Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Butterworth) to the Secretary of State
With the recent fall of Weihsien and indications that the Chinese Government is preparing to evacuate Chefoo, the question of the safety of Tsingtao has again come to the fore. We have been discussing this matter in this Office and George Kennan18 and I have had one or two conversations about it and he had a talk with General Gruenther.19
At the same time, Admiral Badger, ComNavWesPac, sent in the attached message dated May 3,20 posing alternative courses of action, the first being “(a) Assist Nationalist forces in defense of city and essential suburban facilities (airfield and water works).” Upon receipt of this, I asked Admiral Wooldridge, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, to come and have a talk. He began the conversation by reiterating the oral message that he had sent when his liaison officer brought over the telegram, namely, that an instruction was being sent to Admiral Badger telling him not to consider (a) as a feasible course of action since it would definitely involve United States forces in the civil war in China. We reviewed many aspects of the situation including the making of informal representations in Nanking with a view to obtaining a more adequate garrison of Nationalist army troops. A telegram in this sense is in course of preparation in CA. Admiral Wooldridge stated the Navy view that it was unlikely that the Communists would attack Tsingtao at this time. I expressed [Page 313] agreement with this estimate but pointed out the desirability of taking into account the possible deterioration of the National Government’s position throughout north China and the eventual untenability of our position in Tsingtao. Speaking personally, I raised the question of the desirability of beginning to take precautionary measures towards phasing out; that if it might be necessary to evacuate Tsingtao, it would be in our interest to act gradually rather than abruptly and dramatically, which would have adverse repercussions on the Chinese Government as well.
There is attached a message sent out by the Navy Department on May 12 to ComNavWesPac.21 Immediately upon its receipt this afternoon, I called Admiral Wooldridge and asked for an explanation. The long and short of which was as follows:
The message he drafted to Admiral Badger asking him to disregard contingency (a) never went out because it did not receive Army clearance, General Wedemeyer22 objecting. The matter was then considered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff which according to Wooldridge deferred to the views of General Wedemeyer and the telegram was drafted and despatched. Admiral Wooldridge made no bones of the fact that he personally disapproved of the action taken and the procedure followed.
I requested Admiral Wooldridge to ascertain at the earliest moment when the Secretary would be in receipt of Secretary Forrestal’s communication, and he promised to give me this information early tomorrow morning. I then pointed out the seriousness of drastic orders of this kind going out to one of the most troubled spots in the world without any reference to the Secretary of State or the President; that if an incident occurred tonight, Admiral Badger would be acting on orders authorizing US armed forces to take military action in a foreign country without the Secretary of State’s or the President’s prior concurrence or knowledge; that these orders were not only important in themselves and in the effect which they would have in the American governmental group in China conveying as they did the sense of a reversal of US policy but also they created a procedural precedent of grave import.
It is recommended (1) that steps be taken with Secretary Forrestal or the President to have the instruction to ComNavWesPac countermanded pending your consideration of the contents of Secretary Forrestal’s letter and of the Tsingtao situation, (2) that the whole question of our maintenance of armed forces in Tsingtao be considered forthwith by the National Security Council.