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Thursday, September 14, 2017


FORGOTTEN ALLY: CHINA'S WORLD WAR II, 1937-1945 (Boston, etc.; Mariner Books,
Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, c. 2013)
Rev. by Hugh Murray
What's wrong with this book? In the Index one can find a listing for Chiang Kia-shek's “paranoia over Soviet Union,”(p. 431) but there is nothing in Mitter's Index concerning the assassination plots against Chiang by the chief US military leader in China during most of WWII. General “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell's plots included having Chiang jump from an airplane with a defective parachute or have him die from food poisoning with a botulism that would not show in an autopsy. These “plans,” even though not implemented, should have been included in the book. Also missing is the comment to Stilwell by the beloved Pres. Franklin Roosevelt concerning the Chinese leader, “If you can't get along with Chiang and can't replace him, get rid of him once and for all.”(Richard Bernstein, FP, 3 Sept. 2015) Mitter has truly mistitled his book: The Forgotten Ally, should have been The Betrayed Ally. And Mitter wrongly concluded that different approaches and policies were “character driven squabbles [which] would lead to one of the postwar tragedies in American politics: the sterile debate on 'Who Lost China'”(Mitter, 354)
What makes Mitter's book so important is that he is so representative of the mainstream history establishment. A professor of History and Politics at Cambridge U. in England, Mitter's volume will become the quick reference work on WWII China for many years. But his Leftwing bias is so clear and evident, yet so ubiquitous in academe that he us unaware of it and how it distorts his history. I hope to expose some of his biases.
There is a strong argument to be made that American “aid” to the Republic of China during WWII was destructive to Chiang and his Nationalist government, - that Roosevelt and Gen. George Marshall were willing to sacrifice China to entice Stalin to join the war against Japanesean. China, like Poland and eastern Europe, would be served to the Soviets by the West. The big difference, the Soviet troops were in Poland and eastern Europe, so the West “gave” the Soviets what they had already conquered. In China, FDR and Marshall were willing to give Stalin what his troops had not won, inviting them in at the war's conclusion.
In the 1930s Marshall had risen quickly in the US Army, being promoted over more senior officers. His work with the depression program, the Civilian Conservation Corps, had gone well, and he rose in the ranks. In part this may have been because his politics were more amenable to the Roosevelts, for in the US, the elected officials are the ultimate authority. Marshall served a stint in China, where he disliked the Nationalist regime, and so did his protege, Joe Stilwell.
In 1927 Chiang had turned against his allies within the Nationalist Party, and sought to destroy his erstwhile Communist colleagues. Simultaneously, Chiang was also fighting against local war-lords, trying to unify the nation. In 1931 the Japanese invaded several northeastern provinces, and established a puppet state to represent the Manchu minority, restoring the last Chinese emperor, Pu Yi, as the head of the new nation of Manchukuo. Chiang was too weak to do much about that or further Japanese inroads into northern China. In 1937 a minor incident on a bridge outside of Beijing with shots fired between Chinese and Japanese soldiers escalated. This time Chiang did not yield, and the 2nd Sino-Japanese War had begun.
The Imperial leaders of Japanesean were furious that China refused to follow the rising sun in its determination to expel Western colonialists and oppressors from Asia. Japanesean attacked Shanghai in the largest battle since the 1916 Battle of the Marne of WWI. China still would not surrender. Japanesean decided to be ruthless in its next major campaign, known today as “the Rape of Nanking (Nanjing).” Chiang was basically alone in his fight. He had had help from German military advisers, but in time they were recalled as Germany, Italy, and Japanesean joined in an anti-Comintern Pact. Stalin provided some minor help, and in the 1939 undeclared war – USSR and Mongolia vs. Japanesean and Manchukuo, the Soviets quickly smashed the Japanese defenses, and peace was restored.
