893.00 Nanking/160: Telegram

The Commander in Chief of the Asiatic Fleet (Williams) to the Office of Naval Operations, Department of the Navy

0003. This message refers to your despatch from the Sec’y of State sent on the 31st43 and the Minister at Peking has just sent me a copy of the telegram he sent to the Sec State on the 29th of last month.44

I believe that prompt action should be taken regarding the ultimatum which was proposed by the Minister and I also concur in regard to the terms set forth in the ultimatum. Since it is most likely that both the Cantonese Government and Chiang Kai-shek will try to blame each other for what has transpired I believe that it would be best if the ultimatum were given to both Chiang and the Cantonese Government. I also advise the cooperative action of the U. S., Great Britain, France and Japan in the matter. This is considered advisable since cooperation would produce results whereas single action on the part of but one government would most likely fail. Although the terms of the ultimatum may be rejected and drastic action would then be necessary I deem it advisable to face such a contingency while allied with some other powers instead of standing alone in the matter.

At a conference this afternoon by the French, British and Japanese Admirals on board the Pittsburgh a discussion took place with regard to the measures which could be possibly taken in case the terms of the ultimatum were rejected. It was a free discussion and no attempt was made to come to any decided agreement. Subsequent to the conference I formed the opinions that any action taken should be that to injure the prestige of the Cantonese in the eyes of the Chinese peoples. The injury of innocent civilians should be avoided. Action should also avoid the showing of any partisanship in the present civil war. (It is considered difficult to carry out this last.) Until the desired effect is obtained I would recommend that the following be carried out:

Capture of the Woosung forts and the destruction of the guns there; seizure of Cantonese naval vessels; withholding of the surtax which is now being paid to the Shanghai Cantonese authorities.
Progressive bombardment of the Yangtse River forts beginning at Kiangyin.
Arsenal at Hankow to be destroyed.
Military yamen, barracks, camps to be bombarded at selected points.
Blockade of portion of coast which is now under Cantonese control and this to be done as a last resort.

2355. Received at 08:07, 4 April, 1927.

  1. See telegram No. 111, Mar. 31, to the Minister in China, p. 170.
  2. Telegram No. 275, Mar. 29, p. 164.