Roosevelt Papers: Telegram

President Roosevelt to Prime Minister Churchill 1


Personal and secret from the President for the Former Naval Person No. 254.

I should like to acquaint you with a message received by me from Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek.2 Begin brief of Generalissimo’s message:

Last spring the Prime Minister assured the members of the Pacific War Council that before the end of the next monsoon season, eight [Page 515] battleships, three aircraft carriers and the usual complement of other vessels would be in the Indian Ocean to assist in the recapture of Burma.3 We have been counting on the support of this naval force, for without it the recapture of Burma will be impossible. General Stilwell upon returning from a conference in India informs me that Admiral Somerville stated the British Navy has at its disposal only a few destroyers and submarines for operations in the Bay of Bengal. Furthermore, two months ago General Wavell promised General Stilwell the British could make seven divisions available to assist in the recapture of Burma. Now I learn that only three divisions are to be employed in limited operations with the objective of capturing Akyab and occupying the line of the Chindwin River. You can rely on the Chinese force being concentrated and ready for action on time in accordance with plans already made. I am sure the American air help for the campaign will be present. However, it is impossible to undertake the offensive with my troops unless the British carry out their part of the undertaking. All the principal United Nations spokesmen have pledged that Burma will be recovered in 1943. I therefore earnestly ask that you urge our British Allies to provide the necessary naval, air and land forces to carry out their part. End of brief of Generalissimo’s message.

I understand that definite progress is being made not only in preparations of the Chinese troops in India for the Burma Road operation but also of the Chinese troops in Yunnan. Units are being reorganized and equipped. Some of the supply essentials are even being flown in. I feel that we must do something to ensure that the Chinese put their full weight into the operations which are due to start in March. Can you suggest any assurance which we can give Chiang Kai Shek which will have this effect?

Offensive action by the Chinese and the timeliness of a thrust into Burma this spring are all important. We also want to get started on our air offensive from China against Jap sea lanes (if not Japan itself), the moment sufficient and dependable communications over Burma warrant such action.

That we may forfeit neither the Chinese potential nor the lift to United Nations morale of early action in Burma, I would like to give the Generalissimo the necessary assurances to prevent the Chinese [Page 516] attack stalling. We might together go over the substance of my reply to the Generalissimo later.4

Dill has seen this message.

  1. Sent to the United States Naval Attaché, London, via Navy channels.
  2. The message from Chiang was a telegram dated December 28, 1942 (Roosevelt Papers).
  3. The reference is presumably to statements made in the Pacific War Council in London, of which Churchill was the chairman. The United States was not a member of the London Pacific War Council. On June 25, 1942, during the 12th Meeting of the Pacific War Council in Washington (of which Roosevelt was the chairman), Churchill had stated that the Eastern Fleet would be built up to full strength by August 1942, and this would allow positive help to be given to China. For the record of this Washington Pacific War Council meeting, see ante, p. 448.
  4. Roosevelt acknowledged Chiang’s message of December 28, 1942, in the following message to Chiang dated January 2, 1943, transmitted through Stilwell in Chungking as telegram Ammisca No. 1942:

    “The receipt is acknowledged of your message of December 28 in regard to the proposed Burma campaign.

    “In view of the existing shortage in shipping and present difficulties in providing supplies and reinforcements at their great distance, it is my present thought that an opening of the Burma Road is more important at the present time to our war effort than an occupation of Southern Burma.

    “It is my understanding that the light British naval vessels needed for operations in the Bay of Bengal are now being used to hunt Japanese ships in the vicinity of the Cape of Good Hope, a very necessary employment for them at the present time.

    “I will definitely take up with the highest allied authorities at the earliest possible date the matter of opening the Burma Road without any avoidable delay.

    “Please accept my warm personal regards and my wishes for great and final success in the New Year.” (Roosevelt Papers)