Enclosure to dispatch No. 3072, dated October 18, 1944, from the American Embassy, Chungking, China.
Headquarters Hsiao Ho Tzu. 26/6/44
To: British and American Embassies,
Report of mission from Weihsien Civilian Assembly Center to Commander Wang Yu Min, 1st War Area, 2nd Command, Shantung Advance Unit, 15th Tsung Tui. (Formerly Shantng-Kiangsu War Area, 4th Tsung Tui).
CONDITIONS IN WEIHSIEN CAMP
Nationals interned: (Men, women and children respectively) American: 89, 78, 38 – total 205. British: 358, 394, 324 – total 1076. Italians: 44, 30, 19 – total 93. Others: 46, 48 – total 146. Total 1520. (Aged over 60 – 142. Average sick 200).
In general except for food and finance, there has been little change in camp conditions since the American evacuation in September, 1943. Health good with no epidemics but present reduced rations are lowering resistance and increased sickness is anticipated during the summer. There has bee gradual reduction in the quantity and quality of the food during the past six months. Present supplies allow one bowl cereal (beans, kaoliang or corn meal) for breakfast, meat or vegetable stew at noon and a bowl of soup in the evening. The quantity of food is insufficient for manual labor. There are two sources of additional foodstuffs, the Canteen and the Black Market. The former supplies eggs, peanuts, peanut oil, fruit, honey, etc. and necessities such as shoes, soap, matches, candles, cigarettes, etc. The latter supplies sugar, jam, tinned milk, cereals, etc. but owing to lack of funds has not been operating for the past three months.
Monthly Comfort Money payments have been at FRB$150.- per head but insomuch as the Japanese have insisted upon a more favorable rate of exchange no Comfort Money has been received for the past four months. Personal funds confiscated upon internees’ arrival may now be withdrawn at the rate of FRB$50. - per month, but the greater majority of the internees have either no credit balance or sufficient only for 2/3 months. At present prices, FRB$50.- does not even allow purchase of necessities from the Canteen, much less additional Canteen issued foodstuffs, upon which the internees have come to rely – particularly children, aged and medical cases. The emergency relief fund established by the internees’ Committee is already exhausted and the internal financial situation prevents possibility of reimbursement. The visits of the Swiss Consul from Tsingtao, at some time fortnightly, are becoming much less frequent owing to Japanese non-cooperation and at the time of our departure six weeks had elapsed since his last visit.
Since the camp was completely isolated from reliable Chinese contacts, the internees were completely ignorant of the true local conditions. It was generally believed that the areas in the immediate vicinity north and south of the railway were controlled by groups of bandits and semi-independent units of the 8th route Army. With the collapse of Germany in sight and the anticipated increased activity in the Far East, there has naturally been some anxiety in regard to the safety of the camp in the event of hostilities in this area or of a sudden Japanese withdrawal. In the interval between such a withdrawal and the arrival of a disciplined force it was feared that the camp, being entirely defenseless, might be occupied by irresponsible elements resulting in looting, cessation of food supplies and general danger to women and children. Early in May a letter was smuggled into camp from Commander Wang inquiring after the welfare of the internees and general camp conditions, offering any assistance within his power and suggesting that with the approval and co-operation of Chungking, the evacuation of the entire camp by air might be possible. Although this plan was considered impracticable, it was felt that advantage might well be taken of Commander Wang's desire to be of assistance (and the possibility of utilizing a landing field in the vicinity to ship arms to Commander Wang, facilitating the protection of the camp, was discussed. In view of the necessity for absolute secrecy, knowledge of this contact was confined to only four responsible individuals, including the Chairman)* It was suggested that two men, who would go to Commander Wang's headquarters, should be responsible for negotiations and this was readily approved by the Commander. The question of repercussions to such a move was considered and it was believed that any restrictions would probably be only of a temporary nature and outweighed by benefits derived from a satisfactory connection.
OBJECT OF MISSION
1. Investigate and ascertain as far as possible reliability and suitability of the connection.
2. Explain reasons whereby conditions inside camp make evacuation by air impracticable,
3. Establish reliable means of communication with camp,
4. Investigate possibilities of financial relief,
5. Investigate possibilities of landing field,
6. Make provision for adequate protection of the, camp if necessary,
7. Arrange for provision of food in case of emergency.
1. We were agreeably surprised to find so large a body of disciplined troops in close proximity to the camp and we consider we have been most fortunate in establishing this connection with Commander Wang, who both in personality and military position is best fitted to be of assistance to the camp. He is 38 years old, a University and Military College graduate, forceful and direct in manner, obviously well educated, and showing an intelligent grasp of current events; he commands much respect from, and is held in great esteem by, his subordinates and one has only to consider the self-sufficiency and organization of this area to estimate his ability.
He has a total of 30,000 troops 25,000 of which are armed. These are garrisoned in small mobile groups throughout this area. They are disciplined, well-fed and smartly turned out.
The communication system is efficiently organized, giving immediate warning of Japanese troop movements; Commander Wang's sphere of influence lies roughly within lines drawn from Weihsien NE. to the sea, from Weihsien to Kaomi on the Kiao-Tsi Railway, N. to Pingtu and NW. to the sea.
The nature of the warfare makes it impossible to indicate permanent boundaries and it is incorrect to say that the whole of this area is under his rigid control as rapid troop movements and night raids alter the position from time to time.
