The Consul General at Tsingtao ( Turner ) to the Ambassador in China ( Stuart )30

No. 84

Sir: I have the honor to transmit a memorandum31 prepared by Consul Robert C. Strong of this office in which a survey is made of the situation which will ensue after the fall of Tsinan—assuming that the city does fall—with special reference to the position of the United States Naval Forces at Tsingtao.

There seems to be generally a lack of appreciation of the significance of the battle for Tsinan just as there was an earlier failure to understand the grave effect on the Nationalist position in North China of the fall of Weihsien. There also seems to be some lack of comprehension of the serious effect which the fall of Tsinan will have on the position of the United States Naval Forces based at Tsingtao. This lack of appreciation is, however, not shared by Vice Admiral Badger, who is intensely concerned over the deteriorating position of the National Government in North China and who has been heard to declare, significantly, that the fall of Tsinan would be the signal for him to withdraw U. S. Navy and Marine dependents from Tsingtao.

A glance at the map will indicate the importance of Tsinan to both Nationalist and Communist. The city is the capital of one of the most strategically located provinces in China, commanding the overland routes from North China to the Yangtze and the center of a rich agricultural area. It has been obvious for some time that the Communists had marked the city for conquest, and the delay in the assault has probably been due to the appreciation of Communist leaders of the great importance of the city and to disinclination to commence the attack until preparations for its capture were completed. The assault on the city appears to have been timed to bring about its fall simultaneously with the fall of Changchun in Manchuria and Taiyuan in Shansi. It may be imagined what effect the fall of these three important [Page 322] cities will have on the fortunes of the Nationalist cause and on public opinion in China and abroad.

With the fall of Tsinan into the hands of the Communists, Tsingtao will become more than ever a small and isolated island of Nationalist control within a sea of Communist territory. The last buffer of Nationalist control to the westward will have disappeared and the Communists can range more or less at will from the outskirts of Tsingtao westward to the thinly-held Nationalist areas of Shensi. There will be nothing to prevent the massing of overwhelming Communist forces in Eastern Shantung for an assault on Tsingtao at such time as their strategic schedule or instructions from Moscow may dictate.

The position of the United States Naval Base at Tsingtao, in this situation, is precarious indeed. The Marine Forces ashore number less than 4,000 effective troops and their air support is limited to about 16 fighter planes. Of course there is a powerful Naval squadron based at this port which could quickly be reinforced by units from elsewhere. However, it is extremely doubtful that the Administration in Washington would support armed intervention of any sort, even to the extent of defending American military installations ashore, if the city were to be attacked by the Communists. In such event, the alternatives confronting the U. S. Navy would be either to abandon the city at the first threat of attack, or to remain here in the hope that their presence would be tolerated by the Communists in the same way as by the National Government. The latter alternative seems most untenable, in view of the known hostility of the Communists to Americans and the almost certainty of an armed clash. The situation is indeed a serious one and should be faced squarely at the present time before events render necessary a hasty and perhaps emergency decision.

The enclosed memorandum by Mr. Strong sums up in greater detail the situation mentioned above. The arguments set forth therein do not purport to represent either his or my views as to the advisable courses of action. However, it will serve to outline the considerations that should now engage the closest attention of those concerned with American policy in this part of the world.

Respectfully yours,

William T. Turner
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Consul General without covering despatch; received October 13.
  2. Not printed.