Minutes of Conference Concerning China10
Responsive to the Navy Department’s letter of February 8, 194714 suggesting a conference concerning China, a conference was held in [Page 947] the Secretary’s office on February 20, 1947 with the above-mentioned officials present. The conference began at 2:40 p.m. and lasted until 4:20 p.m.
Mr. Forrestal opened the conference by reading the attached prepared memorandum15 which calls for a redetermination of United States objectives in China in order that diminishing naval resources may be most effectively utilized. Thereafter the various items on the agenda were discussed seriatim, with results as indicated hereunder.
A. Naval Assistance to China
1. To what extent should the Naval Advisory Group authorized by Public Law 512 of the 79th Congress now carry on its intended purpose?
It was agreed that the Naval Advisory Group should carry out its full program as specified in, and within the limits of, Public Law 512.
Secretary Forrestal raised the question of a separate agreement for the establishment of a Naval Advisory Group in China, Secretary Marshall stated that this was a matter which he felt should be worked out between the War and Navy Departments and that for his part he had no objection to a separate agreement for the Naval Group. He added that any decision in this regard should be reached in consultation with the War Department.
2. To what extent should naval vessels and material be transferred to China under Lend-Lease?
It was agreed that no further transfers of naval vessels and material to China would be made under Lend-Lease.
3. To what extent should naval vessels be transferred to China under the authority of Public Law 512?
The Secretary said that he was agreeable to the issuance at this time of an executive order to implement Public Law 512. In this connection he stated that, whereas political considerations and adverse publicity must be given due weight, nevertheless he felt that in this instance, as in other instances not related to hostilities, we should proceed with our program of naval assistance to China.
Mr. Forrestal and Admiral Nimitz agreed to the insertion in the draft executive order of a clause which had been proposed by the State Department as follows: “If at any time it appears to the Secretary of State that the transfer of such vessels and craft and material is not in the public interest, such transfers shall be discontinued.” The Secretary pointed out that this clause was similar to that contained in other agreements with China and was largely for Chinese consumption.[Page 948]
B. Fleet Operations in Chinese Waters
1. Is there need for Marines at Tsingtao to protect American nationals other than those associated with the naval service?
The Secretary stated that in deliberating on this question consideration should be given to our position in relation to the integrity of our international position. He said that the reactionary Chinese clique now in the saddle would desire nothing more than to involve us in difficulties with the Soviet Government and that the Chinese military would also be pleased to be relieved of most of their responsibility for guarding Tsingtao against the Chinese Communists. He expressed the opinion that a few thousand Marines more or less would have little bearing on the general military position in the Far East, and he recommended that the number of Marines be kept to the minimum required to protect the Naval Advisory Group and the Navy’s shore installations. He expressed the view that with the passing of extraterritoriality the whole concept of stationing American armed forces in China to protect Americans and their interests was outmoded.
Admiral Cooke stated that the Navy desired to maintain two Marine battalions (and supporting units) at Tsingtao to protect American civilians, the naval installations and the air field. He estimated the strength at between 4,300 to 4,800.
While there might be emergencies when the Marines would be called upon to give protection to Americans and other civilians at Tsingtao, it was agreed that this was not their purpose in being there. Secretary Marshall, following prolonged discussion, asked that the Navy make 3,500 men their target for reduction of Marines in China and suggested that six months from now the matter might be reviewed with the idea of making a further downward revision. Secretary Forrestal indicated that the Navy would try to meet General Marshall’s request.
2. Should a naval base be maintained on shore at Tsingtao?
Mr. Forrestal recommended and the Secretary concurred that a naval base not be maintained at Tsingtao.
3. If the answer to 1 or 2 is affirmative, what is the minimum strength which will suffice?
This item is discussed in B–1 above.
4. What fleet deployment in Chinese waters is desirable, taking into account our relations with China, the situation in Korea, and the general international situation in the Far East?
It was agreed that it would be desirable to maintain in Far Eastern waters fleet deployment comprising two heavy cruisers and twelve destroyers plus the equivalent in amphibious lift of one combat team [Page 949] which would be available either to General McArthur16 or Admiral Cooke.
C. Advice to and Support of the Ambassador to China
1. Is it desired that a flag officer be ordered to relieve the present Naval Attaché17 in order to provide adequate naval staff assistance to the Ambassador?
The Secretary stated that it was for the Navy Department to decide whether a flag officer should be ordered to Nanking to relieve the present Naval Attaché. He said that it was his desire to establish under the supervisory authority of the Ambassador an Executive Office to coordinate the various United States Government agencies in China.18 He stated that his former headquarters at Nanking had performed such a function and that he had hoped that it could serve as a nucleus for an agency of this type. The Secretary expressed the view that it would be preferable to divorce the activities of the Executive Office from the normal intelligence functions of the Military and Naval Attachés.19
Admiral Nimitz said that it had long been his understanding that the Ambassador had supervisory authority over all American activities in the country to which he was accredited.
It was mutually agreed that such an agency as that mentioned by the Secretary would have coordinating authority only and that major policy decisions would necessarily be referred to Washington.
Disposition of Unserviceable Ammunition Now Stored in China
Admiral Cooke requested that the above additional problem, not included in the agenda, be given consideration at the meeting. He stated that with the impending withdrawal of Marines from north China decision would have been reached in the near future as to the ultimate disposition of over 3,000 tons of unserviceable ammunition in the hands of the Marines and 1,000 tons of ammunition which the United States Army forces desire to turn over to the Marines on their withdrawal from north China. He said that the Navy Department could not undertake to return the ammunition to the United States and that the Navy would have to dump it into the sea, blow it up, or turn it over to the Chinese Nationalist forces who are anxious to get it. While it was generally agreed that it would be inconsistent with our present policy to turn the ammunition over to the Chinese Government and that such action might result in much unfavorable [Page 950] publicity, it was informally suggested by the Secretary that the ammunition could be left on the spot, that the Nationalist forces be told of such action immediately prior to the departure of the remaining Marines, and that it be indicated that the ammunition was being abandoned only because of the necessity for arranging for departure of our armed forces at a date earlier than had previously been anticipated.
- Drafted by Arthur R. Ringwalt, Chief of the Division of Chinese Affairs; initialed by the Secretary of State.↩
- Fleet A dm. Chester W. Nimitz, Chief of Naval Operations.↩
- Vice Adm. F. P. Sherman, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations.↩
- Capt. R. L. Dennison, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations.↩
- Not found in Department files.↩
- Not printed.↩
- General of the Army Douglas A. MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Japan.↩
- Capt. W. T. Kenny.↩
- For correspondence on the establishment of an Executive Office, see pp. 1428 ff.↩
- Brig. Gen. Robert H. Soule was Military Attaché.↩