The Secretary of War (Patterson) to the Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary: As a result of our meeting of February 12, I have devoted considerable study to the entire problem of U. S. policy towards China. While the primary responsibility for this very important problem must rest with the Department of State, I am sure that no one realizes more keenly than you do that the entire question of China’s future, and the U. S. interest therein, is a matter of considerable import to the military security of this nation. It would therefore appear to me profitable to give SWNCC37 special instructions from the Committee of Three to produce, within a reasonable time, a study and policy on China, consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the military aspects of the problem. Or, alternatively, we might establish a special interdepartmental committee, similar to that for Korea, which shall have for its purpose the development of a China policy for the approval of the three Secretaries.38

I believe that an appropriate point of departure might well be the eight points proposed by you in your memorandum of February 11.39 In that regard I have some comments which appear to me to be pertinent to these eight points and which, if agreeable to you, could serve as further guidance to the committee.

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With regard to point number one, I believe that it will be necessary to determine the nature of the unity which we expect the Chinese Government to achieve. I hope that, as a result of our encouragement, ultimately a democratic multiparty government will evolve along the lines suggested in your recent statement, and that this government will draw to it those liberal elements whose repugnance to the present National Government has to date kept them aloof from that government. I doubt if we can expect a greater degree of unity at this time. While a broader base is essential in the government of China, I believe that we must recognize the fundamental nature of the differences between the Chinese Communist Party and any non-Communist government. Certainly during the period of Soviet occupation of Manchuria there was a close relationship between the Chinese Communist forces and the Soviets. There is obviously a continuing community of interest and identity of aims between the Chinese Communists and Soviet-inspired international Communism. For that reason I am doubtful if an arrangement which unifies China, and still does not give the Chinese Communists the power to control or destroy the government can ever be evolved between the Chinese Communists and a non-Communist government.

Point number two bears directly on the previous one. I agree with the necessity for a sympathetic attitude in determining the extent to which China fulfills the conditions which are prerequisite to giving economic aid. Even though we may not wish to inform the Chinese as to the exact standard of performance which we shall require, I believe that we must determine this standard for our own use in judging their attitude and accomplishments. It may be that improvement of the political situation in China is so contingent on economc improvement that any decision to withhold U. S. economic advice and assistance until positive political advancement is achieved, is tantamount to a decision that we will do nothing about the problem in the foreseeable future.

With regard to point number three, I find it very difficult to distinguish clearly between military aid which might contribute to or encourage civil war, and military or any other type of economic or material aid which would not have such an effect. Any stipulation similar to this point must be considered with the greatest care to avoid the impossible situation in which General Wedemeyer40 was placed by his post-hostilities directive, which ordered him to assist National Government armies in the re-occupation of North China, but not to [Page 801] allow such assistance to influence the internal strife involved in that re-occupation. I do not believe that the U. S. should be prepared to accept with equanimity the military collapse of the National Government. In the event of such a collapse the Chinese Communist Party, as the only strong and disciplined group in China, would be in a strong position to seize control of the entire country, with or without Russian support. I believe that this is an aspect of the problem which should be considered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the light of the strategic situation in the Far East, and particularly in Manchuria.41

I agree with point number four and believe that the present projected group is approximately sufficient. Legislation has already been enacted covering the naval portion of the Advisory Group. The War Department has place its dependence for legislation on sponsorship by the State Department of a suitable bill.

With regard to the fifth point, I am firmly convinced that the effectiveness of the Military Advisory Group, and other policy measures, may be substantially reduced if provision is not made, through the Advisory Group Bill or other means, for U. S. equipment to be made available at the discretion of the State Department. The reorganization of China’s armed forces will be very difficult without the matériel required to increase Chinese military efficiency. I believe that this is another question which merits further study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.41

I agree with the intent of point number six. The Secretary of State unquestionably has the primary interest as to timing and political expediency of transferring military equipment to China. Present proposed legislation, however, provides that final decision on matters of this sort shall rest with the President. In view of the fact that funds, personnel and functions of other departments are involved, it would seem appropriate that the President should retain this final responsibility in so far as legislation is concerned.

