121.5493/4–947: Telegram

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

766. Deptel 403, April 4, 8 p.m. was received just as the Embassy was about to send its 752, April 6, 10 a.m. (number cancelled) pointing out that despite its attempts to explore all possible channels to secure the release of Major Robert Rigg and Captain John Collins, such efforts had so far seemingly proven unavailing and suggesting as the only remaining alternative that the Soviet Embassy in Nanking request the Soviet Consul General at Harbin to transmit a message to the appropriate Chinese Communist authorities in Manchuria with the view of the establishment of some new channel of communication whereby the Communists might comply with their commitment to release Rigg and Collins immediately.

Pursuant to the Dept’s suggestion, the Embassy has now taken up this question with the Soviet Embassy informally. Circumstances of the case whereby Rigg and Collins were captured when they became lost northeast of Changchun were explained to the Soviet Embassy, together with an account of the negotiations resulting in Chinese Communists’ agreement to instruct General Lin Piao to release Rigg and Collins immediately and the failure of the arrangements to develop fruitfully due to bad atmospheric conditions. It was stated to the Soviet Embassy that since all other efforts of communication had failed and since the Soviet Union is the only govt which maintains representatives in Communist Manchuria, it would be appreciated if the Soviet Consul General at Harbin could be requested to transmit, on behalf of the American Embassy, a message to the appropriate Communist authorities asking them to establish a new channel of communications in order to comply with the Communist commitment for the release of Rigg and Collins.

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Soviet Embassy replied that the question is a delicate one from their standpoint and is further complicated by the fact that they have no direct communication with their officials in Communist Manchuria, but that they will be pleased to transmit the American request to Moscow for re-transmission to Harbin, upon receipt of an aide-mémoire which has now been delivered.

The following message has been received by the director, UNRRA China office,20 from UNRRA chief regional representative in Manchuria:21

“Cable22 despatched to Li Li-san23 at Harbin March 7 requesting interim care and safe conduct to national lines for Rigg and Collins on basis personal friendship. No reply received as radio communication discontinued Bodine presently en route Harbin authorized make discreet enquiries, and if possible return Rigg and Collins by UNRRA transportation. Will continue efforts relative your request also on basis of personal regard for Rigg and Collins. Bodine advised to be guided by Clubb in all negotiations.”

  1. Maj. Gen. Glen E. Edgerton.
  2. Gordon Menzies.
  3. Undated telegram drafted by Mr. Clubb for transmittal to General Lin Piao; it asked when the two officers could be released and pointed out that the UNRRA convoy offered “a most excellent and reasonably safe means” for returning them to Changchun. The message was turned over to Cornelius Bodine, who was in charge of the convoy, with the request that it be dispatched at the first point in Communist-controlled territory having telegraphic connections with Harbin. (Nanking Embassy Files, Lot F79, 310 Rigg–Collins File)
  4. Chinese Communist political adviser to General Lin Piao.