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With most of the Washington suggestions, the Generalissimo, however, reluctantly, agreed. He had already accepted the proposal that General Stilwell be given tactical command of China's armies. Then, seemingly in the discussion over the exact scope of Stilwell's command, he was pushed too far. Perhaps, as some reports maintained, Washington at last insisted on bringing the Chinese Communist armies into the new setup. Allegedly, the Chinese Communists, who have adamantly held out against Chiang's control, were willing to serve under an American general and thereby acquire American arms.
Chiang might well have felt that Washington did not understand the danger to Nationalist China in such an arrangement.
But, like Washington, General Stilwell had long believed that China's war effort would be mightily reinforced by bringing the Chinese Communist armies into the war against Japan. Did he urge it with too much vinegar? Be that as it may, on Oct. 19 Joe Stilwell received his recall from Washington.
Next day, over a formal cup of tea, he bade farewell to the Generalissimo. He declined the offer of a high Chinese decoration. He attended a final cocktail party with his staff, packed his dumbbells, captured samurai sword and traveling gear.
Then he emplaned for the U.S. in the silver-painted transport known as "Uncle Joe's Chariot." Few men had been stouter friends of China.
General Stilwell's recall clumsily terminated an embarrassing episode but not the basic situation from which it resulted.
Stripped to the bare facts, that situation was that Chungking, a dictatorship ruling high-handedly in order to safeguard the last vestiges of democratic principles in China, was engaged in an undeclared civil war with Yenan, a dictatorship whose purpose was the spread of totalitarian Communism in China. At the same time Chungking was locked in a life & death struggle with Japan.
China's Critics. As usual Chungking, not the U.S. or Yenan, was criticized for the Stilwell incident. Typical of the tone long taken by leftists and echoed by liberals was a dispatch cleared by Washington military censors and written by New York Timesman Brooks Atkinson, just back from Chungking:
"The decision to relieve General Stilwell represents the political triumph of a moribund, anti-democratic regime that is more concerned with maintaining its political supremacy than in driving the Japanese out of China. America is now committed ... to support a regime that has become increasingly unpopular and distrusted in China, that maintains three secret police services and concentration camps for political prisoners, that stifles free speech and resists democratic forces...
"The Chinese Communists . . . have good armies that are now fighting guerrilla warfare against the Japanese in North China. . . . The Generalissimo regards these armies as the chief threat to his supremacy . . . has made no sincere attempt to arrange at least a truce with them for the duration of the war. ... No diplomatic genius could have overcome the Generalissimo's basic unwillingness to risk his armies in battle with the Japanese. . . ."
What kind of a government was the Communist Government of Yenan, which the White House and General Stilwell had insisted that Generalissimo Chiang must cooperate with?