The Ambassador in China (Patrick J. Hurley), Temporarily in Iran, to the Secretary of State

The Ambassador in China (Patrick J. Hurley), Temporarily in Iran, to the Secretary of State

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Shocked by news death of President. As you know I am on a special mission directed by President Roosevelt to confer with Churchill and Eden in London and Stalin and Molotov in Moscow. During your absence and the absence of Under Secretary Grew, I was fully briefed by Assistant Secretary Dunn on all questions pertaining to Asiatic problems that might arise in the informal conversations to be held with the above-named officials.

It was the President’s suggestion that I undertake to obtain cooperation from the British and Soviet Governments for the American policy to support the National Government of China; to unite the military forces of China to bring the war with Japan to a speedy end and to support all reasonable efforts of Chinese leaders for the purpose of creating a free, united, democratic China. I had not intended to report on the mission to London and Moscow until after my conversations in Moscow had been concluded. It was my intention then to report the facts and conclusions in detail directly to the President and the Secretary of State. However the turn of events has made it essential that I give you this brief summary of the situation to date.

Had full and informal conferences with Churchill and Eden and the General Staff in London. Churchill and Eden have agreed to support American efforts for the unification of all military forces in China. They have also agreed that they will support America’s position in lending aid toward the establishment of free, united, democratic government in China. The discussions with the Staff pertained to the situation in India and Burma and problems connected with Thailand and Indo-China and the withdrawal of certain American resources to meet drastic situation in China and a justification for what America had done in that connection.

Later in the discussions with Churchill and Eden, questions pertaining to the reconquest of colonial and imperial territory with American men and lend-lease supplies and the question pertaining to Hongkong and other problems were interjected by the British. Nearly all questions pertaining to various phases of Asiatic policy were frankly discussed. Churchill definitely branded the American long range policy in regard to China as “the great American illusion”. He also disapproved America’s withdrawal of American resources in Burma and India for the stabilization of America’s military position in China. He said that the withdrawal of American resources from Burma and India might have a serious effect on the position of Mountbatten. I countered that America’s position in China was facing disaster and to prevent American failure in China, I considered it justifiable and essential to use as much of American resources as necessary for the purpose of maintaining American position in China which, with the Pacific operations, constitute the real battlefronts against Japan. When the subject was broached, I told Churchill I was not authorized to settle the matter of the use of American resources reconquest of colonial possessions in Southeast Asia. However, I expressed my own opinion that America should use all her resources for the defeat of Japan rather than dissipate them in the reconquest of colonial territory in the rear. Churchill disagreed most emphatically with my expressed stand. I replied that I felt Britain, France and the Netherlands had enough resources of their own to mop up the enemy in their own empires. The President briefed me regarding Hong  Kong and authorized me to discuss it if the question were introduced. Churchill flatly stated that he would fight for Hong Kong to a finish. In fact he used the expression “Hong Kong will be eliminated from the British Empire only over my dead body”. He then said that the British Empire would ask for nothing and would give up nothing and I replied by saying that President Roosevelt had given him the British Empire which, in my opinion, was lost up until the time we entered the war. I added we had given freely of the resources and the lives of America and that I felt that his statement that he would accept nothing and give nothing was logically and factually incorrect. I reminded him that he had already accepted much. I then pointed out that if the British decline to observe the principles of the Atlantic Charter and continue to hold Hong Kong that Russia would possibly make demands in regard to areas in North China that would further complicate the situation and nullify most of the principles for which the leaders of the United Nations, especially Roosevelt, had stated that we were fighting.

I said that such a position would also be a complete nullification of the principles of the Atlantic Charter which was reaffirmed by Britain and the Soviet in the Iran Declaration. At this point Churchill stated that Britain is not bound by the principles of the Atlantic Charter at all. He then called for a copy of a speech he made in Parliament subsequent to the promulgation of the Atlantic Charter. I then called his attention to the fact that he reaffirmed the principles of the Atlantic Charter subsequent to his speech in Parliament when he signed the Iran Declaration. Notwithstanding all this he persisted that Britain is not bound by the principles of the Atlantic Charter. He sent to me by his secretary an excerpt from his address in Parliament which he had stated was the true position of Britain in regard to the Atlantic Charter.

Notwithstanding Churchill’s stubborn attitude the conversations were not at all unfriendly. At the end of the discussion Churchill reiterated his statement that he would support America’s policy in China for the unification of the Chinese armed forces and the creation of a free, united, democratic China. This of course was the chief objective of my discussions. Eden went even further than Churchill on this subject in saying that he would recall any British official or agent in China who opposed the American policy if I would supply him with the facts and the names of the persons concerned.

While the purpose of my mission was discussed fully in your absence with Assistant Secretary Dunn, the visits both to London and Moscow were clearly as the personal representative of the President rather than in my capacity as Ambassador to China. So upon hearing the news of the President’s death this morning, I considered turning back and not going to Moscow. After further deliberation, however, I have concluded that it would be appropriate for me to carry on unless I receive instructions to the contrary from you or from the President.

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