The Ambassador in China (Gauss) to the Secretary of State

No. 2161

Sir: Referring to the Embassy’s despatch no. 2118 of February 3, 1944, in regard to the plot of a group of young Chinese army officers aimed at removing from the Government corrupt and inefficient high ranking civil and military officials, I have the honor to enclose a copy of a memorandum of February 10, 1944, prepared by Second Secretary John S. Service, on detail to General Stilwell’s Headquarters, regarding this plot.

Summary. Mr. Service states that General Feng Yu-hsiang,59 in a recent interview with a foreign newspaper correspondent, described as substantially correct the story of the plot containing the plans for the detention of President Chiang Kai-shek at Kunming, the demands for the removal of Dr. H. H. Kung, General Ho Ying-chin, Dr. Chen Li-fu and Mr. Chen Kuo-fu and the subsequent discovery of the conspiracy resulting in the arrest and execution of 16 generals. Madame Sun Yat-sen60 has informed Mr. Service of her knowledge of the existence of such a group. She said that the plot had caused great concern in the “highest places” (apparently a reference to the Generalissimo), that it was not yet known whether it had been completely uncovered as it had wide ramifications throughout the army and that it actually involved a threatened coup d’état. Whampoa military sources explain the plot as being connected with General Ho Ying-chin’s attempt to institute a general staff system modeled along German lines (as described in Embassy’s despatch under reference) and deny that it was aimed at the removal of General Ho. Although Chinese official quarters may continue to deny officially the existence [Page 335] of this plot, details thereof have been reported by a considerable number of important non-communist sources at Chungking. End of Summary.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss

Memorandum by the Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Service)

Subject: “Young Generals Group”.

To: Assistant Chief of Staff, G–2.61

The following reports are submitted in continuation of previous memoranda regarding the formation and exposure of a group within the Chinese Army which had the intention of bringing pressure on the Generalissimo to make certain important government changes.

Guenther Stein (Manchester Guardian and Christian Science Monitor) in an interview with General Feng Yu-hsiang about 10 days ago, inquired whether the current story of an officers group was true. The General asked: “What is your version?” Stein then recounted a rather extreme story of the affair (which he says he had heard from several reliable Chinese contacts) mentioning, for instance: the intention to kidnap Chiang in Kunming, the demands that Ho Ying-chin, H. H. Kung and the Chen brothers be removed, and the subsequent arrest and execution of 16 generals. General Feng’s only comment was: “Your report is substantially correct”.

Today I mentioned the affair to Madame Sun Yat-sen, asking her opinion of the effort of certain (Kuomintang) quarters to cast the blame for it on the Communists. She said that she knew that such a group had existed, that it had caused a great deal of concern in the “highest places” (apparently a reference to her brother-in-law, the Generalissimo), that there had been “a lot” of arrests, that they were not yet satisfied that they had completely uncovered its ramifications because it was widespread and included a considerable section of the army, and that it actually involved a threatened coup d’état. The attempt to blame the Communists, she said, was absurd because the plot was thoroughly “Fascist” in spirit and objective. She added that if the Kuomintang believed its own story that Communist intrigue could have such influence in the army, it would not now be willing to negotiate with the Communists.

White62 (Luce Publications) has the following explanation of the affair which he says comes from a “high and reliable Whampoa (military) [Page 336] source”. “General Ho Ying-chin has been trying to institute a General Staff system, modeled after the German, throughout the Chinese Army. Under this system, representatives of the General Staff (under Ho Ying-chin) would be in a position to more or less dictate to field commanders to whom they were attached, even though the field commanders might be senior in rank. To carry this out, Ho has been using the graduates of the Staff College (Lu Chün Ta Hsueh) which is under Ho’s domination. Attempts to set up the system have created friction in the Army especially under commanders, such as Chen Cheng, who are unfriendly to Ho. The staff officers, finding themselves unable to accomplish very much (and possibly with what they might have considered tacit approval of Ho), decided to take matters into their own hands. The present conspiracy was started by 16 members of the 9th class of the Staff College, all of whom have been arrested.” This story agrees in some particulars with other reports. It also explains some seeming inconsistencies: that General Chang Chih-chung (see my memorandum of February 363) does not name Ho Ying-chin as one of the targets; and that General Chen Cheng is reported by some sources to have been responsible for exposing the plot. However the report of motivation hardly seems satisfactory and the Whampoa source is probably not unprejudiced.

These reports bring the number of important non-Communist sources from which this story has come to more than ten. It is understandable that the Chinese for “face” reasons may refuse to admit officially the existence of such dissension within the Army. It is significant, however, that not a single source which I have approached has been without knowledge of it.

John S. Service
  1. Member of Chinese National Military Council.
  2. Sister of Mme. Chiang Kai-shek and Mme. H. H. Kung.
  3. Intelligence section at Headquarters, U. S. Army Forces, China, Burma, and India.
  4. Theodore H. White.
  5. Not printed, but see despatch No. 2118, February 3, from the Ambassador in China, p. 319.