chinese Red soldiers against the Japanese enemy and entertained ideas that the Communists and Nationalists could patch up their differences and join together in a common government. The Communists sought to undermine American confidence in the Kuomintang by describing it as a dictatorship concerned with suppressing internal opposition.

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