893.0146/67: Telegram

The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State


558. Your 222, July 13, 5 p.m.

In regard to the expediency of withdrawing from Shanghai the regiment now stationed there, I had previously consulted Cunningham,88 who made a very earnest recommendation against such action.
After receiving the Department’s telegram, I conferred with General Butler and transmitted to Admiral Bristol a statement of my views to the following effect:

“I assume that the proposal of the Navy Department for a reduction of American forces is based on what is considered to be a greater need in some other places. While I cannot judge of the urgency elsewhere, I consider that in regard to China the emergency which requires the presence of our forces as a precautionary measure has not definitely disappeared even though it is perhaps less acute than hitherto. In my view, the military and political situation is not yet stabilized permanently, and we cannot assume that a crisis will not soon occur which will require, for the protection of our citizens, the presence of considerable forces. As I see it, the question presents itself as one of the degree of risk it may be necessary to incur, taking into consideration needs outside of China. At this time I should regret if the forces at Tientsin were reduced; for, while a reduction such as is proposed would still leave sufficient force actually to protect Americans against any reasonably foreseen contingency, I consider that a larger force would tend to minimize the danger of any Chinese action which might result in a clash with our troops in the fulfillment of their duty. If, however, there is a greater need elsewhere, we could, I believe, reduce the brigade of marines at Tientsin to less than two thousand men without undue risk. These marines would be in addition to the infantry forces at Tientsin. This would be in accord with the message from General Butler,89 one (b). The aviation unit, which during the recent crisis gave independent information concerning Chinese troop movements in the neighborhood of Tientsin, I believe should not be reduced below two squadrons.”

A telegraphic reply has now been received by me from the Admiral, who proposes to send to the Navy Department a telegram in substance as follows:

“General Butler’s recommendations regarding the forces which are to be retained in Tientsin, the remainder to be withdrawn, are approved. At present I do not recommend that we withdraw the marines from Shanghai. I approve the reasons which General Butler gives in his recommendation. The remaining force is one which can be quickly moved to any area where probable disturbances would occur, with those vessels which are available, or, in order to avoid hostilities with Chinese troops which are organized, it could be quickly withdrawn. It is not a force of permanent occupation. I recommend that one division of 6 airplanes be retained, since the light cruisers and the fleet seaplanes will be used if necessary.”

  1. Edwin S. Cunningham, consul general at Shanghai.
  2. Recommending (a) the immediate withdrawal of the Fourth Regiment from Shanghai; (b) a second withdrawal of 1,400 of the Third Brigade from the Tientsin area; and (c) the remaining force to total 1,500 men.