Chiang was basically alone in trying to stop the Japanese with regular armies. The communists were limited to the north or their center in Yenan. They could only use guerrilla tactics against the Japanese. Chiang's army might delay the Nipponese invaders, but the Nationalists were not as well equipped, or trained, and they usually succumbed. Finally, some Nationalists, fed up with the loss of life and lands, decided for an alternative approach. Wang Jingwei, had once been the number 2 man to Sun Yat-sen, leader of the Chinese Revolution that had overthrown the Qing Dynasty in 1911. In 1940 Wang and several other prominent Chinese, left Chunking, the new evacuated Nationalist capital, for Hanoi, Indo-China (then under the Vichy French, collaborating with the Axis). From there they flew to Japanese occupied cities and soon established a collaborationist regime in Nanjing. For them, the fight against Japanesean was over. The fight against the West and the communists would continue. With the defection of these Nationalist leaders, Chiang was even more alone.
That changed in December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Hawaii. America entered the war. Chiang had an ally. Or did he? FDR's favorite Gen. Marshall appointed Joseph Stilwell to be the US military attache to China, and Stilwell was suddenly 2nd in command of the Chinese army. Although Stilwell had not been know for his generalship, he took some of Chiang's best-trained troops on a risky venture in Burma, and then abandoned them! Stilwell turned up in India and appeared before the newsreels. Chiang's troops were not trained for the jungle warfare where Stilwell had led them. There were serious losses by the Allies there, Chinese, Indian, and British troops. Soon Stilwell complained that Chiang was not fighting the Japanese, but instead keeping his troops for a later conflict against the communists. But some of the troops about whom Stilwell complained were in areas where they were also holding important junctions threatened by the Japanese. Mitter fails to ask a very basic question about Stilwell, - was he an enemy of the Nationalist Government?
Mitter writes: “During the summer of 1943 Stilwell fantasized about taking command of all Chinese troops, including the Communists, with Chiang and the Nationalist military leadership left as ciphers only.”(302) Note, he does not mention the Red leaders as ciphers. Was Stilwell and enemy of the Nationalists?
An answer to that question might be gleaned by reviewing a hand-written letter Stilwell sent to a friend on 6 April 1946. By then, WWII was over, Stilwell was in the US, and the Soviets had taken Manchuria at the end of the war as agreed to at Yalta by FDR and Stalin. The Soviets expropriated much portable, industrial material back to the USSR and later would give many confiscated Japanese weapons and some American lend-lease supplies to the Chinese Communists entering Manchuria. Both the USSR and the USA recognized the Nationalists as the official Republic of China, and America tried to get Nationalist (KMT) troops to Manchuria before the Reds got there. The Soviets blocked some American ships from the ports, but eventually the KMT troops disembarked and won some, and then some more of the cities of Manchuria. Suddenly there was open civil war between the Reds and KMT. The Reds were not nearly as well trained at this point, and the KMT was winning victory after victory when Stilwell wrote the letter. He wrote: “Isn't Manchuria a spectacle? ...It makes me itch to throw down my shovel and get over there and shoulder a rifle with Chu Teh.” (Barbara Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, p. 527) Chu Teh was then the military leader of Communist forces. He would later command the Chinese “volunteers” who crossed the Yalu River to drive the Americans from North Korea. Tuchman adds that the Stilwell letter was published in the newsletter of a pro-communist journalist in January 1947. (Tuchman, 527, ftnote) Sen. Joseph McCarthy, in his book critical of Marshall, reported that the same letter was also published on 26 Jan. 1947, in photostat, in the New York Daily Worker (organ of the Communist Party, USA). (McCarthy, America's Retreat from Victory, p. 62)
