Continuing our series on the regime of Chiang Kai-shek–all but beatified during the Cold War–we draw still more on a magnificent book–The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. Although sadly out of print, the book is still available through used book services, and we emphatically encourage listeners to take advantage of those and obtain it.
(Mr. Emory gets no money from said purchases of the book.)
The broadcast begins with review of the denouement of the Siang incident, detailed in FTR#1200.
Points of analysis and discussion include:
1.–Eventually, Chiang grudgingly agreed to the coalition, apparently after T.V. Soong saw to it that Chiang got a significant amount of money. “ . . . . The Young Marshal gallantly accepted all blame for the Sian Incident, allowing Chiang to wash his hands in public and wipe them on him. (Interestingly he was put up at T.V. Soong’s home in Nanking.) He had done China a historic service by bringing about the long-sought united front, whatever its later failings. . . .”
2.–Chiang’s reluctant agreement was trumpeted by Henry Luce: “ . . . . He put them [Chiang and Mme. Chiang] on the cover of Time’s first issue of 1938 as ‘Man and Wife of the Year.’ May-ling Soong Chiang now became an even bigger international celebrity. . . .”
3.–As was his wont, Chiang broke his promise to the Young Marshal and General Yang. Lauded by Henry Luce and his associates as an Exemplary Christian, Chiang promised an amnesty on Good Friday—a promise he promptly broke. “ . . . . In his Good Friday message to China that spring of 1937, Chiang referred to the Sian Incident and said piously, ‘Remembering that Christ enjoined us to forgive those who sin against us until seventy times seven and upon their repentance, I felt that that they should be allowed to start life anew. . . .”
3.–Similar treatment was afforded General Yang: “ . . . . The Young Marshal’s co-conspirator, General Yang, despite the Good Friday amnesty, was imprisoned when he came back from European exile and languished for eleven years in one of Tai Li’s special detention camps near Chungking. His wife went on a hunger strike in protest and was allowed to starve herself to death. . . .”
On his last trip through China before decamping to Taiwan, Chiang ordered the execution of General Yang and his surviving family: “ . . . . As long as he was in Chunking anyway, the Generalissimo stopped by police headquarters to finish off one remaining bit of ‘personal’ business. In the Chunking prison, there was still a prisoner who was very special. It was Yang Hu-Cheng, the warlord who had joined the Young Marshal to kidnap Chiang in the Sian Incident. . . . For eleven years, Yang, a son, and a daughter (along with a loyal secretary and his wife) languished in Tai-Li’s concentration camp outside Chunking. Now, before leaving China for good, Chiang made this special trip just to sign Yang’s death warrant. The old man, his son, his daughter, his secretary, and the secretary’s wife were all taken out and shot. . . .”
A signature episode in China’s World War II history is what became known as the New Fourth Army Incident.
Key points of analysis and discussion include:
1.–When the Chinese Communist Fourth Army, acting under the auspices of the accord wrested from Chiang at Sian, was preparing a campaign that would have disturbed a symbiotic relationship between the Japanese and Tu Yueh-sheng, it was ambushed by Kuomintang general Ku Chu-t’ung. Ku Chu-t’ung was the brother of Tu Yueh-sheng’s powerful harbor boss Ku Tsu-chuan. “ . . . . Chiang’s defense of China was being portrayed by T.V. Soong as a valiant defiance against Japanese hordes carried out assiduously by KMT generals. If so, it was proceeding in a curious fashion. Chiang was engaging in as little actual fighting as possible. . . . Chiang was husbanding his resources for a renewal of his war with the Communists. Once holed up in Chungking, he let the people fend for themselves. . . .”
2.–Worth noting in this context is the fact that Chinese troops were capable of defeating the Japanese in battle and enjoyed celebratory support from the country’s populace when they did so. This dynamic became central to the entreaties made (in vain) by General Joseph Stilwell later in the war and his subsequent dismissal and replacement: “ . . . . On only one occasion, a KMT army under General Li Tsung-jen proved that Chinese soldiers could whip the Japanese when they had the will to do so, in the battle of Taierchuang in April 1938. Th Japanese in this instance were badly beaten and the people of China were elated. But Chiang ordered the army not to pursue, and within weeks of Taierchuang the Japanese had recovered the initiative. . . .”
3.–Typical of the lethally incompetent conduct of the war by Chiang’s KMT armies was the Yellow River dikes incident. “ . . . . One of Chiang’s few attempts to slow the Japanese led him to dynamite the dikes on the Yellow River. Without warning of any kind, three provinces, eleven cities, and four thousand villages were flooded, two million people were made homeless, and all their crops were destroyed. The Japanese were only bogged down for three months. . . . Chiang’s government tried to put the blame on the Japanese and the Taiwan government continues to do so today. [1985—D.E.] . . .”
4.–Taking precedence over fighting the Japanese was Chiang’s political/military prioritization of waging civil war against the Communists: “. . . . By 1940-41, Chiang’s sphere of influence had shrunk while the Communists’ area had, expanded at the expense of the Japanese. In the red area, soldiers, guerillas, and peasants were fighting furiously and with results. But, each time the reds enlarged their perimeter, Chiang had his army attack the Communists instead of the Japanese, to keep his rivals from making territorial gains. It was a war within a war. Chiang had half a million soldiers occupied blockading the red area in the Northwest. . . .”
