The Ambassador in China (Stuart) to the Secretary of State

No. 28

Sir: I have the honor to refer to our despatch No. 1144 of December 6, 194731 in which we discussed the current military situation in China and suggested means for the improvement of the military position of the Chinese Government through American assistance.

Since the above despatch was drafted the military position of the Government has further deteriorated. Communist operations in the general area of the intersection of the Ping-Han and Lung-Hai railways have successfully disrupted both east-west and north-south rail communications in north central China; General Wang Yao-wu, Commander of Government forces in Shantung, has admitted publicly that his military position is becoming rapidly untenable; in spite of adverse weather conditions in Manchuria the Communists have retained the initiative and have generally remained on the offensive; Lt. General Fisher Hou, Chief of Military Intelligence on the General Staff at Nanking, has admitted that the Communists have the capability of isolating the Northeast from China proper; in recent weeks the Communists have interdicted river shipping west of Hankow and the gradual unfolding of Liu Po-cheng’s32 campaign in central China indicates the design to isolate Szechuan in order to prevent the movement of military rice to Government forces in the east; all sources in contact with Government military circles report that pessimism over the outcome of current campaigns deepens among officers of higher commands at Nanking and among lower echelons in the field and there is progressive, steady deterioration of the morale of all Government forces.

With this situation in mind we have consulted at length with officers of the Army Advisory Group and other qualified military observers in an effort to determine what steps might be taken by the United States to aid the Chinese Government in restoring the military situation to its own advantage and wish to set forth herein in somewhat more detail than in the previous despatch the consensus thus derived.

Consideration of any new program of military assistance to the Chinese Government cannot ignore past and present attempts on the part of the United States to provide China with such aid. As early as 1940 [1941?] an American Military Mission to China sought ways and means for affording the Chinese assistance in their war with [Page 243] Japan.33 After Pearl Harbor, as a part of over-all American strategy, we developed a program for the arming and training of a portion of China’s armies, with the aim of creating a military machine capable of defeating Japanese forces in the field.

With the capitulation of Japan, the present program of military aid was conceived and put into effect through the Army Advisory Group. This program had as its aim assisting the Chinese to develop a military establishment adequate to permit fulfillment of their obligations as a power. It involved aid in the reduction of China’s wartime armies to a point where they could be supported by the economy of the country, the development of a new command structure, the organization of a training program for a new Chinese army and the procurement of certain items of matériel until such time as the Chinese Government would have the capability of supplying its military establishment from its own resources.

The post-war program of military aid to China was planned on the assumption that the creation of a new Chinese military establishment would take place under conditions of internal political stability. Also, the program, in its execution, was conditioned by certain concepts having their origin in the American wartime aid program; these included concepts of training, standards and concepts of size, organization and armament of combat formations. It was further conditioned by the assumption that the United States would be able to implement commitments as to the procurement and delivery of matériel. It was finally conditioned by the assumption that there was no particular urgency for the creation of a new Chinese military establishment; that time was not of the essence, and that its creation could proceed slowly to attain certain long range ends.

All of these assumptions have proven false, and the concepts impractical and invalid. Far from taking place under conditions of internal political stability, the program has been carried out under conditions of armed rebellion and civil war. Although some progress has been made toward the realization of long range ends, the military establishment of the Chinese Government has proven inadequate to force a decision on its own behalf in the civil war, and is in serious danger of defeat and collapse. Concepts of training, composition and armament of Chinese combat organizations stemmed from the experience of American officers in the field with Chinese troops engaged in combat with the Japanese. Training, organization, and armament were therefore dictated in large degree by the enemy to be met. In addition, and perhaps, more importantly, American trained [Page 244] or equipped Chinese units operated with a line of supply which was completely American, as in Burma, or as in China with American liaison teams which constantly badgered higher Chinese command echelons to see that supplies reached forward elements. The present civil war involves changed circumstances and Chinese formations engaged are neither trained, organized nor armed to meet the new conditions obtaining. The problem facing the United States is, then, the creation of a realistic, practical program of military assistance to the Chinese Government which is in full consonance with the requirements of the current military situation. Any solution for this problem must be based on the assumption, which needs no elaboration, that the military position of the Chinese Government is critical, and that early and effective aid is essential unless the Government is to suffer further severe military defeats and possibly military collapse.