Stilwell did not take his rifle to Manchuria in spring 1946, and he died a few months later. However, Gen. Marshall came to the rescue of Stilwell's communist friend. “Both Nationalist armies combined to take Szup'ing and push north...in June 1946...Only another cease-fire order on 6 June – agreed to as a result of great pressure from Marshall and later described by Chiang as his 'most grievous mistake' – saved Lin Piao's [communist] headquarters and permitted the central Manchurian front to stabilize...for the remainder of 1946.”(Edward L. Dryer, China at War, 1901-1949, pp. 324-25) At the same time that Americans were demanding Communists be excluded from the governments of Italy and France, Gen. Marshall was demanding that Chiang form a coalition government that included the Reds. Marshall threatened to cut off all American aid if this were not done. Neither Chiang nor Mao really wanted a workable coalition. Marshall then did cut off all aid to the KMT, the official government of China. Marshall, who was then Pres. Truman's Special Envoy to China would boast, “As Chief of Staff I armed 39 anti-communist divisions, now with the stroke of a pen, I disarm them.” (McCarthy, 90) With Marshall's friends in the US State Dept., Chiang was unable to get the proper license to purchase ammunition or weapons in the US. The State Dept. got Britain to fall in line, so Chiang could get no ammunition or replacements or new weapons. Marshall did more to harm the KMT. When Gen. Wedemeyer was suggested as the new Ambassador to China, Marshall received word from Zhou En Lai, the representative of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in many negotiations. Zhou objected to Wedemeyer, and Marshall then withdrew support for the general. Instead, John L. Stuart was appointed Ambassador to the Republic of China. Stuart had been a missionary, a university professor, a man who had called for the removal of Chiang, and a teacher of Zhou En Lai. So the new Ambassador to Chiang was a man more sympathetic to the radical rebels than to the official government of China. Marshall had a lot in common with Stilwell.
Though the KMT had been winning the civil war in China when Marshall first imposed the embargo, as the year went by, the Reds, with help from the Soviets, began to push the the KMT back from what Dreyer considered its high point with the capture of Yenan in March 1947. (Dreyer, 319) Meanwhile, China became an issue in American politics. While a big “Get America Out” rally in California featured labor leader Harry Bridges, Black singer and celebrity Paul Robeson, and Hollywood actors like Edward G. Robinson, the newly elected Republican Congress had other ideas. It passed legislation to provide considerable funds to the KMT. Left-wingers and Soviet agents in the Treasury Dept., Commerce, and State, obstructed and delayed delivery of the aid until it was too late. When US Ambassador to China Patrick Hurley had resigned in November 1945, he warned that “a considerable section of our State Dept. is endeavoring to support Communism generally as well as specifically in China.” (Tuchman, p. 523-24). Gen. Wedemeyer, who succeeded Stilwell, reported that the KMT could win the civil war with American help, but as this contradicted Marshall's view, the Wedemeyer Report was suppressed for several years. Gen. Claire Chennault, who led the Flying Tigers in China, had worked well with Chiang, and was critical of the communists and of Stilwell. The left wing had been extremely critical of the US during the Spanish civil war for not aiding the Republic against the rebels of the Falange, because the Republic was the legitimate government, - the left now reversed itself, demanding no aid to the legitimate government of China, Chiang and the KMT. Mitter dismisses these debates as personality squabbles, which led to the horrors of McCarthyism. Mitter accuses Hurley and the right wing of distortion (370), and concludes that the civil war “went badly for the Nationalists in large part because of Chiang's ... judgments.”(369) Observe Mitter's non-judgmental phrase, “...when the Korean War broke out in 1950.”(371) I would argue the question as to whether China became Communist or Nationalist was a major one, and there is good reason to suspect deception and treason in the American community led to the betrayal of Chiang and the victory of Mao.
Mitter describes how Chiang in 1937 was the recognized leader of China – recognized even by Stalin's USSR. Mitter notes how the early years of war in China received world-wide publicity. The Spanish Civil War was still on-going, and suddenly there was another war against cruel imperialism. If Guernica became a symbol for the world of the horrors or war, soon that picture was to be joined by newsreels of bombing when the Japanese invaded Shanghai, and even more so , Dec.-Jan. 1937-38 when Japanese troops were given free reign to loot, rape, and kill in Nanking, the city that had been the capital of Chiang's China. Although Mao in his out-of- the-way Yenan hoped to use guerrilla tactics, Chiang, with difficulty, maintained a regular Chinese Army to fight the Japanese invaders, even if they were usually loosing ground and battles.
