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

No. 1679

Sir: Replying to the Department’s confidential telegram No. 311, of September 13th, I have the honor to report that in my opinion the services of the United States Army Forces in China have been altogether satisfactory from the viewpoint of the Department of State.

Throughout the considerable period during which the 15th Infantry [Page 321] has been on duty in North China, its discipline has been admirably maintained, and the conduct of the command has been exemplary; the Regiment has not only avoided making its presence conspicuous in a way that would be undesirable in view of the circumstances, but it has kept up very friendly relations with the Chinese officials and people, and (largely through the care devoted to having the men learn to understand and speak some elementary colloquial Chinese) it has been notably successful in minimizing encounters and misunderstandings with the people of the country.

During the past year or so, the fine spirit of the Regiment has been manifested by the way in which they have behaved with regard to the coming to Tientsin of the 3rd Brigade of the United States Marine Corps. While theoretically there is no occasion for jealousy or friction between two of the forces of the United States Government, it is of course a fact of human nature that antagonisms between different military organizations are likely to occur, and indeed difficult to prevent; and in this case it would not have been hard to understand if the Infantry, which had long been the sole American force in Tientsin, had felt an aggrieved sense of being relegated to a position of inferiority by the coming of a very much larger force of Marines. I consider that great credit is reflected upon the spirit and discipline of the Army force—as also upon that of the Marine Brigade—by the almost complete absence of any friction or ill-feeling between them: both forces have done their duty, and worked heartily in cooperation, in a way in which I feel we can justifiably take great pride.

As regards the cooperation of the United States Army Forces with the Legation, I am happy to record my appreciation of the way in which both of the Generals commanding these forces during my term as Minister have lived fully and loyally up to the spirit of the War Department’s communication of November 21, 1922 to the Department of State92 (see Department’s instruction No. 268, December 1, 1922,93 file No. 124.9318/95). To an extent greater than was foreseen by the correspondence cited, recent events in China have involved political or diplomatic issues with the military problems confronting our armed forces in this country: and there have been repeated occasions in which urgent considerations of policy have had to override what would have been the natural and spontaneous judgment of a commander governed solely by the desire to meet most effectively and with a minimum of risk a purely military situation; and on such occasions the Legation might have been embarrassed, if [Page 322] indeed the policy of our Government were not frustrated, had there not been on the part of our military authorities a whole-hearted and ungrudging readiness to be guided by the judgment of the Minister to the fullest extent compatible with their military responsibility. … I have always found on the part of General Connor94 and of General Castner95 the most complete and sympathetic cooperation in the carrying out of the Legation’s views, even under circumstances in which I fully realized that they were consciously conceding something from strict military doctrine.

I trust that this despatch adequately replies to the inquiry made, in behalf of the War Department, for reasons which I have no means of surmising; and should it not do so, I should be happy to supplement it upon receiving further indications of the nature of the opinions desired.

Although it may be inadvisable to reveal the fact that the inquiry was made, I feel so strongly and so enthusiastically appreciative of the services of the United States Army Forces in China that I venture to suggest that the War Department might see fit to communicate the substance of it to the Commanding General of the Forces. …

I have [etc.]

J. V. A. MacMurray
  1. Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 873.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Brig. Gen. William D. Connor, commanding U. S. Army forces in China, April 13, 1923, to May 15, 1926.
  4. Brig. Gen. Joseph C. Castner, commanding U. S. Army forces in China, May 15, 1926, to March 17, 1929, when the status of this force as a separate command was terminated.