Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Navy (Forrestal)

The American Ambassador to China has reported to me in regard to two matters which arose during Admiral Cooke’s recent visit to Nanking.

Admiral Cooke is considering an increase in the number of Marines at Tsingtao from the present strength of 1,900 to a minimum of 4,300 and a maximum of 4,800.
Admiral Cooke expressed the view that he could now “turn the spotlight on the U. S. naval training project,” because the previous objection to publicity based on the possible effect on mediation negotiations was now removed by the cessation of the mediation effort. He expressed a desire to have the Generalissimo inspect the training center at Tsingtao and to make the Chinese aware through publicity that a Chinese navy is being created. He wished to do this in order to raise the morale of the Chinese cadets.

In the absence of evidence of compelling military necessity for increasing the strength of the Marines at Tsingtao, I cannot see that any useful purpose would be served by such a move. I believe that our political policy in China would be embarrassed rather than furthered by such action, and am quite certain that the psychological effect on the Chinese would be bad. Furthermore, the American public has been led to believe that, with the exception of a small detachment at Tsingtao, we are withdrawing our Marines from China. I feel that any substantial increase in the Marine strength at Tsingtao would be ill received by a large section of the American public. But what is more important, I do not see that any useful purpose would be served by the increase of the Marine garrison strength at Tsingtao.

[Page 946]

With regard to publicity for the Naval Advisory Group, it appears to be an inopportune time to launch such a program. The Naval Advisory Group is in Tsingtao, is functioning in accordance with its program, and is not, in so far as I can see, handicapped by the absence of publicity. I confess myself at a loss to understand what good it would do to “turn the spotlight” on the project. On the other hand, I can readily anticipate probable adverse reaction. It would supply those extensive elements in China and America which have been critical of our maintenance of military forces in China with ammunition for attack without any compensatory advantage. Sound public relations policy in this matter would seem to be that, while answering questions of fact precisely and clearly, we should avoid publicity in so far as possible and certainly not seek it.

I hope that you can agree with the views expressed above and will direct that orders be sent to Admiral Cooke to drop both the projects he has in mind. At some convenient time I should welcome an opportunity to discuss with you the matter of Marine strength at Tsingtao in its relation to the Naval Advisory Group and to our policy toward China. I am taking this to you direct rather than through a meeting of the three Secretaries.

G. C. Marshall