Mission with Wallace
Roosevelt was not quite ready to let Lattimore settle down. The president was about to send Vice President Henry Wallace on a three-month trip to Siberia and China, and Lattimore's presence was required.
There are as many explanations of the genesis and purpose of the Wallace mission as there are chroniclers of it. Roosevelt, as noted earlier, had a compulsion to send special envoys everywhere he wanted to go but couldn't: fact-finding missions, troubleshooting missions, promise-the-sky missions, even plain goodwill missions such as the round-the-world trip of Wendell Willkie in 1943 or the cultural mission of playwright Lillian Hellman to Moscow in 1944. Roosevelt's envoys were expected to establish rapport with foreign leaders and convince them that if he were not fighting a war from a wheelchair, the president would be there himself.
Despite Roosevelt's habit of dispatching emissaries, Secretary of State Cordell Hull thought the Wallace mission originated with Wallace, who was concerned that the strained relations between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists made it impossible for China "to assume a position of influence alongside the three big Western powers. . . . Vice President Wallace went to China in 1944 with the idea of converting both parties to this point of view. This was his own idea." But Hull considered Wallace a bull in a China shop and opposed the trip. Publicly, Wallace said that Roosevelt wanted him to preach the necessity of Chinese unity to the Generalissimo. Barbara Tuchman's view was that "the selection of Wallace had more to do with domestic politics than with China." Roosevelt simply wanted Wallace out of the country so he could select a more popular running mate for the fall election.
Among other things, Wallace was to meet with Averell Harriman, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. But Roosevelt did not want Wallace in Moscow, where he might meet Stalin. Instead, Harriman would go to Tashkent to meet the vice president. "The President," Harriman later wrote, "was perfectly willing for Wallace to see Chiang Kai-shek. Indeed, he thought that the Vice President's liberal influence might do some good with Chiang. But he was taking no chances of confusing Stalin about American policy."
About one facet of the mission FDR was not uncertain in the slightest. As Wallace reported a conversation with the president, "He urged me to take Owen Lattimore with me, who, he said, was one of the world's great experts on the problems involving Chinese-Russian relationships. President Roosevelt had long been fascinated by the tribes which for many hundreds of years have wandered back and forth across what is now known as the Russian-Chinese boundary. He wanted me as an agriculturist to observe how they lived on both sides of the boundary and to form some opinions [with, presumably, Lattimore's guidance] as to how possible future causes of conflict between China and Russia might be minimized. He asked me specifically not to see the Chinese Communists because he thought that might belittle the importance of the special message which he asked me to convey to the Generalissimo." This special message was one of complete support for the Nationalist government of China.
Wallace was to have a small staff: Lattimore, because of his knowledge of the Sino-Soviet border areas and his ability to speak Mongol; John N. Hazard, an economist fluent in Russian; and John Carter Vincent, China specialist in the State Department who had Hull's confidence and who was to keep Wallace from giving away the store. The Skymaster flight crew was the best that could be assembled; Colonel Richard T. Kight had piloted Willkie around the world.
News of the Wallace mission, and of Lattimore's participation, reached Chungking by late April. Madame Chiang wrote Lattimore April 28, 1944, telling him that if he were indeed coming with Wallace, "I should be very happy if you will be our house guest during your visit to Chungking." He was pleased.
Both Roosevelt and Wallace issued public statements before the trip. Roosevelt's was brief, laconic, unrevealing. Wallace's was lengthy, impassioned, apocalyptic: "The President has asked me to visit Asia. The President is a symbol of hope for millions of people throughout the world and I am proud to serve as one of his messengers . . . . The object of the trip is to let our Asiatic friends know the spirit of the American people and
the beliefs and hopes of their Commander in Chief." The statement continued in this maudlin vein for nine more purple paragraphs.
The Wallace party took off from Washington May 20, 1944, following the great circle route via Minneapolis, Edmonton, Fairbanks, Whitehorse, and Nome; they arrived at Velkal in the Soviet Union May 23. Wallace's account of the Soviet leg of the journey, Soviet Asia Mission , is a minimally competent travelogue deficient primarily in its political judgments. Lattimore also wrote about the Russian visit for the National Geographic . Both accounts enraged the Soviet-haters because of their upbeat tone.
Lattimore later explained why he and Wallace wrote favorably about their Russian experiences: "We were in Siberia at the period of Russia's most cordial willingness to cooperate with America. The news of the landing in Normandy arrived while we were there, and the Russians over-flowed with goodwill. We were allowed to visit places that had been visited by no other mission, and I am sure that the benefit to America in 'background intelligence' was of great value."
Despite the aura of good feeling about D day, the Soviets carefully prepared for their high-level visitors. They had learned well from the czars how to create Potemkin villages and how to disguise slave labor camps. In 1944 little was known in the outside world about the extent of the gulag or the conditions of the prisoners' life and work. Elinor Lipper's book on Kolyma was still six years off, and Robert Conquest and Alexander Solzhenitsyn yet further in the future. The Russians went to great lengths to hide the gulag from Wallace and company; since Wallace was a fitness fanatic, this deception was not easy. The vice president seized every opportunity to stride off into the countryside for an invigorating walk and on at least one occasion was barely prevented from stumbling across an undisguised slave labor camp.
What the Russians showed Wallace, however, was impressive, so Wallace's book, Soviet Asia Mission , glamorized Soviet accomplishments in Siberia much as the American press glamorized the heroic achievements of the pioneers who opened up the American West. Wallace and party were actually taken to Magadan, a new mining center in the Kolyma Valley, where thousands of prisoners extracted precious metals for Soviet industry. Wallace's description of this visit was enthusiastic: "At Magadan I met Ivan Feodorovich Nikishov, a Russian, director of Dalstroi (the Far Northern Construction Trust), which is a combination TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority] and Hudson's Bay Company. . . . We had to work hard to get this place going, said Nikishov. Twelve years ago the first settlers arrived and put up eight prefabricated houses. Today Magadan
has 40,000 inhabitants, and all are well-housed." What Wallace did not realize was that General Nikishov had been ordered to remove all signs of prison labor, including guard towers and barbed wire.
That evening the Wallace party saw the film North Star , which was then popular in the Soviet Union. Mrs. Nikishov thought it "marvelous that Americans would produce such a picture about us." Wallace did not know that the Russians were laughing at North Star for its idealized picture of Soviet life, nor did he know that Lillian Hellman, who had written the original screenplay after her usual thorough research, was so disgusted with what director Lewis Milestone did to it that she bought out her interest and refused credit for it.
Wallace's superlatives went on and on, about Velkal, Seimchan, Yakutsk, Chita, Krasnoyarsk, Semipalatinsk, Karaganda, Balkash, and Tashkent. At Tashkent, Wallace met with Harriman. The crux of Harriman's message was that Stalin still expressed his firm support of Chiang Kai-shek, a message that Wallace was to pass on to Chiang. Wallace did, by all accounts, register this message, but it hardly diluted his single-minded attention to farming. Harriman reported later to Hull, "All his life, Wallace had been trying to get American farmers to accept science. In the Soviet Union he saw scientific methods being forced on the farmers, and it was heaven for him."
Lattimore's perspective was broader. Here he was finally able to visit the other side of the fascinating Sino-Soviet border, to compare this culture with what he knew of Sinkiang, Manchuria, and Inner Mongolia, and to see some of the priceless artifacts of prehistoric and ancient times. Yakutsk was particularly enjoyable for Lattimore; there he met the renowned A. P. Okladnikov, the archaeologist-anthropologist. Okladnikov had been given the whole of the Lena River watershed as his province. Even in wartime Okladnikov could commandeer transport and other services for his archaeological digs. He had already worked out the history of the migration of the Yakut people from the Altai up to the Arctic, with excavations and serious attention to rock carvings. Lattimore observed, "Okladnikov did a marvelous job. I was the only man in the party who was interested in this, so Okladnikov took me personally through his museum and exhibits." A bond was created between the two men that lasted until Okldadnikov's death thirty-seven years later.
When the Wallace party stopped at Minusinsk, Lattimore was determined to see the museum, which had a famous display of Stone Age and Bronze Age artifacts. Historians had used these artifacts in reconstructing
the history of ancient contacts between the Black Sea peoples and the Chinese of the Great Wall. Wallace relates with amused tolerance what happened in Minusinsk:
We arrived in Minusinsk late in the afternoon with only an hour to spare before going down-river and leaving, perhaps forever, this famous site. Now, the mayor of Minusinsk is Grigory Averyanich Murop, an obliging person in his way but not too well informed about the small town where he was the big man of affairs. . . .
Murop really didn't know very much about a certain small wooden house on the edge of his town. Why not come up to his office in the hour we had to spare? Why make such a fuss about seeing a "little old museum"? "It's a world-famous institution," Owen Lattimore exclaimed in mild exasperation. Murop's eyes opened in a quizzical look, as though he thought it just couldn't be true. "Well," he said slowly, "if that's how you feel about it, let's see the place. It's a long walk," he warned us. "To get back in time we must start at once."
The urbane official strode briskly with regained self-assurance, setting us a stiff pace all the way to the museum door, where he stopped in evident embarrassment. The door was locked and nobody responded to his urgent knocks. Having no key, Mayor Murop looked about for some familiar subordinate on whom to vent an order. His eye lighting upon a small boy leaning against the nearby wicket fence, the mayor demanded: "Where's the old woman?"
"Granny, you mean? She's gone home to eat."
"To eat! Go fetch her, immediately."
"Seichas," said the boy, dashing off through a broken fence and across the open field. In a few moments he came running back, with "granny" hurrying behind him. She was breathless and almost tongue-tied with excitement. When she opened the door, we all trooped inside to view the famous relics of prehistoric agriculture—bronze rakes, farm implements, stirrups, etc. The curator was so scared and stuttered so badly that John Hazard could hardly understand what she said in Russian. Owen Lattimore, knowing the international language of archeology, plied her with questions. She had all the answers, and her inscriptions on displays were all in English. "An expert curator," Lattimore remarked as we departed. "She knows her archeology of the Copper and Bronze Age."
Thus, both Wallace and Lattimore were entranced by their Siberian odyssey and published glowing accounts of what they saw and did. Wallace's book did not approach the prominence or sales of Wendell Willkie's millennial One World . Ironically, Soviet Asia Mission achieved notoriety
during the inquisition because of Wallace's unfortunate language describing the gulag as a TVA-Hudson's Bay Company.
Lattimore, lacking Wallace's personal fortune, sold his travelogue to the highest bidder—National Geographic . Since the first requirement of such magazines is that their articles capture the attention of subscribers, Lattimore wrote accordingly. His correspondence with the editors shows that they appreciated his "fast-moving and vivid narrative." When the cold war came, this vivid narrative was not so well appreciated. Nor was the analogy he shared with Wallace, comparing Dalstroi with TVA-Hudson's Bay.
After their tour of Siberia the Wallace party flew to Urumchi, the capital of Sinkiang in western China. For Lattimore this was a spiritual journey of the most moving dimensions. He began keeping a diary, and his surviving diary notes begin as he approached Urumchi. It was June 18, 1944, almost two decades since he had been there on his honeymoon. "About two hours to follow the route Eleanor and I rode in 17 days from Urumchi to Talki. I thought of her all the time. It was amazing how much I remembered & recognized after 18 years —even with different appearances from the air." The rest of his forty-five-page diary, carrying him through three weeks of China and the Mongolian People's Republic, is low-key.
The streets from the Urumchi airport into town were lined with people. Such a high-level group had never landed there. Lattimore was surprised by the numbers of White Russians (refugees from the Soviet Union) and their children, all "reasonably well dressed." At lunch that first day with the governor, Wallace controlled the conversational agenda: "soybeans, strawberries, fruits, rainfall, irrigation." Lattimore made a marginal note for this entry: "A hint at my low opinion of Wallace's topics of conversation with highly-placed Chinese."
That evening at a state dinner Wallace made a speech without notes that Lattimore had to translate, phrase by phrase. "What a job l I was far from perfect, but it was a wry comfort to note how eagerly Chinese dodged the job." The next day they spent inspecting: the cadet school, whose commandant was a protégé of Ho Ying-ch'in; the Women's Academy, established and supervised by the governor's wife, and according to Lattimore a first-rate operation; an animal-breeding station on the Turfan Road, "rather poor work"; and a Uighur farm, irrigated but with a low yield. They had dinner with American Consul Horace Smith, and Lattimore had a chance to encourage Governor Sheng to keep up his enlightened minority policies, since the Chinese could not compete with the
neighboring Russians by force and had to win over the Kazakhs, Uighurs, and other minorities by favorable treatment.
June 20 found Lattimore once again in Chungking, once again with Chiang and Madame. The Generalissimo met Wallace's party at the airport, then took Lattimore to see Madame and on to the American embassy for dinner. The next morning Lattimore inspected the OWI office, writing no comment. The party lunched with Ho Ying-ch'in, Wallace went off on an inspection trip, and Vincent and Lattimore rested at Chiang's. That evening was a state dinner, but Lattimore comments only that he did not have to translate. There were more inspections of schools and agriculture stations on June 22, and in late afternoon Chiang called for the vice president to come for a conference. Lattimore was excluded at Wallace's specific instruction. According to protocol, this treatment was correct; Lattimore had not attended sessions with Harriman in Tashkent. Here, though, the situation was somewhat different. Vincent did not speak fluent Chinese, and at this first high-level conference he was dependent for translation on Madame Chiang, who was notorious for misrepresenting what her husband told foreigners, and on T. V. Soong, who had his own agenda. Thus, there is some question as to the accuracy of the record of this conference as provided by Vincent.
As Vincent recorded it, there were two main topics: Chiang's lecture about how the United States should remain "cool" toward the Chinese Communists, who were really not much help against the Japanese but were a serious threat to the Chinese government; and Wallace's inquiry about sending an army intelligence group to Yenan soon, which Chiang rebuffed by saying "please do not press; please understand that the Communists are not good for the war effort against Japan."
That evening T. V. Soong hosted a small dinner; Wallace, Lattimore, Vincent, and Hazard were all present. Lattimore particularly enjoyed talking with Wu T'ieh-ch'eng, once mayor of Canton, where he had put down a Communist insurrection, and later in 1941 ranking official of the air-raid dugout to which Lattimore had been assigned.
Back at the Generalissimo's residence after dinner, the four Americans talked late with Madame. Lattimore was startled when Madame Chiang "passed a remark, cryptic enough to slip by others, about my return of gift." He had thought, when he refused the five thousand dollar "bonus" Chiang had directed be sent him after his final months on Chiang's payroll, that his letter of refusal was "as grateful and tactful as I could make it." Now to have Madame Chiang refer sarcastically to his ingratitude was very puzzling. After mulling it over for a while, he decided that, in
the standard Chinese way of doing things, the original amount set by the Generalissimo (or Madame) had been ten thousand dollars, and along the way somebody had squeezed off half of it. This would have meant that his reply, which named the amount, had to be suppressed, and Madame never received it. No wonder she was caustic.
In his diary entry for June 23, Lattimore notes: "Called early for unexpected interview with Gimo. He made some friendly chit-chat, then asked me pretty bluntly what VP trip all about. He obviously meant, in particular, was VP going to make a real drive to bring him & Communists together. Having discussed this in advance with JCV, I wanted him to take onus of any initiative in Communist rapprochement. Therefore I went into quite a long speech."
In this speech Lattimore dealt first with Soviet-American relations. Soviet resistance to German armies had turned American opinion around on the viability of the Russian government. Since postwar reconversion would require expanded markets for American production, and since Russia would need our machinery and techniques, "U.S. big business, finance, industry are pressing for an understanding with Russia good enough to allow economic confidence on both sides. There is not a whit of ideology in this."
He turned next to China, telling Chiang that "China will always be a main pillar of U.S. Pacific-Asiatic policy," but he warned that economically China would be a long-term proposition. Chiang should not expect too much from America. Then Lattimore talked about China's postwar dealings with her turbulent frontiers. His diary records:
At various points during this discourse—the longest uninterrupted speech I had ever made to the poor Gimo—he would nod agreement or indicate that I should go on. Then I asked him several questions:
1. Will the Russians enter the Pacific War?—Yes, as soon as they are assured of their position in the West.
2. What form will their intervention take? Are they likely to attack straight through Mongolia-Manchuria?—Undoubtedly.
3. When they do attack, are they likely to win important & rapid victories?—Yes.
I then shifted from question to statement. If the Russians win important victories as soon as they come in, it will change the whole map of the Pacific war. Therefore it is better for both America and China to have a dear understanding with them on cordial terms before they come in.
We then had breakfast. Afterwards I went into Gimo's room to phone.
He sat reading a paper and read out to me headlines of Nimitz' communique claiming a victory over the Japs at sea, east of Philippines, June 19. . . .
Then the morning's talk with VP. Finishing my phone call, I just casually entered the room & was present, without Wallace saying anything about it. . . .
At this interview were present Holly [Tong], Wang Shih-chieh, VP, JCV & myself. Holly did most of interpreting, with Wang or myself occasionally taking over. Holly, in interpreting a longish passage, is inclined to leave gaps. When he did, I boldly filled them in. Gimo nodded approval, & occasionally turned & asked me specially to interpret instead of Holly or Wang.
Evidently at this interview Gimo had made up his mind to show an attitude of generous cooperation, without waiting for pressure. He offered to give the US Army right to send observers—intelligence officers—into North China, including Communist territory. This is something Army has wanted a long time, & in itself would make VP's trip a success.
Linked not too obviously with this concession Gimo made a maneuver typical of him, in a way typical of him. He made a long, detailed & reiterative complaint that American critics—diplomats, the Army, the press—are forever urging him to make terms with the Communists. Nobody ever tells the Communists they ought to come to terms with him. Nobody ever brings up such minimum requisites as the submission of the Communists to unified command & military discipline.
To my mind, this is Gimo at his most Chinese. He wants desperately to have us mediate between him & Communists; & he will accept almost any real terms if in the outward bargaining we will save his face by making a noise about the degree to which the Communists ought to yield. VP completely fails to get this—understandably. Have urged JCV to hammer it home to him.
After the long morning session Lattimore went back to the OWI office in Chungking, where he met the Dilowa. His old friend was low in vitality and morale, but the U.S. navy doctor had given him a thorough examination and found him healthy. The Dilowa found conditions in Chungking deplorable, but he was very "positive" on events in the Mongolian People's Republic; the premier, Choibalsan, was a "good and decent man." The Dilowa told Lattimore that the Inner Mongolians were now leaning toward unification with the MPR and against both the Chinese and Japanese. Lattimore spent all afternoon with the Dilowa; he left reluctantly for supper at the Chiangs'.
The morning of June 24 Wallace and his group left for Kunming. Chiang
asked Lattimore for his "last words of wisdom which I for once had gumption to avoid giving." But he did make a suggestion: the Generalissimo should send men such as Ch'en Li-fu, "calumniated by the Communists," to the United States so Americans could see what they were really like. This was an amazing suggestion. Ch'en Li-fu and his brother Ch'en Kuo-fu headed one of Chiang's vicious secret police organizations. They were a cut above Tai Li, who was known as China's Himmler; Ch'en Li-fu had studied English under Lattimore's father and took a degree in mining engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. But he was known to be ruthless, and John Carter Vincent reported to the State Department that if Chiang were to create a viable and popular government, "the Chens and the Tai Lis must go." Chiang did not respond to Lattimore's suggestion about Ch'en Li-fu.
