President Roosevelt to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek 58

My Dear Generalissimo: Mr. Currie’s visit affords me an opportunity to return the greetings you sent me59 on Mr. Lattimore’s return. I was glad to learn that you find his work helpful to you. I have always regarded him as both a good American and a good friend of China and I share your confidence in his complete integrity. His intimate knowledge of the Chinese scene has been of great assistance to us.

I gave serious study to your request that Mr. Hopkins visit you for a personal talk. Mr. Hopkins was eager to go and I should have liked to have been able to send him. Various compelling considerations, however, finally and reluctantly forced me to withhold my assent. His health is not robust and the trip is a long and arduous one at this time of year. Moreover, he is playing a most vital role in the war effort here, and I did not feel that I could spare him for an extended period.

I have, therefore, asked Mr. Currie to resume his earlier and most profitable talks with you. Mr. Currie has my complete confidence, has access to me at all times, and has quietly and in the background been active on all phases of Sino-American relations—military, political and economic—since his last visit to China. He will, I am confident, faithfully and accurately convey my specific views and general attitudes to you, and yours to me. It will be the next best thing to our having personal talks, which I hope will not be too long deferred.

There is one apparent misunderstanding which I am most anxious to have cleared up. Since we are fundamentally of the same mind and our countries have common objectives both in the war and in the post-war period, I feel that I can speak frankly and freely to you. I was greatly disturbed and upset by a recent cable from you which [Page 96] intimated that the China theater was no longer regarded here as meriting attention. The simple truth of the matter is that we are doing absolutely all in our power to help China win this war just as we are helping Britain and all the other United Nations to win this war. For you to entertain any thoughts to the contrary leads me to feel that you may not appreciate the strategic picture as it appears to me.

In the past six months it was impossible to prevent Japanese advances and the capture of the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, and Burma. This impossibility arose simply from the element of geography. During this period the first thing to do was to limit the extent of the Japanese advances in order to hold the South Pacific, to prevent us from being bottled up in the United States and to prevent control by Japan of all seaborne commerce in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

This seemed to have been successfully accomplished until ten days ago and then a most unfortunate and unexpected development occurred. As I write this letter Egypt, the Suez Canal, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and even Ethiopia are all threatened with capture by the Germans and Italians. A simple glance at a map will show that if this happens American aid to China will be practically eliminated because of German and Japanese domination of the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Bay of Bengal.

I am sure that in the light of the current situation you would not want the United States at this critical juncture to give no aid to Britain and Egypt since this would jeopardize the whole of the Far East. If you had been in my place, attempting to look at the war in its global aspects, I am sure that you would have done everything possible to bolster our position in the Near East. Your interest in China alone, I feel confident, would have led you to divert a few planes from the Indian theater.

You have yourself suggested the desirability of a single unified command for the whole war. For various and cogent reasons this is not possible to establish in any formal sense. By virtue of the American position, however, I am to a large extent filling that role. It is in this role that I have, as a matter of emergency, sanctioned the diversion of a few available planes from the Indian-China theater, even though earlier, before the emergency arose, I had felt that no diversion would be necessary.

Mr. Currie comes to you at a most critical and anxious time for all of us, and for you in particular. I have no doubt whatever of the ultimate victory of our cause. I am only grieved that our allies should have to bear the major brunt of the fighting in the next few months.

Mrs. Roosevelt joins me in extending our warmest personal regards to you and Madame Chiang.

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt
  1. Photostatic copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N. Y. Signed original transmitted by Lauchlin Currie to Generalissimo Chiang.
  2. Not printed.