A SECRET WAR: Americans in China, 1944-45 by Oliver J. Caldwell

A SECRET WAR: Americans in China, 1944-45

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1943 Captain Caldwell, born in China, is given a high OSS commission and shipped off to work with Chiang Kai-shek's secret police chief, Tai Li; he becomes convinced that the corruption and bestiality of Chiang's regime will pull it down. In this extraordinarily direct narrative, Caldwell contrasts the govemment's unabashed aping of fascist models with the beauty of the countryside and the culture and the ordeal of the people. He recalls that in the Chinese wartime capital $15,000 could buy a 1942 Buick made in Japan -- in exchange for such luxury items the Nationalists were selling food and medicine to the Japanese. The Kuomintang fed so many secrets to the Japanese that Caldwell was assigned to spy on Chiang's men to protect U.S. secrets. He eventually dispatches an anti-Chiang memo to FDR, but nothing is heard, and he champions the cause of a Mr. Chen, officer of a large secret society, as head of a potentially ""moderate"" post-Chiang government. Late in the war he meets John Birch, who he recalls was killed assaulting a Communist border officer. Years later he hears that EDR had taken a favorable view of his memo, but Admiral Leahy pushed for continued backing of Chiang. This puzzling insistence, the training of secret police and military who never fight the Japanese, and the curious activities of some U.S. units might be explained by General Donovan's remarks to Caldwell to the effect that ""America had won a war but not the peace. That could only come after a greater future war and the defeat of Marxism."" Caldwell does not pursue this conclusion but allows the reader to deduce his own from a rich compilation of data. For its sharp focus of Chiang's regime and its insights into U.S. policy and the effects on Chinese history, the book has broad and unmistakable value.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1972
Publisher: Southern Illinois Univ. Press