Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Chinese Affairs (Sprouse) to the Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Butterworth)

The following message from the Commander of the Sixth Task Force to the Chief of Naval Operations60 has been brought informally to CA’s attention by Captain Warder, of the Navy Department, who states that no reply will be made without prior clearance with this Department.




Admiral Kwei,61 Chinese Navy, has requested information concerning availability and procurement procedure about 6 seaplanes or amphibians purpose reconnaissance assistance to Nats Navy on port and coastal closure. Undecided best type but mentioned Catalina or Grumman amphibious types. From limited knowledge his problems appears probable that small float plane types might also be of use and economical in cost and upkeep. Request advise soonest re availability types mentioned surplus or other procurement and recommended contacts to whom Adm Kwei may refer his representatives.

Passed to State 8/5/49”

Captain Warder states informally that the United States Navy can probably make aircraft of the type mentioned available. The Munitions Division states that the Army has available as surplus 19,000 Reising .45 caliber submachine guns. The guns are considered obsolete by the Army; there are no spare parts for them; and they are not desired by northern European or other MAP62 countries. However, the Chinese are aware that the weapons are available and are interested in purchasing them.

A decision with respect to action to be taken in the two cases mentioned above, and in similar cases which it may be anticipated will arise, would appear to depend upon an evaluation of the following factors:

The extent to which we can hope by continued aid of the nature in question to multiply the internal problems of the Chinese Communists and eventually discredit it.
The costs of such assistance to us within China.

[Page 1128]

With respect to (1), it should be noted that the “blockade” of Shanghai appears to be causing mounting difficulties to the Chinese Communists in their economic and social administration of the city. Continuance of the “blockade” and extension of its effectiveness to other Communist-held ports would doubtless increase these difficulties. In view of British reluctance to join us in a comprehensive system of export controls, this might be the only means by which comparatively free access to Western markets can be denied the Communists. Since the “blockade” is beyond United States control, it does not, of course, afford us a bargaining lever for use with the Communists, as would an effective system of export controls. But, if extended in effectiveness, the “blockade” would inflict on the Communists even more damage than could be even threatened by export controls. Taken in conjunction with other economic difficulties which the Communists are reportedly encountering, the difficulties arising from the “blockade” might be expected to delay the consolidation of Communist control; to result in the increasing commitment of Communist strength to maintaining order in rear areas, with eventual weakening of its drive southward; and to lessen Communist prestige in China land Eastern Asia. However, it appears doubtful that the difficulties would significantly affect current military campaigns of the Chinese Communists and, they will probably cause intensified efforts by the Communists to obtain control of Taiwan, or at least important segments of the Chinese Navy and Air Force. Furthermore, it does not seem likely that in the specific cases mentioned above the military equipment under consideration would contribute significantly to the enforcement of the “blockade”, in which case we should, by making the equipment available, incur all the costs with little or no substantial benefit.

With respect to the costs within China, it should be noted that the American Chambers of Commerce at Shanghai and Tientsin and the American Association at Shanghai have gone on record as opposing further military aid to the Chinese Government because of the increased peril in which Americans in Communist-controlled areas would be placed. There is little doubt that the further supplying of military equipment to the Chinese Government, particularly military equipment useful either in enforcing the “blockade” or bombing Chinese cities, would be used by the Communists to incite public opinion against private Americans, who, as economic conditions deteriorate under the “blockade”, would be in grave danger of mob violence. In view of the gravity of this danger to Americans and the inability of our consuls under existing circumstances to afford them adequate protection, it would seem imperative that an all-out effort be made to evacuate Americans who wish to leave prior to any further transfers [Page 1129] of military equipment to the Chinese Government. Apart from immediate considerations of personal safety, it should be noted that the enforced liquidation of American enterprises and withdrawal of American citizens which the “blockade” is to some degree causing, will lessen the effectiveness of what, over the long view, might have been a useful channel for influencing Chinese thinking.

From reports of our military and diplomatic representatives in China, it appears most unlikely that the transfer of military equipment under consideration could affect the final outcome of the present struggle in China. Similarly, a large segment of the Chinese public would view the further supplying of military equipment to the Chinese Government as merely prolonging a hopeless struggle with increased suffering to the Chinese people. The Chinese Communists would doubtless effectively exploit this theme to create increased hatred of the United States.

Finally, the continuance and extension of the “blockade” tends to prevent any concrete demonstration to the Chinese Communists of the usefulness of cooperation with the Western democracies. At the same time, the continued existence of an armed and organized opposition to the Chinese Communists, particularly an opposition receiving continuing American support, tends to reduce any possibility which might exist of a developing Communist independence from Moscow, for, even were conditions otherwise favorable, it would be most unlikely that the Chinese Communists would risk Soviet hostility until their own internal position had been consolidated.

In view of the far-reaching consequences of any decision which may be made respecting this problem, it might be desirable to discuss the matter with Ambassador Jessup and Mr. Merchant.63

  1. Adm. Louis E. Denfeld.
  2. Vice Admiral Kwei Yung-ching, Commander in Chief of the Chinese Navy.
  3. Military Assistance Program.
  4. Livingston T. Merchant of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs.