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Mission to Yenan

Mission to Yenan: American Liaison with the Chinese Communists, 1944-1947

Carolle J. Carter
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Mission to Yenan
    Book Description:

    Conventional wisdom informs us that "only Nixon could go to China." In fact, in 1944, nearly thirty years before his historic trip, the American military established the first liaison and intelligence-gathering mission with the Chinese Communists in Yenan. Commonly referred to as the Dixie Mission, the detached military unit sent to Yenan was responsible for transmitting weather information, assisting the Communists in their rescue of downed American flyers, and laying the groundwork for an eventual rapprochement between the Communists and Nationalists, the two sides struggling in the ongoing Chinese Civil War.

    Following extensive use of archival sources and numerous interviews with the men who traveled and served in Yenan, Carolle Carter argues that while Dixie fulfilled its assignment, the members steered the mission in different directions from its original, albeit loosely described, intent. As the months and years passed, the Dixie Mission increasingly emphasized intelligence gathering over evaluating their Communist hosts' contribution to the war effort against Japan.

    Some American politicians in the 1950s portrayed the participants in the Dixie Mission as too sympathetic to the Chinese Communists. But during the 1970s many looked back at these individuals as wise but ignored oracles who could have prevented the "loss of China." Carter strips away these simplistic portrayals to reveal a diverse and dedicated collection of soldiers, diplomats, and technicians who had ongoing contact with the Chinese Communists longer than any other group during World War II, but who were destined to be a largely unused resource during the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5654-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Michael Schaller

    Since the 1940s, the Dixie Mission has been ignored at some times and engulfed in controversy at others. During the 1950s, American politicians eager to exploit the loss of China as a campaign issue persistently argued that the Mission and its participants had been the dupes—or worse—of the Chinese Communists. However absurd, these charges proved professionally fatal for many of the career diplomats affiliated with Dixie. During the 1970s and 1980s—the time of President Richard Nixon’s “opening to China”—a new generation of scholars rediscovered the Dixie Mission. Many of them came to regard it as a...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Most Americans are unaware that for part of World War II the United States maintained a detached military unit in Yenan, Shensi Province, China, as a liaison with the Chinese Communists. This group, the U.S. Army Observer Group (USAOG), known as the Dixie Mission, was created in late 1943 and early 1944, when mainly American forces were spearheading the war in China against Japan. As Jonathan Spence has noted, China’s greatest contribution lay in holding down large numbers of Japanese troops, although development of the B-29 and plans to bomb Japan from bases on the Chinese mainland were also important....

  6. 1 The Origins of the Dixie Mission
    (pp. 16-35)

    By May 1943, many young Americans in the CBI were anxious to obtain accurate information about developments in the Communist-held areas of China. During the early part of that year, John Davies discussed the subject with General Stilwell, who seemed interested but whose many other problems prevented him from giving the matter his full attention. Davies did not let the matter drop, however. On June 24, 1943, he prepared a lengthy memorandum to Stilwell, with a copy to the State Department, setting forth reasons why the United States should send an observer mission to Yenan.¹

    Davies was to write many...

  7. 2 Life in Yenan
    (pp. 36-62)

    The city of Yenan, famed for its ancient pagoda located high atop Chaling Hill, lies in extremely isolated and ruggedly mountainous country. In July 1941, its airfield was only a clearing on the plain. Pilots and passengers on incoming planes surveyed both the pagoda and the famous Yenan caves. Pilots used the pagoda to sight their landings. The caves provided warm lodging and also contained many shops.

    Most people would not consider the climate of the area ideal. Summers were hot and humid. Snow fell abundantly in the winter. When spring rains melted the snows, the loess soil turned into...

  8. 3 The Observer Group in Operation
    (pp. 63-88)

    Long after the final shots of World War II, when all the treaties had been signed and the cold war was underway, a variety of opinions continued to exist about Dixie. There was some question as to whether the Dixie Mission had earned its keep or whether the Communists were doing anything thanks to Dixie that they had not already been doing when Dixie arrived.

