893.0146/89: Telegram

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


810. Legation’s 805, November 1, 11 a.m.

The telegram quoted below has been received from the commander in chief of the Asiatic Fleet:

“0007. The day after I sent to you my 0025–2300, the following cable was received from the Navy Department:

‘Your recommendations are requested by the Department in regard to the reduction by one thousand men, more or less, of the forces on shore in China, the U. S. S. Chaumont to transport the troops on her return trip late in November.’

[Page 318]

The following reply was sent by me:

‘Your 1325–1446 was received by me the day after I had communicated to the American Minister by telegraph a request for his views concerning a comprehensive plan for withdrawing the troops on shore in China. In general it is contemplated by the plan that the artillery and aviation detachment and engineers will be sent home on the U. S. S. Chaumont. The brigade headquarters and the Sixth Regiment would be left to return home on the U. S. S. Henderson in January. I will submit to the Department my recommendations as soon as I receive a reply from the Minister.’

I agree with you that in the matter of maintaining at Tientsin our marine forces there is a frank disagreement between us, and following the conversations which we had last May and September there is no need for us to discuss it further. As you are aware, it is required that I keep the Navy Department constantly and fully informed as to the use of naval forces under my command for ensuring that the lives and property of American citizens will be protected. It is necessary that this be done so that our Government may be assured that its policy is being carried out by me. It is my intention, therefore, to repeat to the Navy Department the messages on the subject which we have exchanged, together with the recommendations following:

‘After a final review of the entire question I recommend:

That the marines on shore in China be gradually withdrawn;
That, considering the tactical and strategic location of Shanghai as well as the section still recognized as the International Settlement, it is the best location for any forces which remain on shore in China, and that the Fourth Regiment be maintained in that city at capacity of strength of two battalions and that they be the last troops to be withdrawn;
That the Legation guard be maintained for the present at a strength of 500;
That the first withdrawal be made from Tientsin this month on the U. S. S. Chaumont, the remainder of the troops in Tientsin to be withdrawn in January on the U. S. S. Henderson.
As to the Minister’s fears in regard to mobs of an unorganized Soldierly and riotous nature, it may be conceded that throughout China the temptation to violence is latent. Protection of the lives and property of American citizens in China will be extended to all places accessible to landing parties of vessels of the fleet, and, if necessary, such protection will be made effective by landing parties from the Fourth Regiment.’

I will [await] your reply before transmitting my message to the Navy Department. 1700.”

I have sent him today the following reply:

“November 5, 9 p.m. Your 0003[0007]–1700 has been received. It is quite agreeable to me that each of us proceed to communicate to our respective departments the correspondence with our several recommendations.

Considering the fifth point of your recommendations, interpreted by me in the light of statements which you made to me during our conversations that marine forces would not have been sent by you to Tientsin and that you would not do so in the future, the following comment is being submitted by me to the Department of State:

Except for Chefoo and Tsingtao, which would have a limited local utility as havens of refuge for Americans in eastern Shantung, there is not in North China any port accessible to vessels of the fleet which would be physically adequate or would be recommended [Page 319] as a refuge or place of concentration for Americans forced to leave the interior. Thus, in practice, a determination not to give protection by maintaining marine forces at Tientsin would nullify, so far as the Asiatic Fleet is concerned, the aim of our Government to maintain such a place of refuge north of the Yangtze River for Americans who again might be compelled to seek protection in the event, altogether possible, of a recurrence of communistic or other antiforeign influences aggravating that inclination toward violence which is latent throughout China. It is recommended by me, therefore, that until the political situation reaches a measure of stabilization which warrants a reconsideration, the marine forces in Tientsin be retained at substantially their present strength.”