Stillwell was a gifted linguist, speaking Chinese, French, and Spanish with ease. He was also a proven training officer of infantry who graduated from West Point one year behind the politically connected Douglas MacArthur. And to top that off, he was one of the few people outside of General G.C. Marshall’s family to call the man “George” and get away with it, and was a favorite of Marshall unlike the attitude Marshall had toward MacArthur. Stillwell also served as intelligence officer for General Pershing in France during WW1, but as a “staffer” didn’t have front-line duty like the glory hound MacArthur.
Now this “what-if” is going to ask the reader to suspend reality in the person of Chiang Kai-shek, and the China lobby in the USA who distorted the love of China in America through the print media. In this scenario Chiang will not be the self-serving nihilist with nepotism driving his decisions as he is historically, i.e. one who enriches himself and his family and friends while he loots the Chinese populace.
Now he (Chiang) will be a realist/pragmatist following in the real steps of Sun yet-Sen who truly hopes to break with the “old Emperor/Empress China”, modernize it and bring it into a representative democracy, as Sun’s personal western heroes Washington/Jefferson/Lincoln espoused. And also one who recognizes the value of training, feeding, supporting, and arming his own peasant soldier population. Stillwell understood this, but could never get Chiang to see the Chinese peasant soldier in the same manner.
Of course Chiang was protecting himself and his, not working for the defeat of the Japanese who had invaded and occupied so much of coastal China. Then again, his own (Chiang’s) lack of true control of the fringes of China must be taken into account. There were not only the Communists of Mao to worry about; there were outlying provinces which had governors with their own independent armed forces much like the warlords of old. These groups only paid “lip service” to backing the Nationalists. The Generalissimo had also, with his lack of control over some portions of China proper, taken the defensive tack of “pull back” and then slowly absorb the Japanese into China as had been done since the days of the Mongol Golden Horde.
Stillwell didn’t yet know of or understand the corruption of the Chiang/Soong group at this time, but he had deduced that the Chinese conscript or volunteer peasant soldier could be as good or better than any other infantry man if properly trained, fed, armed, and led by competent officers. He proved this was true with his training of Chinese troops in Ramgarh, India later. This was the New Chinese First Army whose (eventually) three divisions performed with distinction in Burma under Stillwell’s command.
So, there is the premise. Chiang isn’t who he really is and doesn’t do what he did; instead he listens to Stillwell and allows him to reshape and train the Chinese Army, include the Mao led Communist forces into the battle plan attacking from the northwest, and puts General Claire Chennault into a support of the infantry role, rather than the dominant role he and his air group took in Chiang’s government in reality. Stillwell had little contact with Mao in reality, but he had met and admired Mao’s representative Chou en-Lai. His diary entries reveal he thought that Chou was a motivated and talented man.
Now, if this is started when Stillwell returns to China in March of 1942, and the Chinese Army with the support of the AVG had coalesced by mid-1943, they could have easily had over 90 to 100 divisions of well trained, well led, well fed, and well supported armed troops with artillery and air support to aggressively confront the occupying Japanese forces. Rather than the 3+ million men they had “on paper”, the force would have been an aggressive and positive power.
This would have at least two other influences on WW2 as it developed, and post-war geopolitics. I’ll start with the Cairo Conference in late ’43. If Chiang had been an aggressive “winner” or at least consistent offensive commander against the Japanese occupation troops when he showed up for the meeting in Cairo, both FDR and Churchill may have welcomed him with more enthusiasm. In reality the dearth of Lend-Lease aid was coupled to both the “Germany first” policy and Chiang’s own lack of productive use of the aid he had received in the years between 1941 and 1943. However, at Cairo Chiang changed positions on the war’s objectives, made more and more demands for allied aid, and either showed up or cancelled meetings at his own whim. As an aside, in reality while the Cairo Conference was going on, the Japanese removed infantry troops from the mainland for Pacific Island re-enforcement, a further indication of how little threat they felt from Chiang’s forces.
This may not have been the outcome if he (Chiang) had supported a strong, aggressive force attacking the Japanese in China. When he was such a “wishy-washy” commander in aggressive operations, and such a “me” first power in Asia, FDR later went to his first conference with Stalin in Tehran while Chiang left the meeting in Egypt. FDR now knew that all the money, time and effort in Chiang’s China was basically going no-where, so he (FDR) was thinking he needed to ask Stalin to come into the far-east to support the allied effort against Japan in the Pacific Theater when the Nazis were defeated. On the other side of the coin, if the Chinese were throwing out or defeating the Japanese at war’s end, the Red Army wouldn’t have been required, nor asked to be there.
What would that mean? Perhaps no Soviet occupation of Manchuria; no North Korea? No trade off of the Kuriles and Sakhalin Island to the USSR by FDR to entice Stalin into the far-east battle? Perhaps a bit less communist influence in all of Asia?
Ah, the “lack of a nail” concept comes to the fore. Just a thought, how does a change of Chiang’s attitude like this strike the forum?
Edited by brndirt1, 25 February 2012 - 08:13 PM.