The Consul at Kunming (Ringwalt) to the Ambassador in China (Gauss)15

No. 36

Sir: I have the honor to refer to this Consulate General’s telegram no. 14, dated March 1, 6 p.m.,16 and to report that on February 20, 1944 an American military convoy, comprising three jeeps and five trucks, was attacked and looted by bandits while en route from Kaiyuan, an important station on the Yunnan–Indochina Railway, to Headquarters Ninth Group Army at Wenshan. This is the third instance of an attack on an American military convoy in eastern Yunnan; the first took place near Iliang on October 16, 1943 (reference the Consulate General’s despatch no. 135, dated October 29, 194317); and the second near Milo on January 11, 1944 (reference despatch no. 19, dated January 15, 194416).

Summary: The third recent instance of an attack by bandits on an American military convoy in eastern Yunnan occurred in Kaiyuan district on February 20, 1944. The convoy was stripped of arms, munitions, supplies and equipment, but none of the American personnel was seriously hurt. The case is complicated by the refusal of both the First Group Army at Mengtze and the Ninth Group Army at Wenshan to accept responsibility for the maintenance of peace and order in Kaiyuan. Headquarters Y Force has reported the matter to Headquarters in Chungking, but so far has lodged no protest with the local military authorities and has not officially informed the Consulate [Page 1103] General. Pending the receipt of adequate reparation and assurances that the situation is under control, the military training program in southern Yunnan has been suspended. [End of Summary]

An American military convoy en route to Headquarters Ninth Group Army at Wenshan, Yunnan, which had been held up for several days for motor repairs at Kaiyuan, was attacked on the motor highway about forty miles east of Kaiyuan by a gang of perhaps two hundred bandits. The convoy was led by an American major, and included seven other members of the United States armed forces, interpreters and members of families of ranking Chinese officers at Wenshan. The Chinese bandits were well armed and disciplined but not uniformed; it is quite possible that they were deserters from the armed forces in eastern Yunnan who have been terrorizing the country for the past few months. After an exchange of fire lasting about fifteen minutes, the American convoy was forced to surrender. One American soldier suffered a nicked ear; otherwise there were no casualties among the United States armed forces. The members of the convoy were robbed of their arms, munitions, supplies and equipment, and were forced to salute their captors who, however, did not further molest them and, after a short time, disappeared into the hills.

The attack occurred in Kaiyuan district in an area not under clear-cut military control. Some days previous to the incident, the magistrate, alarmed at the presence of bandits in numbers too great for his inadequate militia to cope with, petitioned General Lu Han, the commander of the First Group Army stationed at Mengtze, to despatch troops to Kaiyuan to deal with them. General Lu referred the matter to General Kwan Ling-chen, the commander of the Ninth Group Army, claiming that his own forces were too far removed from the scene. General Kwan has now despatched two battalions to suppress the bandits, but after more than a week they have accomplished little, having been able to produce only a few scapegoats and odds and ends of stolen equipment.

This Consulate General learned of the affair only yesterday evening from a junior officer attached to Headquarters Y Force. Today the matter was discussed at some length with Brigadier General Frank Dorn, Commanding Officer, Headquarters Y Force. It seems that he does not wish to file a formal protest with the Chinese military authorities until certain aspects of the matter, particularly the question of local jurisdiction and responsibility, have been settled. He has, of course, reported the case to Headquarters in Chungking, and with its approval he has temporarily suspended all training activities and cut off further shipments of supplies to the entire southern [Page 1104] area of Yunnan pending such time as the authorities make appropriate reparation and give evidence that they have the situation in hand. It is well known that General Kwan is an enthusiastic believer in and supporter of the whole Chinese training program, and General Dorn feels that the quickest way to get action is to put a temporary stop to the program.

It now appears that both General Kwan and General Lu are trying to evade responsibility, each claiming that the maintenance of peace in Kaiyuan is in the other’s province. General Kwan is a Central Government appointee and commands Central Government troops, while General Lu is a cousin of Chairman Lung Yun, and his troops, although nominally Central Government forces, are actually Yunnanese. The rivalry and suspicion that exists between them is typical of the distrust and ill feeling which constantly mar the relations between Central and Provincial Government officials in Yunnan.

Unless and until a formal report of the incident is received from Headquarters Y Force, and in the absence of instructions from the Embassy to the contrary, the Consulate General will make no representations to the provincial authorities.

Respectfully yours,

Arthur R. Ringwalt
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department without covering despatch; received March 14.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See communication No. 135, October 29, 1943, from the Consul at Kunming to the Ambassador in China, Foreign Relations, 1943, China, p. 722.
  4. Not printed.