Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)
Mr. Berle: Reference Chungking’s 282, February 26, 9 a.m. (copy attached3).
Now is the time, I think, to throw our weight as heavily as possible behind the effort of the Chinese National Aviation Corporation and the Chinese Government to obtain additional transport planes for C.N.A.C.
According to the most recent U.S. official information that has come to my attention, the proposed allocation of five additional transport [Page 663] planes [it is my understanding that thirty had been applied for]3a was recently turned down.
In the course of a conversation with Dr. T. V. Soong4 day before yesterday, I asked Soong regarding the accuracy of reports that C.N.A.C. was going to be absorbed by the U.S. Army into the U.S. armed forces in China. Soong replied very definitely that C.N.A.C. was not going to be thus absorbed; he mentioned and emphasized the fact that C.N.A.C. is a Chinese organization. [The Chinese Government owns 55 (or 51) percent of the stock and American interests (Pan American A.A.) owns 45 (or 49) percent.]3a I then inquired about the question of the five additional planes. Dr. Soong replied that he understood that four were going to be granted. He mentioned that more had been asked for.
C.N.A.C., operating under direction of American administrative personnel, has a superb record in China. You are familiar with parts of that record. Incidentally, C.N.A.C. pioneered in demonstration of the practicability of flying freight between Assam and China. There are indications that the U.S. Army has tried hard to absorb C.N.A.C. In my presence, yesterday, statement was made by a high officer of the U.S. Army Ferry Command that the Army had taken, in China, three of C.N.A.C.’s planes. It has been authoritatively reported that General Stilwell4a opposes giving C.N.A.C. more planes. It may or may not be that the Army, finding itself unable to absorb C.N.A.C. by processes of agreement, is seeking to starve C.N.A.C. out of existence.
However that may be, and whatever lies behind and under the apparent rejection hitherto of proposals for giving C.N.A.C. additional planes, C.N.A.C. should, in my opinion, be kept alive and be given additional planes, not only four planes but a good many more than four planes: this, for political reasons, for economic reasons and even for military reasons. Man for man and plane for plane, I would wager that C.N.A.C. will continuously equal or top the best work of the Army (which is rapidly improving) in carrying freight between Assam and China. Moreover, the Chinese should have some air service at their own command, independently of the U.S. Army and without the necessity of applying to the Army every time they want to send a pound of freight or a passenger. And, there being only one channel of communication between this country and China, the Army ought not have a complete monopoly of that channel: it is good for the Army and for all concerned for the Army to have some competition.