The current military effort of the Government has, to say the least, certain grave handicaps. Among the more pronounced of these are: (1) the proclivity of the Generalissimo,34 a man of proved military incompetence, to interfere on a strategic and tactical level with field operations; (2) the low caliber of many ranking general officers of the Chinese armed forces in terms of their lack of either integrity or professional skill; (3) the failure of the Government to organize an effective service of supply; (4) the failure of the Government to organize an adequate program of military government, or its equivalent, for areas which its forces have reoccupied; (5) the Government’s inability to plan and execute a military training program; (6) the inability of the Government to balance its resources in terms of manpower and matériel against the requirements of the prevailing situation and organize these resources for their most efficient employment. A statement of handicaps could be considerably expanded, but those listed constitute the major defects in the Government’s military effort which any new program of American military assistance must overcome.

In our despatch No. 1144 of December 6, 1947 we expressed our opinion that problems arising out of the present civil war must be approached on a practical and immediate rather than on an academic and long-range basis. In the same despatch we expressed our opinion that such an approach should take the form of provision for an American Planning Group, with the function of surveying the overall military situation and preparing specific recommendations to meet specific needs in areas where the military situation is most critical. For example, there is need for the planning of military operations [Page 245] employing resources now available to the Government and at the same time a need for the development and augmentation of these resources in terms of advice and assistance in the development of a training program which could more quickly produce units trained specifically for existing combat conditions. There is also need for the development of a supply organization capable of supporting these and other units in combat and the training of a staff and command organization capable of handling these units in combat.

The establishment of such a Planning Group, provided that it were integrated with the Government’s military organization at a sufficiently high level, would tend to overcome in some degree the handicaps to the Government’s military effort specifically listed above. Personnel of this Group should include officers with planning experience on a War Department level, familiar with the technique of long and short term strategic planning. It should also include officers with wartime field experience with Chinese troops.

On the basis of personal knowledge of Embassy officers now serving here the names of the following officers suggest themselves to us as exemplifying the qualifications mentioned:

  • Brigadier General Paul Carraway
  • Colonel Joseph K. Dickey
  • Colonel Allen C. Bennett
  • Colonel Hay don L. Boatner
  • Colonel E. J. McNally
  • Colonel Reynolds Condon
  • Colonel Paul Freeman
  • Colonel J. Hart Caughey
  • Colonel Cecil J. Gridley

The integration of the Planning Group with the Chinese command structure should, as pointed out above, be made at a high level. It is our opinion that the Chief of an American Military Advisory Group for China, with the proposed Planning Group directly under him, should serve as the supreme military advisor for the Generalissimo. Plans developed by the Planning Group, if approved by the Generalissimo, would be passed by him to his Chief of Staff or, as required, to the Ministry of National Defense, for implementation. Other sections of the American Military Advisory Group would then advise and assist in carrying out these plans at a training and supply level.

This arrangement would be of material aid in reintegrating the Chinese command structure. Currently, in theory at least, the top level direction of Government military operations is the responsibility of the Supreme General Staff at Nanking. In practice, however, this group is oftentimes by-passed. The Chief-of-Staff and the Commander-in-Chief of Chinese Ground Forces both hold field commands. [Page 246] Operations are directed by various field headquarters, the commanders of which receive instructions directly from the Generalissimo and his deputies, none of whom are particularly qualified for this responsibility. The result of this system has been failure to coordinate operations and failure to organize and allocate military resources—both in terms of men and matériel—in support of the over-all military effort. A Planning Group such as we have envisaged could exploit the Generalissimo’s power of command and thus secure some assurance of implementation of its plans, and could at the same time restore to the Chinese Supreme General Staff at Nanking its proper, logical role as the integrating and coordinating agency for the development of over-all strategic command.

Such a Planning Group would have the advantage of providing a means through which the training functions of a Military Advisory Group could be made to develop Chinese units of the type needed in current hostilities and could be scheduled so as to turn out units as needed to meet the requirements of an over-all strategic plan. Also as part of a Military Advisory Group, the Planning Group would retain a degree of anonymity, and would not necessarily appear to be involved directly in the Government’s military operations.

It is our opinion that the augmentation of the present Military Advisory Group by a Planning Group, the specific type and functions of which we have outlined in general terms, would provide the Chinese Government with a type of military aid which it does not now receive, and of which it stands in urgent need. We further believe that such a Planning Group would serve to rationalize and make effective military aid now granted or contemplated, provided that certain minimum requirements of the Planning Group were met. Those requirements would be the provision of adequate information for planning purposes, and the authority to acquire information with regard to the execution of prepared plans.