5.–Chiang’s anti-communist strategy reached an extreme with the New Fourth Army Incident. When a communist army moved into an area in which the Green Gang and Japanese had established a cooperative relationship, it was ambushed: “ . . . . Part of the United Front agreement involved putting Mao’s Red Army under joint KMT command. . . . In 1941, the [Communist] New Fourth Army was assigned to operate under joint KMT-CCP command along the south bank of the Yangtze River within the orbit of the Green Gang. . . .”
6.–Green Gang’s dope rackets had continued in the area: “ . . . . The gang’s operations had not seriously diminished because of the war. The gang operated under the Japanese occupation much as it had before, although Big-eared Tu, bearing the rank of general in the KMTR, widely moved to Chunking. In his absence, the Shanghai gang headquarters was left in the hands of Tu’s harbor boss, Ku Tsu-chuan. As a complement Generalissimo Chiang gave all military responsibilities for the lower Yangtze river to Ku’s brother, General Ku Chu-t’ung. . . .”
7.–The New Fourth Army was going to move against a railway. “ . . . . This was an area in which there was cooperation between the Green Gang and the Japanese. In return for permitting its opium smuggling and underworld operations to go on uninterrupted, the Green Gang guaranteed the security of Japanese garrisons and enterprises in the Yangtze Valley. . . .”
7.–“ . . . . General Ku, in consultation with Chiang Kai-shek, decided that the New Fourth Army was a threat to this fiefdom. . . .”
8.–Taking a safer route—to avoid being sent to an area which would have fed them into a Japanese ambush, the New Fourth Army left key parts of its troops and support personnel behind.
9.–“ . . . . suddenly, early in January, 1941, General Ku fell upon it with a much greater force and massacred all but the headquarters contingent and its women cadres and nurses. All five thousand combat soldiers left behind as a guard were slain. According to survivors, the men of the headquarters staff were then butchered. The KMT general who had been commanding the New Fourth was arrested, while the CCP political commissar of the unit—who had escaped the 1927 Shanghai Massacre—was brutally murdered. Meanwhile the Communist nurses and women political cadres, many of them schoolgirls, were being and raped repeatedly by hundreds of soldiers. They were kept in army brothels near the attack site for a year and a half. The women contracted venereal diseases and some committed suicide, singly and with each other’s help. . . .”
10.–General Ku Chu-t’ung was rewarded for this by Chiang, who made him commander-in-chief of al KMT armies.
The program then reviews General Ku Chu-t’ung’s collaboration with Kodama Yoshio and the Japanese to–among other things–re-sell them American Lend Lease goods that were flown Over the Hump or traveling via the equally perilous Burma Road.
T.V. Soong’s brother T.L. Soong was in charge of the Lend-Lease program to China during World War II.
The collaboration between the Japanese and the Kuomintang officer corps—who, it must be remembered, were also kingpins of the Green Gang criminal syndicate—was a consistent pattern. The KMT avoided fighting the Japanese whenever possible, and formed commercial relationships with the invaders: “ . . . . bartering American Lend-Lease materials for Japanese consumer goods. Fortunes were made. The only KMT armies that did fight were those under Stilwell’s control in Burma . . . .”
Embodying the corruption that was part and parcel to the Kuomintang military’s officer corps (minted at the Whampoa academy), was General T’ang En-po. In addition to his collaboration with the Japanese invaders, he viewed his military commission as license to steal and betray the men under his command, as well as China and the American and other Allies with which Chiang was officially arrayed.
Key points of discussion and analysis:
1.–General Tang En-po’s close association with the Ku brothers and the Green Gang.
2.–General Tang En-po’s role in blowing up the Yellow River dikes.
3.–His bartering of American Lend-Lease materials to the Japanese.
4.–His plundering of the peasants in areas under his military command.
5.–His theft of pay from the troops under his command.
6.–His army’s total capitulation to the Japanese when the invaders launched their Operation Ichigo offensive of 1944.
7.–General Tang En-po was rewarded by Chiang with the command of 14 KMT divisions comprising the Third Front Army.
8.–His cozy relationship with the Japanese who surrendered to his army at the war’s end.
Although the U.S. political leadership—as a whole—were blind to Chiang’s fascism, anti-democratic behavior and the institutionalized corruption of his regime, the same was not true of many U.S. fighting men.
One of Chiang’s detractors was a celebrated Marine Corps flier and member of Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers named Gregory “Pappy” Boyington.
Boyington despised Chiang, Mme. Chiang and was loath to die in a P-40 for someone he recognized as a tyrant.
When the Generalissimo and Mme. Chiang visited the base of the American Volunteer Corps (“The Flying Tigers”), Boyington and several of his fellow “Tigers” got liquored up and buzzed Chiang and wife, forcing both to “hit the deck.”
There was a prime-time TV series crafted on the template of Boyington’s Marine Corps squadron called “Ba, Ba Black Sheep” with the late Robert Conrad playing Pappy Boyington.
Among the vehement critics of Chiang Kai-shek and Mme. Chiang Kai-shek were U.S. flyers who had to make the run “Over the Hump”—the dangerous air supply route that crossed the Himalayas.
(As we have already seen, U.S. Lend Lease material that was flow through that route into China was often sold to the Japanese enemy by corrupt Kuomintang officers, politicians and Green Gang functionaries.)
Flying “Over the Hump” caused high casualties among Army Air Corps flyers, and when they discovered the luxury items that Mme. Chiang included in her personal baggage, they were outraged. That outrage found expression.