Defense Files: Telegram

The Chief of the American Military Mission to China (Magruder) to the President 1

For President. Copies for Secretary of War and Chief of Staff. On night of December 22, at the home of the Generalissimo, exploratory talks toward the initial joint military conference were held with Chinese, British and U.S. members present in accordance with War Department’s No. 69 and our No. 112.2 At the request of the Generalissimo another conference was held on the morning of December 23 with War Minister Ho Ying Chin. Neither Russia nor the NEI were represented. General Chiang opened the formal conference on the afternoon of December 23 which continued into the morning of the 24th.

Following is a paraphrase of 5 points which were adopted by the conference:

The defense of Burma is of primary importance with a later extension of joint action from China, with concurrent air offensive [Page 272] against enemy bases to the fullest extent possible with present resources.
Maintain the Chinese resistance by continuing supply toward the preparation of Chinese armies for future offensive action.
Chinese to contain enemy forces on their front by pressure and attack and threats of attack upon vulnerable communications.
Assume the offensive with all British, Chinese and American means available as soon as resources permit.
The Joint Military Council set up in Chungking to submit information and recommendations on the strategy involved in the East Asian Theatre. These plans to be presented for consideration to a supreme War Council which Chungking representatives hope will soon be established as a permanent organization.

It was agreed for the present:

That the Chungking Council should consist of Ho Ying Chin and the Chiefs of the British and U.S. Missions.
That an American appointed by the Chief of U.S. Military Mission act as Chairman of the Council Secretariat.

Prior to arrival in Chungking Wavell and Brett had no knowledge of the President’s plans for the conference. Wavell had three missions to accomplish:

Obtain control of Chinese Lend-Lease supplies in Burma.
Assign at least 2 of the 3 AVG squadrons for Burma defense.
To discuss participation of the Chinese troops in the defense of Burma.

Reference Lend-Lease material.3 My personal effort was necessary to cause (garble) Wavell to abandon his apparent intentions to make blanket demands on Chinese rather than request specific items. My instructions that Chinese acquiescence was a prerequisite to retransfer of this Lend-Lease material had to be impressed repeatedly on Wavell.

The Chinese offered 2 army corps for the defense of Burma but they were declined by Wavell to the displeasure of the Generalissimo. The British attitude was inconsistent in view of the picture of Burma’s defenselessness which had been presented by the British in their pleas for air assistance and transfer of Lend-Lease material.

Chiang Kai Shek did not commit himself to the release of additional AVG squadrons to Burma. His announced reason for this was [Page 273] that the existing air warning nets in Burma were insufficient. I believe his real reasons to be:

Objection to the AVG serving out (our) side [outside] China.
Desire for strong defense of Kunming.
Adverse Chinese political reaction which would result if the only effective air defense were relinquished.

Wavell and Brett departed for Rangoon night of December 24th.

  1. The telegram was sent as No. 124 from the American Military Mission to the War Department. The source text is a paraphrase.
  2. Not printed. For the origin of the preliminary military conferences at Chungking and Singapore, see ante, p. 3. A detailed treatment of the Chungking Conference will be found in Romanus and Sunderland, pp. 52–57.
  3. The reference is to American lend-lease material in Rangoon which was destined for China but was hastily turned over to the British (in part seized by British troops) on December 19–20 because of the immediate Japanese threat to the area. The incident, known as the Tulsa affair, is discussed in detail in Romanus and Sunderland, pp. 57–60; see also Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. v, pp. 767773.