Military planning involves the disposition of resources to meet concrete or hypothetical situations in which favorable military decisions are sought. No sound planning is possible unless planners have full knowledge of the resources which they are to dispose or allocate. The military planners must also be as well informed as possible with regard to the enemy’s capabilities and by balancing one’s own capabilities against those of the enemy an estimate of the situation is derived from which the planners dispose available resources. It is our opinion that the Army Advisory Group as at present constituted lacks knowledge of the military situation, either over-all or in particular, sufficient to arrive at a valid estimate of the situation because in accord with the current interpretation of the Army Advisory Group directive, [Page 247] officers of the Group have no immediate contact with Chinese military operations.

If the suggested Planning Group is to function effectively it must be provided with data on Chinese resources in personnel and matériel. All available information, however, strongly suggests that the Supreme General Staff as now constituted is not capable of providing the required data, particularly in its G–1, G–2, and G–4 Sections. Therefore we consider that at least the Personnel, Intelligence, and Supply Sections of the Supreme General Staff must receive advice and assistance from American personnel and that the Planning Group must also have available to it the services of personnel capable of assembling data produced by Staff Sections of the Supreme General Staff into adequate estimates of the situation.

Planning for military operations is a continuous process and in the interest of preserving continuity, plans must be altered from time to time in light of their implementation in the field. This presupposes contact between planners and field operations, at least with the higher headquarters where field operations are being directed. It is our belief that, for the most part, the highest echelon of the Chinese armed forces, the Supreme General Staff at Nanking is seldom aware of the true state of field operations. For this reason, we believe that there should be assigned to the Planning Group teams of field observers, attached to higher Chinese field headquarters. Ideally, such teams would be assigned as low as regimental headquarters and would have advisory functions. We feel, however, that there are serious objections, mainly of a political nature, to this procedure, and we believe that initially observers should not be attached to echelons lower than army commands. Since teams would have the function of reporting on the local military situation, and might also have certain responsibilities of advising the command to which, they are attached on supply matters, the teams would also include communications personnel.

Although we have stressed our conviction that assistance in planning is essential to the success of any program of American military aid to China, we do not intend to imply that no other aid is required. We are of the opinion that American assistance in the development of a training program for the Chinese Government’s armed forces has been, and remains an important part of any program. As we have indicated, however, we believe that such assistance is of value only in so far as the system of training it establishes can train military units for the specific military tasks now confronting the Chinese Government.

From such information as is available to us, it would seem that the standards now envisaged by the Army Advisory Group are inordinately [Page 248] high. Time is of the essence and it would seem better to sacrifice high standards for the time being in the interest of producing at least trained replacements, if not completely trained units, in as short a time as possible. Our information is generally to the effect that Communist troops are not highly trained and it would not be an impossible task to produce Government troops as well or slightly better trained within a far shorter period than present planning envisages. We also have reason to believe that Chinese personnel are being trained in the use of matériel unsuited for employment in the type of warfare in which the Government’s armies are engaged. Concrete proposals, however, for the reorientation of training programs must, as we have suggested, await adequate studies of the situation and the development of strategic plans. At the moment it must suffice to reiterate our belief that a training program is essential and that the present program does not meet the needs of the prevailing situation.

Another level upon which we feel the Chinese Government requires American aid is the procurement of matériel. Although we are of the opinion that Government forces have far more in the way of matériel than the Communists, this preponderance is rapidly diminishing and the Government will soon be unable under any circumstances to force a decision in the present conflict unless it can receive proper supplies from outside sources. We are also of the opinion that such American equipment as has been received by the Government has not, in all cases, been of types most urgently needed for the present conflict, and that some types are definitely unsuitable. From information available, we are inclined to believe that neither the Chinese command nor the Army Advisory Group has any clear picture of the amount of matériel actually in the hands of the Chinese Government. Therefore, it is our opinion that the American Government should not provide further matériel to the Chinese Government as a part of any program of military aid, unless it be in support of a definite over-all strategic plan having American approval based on a study of matériel now in Chinese hands and American recommendations as to types and employment of matériel best suited to meet tactical requirements.

In the previous despatch under reference we stated our belief that the military problem of the Chinese Government has the closest possible connection with the Government’s political and economic problems. The main politico-military problem facing the Government today is the establishment of its authority in areas recovered from the Communists to a point where a civil government can exist without the backing of a strong garrison. Reduced to its simplest terms, this implies the creation of a government capable of attracting popular support. While the military aspects of this problem are not immediately [Page 249] apparent, their existence is undeniable. The Government lacks the organized manpower to maintain large garrisons in politically disaffected regions, and, at the same time, to conduct the large scale offensive operations required to destroy the military power of the Communists. Military aid to the Chinese Government is only a means to achieving the end that the Government regain political control of areas now in Communist hands, and reintegrate these areas politically with the balance of China.