The last major engagement was on May 19th/20th at Sunchang against an enemy force of 5,000 and was fiercely contested. Enemy losses were 400 killed and 300 wounded. Defending troops suffered casualties totaling 300.
The Japanese retreated without attaining their objective.
From the information that we have gathered it appears that the armed troops are inadequately equipped and that there is a shortage of ammunition.
The supply of armaments is maintained by (a) local manufacture (b) purchase from Japanese (c) capture in battle.
Decentralized local manufacture accounts for the larger part of supply but quality is inferior and is restricted by difficulty in obtaining raw materials. Manufacture includes machine guns, rifles, hand grenades, trench mortars and light field artillery. In addition, there is an efficient organization for the manufacture of cloth, paper, matches, etc. from local products.
Two-way radio communication with Chungking is maintained through Fuyang, Anhui. Daily news broadcasts are received and a daily paper issued with a circulation of 10.000 copies.
Education is adequately provided for with a Middle School, 70 Higher Primary and 1500 primary schools.
Fapi is in current use, $20. - being equal to FRB$1. - the use of the later being prohibited. Food supplies appear to be adequate for both military and civil use but this year’s wheat crop gave only 20% yield and insufficient rain makes prospect for millet and kaoliang poor.
2. The plan put forward for the evacuation of the camp by air included the construction of a landing field, the taking over of the camp by armed forces, transportation of internees to vicinity of air-field and housing and protection of same for a period of 5 days during which transportation by relays of planes would be effected. We have explained to Commander Wang that this plan is neither desirable nor practical ― particularly on account of the large percentage of aged, sick, women and children.
3. Arrangements are being made to place a reliable and trustworthy contact within the camp, as an employee of the Japanese.
4. Current prices make FRB$150.- per head per month the minimum requirement to take up Canteen issues of necessities and foodstuffs, but this does not allow purchase of additional foodstuffs on the Black Market. Immediate financial assistance is urgently required in the camp and to meet this situation Commander Wang will advance FRB$100,000. - which will be forwarded to the camp in installments as soon as contact is established. This sum is to be used for the relief of urgent cases.
The extent of future financial assistance will depend on the amount of Comfort Money received ― if any. Commander Wang will supply up to FRB$100,000. - per month, this sum being considered the maximum amount that can be absorbed in the camp without arousing the Japanese suspicions.
It is presumed that the Red Cross is in a position to make funds available but failing this we suggest consideration be given to obtaining funds by donation from Catholic and Protestant Missions and the leading business firms.
As a further means of alleviating the food situation in camp, we are investigating the possibilities of purchasing foodstuffs in bulk at Tsingtao, such purchases to be handed to the Swiss Consul as anonymous donations for shipment to the camp. Small shipments of this nature have occasionally been received.
The method of reimbursement has been discussed with Commander Wang, and while he is willing to accept a credit in Chungking, he has put forward the suggestion that shipment of munitions by air might be arranged as an alternative method. Since any funds allocated for camp use must reduce his local purchase of munitions and raw materials, the later method be more desirable.
5. Under the original proposed evacuation plan, three prospective sites were selected for an airfield. We are of the opinion that anyone of these would be suitable and allow the construction of a landing field with tamped earth runaways. Although the evacuation plan is abandoned shipment of arms, ammunition, medicines, etc. could be effected by the use of such a landing field or by parachute.
Such shipments should be of great assistance in strengthening Commander Wang’s position and thereby the security of the camp.
6. We have explained to Commander Wang the apprehension in regard to the safety of the camp in the event of hostilities in the vicinity or the sudden withdrawal of the Japanese. He has promised us that everything possible will be done to protect the camp and he assures us that there is little reason to fear the occupation of the camp by undisciplined forces as long as he is able to maintain his position in the area.
7. Commander Wang has promised to take care of the food supply to the camp in the event of an emergency.
We strongly suggest that a suitable English-speaking Chinese be sent to this area as soon as possible to deal with and be responsible for all matters pertaining to the camp, both at the present time and during the period of transition, when his assistance would be invaluable.
We would like to express our appreciation of the interest that Commander Wang has shown in the welfare of the camp and his concern for us personally ― he has treated us with every courtesy and has made every provision for our comfort.
Although we realize some of the difficulties involved both here and in Chungking, we feel that it is time some effort was made to relieve the present situation, if only through unofficial channels. We also feel that some consideration should now be given to the question of securing the safety of the internees should the local situation make protection necessary and we hope that, having established this connection, it will be put to good use.
Any additional information that you may require, other that that pertaining to the camp, may be obtained from Mr. Li Tzu-Lien ( ) Commander Wang’s representative in Chungking. If Mr. W. B. Christian of the Yee Tsoong Tobacco Distributors Ltd., is in Chungking, he will be able to enlighten you on conditions in the camp prior to his evacuation in September 1943.
We have endeavored to give you a summary of the existing situation both here and in the camp, and we hope that our suggestions will be of some assistance to you in formulating any plans you may deem advisable.
(signed) Arthur M. Hummel, (American).
Fu Jen University, Peking
(signed) L. Tipton, (British).
Yee Tsoong Tobacco Dist. Ltd.
* As a precautionary measure we considered it advisable to delete this from text of report.