795.00/7—2652: Telegram

The Commander in Chief, Far East (Clark) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

top secret

CX 52284. References: A. CX 51489.2 B. JCS 913758.3

I have carefully analyzed the suggestion as set forth in Reference B and while I have serious doubts as to its feasibility, I am willing to try any approach that may produce an honorable armistice. At this time it appears doubtful that the Communists will accept any solution to the POW problem which does not assure them of the return of the bulk of the Chinese Communist POWs. At various times throughout the negotiations we have offered them numerous choices whereby the POWs [Page 416] who have elected not to be repatriated would be afforded an opportunity to state their desires to representatives of neutral nations, impartial nations, and the ICRC or Joint Red Cross teams, the foregoing to be with or without the participation of mil forces of both sides or under the obsn of mil forces of both sides. They have consistently rejected all such solutions. If proposal as set forth in Reference B can be interpreted by the Communists as an opportunity to conduct unrestricted political reindoctrination without our camps prior to final determination of the desires of the POWs concerned, it may have some attraction for them and thus be acceptable.
In commenting on your suggestion, I visualize that it would be accomplished genly along the foling lines:
The UNC would continue administrative and logistical support of non-repatriates including nec security to prevent escape.
A pre-determined nr of Communist representatives under the obsn of representatives of some non-participating nation would be afforded access to the POW incls containing non-repatriates. While in such incls, they would be allowed complete opportunity, excluding forceful means, to persuade non-repatriates to return to Communist control.
Non-repatriates who, after a course of reindoctrination in Communist doctrine, decide to acpt return to Communist control would so inform the representatives of the non-participating nation or the camp official.
POWs having thus announced their desires would then, under the obsn of representatives of the non-participating nation and accompanied by Communist and UNC representatives, be moved to a selected repatriation pnt. Representatives of the non-participating nation would insure that no force is employed against the repatriates. Representatives of the UNC would insure that any indiv who changes his mind enroute to the repatriation pnt is not allowed to escape from mil control and would effect his return to POW incls.
To be acceptable and to enable us to execute the suggestion along the lines indicated above would, in my opinion, require that:
It be predicated on the foling:
Reindoctrination to be accomplished after an armistice is effective and concurrent with the repatriation of those POWs who have prevly stated they desire to be repatriated. (This should permit completion of reindoctrination prior to the convening of the political conference.)
Theory of reindoctrination be applied to non-repatriated POWs held by either side and under the same condition.
Upon termination of the pd during which indoctrination could be accomplished, the remaining POWs would become wards of the retaining side to be relocated insofar as possible in accordance with the desires of the POWs. (An assurance on our part that the remaining Chinese POWs could not be permitted to proceed to Nationalist China might aid in securing agreement to this pnt.)
Agreement be secured with the Communists on the following pnts:
That we would continue present admin of our POW camps and maintain armed guards at or in the immediate vicinity of POW incls.
A specific limit on the pd of time during which this program of indoctrination would be contd.
A specific limit on the nr of representatives to be employed in reindoctrination and to be permitted access to POW incls.
Routes and manner of mvmt behind the front lines of the respective sides.
The manner in which, or the agency to whom, POWs would make known their desires to be repatriated.
The manner and conditions under which POWs who have expressed a desire to return to their homes would be moved to repatriation pnts.
Freedom of the press in observing the entire procedure.
We give no assurances of immunity against atk by POWs while the representatives employed in the reindoctrination program are within the POW incls. (This pnt could involve many complications. If we allowed armed guards to accompany these representatives while engaged in reindoctrination, Communists could accuse us of intimidating the pris and interfering with such program. If the representatives are allowed to enter the compounds unarmed and unaccompanied by guards, we can expect many of the POWs to violently resist the reindoctrination program. The Communists would then accuse us of having ordered our paid spies and agents within the compounds to attack their representatives. I believe however the last alternative listed above is the best solution provided it is previously announced and well known.)
Your proposal involves a procedure of repatriation similar to that employed to effect the repatriation of displaced persons in Austria following WW II. As you are well aware, I was directed to grant repatriation teams of the Soviet Union access to camps of displaced persons, in order to allow these representatives to “persuade” the inmates of the camps to return to their homes. The Communists used every subversive means aval to intimidate and terrorize these displaced persons. They engaged in espionage and other similar activities throughout the area to which they were allowed access. Their arrival at camps occasioned waves of violence and suicide. I was finally forced to order these repatriation teams out of the US Zone. Should the suggestion which you have advd be adopted, I can foresee a repetition of the foregoing incidents. In addition, even though prior agreement has been made on the pnts listed in Para 3 above, we must anticipate that the Communists will endeavor to employ nrs in excess of those agreed upon; that they will insist that the pd of time allowed to accomplish the reindoctrination should be extended, that they will maintain that our armed guards necessary to insure the scty of the POW camps are in effect intimidating the POWs and preventing proper reindoctrination; and, should the Communists succeed in coercing, intimidating, or otherwise persuading [Page 418] the majority of the Chinese Communist POWs to return to Red China, there may well be innumerable charges and counter-charges pertaining to POW activities involving the UNC, Nationalist China, Red China, the non-participating or neutral nation, and the US. Should the Communists insist, and the non-participating nation agree, that the preponderance of the Chinese Communist POWs desire to be repatriated, it might well result in many POWs figuratively and literally being repatriated at the pnt of a gun. Should the press of both sides be allowed free access to all activities, and such force be used, we would be in a position of publicly abandoning the principle for which we stood so firmly.
It is considered that your suggestion has two possible advantages over that as set forth in Part 2 of Ref A. These are:
It should be more appealing to the Communists.
It places no responsibility for determing ultimate disposition of any remaining POWs on any country or groups of countries. As such, it may be easier to secure agreement of some non-participating country to supervise this opn.
If we are to continue developing proposals to present to the Communists in hopes of thus inducing them to reduce their terms for an armistice, I feel that the procedure set forth in Part 2 of Ref A should be attempted prior to presenting the proposal contained in Ref B. By presenting them in this order, suggestion contained in Ref B could be construed by the Communists as a concession on the part of the UNC.
India’s previous efforts to aid in arriving at a solution to the armistice may imply that she would be willing to compromise our principle of no forced repatriation in order to achieve an early settlement. Thus it might be desirable to obtain the services of some other nation to effect supervision of the reindoctrination and observation of the repatriation of those individuals who may change their minds.
I feel that the difficulties and possible repercussions inherent in your suggestion indicate that all other possible solutions should be thoroughly investigated prior to introducing it in negotiations. If it is decided that this is the only feasible means of achieving an armistice and still attempt to maintain our firm psn pertaining to no forced repatriation, I will make every effort to secure Communist agreement to such a proposal and to reduce to the min the possible difficulties and complications which I feel certain will dev.
  1. The following names were handwritten on the source text: Nagle (S/S), Matthews, Hickerson, and Johnson. Presumably they received copies of the telegram.
  2. Dated July 7, p. 380.
  3. Dated July 17, p. 411.