General A. C. Wedemeyer

Was he Silenced by Churchill?

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China 1947


 Truman Sends Wedemeyer to China 1947

The Wedemeyer Mission 1947

Chapter VII


This chapter will discuss the surprising appointment in 1947 of Wedemeyer as a Special Representative of the President for the purpose of making findings and giving recommendations about American foreign policy in China and Korea. I use the word “surprising” because Wedemeyer’s views were well known to the Administration, the State Department and especially General Marshall, now Secretary of State, and they  were so out of step with all of them, as well as the conventional views of the majority of Americans generally, that it was completely unexpected that he would be given this assignment. In order to understand the reasons for the assignment, it will be useful to step back and review the then official post war foreign policy of American toward China, and compare it with Wedemeyer’s often expressed views on the same subject and examine them in the context of public opinion.

American Foreign Policy On China Post War to 1947

Following the withdrawal of Wedemeyer’s appointment as Ambassador to China he was appointed to take command of the Sixth Army in Baltimore. Although he was happy to be in a command assignment again, he could not shed his fears and concern for what he considered a ruinous foreign policy being perused in China by General Marshall, first as Special Envoy and later as Secretary of State.  His disagreement with official policy was unmistakably expressed on at least two public occasions. The first was when, at the request of Secretary Defense Forrestal, he wrote a memorandum (obtain a copy of this memorandum) setting forth his views on the China situation. This memorandum clearly exposed the wide difference of opinion between General Marshall and Wedemeyer.[1]  Essentially, Wedemeyer argued in the Forrestal memo that Marshall’s quest for a “simple solution” was a failure, leading to Marshall’s pessimism that there were no positive steps to take, and that, instead (as Marshall urged) the United States should passively, stand back and let events overtake the issue. This is the policy adopted by Marshall when in January 1947 he was appointed Secretary of State. It was essentially a “wait and see” attitude toward China despite the fact that it was obvious that the Nationalists were fast loosing ground to the Communists, and that Moscow was behind the Chinese Communist Party. Marshall’s policy on what to do about China in early 1947 could be summed up in two words: “go slow.” If that resulted in the Communist coming to power so be it. 

Wedemeyer, in the memo to Forrestal strongly disagreed with this approach and warned that a Communist take over would be a disaster for the United States. He ardently urged support for the Chinese Nationalists, charging Marshall with recommending that America wash it hands of China.[2]

The second public occasion for strong criticism of General Marshall’s policy occurred on November 18, 1946, when Wedemeyer delivered  a lecture at the National War College and on this  occasion Wedemeyer was even more explicit. This lecture sets forth the most all-inclusive account of his experience in China and his recommendations on how the United States should respond to the Communist menace. He commenced this talk with an account of the improvements in the fitness and training of the Chinese army during his tenure as Commander, and his belief that there was room for more improvement. He lamented that the gains were too late to contribute to the final victory, but he stressed that substantial improvement in the Chinese army was possible with “…friendly and concrete American advice.[3] This was an implied criticism of Stilwell, and his heavy handed methods, and his negative attitude toward the Chinese army, and the present State Department policy. At another point in this lecture he criticized  the false, but current opinion currently being fostered by commentators and writers in the United States about the Nationalist government, who were spreading the false propaganda “…that the Generalissimo and his Kuomintang Government are totalitarian, corrupt, and oppressive, and that the  Chinese Communists are democratic in their agrarian economy and political organization.”[4] He said he was “…convinced that he [Chiang Kai-shek] was a straight forward, selfless leader, keenly interested in the welfare of his people, and desirous of establishing a constitutional government …”[5]  Wedemeyer recommended American economic, and military assistance to Chiang in an effort to defeat the Communists, and stressed that  this assistance not be linked to the current demand that Communists be included in the government.[6] Wedemeyer, while not denying there were problems of corruption in Chiang’s government, which needed to be addressed, believed these could be remedied with constructive intervention. However, he said, the most serious misunderstanding of the situation in his judgment was the fallacy of fostering the myth that the “…Chinese Communists are democratic in their agrarian economy and political organization” and better in the long run for China than the Nationalists.[7] Wedemeyer recommended a lifting of the embargo the United States had placed on arms and equipment in 1946 to the Nationalists which was designed to pressure them into coming to terms with the Communists. Wedemeyer later was pleased that in the spring of 1947 the United Stated, realizing that the embargo was not working, eased somewhat the arms and economic embargo to the Nationalists. He concluded the lecture with a recommendation of limited military assistance “…to insure that no other nation …will attempt to interfere with …our aims…” and  the granting of further “…economic assistance…loans and supplies, accompanied by appropriate safeguards to insure that our aid is employed for the purpose we intend.[8] This last recommendation was to insure that corruption and theft of supplies would be curtailed.

Although Wedemeyer was quite critical of Marshall in both his Forrestal memo and the speech at the National War College he partially excused his former chief by pointing out that Marshall was, with justification, very concerned about the devastation in Europe and considered it America’s first priority. The remarkable “Marshall Plan” entirely of his making was the result, and, of course, he deserves enormous credit for this endeavor, but unfortunately he overlooked events in Asia, and devoted limited time and effort to China.  His attitude about China was dominated by his belief that the corruption in the regime was so prevailing that aid to the Nationalists would be unavailing. He had no confidence in Chiang’s ability to

[1] Wedemeyer Reports! p. 367. This book published in 1958 contains the most critical evaluation of Marshall’s China policy.

[2] Wedemeyer Reports! p. 369.

[3] Wedemeyer Reports! p. 371; If one considers the quality of the Chinese soldier American soldiers faced in Korea in 1951, the accuracy of this statement becomes evident.

[4] Wedemeyer Reports! p. 371.

[5] Wedemeyer Reports! p. 373.

[6] As late as March 10, 1948 Secretary of State Marshall replied in the affirmative to a question as to whether President Truman’s earlier December 15, 1948 statement that Communists should be included in the government still stood as official American policy. Wedemeyer Reports! p. 378.

[7] Wedemeyer Reports! p. 371.

[8] Wedemeyer Reports! p. 376.


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A. C. Wedemeyer