Chiang did tell Lattimore that he "wanted me to come out on a trip at least once every six months. Found chance to put Madame straight on why I had refused gift (she said she never received letter). Out to plane, where I dodged farewells." It was, all things considered, a great visit. But if Wallace's respect for Lattimore's translating abilities went up, Lattimore's respect for Wallace did the opposite. Agriculture, nothing but agriculture, seemed to occupy the vice president's mind. Even in Chungking, nerve center of the most tortured nation on earth, all Henry Wallace could get excited about was crops, farming, and volleyball.
Leaving Chungking, the Wallace party flew to Kunming, one of China's loveliest towns and Chennault's headquarters. Lattimore noted the activities of their first nights in Kunming: "Paroxysms of volleyball, badminton, ping pong. I gave up and went to bed. Staying with Chennault, who very friendly." He stayed in bed the rest of the time there, as this diary entry indicates: "Kunming, June 25-26. Pretty blank for me, as diarrhea all the time. Would have been lovely chances for rural photos, too, if only could have stayed a couple of 100 yards from can safely."
Though Lattimore was sidelined, the others generated more than enough activity. In conference with Vincent and Captain Joseph Alsop, Wallace expressed concern about Chiang's request that Stilwell be replaced as commander of U.S. forces in the China-Burma—India theater. Vincent and Alsop were also sympathetic to Chiang's wishes: Stilwell's often-ex-pressed contempt for the Generalissimo made Sino-American cooperation exceedingly difficult.
After extensive discussion all three agreed that they should recommend to Roosevelt that Stilwell be replaced. But who should succeed him? Wallace suggested Chennault, who got along well with Chiang. Vincent con-
curred. Both Wallace and Vincent knew that Chennault was strongly opposed to the Chinese Communists, who reciprocated the feeling. Recommending Chennault, therefore, was an anti-Communist act of major import. At this stage Alsop intervened. He believed that no one could replace Chennault as air force commander in China and that General Marshall and other military figures would vigorously oppose his appointment.
There was a reasonable compromise: Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, who was well received by the Generalissimo and his staff. Wedemeyer was not well known to the Communists; he was brilliant; and he was acceptable to the American high command. Alsop won the day. A cable went out from the vice president of the United States, to the president of the United States, recommending that Stilwell be fired and replaced by a far less charismatic leader. Lattimore knew nothing of the deliberations or the cable.
Eight years later, when Pat McCarran ran amok with his Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, John Carter Vincent, as anti-Communist as any good Southern Baptist, was accused of serving the Communist cause by concurring in Alsop's suggestion that Wedemeyer, rather than Chennault, replace the irascible Stilwell.
The Wallace party left Kunming June 27, landing at Chengtu in Szechwan Province. There Lattimore saw a good Air Force doctor and learned that he would survive. He was particularly anxious to do so; the governor of Szechwan was Chang Ch'ün, a friend from Chungking's air-raid shelters, a man whom Lattimore liked and trusted. Wallace, true to form, divided his time between volleyball and agriculture. Lattimore had abundant opportunity to talk to Chang. Lattimore also wanted Wallace to talk to Chang away from one of the Gimo's agents, Huang, dubbed the Grand Eunuch. Candid conversation was impossible in Huang's presence.
