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But Joe Stilwell could not win the kind of cooperation he needed in high places. He did not get along well with the British: Churchill's policy in the Far East was consistently at variance with U.S. policy. He could not get enough supplies for the Chinese. The trickle of supplies that used to be hauled agonizingly over the Burma Road became a dribble when it had to be flown over the Himalayan "hump." It is still a dribble. The Chinese, exhausted by seven years of almost singlehanded war against Japan, were reluctant to give General Stilwell the troops he wanted for the Burma offensive; the Japs might suddenly crack down on them in earnest. When the Japs began the drive that last week seemed on the verge of cutting China in two, Chiang Kai-shek's Government might well have felt that its go-slow policy was justified.
China's Puzzles. And there was the further complication of Washington's peripatetic global emissaries whose powers, purposes and accreditation were often more baffling than any Chinese puzzle. There was Vice President Henry Wallace. He cocked a nutritional eye at China's permanently underfed people, bent an eager ear to gossip of Chungking's and Chiang's political instability, buzzed back to Washington to pour his frightening reports into the Presidential ear. Then there were President Roosevelt's personal representatives, Donald Nelson, all new to China and China to him, and Major General Patrick Hurley. Worldly, well-tailored Pat Hurley stopped off in Moscow to garner Premier Molotov's assurances that Russia has no designs on China, stopped off in Chungking to lecture Chiang Kai-shek on the urgent need to cooperate with Russia and the Chinese Communists. The Generalissimo, however, believed that his Government's most urgent need was more supplies.
Instead of sending supplies, Washington proposed that General Stilwell be given command of all Chinese forces. The White House believed that the Nationalist Government could do a lot more in the fight against Japan by pressing domestic reforms and by coming to terms with the Chinese Communist Government at Yenan.
Nobody ever urged the Chinese Communists to come to terms with Chungking.
China's Patience. But, patiently, the Generalissimo continued to listen. He had learned patience in a stern school 33 years of bloody civil and foreign wars, the pangs of a nation that had not yet forged its unity, won its independence or completed a revolution from feudalism.
He had swallowed his pride in dealings with the Americans before. He had agreed to let General Stilwell supervise the distribution of U.S. Lend-Lease in China.
Such a condition had been imposed on no other head of a foreign state. The implication was that Chiang Kai-shek could not be trusted with Lend-Lease.
But only once is he known to have complained bitterly to a colleague : "The Americans want me to be a slave. I don't mind being a slave for the sake of victory, but" and his voice broke with anger and injury "they treat me as if I were a thief!"