898.00/6–2844: Telegram

The Officer in Chargé at New Delhi (Merrell) to the Secretary of State

472. Following for President from Wallace (Message No. 2).

  • “1. As I took leave the Generalissimo requested with some urgency that you appoint a personal representative, to serve as liaison between you and him as Carton de Wiart55 does between him and Churchill. In my opinion, a move of this sort, but of an even more far-reaching nature, is strongly indicated by the politico-military situation.
  • 2. The fact in China at present is the strong probability that East China will be lost to the Japanese in the near future. All informants [Page 236] agree that East China can only be saved by unforeseeable chance. The probable rapidity of the Japanese conquest is variously estimated. While more time may be consumed before all of East China is occupied, I feel you should be prepared to see the campaign brought to an end, and all of East China including all forward American air bases in Japanese hands, within 3 or 4 weeks.
  • 3. Loss of East China will not only nullify our current military effort in this area, it will also prove, I am certain, a violent political and economic shock to the already weakened Chungking regime. The extent of disintegration and demoralization which will ensue cannot be exactly predicted, but again I feel you should be prepared to see China rendered almost valueless as an Allied military base unless determined steps are taken to halt the disintegration process. Popular and military morale, both gravely impaired already, must somehow be restored. A new offensive effort must somehow be organized, and I take it that in its first stages this effort will have to be primarily of a guerrilla character.
  • 4. Political factors must also be considered. Partial or [in] complete action of the Chungking régime will leave in China a political vacuum, which will be filled in ways you will well understand.
  • 5. I have drawn the foregoing picture on the basis of the best information available in order to show you how bad the situation is and how permanent the effects will be unless something is done. On the other hand, if the right steps are promptly taken, the situation is far from hopeless and may actually be turned to both military and political advantage. The Generalissimo is deeply alarmed, most anxious for aid and even guidance, and ready, I believe, to make relatively drastic changes if wisely approached. The general insecurity has undermined the vested interests of his régime. In short, affairs are in a more fluid state, and therefore are more subject to judicious negotiation and effective leadership, than ever in the East. With the right man to do the job, it should be possible to induce the Generalissimo to reform his régime and to establish at least the semblance of a united front, which are necessary to the restoration of Chinese morale; and to proceed thereafter to organizing the new offensive effort for which restored morale will provide a foundation.
  • 6. What is needed is an American general officer of the highest caliber in whom political and military authority will be at least temporarily united. In view of the operations in Burma, it appears impossible for General Stilwell56 to maintain the close and continuous contact with the Generalissimo which is a sine qua non; and the Generalissimo also informed me bluntly that General Stilwell does not enjoy his confidence because of his alleged inability to grasp overall political considerations. Nor do I think that any American officer now in China is in a position to undertake this politico-military assignment. Chennault57 enjoys the Generalissimo’s full confidence but he should not be removed from his present effective military position. Generalissimo is very enthusiastic about Chennault but it seems to me Chennault should be left right where he is. The man who can do the job must be one who will (1) be able to establish himself in [Page 237] the Generalissimo’s confidence to a degree that the latter will accept his advice in regard to political as well as military action to strengthen the war effort, (2) competently command all American forces in China, and (3) achieve full coordination between the American and Chinese military efforts. It is essential that command of American forces in China be conferred upon him, since without this his effort will have no significance. It appears to me that the fact that General Stilwell cannot abandon his responsibilities in Burma makes the appointment of such an officer entirely logical. He may either be made General Stilwell’s deputy in China, with a large measure of local independence and the right to deal directly with the White House on political questions, or China may be separated from General Stilwell’s present command.
  • 7. Without the appointment of such a fully qualified and authorized representative you must expect the situation here to drift continuously from bad to worse. The time factor is also critical.
  • I embody this complex question in a telegram for the reason that I believe the individual in question must be appointed and must reach Chungking before East China is finally lost, so that he can assume control of the situation before it degenerates too far.
  • 8. I am naturally not competent to propose a man for the job, assuming you accept my analysis. The name of General Wedemeyer58 has been strongly recommended to me, however, and I am told that during his visit here he made himself persona grata to the Generalissimo.
  • 9. In making the foregoing recommendations I realize that my opinions are based on a very short stay, including thus far only the cities of Chungking and Kunming, and that the number of people, both American and Chinese, who could be consulted, has necessarily been limited. In particular I regret not having been able to see General Stilwell and get his views. Nevertheless, I am convinced of the need for the vigorous action summed up in paragraph 6 of my message no. 1.”

Please acknowledge receipt of this message and No. 471.59

  1. Lt. Gen. Adrian Carton de Wiart, representative of the British Prime Minister and of the Supreme Allied Commander to Generalissimo Chiang.
  2. Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, Commanding General, U. S. Army Forces in China, Burma, and India.
  3. Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault, Commanding General, U. S. 14th Air Force in China.
  4. Maj. Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, U. S. Army, Deputy Chief of Staff, Headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander Southeast Asia, in India.
  5. Supra.