We are of the belief that a solution to the politico-military problem outlined in the preceding paragraph may be found through American assistance in the development of plans for the military government of areas recaptured from the Communists by Government forces. The general concept of military government is sound and is accepted by the Chinese. We believe that if a Military Government Section were made a part of the Army Advisory Group to plan, and advise on the techniques of military government to fit situations as they arose it should, provided that it were adequately staffed and phased into the Chinese military organization, have excellent chances of success.

It is our feeling that a Military Government Section of the Army Advisory Group should be staffed by officers with a formal knowledge of military government techniques, by Americans with knowledge of Chinese politics and economics, and by Americans with practical experience in relief and rehabilitation programs in rural China. The section should also be strongly staffed by Chinese social scientists; whose major interests lie in the problems of Chinese rural society, who would serve in an advisory capacity and who would preferably be selected and paid by the Army Advisory Group Military Government Section.

While it is beyond the scope of this despatch to develop our thinking on Military Government at greater length, we believe that the concept, as outlined above, is valid and that it is practical and can be implemented. We further feel that it offers a means toward attaining political and economic stability in areas where, for military reasons, political stability is urgently required. We are also of the opinion that the concept, as we have sketched it, or its equivalent, must form a part of any program of military aid, if the latter is to be effective. We would also point out that an effective military government program would greatly simplify the military problem and probably result in greater economy of force in military operations.

In our thinking on the matter of a program of American military aid to the Chinese Government, we have sought practical objections to the proposals we have advanced. The chief of these objections would appear to be possible reluctance on the part of the Chinese Government [Page 250] to agree to a plan which would entail American supervision of aid in the manner and to the degree which we have suggested. After considering the matter at some length, we have come to the conclusion that the Chinese Government would probably accept the proposals we have outlined, provided they were advanced as integral and inseparable parts of an over-all plan. In the first place, the Government is well aware that its military position is becoming untenable and that assistance is urgently required; for this reason alone we believe that it would be willing to accept aid even at the sacrifice of some autonomy over military affairs. In the second place, there is a growing feeling in all strata of Chinese society that an end to the present military stalemate, in favor of either party, would be preferable to a prolongation of the present situation. For this latter reason we believe that considerations of prestige, which might otherwise mitigate against the Government’s accepting such a plan as we propose are not of vital importance. We are also aware of the popular appeal, if not the cogency, of the argument which might be raised against our proposals, in terms of its “involving us in China’s civil war”. In this connection it may be pointed out that in reality, our proposals merely rationalize and implement the present directive of the Army Advisory Group, and that they could be put into practice unobtrusively and without giving rise to more comment than that to which we are already subject.

We are aware also that the failure of such a plan as proposed herein would probably bring discredit upon the United States and our prestige in Eastern Asia. We submit, however, that it must be approached as a calculated risk bearing in mind in the first place, that such a plan as we propose could be, and would be if adopted, phased into our present aid program and made to appear as a normal extension and development of that program. In the second place, we wish to point out that we are, in certain circles already credited and already damned for interference in China’s civil war, and that the obvious failure of our current effort to do other than prolong the conflict, is even now redounding to the discredit of American arms and American policy.

In closing we wish to make clear that it is not our purpose to appear to be blindly critical of the present Army Advisory Group effort. Senior officers of the Group with whom the contents of this despatch have been discussed over a considerable period are conscious of the shortcomings of the current effort, but consider that under the present Army Advisory Group directive, as interpreted, they are estopped from an extension of their activities to the degree necessary to check appreciably the prevailing dangerous deterioration of the Chinese Government’s military position. We also tend to believe that there [Page 251] is developing at all levels in the Army Advisory Group a feeling of frustration because the Group is not permitted to attack the immediately pressing military problems of the Chinese Government and the gradual development of a get-in-or-get-out attitude will create before long an undesirable American morale problem aside from the more important aspect of the growth among Chinese military leaders [of the view?] that they are obtaining no concrete assistance from the Group with regard to the problems at hand.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Raymond P. Ludden

First Secretary of Embassy
  1. Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. vii, p. 387.
  2. Commander of Chinese Communist forces of Central China.
  3. For correspondence on the American Military Mission to China under Brig. Gen. John A. Magruder in August 1941, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. v, pp. 680681, 692, 695698, 709, 711712, 742744, 747, 752.
  4. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, President of the National Government of the Republic of China.