Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Hamilton) of a Conversation With the Chief of Naval Operations (Leahy)
Admiral Leahy telephoned and referred to a telegram which the Navy Department had received yesterday from Admiral Yarnell in which Admiral Yarnell said that he understood that the British would probably withdraw some of their troops from Shanghai in [Page 730] January; that, inasmuch as the fighting had now moved back from Shanghai, the 1,200 Marines which had been sent from San Diego might be withdrawn as soon as a transport could be made available; and that Admiral Yarnell had recommended that if this plan met the approval of the Navy Department announcement to that effect be made. Admiral Leahy said that he had discussed this matter with the Secretary of State yesterday, November 28. He said that it was his feeling that it would be advisable for the Navy Department to make the announcement promptly so that we would not be faced with the fact that some other government had moved before the United States. Admiral Leahy asked me to take the matter up with the Secretary of State with a view to letting Admiral Leahy know what Mr. Hull’s views in the matter were.
I discussed the matter with Mr. Wilson and with the Secretary and then informed Admiral Leahy by telephone that the Secretary’s views were as follows: Inasmuch as the San Diego Marines had been sent to Shanghai pursuant to a recommendation made by Admiral Yarnell and inasmuch as Admiral Yarnell now reported that there was no further need for these Marines at Shanghai and recommended their withdrawal, it was felt that Admiral Yarnell’s recommendation should be adopted. However, it was possible that before a transport could get to Shanghai, which it was understood would be toward the latter part of December, the situation might conceivably change. Consequently, it was suggested that the Navy Department arrange to send a transport to Shanghai as soon as practicable but that no publicity be given to the fact that the transport would be used to withdraw the San Diego Marines. If a question should be asked, the Navy Department might say that the transport was going back to the Asiatic station as part of its normal duties and possibly to assist in the withdrawal of American nationals. When the transport got to Shanghai or shortly before that time, definite decision could be arrived at with regard to the withdrawal of the San Diego Marines and, should the decision be in the affirmative, announcement to that effect could be made at that time.
I told Admiral Leahy also that when I was discussing this matter with the Secretary of State, Mr. McIntyre58 had telephoned on another matter and the Secretary had mentioned the subject under discussion to Mr. McIntyre. I told Admiral Leahy that Mr. McIntyre felt that it would be well for this matter to be referred to the White House in order that the President’s approval might be obtained. I suggested to Admiral Leahy that the Navy Department might send a copy of Admiral Yarnell’s telegram to the White House with a statement of what the Navy Department’s views in the matter were.[Page 731]
Admiral Leahy said that subsequent to his earlier conversation with me he had discussed the subject with Mr. Swanson;59 that Mr. Swanson’s view was that if the United States took the lead in withdrawing some of its armed forces from Shanghai the United States would appear to be scuttling; that if some other power wished to take the lead it could do so; that he did not wish the United States to be put in that light. Admiral Leahy said also that Mr. Swanson wished to refer the matter to the President. Admiral Leahy indicated that Mr. Hull’s views and the procedure suggested by Mr. Hull fell in general line with Mr. Swanson’s views; and Admiral Leahy said that the Navy Department would refer the matter to the President. I said that we of course would give no publicity to the matter and Admiral Leahy said that the Navy Department also would give no publicity.