In December 1941 the Japanese did not simply attack Pearl Harbor; they attacked the (American) Philippines, British Hong Kong, the Dutch Indonesia, Siam, the Malay States, the “Gibraltar of the East” Singapore, and Burma. By February 1942, all of SE Asia was controlled by the Japanese or their allies. How could Chiang receive any American supplies? Either on a Burma road (which was soon closed because of the Japanese), or by air over “the hump,” the Himalayas.
The Americans also supplied Chiang with two military figures – one of whom proved disastrous; the other helpful. “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell was theoretically 2nd in command of the Nationalist Army, directly under Chiang. Stilwell quickly developed a contempt for Chiang whom he called “the peanut” in his diaries. The other American advisor, who unlike Stilwell, stressed the role of air power in the war was Gen. Claire Chennault, whose Flying Tigers would become legendary in the Asian war. Because the Japanese' occupation of coastal China now extended to all of SE Asia, Chiang's Nationalists were isolated; getting supplies to them was a major problem. Of course, after Pearl Harbor, Germany had declared war on the US, and Gen. Marshall and the American leadership decided Europe would be the primary target, so most supplies and lend lease materials would be headed for Britain or the USSR rather than China. Stilwell was in charge of US lend-lease to China, which he used to force Chiang to do as the American general wanted. In many ways Stilwell (and perhaps Marshall and FDR) viewed Nationalist China more as a satellite than as an ally. Mitter concluded that FDR's appointment of Stilwell in China would lead “to the four-year duel between Chiang and that American general...”(242) In the clashes, although “Stilwell had no previous direct experience in generalship,...he had a powerful friend in George C. Marshall.”(250) On 6 February 1942 Marshall sent a message to China – “American forces in China and Burma will operate under Stilwell's direction...but Ger. Stilwell himself will always be under the command of the Generalissimo [Chiang].” (250) Stilwell thought that meant he was in command.
In the spring 1942 Stilwell engaged in a battle for Burma. As things went badly, he ordered the Chinese troops under his command to withdraw to India. Chiang was appalled that a foreign commander of Chinese troops would send them to another country rather than back to China. Chiang counter-manded Stilwell's orders. Then Stilwell and his small entourage arrived at Imphal, India, where he was interviewed by American journalists. Chiang was aghast that Stilwell, the commander, would abandon his troops. Many of those “best” Chinese troops became lost in the thick Burmese jungles, and lost to later fighting in China. Even Stilwell had described this as a “risky” adventure (255); Mitter writes of this episode as “the Burma debacle.”(260) Not only did China lose access to supplies when the Japanese captured and retained the Burma Road, but Stilwell's “highly risky gamble was much more likely to fail than to succeed. It led to the death or injury of some 25,000 Chinese troops along with over 10,000 British and Indian troops (with only 4,500 Japanese casualties). Retreat might” have saved many for the defense of China.”(260)
Again and again the Nationalists are depicted as incompetent and corrupt, and Mitter, either quoting Western observers or adding his own judgment, reinforces these negatives. For some Westerners, Chiang Kai-shek became “Cash my check.” Others found Chiang personally honest, but one who allowed corruption in his Army. Zhisui Li trained as a physician in the West, but with his wife was enthusiastic to return to the new China with his wife in 1949. On the way back, they stopped in Hong Kong where a friend introduced them to a man, reputed to be a high CCP official. The friend told Li to give a gift to the official for “a smooth return...you might land a good-paying job in a medical college in Beijing...give him a Rolex watch...” The idealistic couple refused to give a bribe. After some problems upon entry to the Peoples Republic of China, Li eventually became the personal physician to Mao. “In 1956, when I told Mao the story [about the request for a bribe], Mao laughed uproariously. 'You bookworm,' he chided me. 'Why are you so stingy? You don't understand human relations. Pure water can't support fish.'”(Zhisui Li, The Private Life of Chairman Mao, p. 41) It appears that the corruption denounced by leaders of the CCP in recent years began at the birth of the PRC with Mao's attitude.
