811.3393/8–3147: Telegram

The Consul General at Tsingtao (Spiker) to the Secretary of State

70. ComNavWesPac stated no results his efforts contact by radio Communists holding Marine aviator who landed out of gas on coast August 27. Admiral states Embassy informed of developments through Alusna62 and has sought advice reference best means contacting Communists, that leaflets have been dropped and radio from Shanghai broadcast request to Communists for return of captive.

In answer my inquiries regarding Naval landing on August 28 and fight with Communist troops, Admiral stated purpose landing party was rescue pilot whose plane visible on beach also secure information regarding second pilot then missing but since returned. Landing party fired on and returned fire. One Communist seen to fall but not found although shirt with bullet holes found at spot. Villagers fled but four questioned without result. Admiral states Communists in surprising strength and very hostile. Had placed bomb in plane and were interrupted in wiring it. Landing party destroyed plane and returned to ship without casualty. Admiral states destroyer 5 miles and cruiser 10 miles off shore standing by in belief contact may be established that point. Admiral states efforts will be made negotiate by landing party with interpreter. I pointed out that this might be expected serve no good purpose in light known hostility of Communists there and of their realization of value of captive if still held for ransom; that further armed clash only likely make bad situation worse and endanger life pilot if still alive, that he probably far inland now and negotiations only method secure release.

Admiral stated decision land party to rescue pilot had to be made in hurry and gave me impression that he feels mistake probably made in such decision.

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From other sources am informed reconnaissance planes were fired on prior to landing and hostility Communist forces evident. Reconnaissance planes ascertained plane’s wing covered with matting or sand. This suggests little likelihood pilot would be found in vicinity on day following forced landing.

I have strongly pointed out inadvisability and futility further landing negotiators unless arranged with hostile Communists. In view rapid radio communications with Embassy and since matter of policy involved, do not understand why Embassy not notified by Admiral prior first landing in known Communist territory. As it stands, negotiations suffer great disadvantage of Communist “defeat” of landing party which inflicted casualties also gave Communists propaganda material claim our partisan support of Nationalists.

Since negotiation and not force required, Vice Consul Service63 has volunteered proceed Chefoo by Navy plane, if Department approves and after full arrangements made with Communists, to negotiate for return of pilot if evidence he still alive. Service personally met Communist military and administrative heads in district concerned during visit to Chefoo last year; also knows well Chinese formerly employed by American Consulate [at] Chefoo and now head of Communist foreign affairs department there. I believe latter would be helpful. Admiral states will be glad Service’s assistance but matter of communicating with Communists to arrange matter still problem to be overcome due risk to plane dropping proposals.

Admiral informed am referring matter to Department which may consult with Navy. Consulate’s plan envisages letter from this office to be dropped stating Service desires consult reference missing pilot; requests signals be displayed beach Chefoo or airfield laid out indicating Communist agreement that plane will not be interfered with; similar signals to be displayed for unmolested reconnaissance planes to visit at specified hours each day to read Service’s pre-arranged signals or land to pick up messages and eventually Service at exodus say one week. Possible that Communists will demand ransom in form of compensation for casualties and will seek munitions rather than cash. Negotiations of course originally for release without compensation.

Plan to be kept absolutely secret. Admiral requests decision soonest as time factor believed important.

Sent as 97 to Nanking, 70 to Department.

  1. Code name for office of the Naval Attaché in China.
  2. Richard M. Service.