Lattimore's activities in Chengtu were so extensive that his diary barely covers them; when he got back to Baltimore, he wrote additional notes that tell more of the story:
At Chengtu Chang Chun talked to me in great detail about politics when there were just the two of us. Chang wanted to make sure the Americans understood that he wanted a revived United Front with the Communists, negotiated earlier, while the Communists were still weak, rather than later, when they certainly would be much stronger. Chiang Kai-shek's argument was that it was he, not the Communists, who had been getting Soviet supplies and that at the end of the war it would certainly be he, not the Communists, who would get American supplies. Therefore he was justified in roughing it out. Chiang's guns-and-
bullets arithmetic led him to underestimate the immense potential of peasant support of the Communists. To the peasants, the Communists didn't talk about "communism." They talked about "land." Chang Chun understood this much better than Chiang. After the war, when Chang Chun visited Washington, he found that my name was not on the guest list for a reception put on for him by the Department of State. He insisted that it be added—to the chagrin of the Department. . . . Quite unabashed, Chang Chun, in the presence of Department personnel, asked me to stay behind, for a personal talk, as the reception was breaking up. During the talk, he asked me if I would act as his personal, confidential advisor and consultant, writing to him about whatever I thought was important and dealing with any questions that he might raise in writing to me. I replied that it would be a privilege to work with him, and it was an honour to be asked, but that a question of seemliness bothered me. I had been an employee of Chiang Kai-shek, and he was still a subordinate of Chiang's. Would not a moral problem arise? A former employee and a present subordinate, working together independently of the man who had been the boss of one of them and was still the boss of the other? Chang Chun was enough of a Confucian to accept my evasion gracefully.
But at Chengtu, there was no private chat between Chang Ch'ün, Lattimore, and Wallace. The Grand Eunuch had also learned about Wallace's proclivities for strenuous exercise. Lattimore relates three separate incidents when he thought he had sequestered Wallace so that Chang could talk to him; volleyball or a race to the top of a nearby hill always intervened. One particular incident irritated Lattimore. On June 29, the party was to inspect the Min River Irrigation District, China's most famous and ancient irrigation scheme. Lattimore and Chang Ch'ün were down to breakfast early, hoping to talk with Wallace before the Grand Eunuch appeared. No luck. The Grand Eunuch was lurking nearby and challenged Wallace to a game of volleyball. Wallace accepted, and they played for an hour. When the trip to Min River started, Chang Ch'ün managed to exclude the Grand Eunuch from the car in which he, Lattimore, and Wallace were riding, but Wallace, tired from volleyball, slept all the way.
When they arrived at the foot of a hill from which the whole Min River operation could be seen, Wallace challenged everybody to race him to the top. From Lattimore's diary:
Everybody followed him, trudging as fast as they could. The Governor and I looked at each other and stayed behind. We got back into the car and chatted. By the time the retinue got to the top, Wallace had got his breath back. He charged back down again, with the others not quite so
far behind him as they had been going up. Wallace's attitude toward this 2,000 year old feat of engineering can be summarized: He congratulated the Chinese on their enterprise far back in the days when there were not yet any Americans; but today, of course, it would have to be done with bulldozers, dredges, and all the rest of it. The Chinese could learn to do it, under American planning and supervision.
We then went on to a pleasant lunch, in a room which did not look out on the irrigation. Chang could not talk to VP, because too public, especially with the Grand Eunuch sitting as dose as he could, listening with the bland intentness of a tape recorder.
One can understand why, when in 1948 Wallace posed as the great presidential hope of liberals, Lattimore stayed far away.
The party spent June 30 to July 2 in Lanchow. Lattimore wrote extensively about the inspections, dinners, personalities; but the highlight of his stay there was another meeting with the Dilowa. Since the Wallace party was to go next to the Mongolian People's Republic, Lattimore extracted from the Buddha every bit of current information he could get.
For a Mongolist who had tried so often to get to Ulan Bator and failed because the controllers of access, the Russians, would not cooperate, Lattimore's notes on the Mongolian stay of two days are remarkably low-key. He did record the topography during the flight and the condition of the fields and livestock, but there was no recorded exhilaration comparable to his first view of the Heavenly Mountains in 1927. Instead there was a torrent of political and sociological data.
When the Wallace plane landed July 2 at a field east of Ulan Bator, Lattimore descended first. Recognizing Choibalsan from photos, Lattimore greeted him by name. The response was immediate and warm. Lattimore wrote in his diary, "Choibalsan speaks very clearly, so 1 got off to a good start interpreting in Mongol."
Lattimore saw "many big, fine, new buildings, but quantities of [yurts] & whole quarters of rather poor, Chinese style courtyard dwellings." There was a huge hospital, much more impressive than anything he had seen in Inner Mongolia. His general impression was that the Mongols were running their own show and that they knew what they were doing. Russian influence was "very strong, but the kind of influence is 'how to do it' rather than 'what you must do next.'" He was told there were about fifteen hundred Russians in Ulan Bator, a city of one hundred thousand.