As in other theaters of fighting in WWII, the changes in the popular image of Chiang would follow the pattern of another leader who fought against both Axis aggression and communism. On 25 March 1941, Prince Paul, Regent of Yugoslavia, agreed to adhere to the Tri-Partite Treaty, effectively bringing his nation into an Axis alliance. Because many officers were Serbs and opposed to the Germans, they staged a coup on 27 March. Hitler, preparing for his Operation Barbarosa against the USSR, did not want an anti-German Yugoslavia behind his lines. On 6 April 1941 Germany invaded Yugoslavia and was soon joined by several Axis allies. By mid-April, Yugoslavia had surrendered. Later that same month, Draza Mihailovic, an officer, gathered others together to begin a resistance to German occupation. Only after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union 22 June 1941 would any communist think of forming an underground against the fascist occupation and collaborating governments in the now dismembered Yugoslavia. The leader of the communist partisans was Josip Broz Tito, and he and Mihailovic forces at first agreed to cooperate. However, when sabotage provoked massive retribution by the Germans, Mihailovic's Chetniks were opposed to large-scale sabotage, except under special circumstances. Tito was for it. By year's end, there were skirmishes between the Chetnics and the communists.
Yugoslavia, unlike some European nations, was a multi-ethnic state with simmering feuds and hatreds. With defeat, Serbia was reduced in size; an independent Croatia created; and parts of the Yugoslavia were occupied by Hungarians, Italians, and others. There were Slovenians and Muslims, and Jewish and German minority groups. Mihailovic and the Chetniks did at time collaborate with the puppet government in Serbia; sometimes, Tito's Partisans also collaborated. However, more important for the future of both Tito and Mihailovic were some of the personnel of Britain's MI6 and the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the American intelligence agency). At the decoding area in Benchly Park in the UK, we now know several important figures were Communists and Soviet agents. Also, in the rush to create an American agency, Bill Donovan was chiefly concerned about recruiting people opposed to fascism, rather than worrying if they might have far-left backgrounds. With the help of Communist and Soviet agents inside Britain's MI6, and similar agents inside Donovan's OSS, soon MI6 and the OSS were reporting that Tito's partisans were doing all the fighting in Yugoslavia against the Germans and fascist collaborationist regimes, while Mihailovic either did nothing or was himself collaborating. When Mihailovic's guerrillas did fight, the MI6 crowd attributed such resistance to the Reds. The stage was being set for the betrayal of Mihailovic; by early 1943 Churchill, believing the distorted MI6 reports, gave up on Mihailovic, and at war's end,when Tito and the communists came to power, Mihailovic was executed. Many said that was a political decision of the court. In 2017 a Serbian court quashed the treason conviction of Mihailovic. Others maintain that was a political decision.
So initially, Mihailovic is portrayed as a national, patriotic hero fighting against the German oppressors. But when the communists backed Tito, a change in reporting about Mihailovic occurred.
A similar pattern can be observed in the treatment of Chiang and Mao. At first, Chiang is hailed as the Chinese leader standing up against brutal, Japanese aggression. But then he is portrayed as corrupt, inefficient, unwilling to fight the Japanese, always in retreat. By contrast, Mao was building a new egalitarian society where everyone pulled together for the same goals; and his forces led guerrilla campaigns against the Japanese and collaborators. Dreyer argued years later that all hoped to avoid battle with the Japanese, but all had to fight them if and when the Japanese attacked. But only the Nationalists maintained an army of 4 million to oppose the Japanese. Mitter even acknowledges that Chiang's armies held down about 500,000 Japanese troops who might have been assigned elsewhere.(379) such as a major invasion of India. Others place the number of Japanese stuck in the China quagmire at 700,000 to a million; it was a war that Japanesean simply could not seem to win because of the resistance by Chiang.
