The Secretary of Defense (Forrestal) to the Secretary of State
Dear Mr. Secretary: Your letter of 28 May 1948 recommending an interim policy with respect to action by U. S. Forces at Tsingtao pending formulation of permanent policy on this question by the National Security Council, has been given careful consideration by me and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In view of the determination by the Department of State that the basic responsibility for the defense of the Tsingtao area rests with the Chinese Government, and in view of the probability in the event of strong Communist attack, as pointed out in your letter, that course of action A (assisting Nationalist forces in defense of the city and essential suburban facilities) would degenerate into course B (defending installations essential to the United States without other local participation), an impractical course from both the military and political viewpoints, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have dispatched, with my approval, new instructions to the Commander, Naval Forces Western Pacific, a copy of which is enclosed.
As will be seen, the new instructions require that, pending further instructions, course of action A not be followed and that, if the situation requires, U. S. personnel and forces (and other nationals as appropriate and practicable) be evacuated, with action by United States forces limited to covering action as necessary (course of action C). Certain details regarding the manner of accomplishment of this course of action, suggested in the Secretary of State’s view number five, are not included in the new instructions since the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that they might unduly hamper Vice Admiral Badger’s freedom of military decision and action.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff and I believe that an interview with the Generalissimo might better be postponed until after the National Security Council’s current study has been completed and that the interview’s terms should then be consistent with the conclusions reached and approved in that study. Subject to this proviso, we are in agreement with the general desirability of interviewing the Generalissimo regarding Tsingtao and making the situation entirely clear [Page 320]to him. We are of the further opinion, however, that since the Tsingtao problem has direct bearing on United States policy with respect to China as a whole and since the interview with the Generalissimo proposed by the Secretary of State would thus have major political implications and would be on the highest Chinese governmental level, such interview should be undertaken by the Ambassador rather than by Vice Admiral Badger. We also believe it would be inadvisable for an offer of assistance in terms of military supplies for the Chinese Tsingtao garrison to be made in connection with the proposed interview. The question of military supplies bears on United States policy with respect to China in general and may be expected to be covered in the National Security Council study. In any case we think the terms and extent of such assistance should be separately handled and determined without prior commitment in the course of the impending interview.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff and I do not agree with the view that Vice Admiral Badger should immediately and automatically institute an orderly withdrawal if the Generalissimo states that he does not intend to hold Tsingtao. It is still true that the Tsingtao situation gives no immediate cause for alarm, so that current determination of the optimum course is on a contingency, rather than an emergency, basis. Short of further and more unfavorable developments in the Tsingtao area it would, therefore, be premature from the military viewpoint to institute withdrawal, without further consideration and decision on the highest levels, in case the Generalissimo should state that he does not intend to hold Tsingtao. It would also anticipate such conclusions as may finally be reached as a result of the study now being made by the National Security Council. Pending completion and approval of this study, the new directive for the Commander, Naval Forces Western Pacific, in the enclosure is considered adequate as an interim policy.