Surprisingly, there was still considerable private wealth in the MPR. The richest individual was said to be a woman in Kobdo who owned five thousand sheep and one thousand head of other stock. Her possessions
meant she must have a large number of employees and therefore "exploitation of man by man." But the factories, such as the textile mill he saw, were easily nationalized from the beginning because they were something new.
Mongol nationalism showed strongly. So far as he could learn, the constitution, which borrowed from many countries, had not been translated into either Russian or Chinese. The "main stream of political thought, however, undoubtedly flows from Lenin-Stalin. . . . Seems to be no Mongol Sun Yat-sen. In the State theater, there is a small medallion each of Sukhe Bator & Choibalsan over the stage; but at each side of the stage a large medallion of Lenin & one of Stalin, each with a long quotation."
On July 3 Wallace and party got "the tour." The presentation consisted of a factory making serums and vaccines for animal husbandry, where "competent Mongol veterinarians and technicians" showed them around, with Russian "consultants" staying in the background. Then they saw three agricultural camps. The camps swarmed with healthy children, in contrast to what Stilwell had seen when he was there in 1923. Lattimore inquired about the scourges of syphilis and gonorrhea, whose effects he had seen in Inner Mongolia. His guide said these diseases were under control except in a few remote areas. Lattimore believed it. At one camp he met a man who owned more than one thousand head of animals and whose family "pullulated with children." Lattimore regretted the vice president's presence on this tour. He found people talked more freely in their own tents, "but it's the devil to get VP into a tent. Only got him into one, & he was out again like a bat out of hell."
Lattimore noticed that most tents had Buddhist shrines "in their due place of honor"; but the only operating temple in Ulan Bator was a kind of "junk heap temple, with gear obviously salvaged from a number of temples. Only 10 lamas. Head man grizzled, portly, genial. No boy lamas . . . . As near as I can make out, policy is to prevent reincarnations of Living Buddhas & to swing people over to religion expressed in form of family shrines & attendance at public lama prayers at which the ceremony continues, but without the worship of living, human, ruling 'reincarnations.'"
That night they were entertained by the Minister of Livestock, who "turned out to be quite a fellow, well-read in structure of US Govt. He looks like a burly ox of a back country Mongol whom you would not suspect of intellectual activity. The whole crowd detailed to look after us are a fine lot. Average about 30."
The party left Ulan Bator on July 4. Dick Kight managed to celebrate
that most American of holidays by firing a volley from his pistol at daybreak. There was some alarm among the Mongols, but Lattimore easily put their fears to rest. There seems to have been no ceremony on departure, nor did Lattimore express regret at having so few hours in the country he had so long wanted to visit.
They had one more stop before crossing the Pacific: Chita in the Soviet Union. There Lattimore met a Soviet general who impressed him almost as much as the Soviet general who bought Agnes Smedley milk on the Trans-Siberian impressed her. This General Kozlov was "genial, tough, confident." He had fought two years on the western front and was now in Soviet Asia to train troops. He could not say they were preparing to fight Japan; Lattimore wrote in his diary that Kozlov said, "We have neighbors here who bear watching," meanwhile "unwinding a wink that creaked like stage machinery. He admires our landing operations on the Western Front."
The evening of July 4 in Chita the Russians showed a movie of Wallace's party beginning in Yakutsk and ending in Alma Ata. Lattimore wrote, "VP now realizes that as far as movies go, cucumbers & alfalfa have their limits."
This was Lattimore's last notation in his diary. There was not much talking with Wallace on the way back; the vice president busied himself with the speech Roosevelt had instructed him to give in Seattle shortly after their return. Lattimore made no contribution to the speech or to the report Wallace later sent to Roosevelt. If Wallace followed the "Party line," as assorted ex-Communists later proclaimed, he discerned it all by himself.