Mitter includes discussion of the repression in China under Wang's Axis-Nationalist regime in Nanjing; Chiang's anti-Japanese regime in Chunking; and Mao's communist territory in Yenan. In war time, of course, the first two imposed repression. Here's how Mitter describes what was occurring in Yenan: “The communist terror was different. The purpose...was not to line anyone's pocket. Rather, it envisioned – and achieved – one clear aim: it would bring together radicalized ideology, wartime isolation, and fear to create a new system of political power. The war against Japanesean was giving birth to Mao's China.”(295) The History Channel in 2017 showed a special on Mao which provided an example. After arriving in Yenan after the Long March, Mao had posters announce requests for criticism. Next day, some critics posted their views on the wall. Mao found the author of the main critique, had him arrested. Mao then watched as the man's knees were bent in various, unnatural ways, meant to cause as much pain as possible. Mao did not touch; just watched. Additional pain was inflicted upon the critic. Eventually, the fun was over and Mao had the victim killed. Thus, Mao was forging unity among the radicals.
In WWII America was clearly more interested in defeating Hitler and fascism in Europe, deeming them a greater threat than Imperial Japanesean. The US and Britain had much in common, and when FDR and Churchill met in the Atlantic, sailors of both nations sang Christian hymns, shown in newsreels, reinforcing the common bonds. There were no similar bonds with Stalin's USSR. But like Churchill, FDR would make a deal with the devil to defeat Hitler. Lend lease and military supplies were sent to Britain and the Soviets while American servicemen in the Pacific might be 3rd on the priority list. We did not want Britain or the Soviets to collapse.
But we did not want the Republic of China to collapse either! America sent Stilwell to be the number 2 military figure in the Republic of China! We were turning Chiang's China into a satellite. Could you imagine Roosevelt sending an American general to be the number 2 military figure in Stalin's USSR? Although we were giving much more to Stalin, Americans could not even stop when American aid was being re-labeled in the USSR so it appeared to the recipients as Soviet home aid. Stalin was given a free hand. FDR's Administration even asked Hollywood to produce films sympathetic to Stalin, so “Mission to Moscow” and other films glorifying Stalin's Soviet empire were produced.
Even if the remarks by FDR to Stilwell, to get Chiang to do what we want or eliminate him- even if this conversation were another Stilwell fantasy, it would not alter the way the US treated the leader of the Chinese Republic. China was snubbed as a satellite, and as the war wore on, and the influence of the left-wingers in the American bureaucracy waxed, their smearing of Chiang prepared the way for the disarming of the KMT and the victory of the communists in 1949.
After four years of fighting the Japanese alone, with America as a new ally, Chiang was left to deal with an inept general who recklessly wasted Chinese troops on ventures that weakened China and permitted Japanesean to launch a major assault into China in 1944. There is also good reason to believe leftists and communists were inside American intelligence organizations working inside China, providing information to the “peasant rebels.” So “hero” Chiang of 1938 was transformed into the corrupt, inept, un-willing-to-fight the Japanese, fascist-tainted Chiang of the mid-1940s. That is why Chiang deserved to abandon Chinese claims to Outer Mongolia (which was by then the Soviet satellite of Mongolia), and deserved to have the Soviets plundering Manchuria at the end of WWII. And of course, that is why Chiang did not deserve any weapons for his KMT during the civil war against the peasant reformers of Yenan led by Mao.

Like others, I think Chiang with American help could have defeated the Communists in the civil war following WWII. Deception and treason crippled Chiang's chances to win. The results – China under Chairman Mao for decades with millions of Chinese starved, tortured, or executed. And the other legacy of that era – the Kim Il Sung dynasty in North Korea. What a legacy of the Left?