    InChinese-Soviet Relations, 1937-1945,John Garver observes that just as Stalin’s attitude toward the Chinese Communists was fundamentally conditioned by Soviet-American relations, so Mao’s Soviet policy was embroiled with his American policy. By 1944-1945, it...

  9. 4 Communications
    (pp. 89-105)

    The Dixie Mission’s radio connection with Chungking was its life line. In the beginning, responsibility for the link rested with the signal communications officer, Captain Paul Domke. OSS provided his radio and technical personnel, Sergeants Tony Remenih and Walter Gress. Domke and Remenih brought the radio and generators with them on the first plane to Yenan. By the time Gress arrived on the second plane, they had already selected one of the adobe-type houses on the hill behind the caves as the site for their operation.¹ The Communists supplied the electricity, a one-lung (one-cylinder) diesel engine. Remenih, a longtime amateur...

  10. 5 Diplomacy, Differences, and Patrick J. Hurley
    (pp. 106-133)

    As previously noted, the United States did not always find Chiang Kai-shek the most agreeable wartime ally. His long-standing differences with Mao Tse-tung clearly indicated that a civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists would inevitably follow the close of international hostilities.

    Chiang also squabbled with General Stilwell. In July 1944 he bypassed the general and asked FDR to send an influential man to China, someone who would enjoy the president's full confidence and with whom he, Chiang, could collaborate on all political and military matters. He wanted someone farsighted, with political ability and vision, for he believed that...

  11. 6 The Communist Attempt to Bypass Hurley
    (pp. 134-152)

    Patrick Hurley’s assignment in China had been to bring the Kuomintang and Communists together. He started his task in an evenhanded manner, but when negotiations collapsed, he revealed himself as a partisan of the national government. In response, the Communists changed their approach to the United States. From mid-December 1944 until early January 1945, they tried to circumvent Hurley and Chiang and to collaborate directly with Americans they considered friendly. During this period, however, many of the Americans who supported cooperation with Yenan lost influence. The Communists then sought direct routes to Washington. They also expressed interest in offers of...

  12. 7 Intelligence Gathering in Yenan
    (pp. 153-176)

    Most of the men in the Dixie Mission were affiliated with the Office of Strategic Services, the Office of War Information, or Army Intelligence (G-2). Each man’s primary responsibility was to his parent agency. There was much rivalry among these organizations, and so empire building frequently took precedence over defeating the enemy.

    The OWI, created by executive order on June 13,1942, served as a clearinghouse and coordinating agency for wartime news and information both inside the United States and overseas. Directed by journalist Elmer Davis, it was part of the Office for Emergency Management. Within the United States the OWI,...

  13. 8 The Marshall Mission and the End of Dixie
    (pp. 177-198)

    Patrick Hurley’s resignation as ambassador to China, when it came on November 27, 1945, caught everyone by surprise, as did the extent of his freely expressed anger. In a letter to Truman the man from Oklahoma attacked “the wide discrepancy between ourannouncedpolicies and ourconductof international policies.” He complained because the career men whom he had asked to have removed (George Atcheson, Jr., and John S. Service) had been transferred to the staff of the supreme commander in Asia (MacArthur). According to Hurley, they continued to side with the Communists and to undermine American foreign policy.¹ Hurley’s...

  14. 9 The Dixie Mission in Retrospect
    (pp. 199-226)

    Even before World War II ended, people began expressing opinions about the merit of the Dixie Mission. Some evaluations came from the military or OSS participants in the Mission itself or from the Foreign Service officers who had helped create it. Others originated with army, navy, and diplomatic personnel not assigned to Dixie but with direct Dixie experience, such as General Albert C. Wedemeyer and former ambassador Patrick J. Hurley. Policymakers in Washington, bureaucrats in the China Theater headquarters, politicians who considered themselves experts on China, journalists, the Chinese Communists, and, of course, historians have all had their say as...

  15. Appendix: Pinyin to Wade-Giles
    (pp. 227-232)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 233-256)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-266)
  18. Index
    (pp. 267-280)