811.3393/2–2048: Telegram

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

328. We have issued no press release with regard to missing marine personnel (Deptel 264, February 17, 5 p.m.). Our only comment in answer to inquiries has been that the US Government was doing all possible to secure the release of personnel concerned at the earliest possible date. We had assumed that Department had access to information supplied headquarters, Marine Corps, by FMFWesPac.10

Since disappearance of marines on December 25 ComNavWesPac11 has taken all feasible measures to establish contact with Communists and to effect release captured personnel. This included use of secret agents and leaflet drops by Marine Corps planes. We have been kept constantly informed of these activities.

On January 10 we expressed to ComNavWesPac our serious concern with regard to the possibility expressed in CGFMFWesPac message 090736Z12 that a party of armed marines might be dispatched to recover the body of one of the marines following receipt of a report of alleged grave location. I stated that I desired that no party be dispatched for the purpose of recovering any body or releasing marines reportedly held captive without prior clearance from me. I had no objection, of course, to negotiation with the Communists regarding recovery of the body or release of the captives. ComNavWesPac replied that I would be consulted should it appear feasible to send a marine detachment beyond Nationalist lines.

In late January US naval vessels were dispatched Haiyang in effort to establish contact with Communists on beach at that point. On January 31 we were informed of ComNavWesPac’s plans to send an armed landing party ashore at Haiyang in effort to contact Communists. I expressed my opinion to ComNavWesPac that such a measure would not succeed but on the other hand might very easily result [Page 352] in bloodshed with all the undesirable repercussions which might be expected to follow. Accordingly I expressed the hope that ComNavWesPac would agree not to send landing party ashore but would continue efforts to contact the Communists by means less likely to result in armed conflict. To this ComNavWesPac agreed and agreed further to refrain from air dropping “strongly worded” leaflet in Communist area.

On February 3 we were informed that introductory friendly meetings had been held with representatives of Communists on the beach at Haiyang. Conversations were broken off because ComNavWesPac would not consent to naval representative proceeding inland distance of 3 miles to conduct conversations with a more senior Communist commander. Communists likewise refused to carry on conversations aboard naval vessel anchored off Haiyang. On February 10 I found it necessary to dissuade ComNavWesPac from issuing a press release on conversations between his emissary and the Communist representatives at Haiyang. I expressed my strong feeling that any such release would place in jeopardy the success of the objective, namely, the release of US Marine Corps personnel. I reiterated this opinion to ComNavWesPac on February 13 and with reference to a further leaflet drop which ComNavWesPac proposed to make I stated that a strong statement in which an announcement was made of our intention to hold the Communists responsible for the safety and well-being of the marines would make no impression on them since they were fully aware that we were in no position to do anything about the matter beyond making threats. Any such statement seemed to us calculated only to increase Communist intransigence and to make more difficult the release of the marines. Later on February 13 a north Shensi radio broadcast admitted for the first time 4 marines in Communist custody stating that the 5th had died in a field hospital of wounds on the day of capture.

Since February 13 we have been engaged in efforts to reestablish contact with the Communists. We are following two courses at the present time:

We have asked the Consulate at Hong Kong to attempt to establish contact with Communist headquarters there to have relayed to Communist authorities North China message to the effect that Jack Dodds, a Canadian member of FAU [FAO?]13 well known to the Communists, is willing to act as emissary on our behalf to proceed Communist areas Shantung to discuss method of release four marines believed alive.
We are endeavoring to establish radio communication with Communists via USIS network in order to renew contact with Communists on beach at Haiyang or through Dodds as emissary.

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Throughout entire period we have considered and have so expressed ourselves to ComNavWesPac that as long as there is the slightest hope the marines are still alive our prime objective should be to keep them that way and that for the time being conciliation and no publicity in the negotiations seemed be best calculated to secure that objective.

On February 18, ComNavWesPac released factual background account of what has gone on to which we have no objection other than that the press interview was without our prior knowledge and counter to our previous strong recommendations in this connection. We propose, however, to take no action in this regard. The Department will be kept informed of further developments.

  1. Fleet Marine Forces, Western Pacific.
  2. Commander, U. S. Naval Forces, Western Pacific (Badger).
  3. Not printed.
  4. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.