Marshall Mission Files, Lot 54–D270

Brigadier General Henry A. Byroade to General Marshall

Dear General Marshall: During my recent visit to Nanking you stressed the importance of eliminating “debating societies” within the staff of Executive Headquarters. I have given this matter particular attention since Executive Headquarters was first formed and have restudied it thoroughly since my return. I hope to convey herein a background on our methods of operation.

The organization upon which Executive Headquarters should be formed and should operate is, in theory, of course very simple. All matters of policy and decisions of importance should be acted upon by the Three Commissioners. The Operations Division should form the working staff to implement the policies and decisions of the Three Commissioners. This was the concept behind the original organization chart which I drew up in January enroute to Peiping by plane, and this was the method of operation attempted in the first three weeks after our establishment. It soon became apparent, however, this method of operation was unsatisfactory. At the end of this short [Page 909]period, with scheduled Commissioners’ meetings every day, I found that practically no decisions were being made by the Commissioners, and that in most cases the problems were being referred, after long discussion, to the Operations Division for further preparation and study. This procedure could not be allowed to continue, as the effect of referring matters back to the staff after an unsatisfactory Commissioners’ meeting is most undesirable. The reason for the failure of the Commissioners to arrive at agreements under the above procedure at that time was that, while initially the problems under discussion were theoretical, they rapidly became very real and complicated as our Field Teams began to operate. The volume grew so heavy that it was impossible for the Commissioners to have full background on the cases at hand. They needed study and “debate” to bring out the real issues which were almost never self-evident.

It was at this time that General Yeh15 confided in Jack Young16 that if I continued my high pressure tactics he would find it necessary to protest to Chungking. The gradual change of operating procedure that I permitted to take place at that time was not a direct result of General Yeh’s statement, but was due to the fact that from this and other indications I decided a change was necessary in order to establish and maintain the American position of impartiality. We could easily have expedited ourselves into complete liquidation.

It became evident quickly that matters could not be solved by true negotiation, as there was neither the authority nor the desire for concession or compromise; neither did logic enter into the picture to any appreciable degree. It was a pure question of bargaining for every advantage possible. In spite of the American insistence for quick action, both Chinese branches stalled for the time necessary to study each case in detail so as to make certain they could exploit any and every loophole.

Painting with a broad brush, and sweeping statements of generalities which often bring agreement at the higher levels, would not suffice in our operation. We were dealing with realities in which every decision meant an actual loss of ground or face and an imposition upon a field commander. In short, every case was another “Chihfeng.” If they were pushed too fast and too far there was little possibility of reaching workable agreements. On the Committee of Three level it may sometimes be politically advisable to reach agreements even if they are not entirely workable; but such agreements made on our level have a very deleterious effect as they [Page 910]only place our teams in impossible situations at great loss to their prestige.

It is an easy matter, under our present organization, to force matters quickly through Executive Headquarters. I have often done so in sheer exasperation at the slowness of our three-way organization. In some instances, this has been successful. In many others, however, I realize that I have merely forced the matter into a disagreement. Once the Chinese are forced to make a decision and say “No” it is, as you know, extremely difficult to get a reconsideration of their refusal.

The volume of work handled by this Headquarters is extremely large. For instance, there have been received since January something over 1800 Cease-Fire complaints. In addition to the above, team traffic is also heavy as may be indicated by the fact that our serially numbered outgoing radio messages now total over 3,000. Incoming messages from teams probably total twice that number. Letter traffic of both sides addressed to us has grown increasingly heavy, indicating that they desire a complete file on record for use in any eventuality. These matters must be handled and processed regardless of importance, as we cannot be placed in the position of refusing to discuss matters brought before us.

The delay in processing actions through this Headquarters experienced in the past two months is, in my opinion, to be attributed more to the overall political situation than to any defect in our organization. The Communist Branch here has been extremely difficult to deal with and no agreement of any significance has been possible. They have stated openly on a great number of cases that no decision was possible due to the Manchurian situation. Had I pressed for rapid decision on the great number of problems on which I knew decision was not possible, it would have meant forwarding several problems daily to your Committee. These matters in each case were a direct reflection upon the failure of the Chinese to reach fundamental decisions in Chungking. For your Committee to have been forced to devote its efforts to the minor problems of the effect, instead of devoting full time to the cause, would have been very illogical.

Upon my return and my restudy of our operating procedures, I have discovered several minor aspects of our organization that need correction. The process of drawing out a short term, shoestring organization into a sizeable entity with a relatively extended future has given us growing pains and some maladjustments. I find that some matters are being introduced for discussion at the wrong level. Certain matters which should get to the Commissioners quickly and perhaps initially, are not always so handled. I find also a weakness in that part of the organization which briefs the Commissioners and myself upon the up-to-the-minute status of matters under negotiation. [Page 911]In order to make our organization completely effective, changes to correct the above will be made without delay and that matter will be kept under constant review.

In the past two days a more cooperative Communist attitude has been displayed. They now seem to be more willing to cooperate in making our organization effective. If this continues to be true, you will see a great change in our operations.

This letter has not been written in an effort to justify any past mistakes, but instead to give you a clear picture of operations within the Headquarters. Having presented this background, I shall be more than glad to institute at any time any changes that you may suggest.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Byroade
  1. Gen. Yeh Chien-ying, Chinese Communist Commissioner of Executive Headquarters.
  2. Capt. Jack T. Young, of the staff of the American branch of Executive Head-Quarters.