The Minister-Counselor of Embassy in China (Clark) to the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Butterworth)
[Received September 19?]
Dear Walt: You will have seen from our Top Secret telegram 1614, September 1, the Chinese again reversed themselves from the position outlined in my letter of August 27, and apparently, with the sole motive of getting more military supplies for less money, fell in with the idea of ordering the ordnance alleged to be needed by Fu Tso-yi and at Tsingtao, They even went so far as to override both Barr’s and Badger’s recommendation that Fu be restricted to four rather than seven armies and to insist on equipment for seven armies, thereby endeavoring to allocate the maximum funds left available from “other aid” for ordnance supplies to this particular project which carried with it the possibility of free transportation and of a cost less than that of replacement.
I am writing you further in this regard because of some of the implications contained in Admiral Badger’s Top Secret of September 6, 060005Z, to the Chief of Naval Operations. The message was drafted and despatched while the Ambassador was on a weekend visit to Tsingtao. Badger is most persuasive in his arguments, and having an interest on this occasion in the defense of North China, he found a most ready ear of the Ambassador and consequently obtained the Ambassador’s prior approval to the despatch of the cable. When I spoke to the Ambassador about the tone of the cable and the implications of Badger’s presuming to speak not only for the Ambassador, but also for the Army Advisory Group and “other responsible [Page 166]U. S. officials in China”, the Ambassador’s only comment was: “I am willing to close my eyes to that if he can accomplish the end sought”.
In his frequent visits to Nanking and in our trips to Tsingtao, we have sought to coordinate action on these vital problems and to assure agreement on recommendations. Just between us, Badger is too prone to stating a proposition and, even though he doesn’t find agreement, close his ears to the opposition and report that everybody agrees with him. That has been the case in the despatch under reference. You will note immediately the inconsistency between our reports of our estimation of the situation in China and Badger’s comment that the “Chinese Government has acquired a more aggressive military spirit” in recent days. The Government is showing remarkable courage in enforcing the new economic measures and Chiang Chingkuo, the Gimo’s son, has so far been doing an outstanding job in Shanghai in exposing the big shots to public condemnation, with the result that we may expect the Legislative Yuan to see to it that the guilty are punished regardless of their political influence. Nevertheless, none of us in the Embassy have seen any indication of an improvement in the military spirit which is so essential if anything in the economic field is to be accomplished. There have been no effective steps of which we are aware toward bringing the budget within a reasonable balance, nor have there been steps toward reducing military expenditure. Even the Prime Minister, with a certain sadness, the other day remarked to the Ambassador that unless he was able to get rid of the incompetent military leaders such as Ku Chu-tung, he was afraid nothing could be done to improve the military situation or the cost of the war, yet he could not bring himself to insist to the Gimo that such incompetents be removed. He was thinking of trying to have them elevated to some superior military council where they would have a big name, no duties, yet allowed to keep their accumulated ill-gotten gains, but he still had not gotten up the courage to make such a suggestion to the Gimo. That doesn’t sound encouraging in the military field and certainly doesn’t lead me to believe that there is any evidence at the moment of a “more aggressive military spirit” in the Chinese Government.
It may be that all of our actions toward bringing to the attention of the Nanking Government the need for convincing Fu Tso-yi that the Gimo was prepared to support him to the extent possible has brought about an easing of the tension between Fu and the Gimo. Nevertheless, I would make the guess that in so far as Fu is concerned, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if the Gimo doesn’t give him evidence of support soon, Fu’s feelings toward the Gimo will remain as we have estimated them heretofore; that is, purely mercenary and self-interested.[Page 167]
A final thing which disturbs me in Badger’s despatch is the way he takes in vain the name of the Chief of the Army Advisory Group—Barr, who has been skeptical from the beginning regarding the desirability of the proposed special support to Fu and to Tsingtao, feeling that such action would disrupt the balanced requisition program already launched, and who has (unless I miss my guess) raised no opposition largely because of the Ambassador’s strong interest in the subject because he was told that the Gimo had already made his decision on the subject, and because he didn’t want to appear obstructive. So far as I have been able to ascertain, Barr is doing a firstrate job as Chief of AAG, in spite of the efforts, whether intentional or not, of the Navy to undermine him, and I hope most sincerely that if there is to be our reorganized military advisory group, it will be under unified control and Barr will be left in command. This is predominantly an army theater of operations and the Chief of such a revised group should be an Army man.
Very sincerely yours,