The decision relative to point number seven is essentially a State Department responsibility. In this connection, however, the War Department is already unable to meet the full requirements to supply both military and civilian type items involved in the 8⅓ group program and other programs. Attached as an enclosure is a study of this problem which points out the urgent need for some early political decisions in order to preclude possible serious embarrassment to the U. S. Government.

Point number eight is closely related to several of the previous points. I believe study should be given to the manner in which judicious U. S. assistance, such as the transfer of these ships, will work [Page 802] towards the industrial and economic development of China, and will assist in bringing about real peace and stability.

Whatever forms this assistance may take, we must be certain that it is effective, and consistent with U. S. aims in China. In order to assure this, I believe consideration should be given to the establishment of an Economic Advisory Group which would have, in the economic field, the same sort of mission now envisaged for the Military Advisory Group in the military field.42

Sincerely yours,

Robert P. Patterson

Military Assistance to China

Since V–J Day the United States has adopted a general policy of limited military assistance to China. This policy has been based on:
The President’s oral statement to Mr. T. V. Soong on 14 September 1945,43
U. S. Policy towards China as approved by the President on 11 [15] December 1945,44
Agreed policies of the State, War and Navy Departments (specifically SWNCC 83/645 and SWNCC 83/1746), and
Decisions made by General Marshall in his capacity as Special Presidential Envoy in China.
In support of this policy of military assistance, the War Department has had primary responsibility for planning and implementing five specific programs involving the supply of military equipment to China:47
The Chinese Air Force (8⅓ Group) Program (See Tab “A”)
The Reoccupation Program (See Tab “B”)
The Communist Training Program (See Tab “C”)
The Chinese Peacetime Army Program (See Tab “D”)
The Occupation (of Japan) Program (See Tab “E”)
As discussed more fully in the enclosures, these programs cannot now be fully implemented by the War Department because of (a) policy decisions suspending transfer of purely military items to China, (b) non-existence of requisite conditions in China, (c) transportation, legal and financial impediments to the transfer of equipment, and (d) insufficient stocks of equipment to meet the full requirements of these [Page 803] programs. Pending transfer to China, therefore, large quantities of equipment of all types are being stored and maintained by the Army. Budgetary and manpower limitations are such that, despite diversion of funds and personnel from other War Department requirements, there is serious deterioration and waste of all items involved.
It is realized that the State Department must determine, on the basis of political factors involved, the extent to which these programs must be fulfilled as U. S. commitments to China. It is essential, however, that the State Department realize that under present circumstances the War Department is unable to meet the full requirements of these programs as originally planned. As deterioration of stockpiled items increases, and as funds and personnel become more scarce, the extent to which the War Department will be able to implement these programs will steadily decrease. If the political decision is made to continue complete or partial implementation of these programs, the U. S. Government may soon find itself in a very embarrassing position through inability to deliver the goods, unless special funds are made available (a) to repair and replace unserviceable equipment (b) to procure those items which have never been available, and (c) to defray packing and shipping costs incident to Surplus Property transactions. This, of course, will require the highest political decision, enabling Legislation and adequate prior planning.
For planning purposes, therefore, it is essential that the War Department be informed as soon as possible (a) the extent to which these programs are to be carried out, and (b) the timing of such implementation as will be required. Unfavorable public and Congressional reaction may be expected if this equipment steadily deteriorates, or if a great expenditure of funds and manpower is required to maintain or replace it.
  1. State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee.
  2. Marginal notation by the Secretary of State concerning the last sentence: “?GCM”.
  3. See footnote 20, p. 794.
  4. Lt. Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, Commanding General U.S. Forces, China Theater, October 31, 1944–May 1, 1946, and Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Supreme Commander, China Theater.
  5. Marginal notation by the Secretary of State concerning last sentence: “Yes”.
  6. Marginal notation by the Secretary of State concerning last sentence: “Yes”.
  7. Marginal notation by the Secretary of State concerning the last sentence: “?”.
  8. Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. vii, p. 561.
  9. Ibid., p. 768. For text of statement dated December 15 from President Truman to General Marshall, see ibid., p. 770.
  10. Report of October 22, 1945, ibid., p. 583.
  11. Note of February 13, 1946, ibid., 1946, vol. x, p. 817.
  12. Subenclosures not printed.