- The Letters and Diaries of Colonel John Hart Caughey, 1944–1945: With Wedemeyer in World War II China ed. by Roger B. Jeans
Colonel John Hart Caughey was a key staff member at General Albert C. Wedemeyer's command when Wedemeyer assumed the post of Chiang Kai-shek's Chief of Staff and commander of US forces in China in October 1944 after the disastrous "Stilwell Incident." Wedemeyer successfully turned the adverse tide of U.S.-Nationalist relations and strengthened the Nationalist armies to fight the Japanese. However, up to today, as Prof. Roger B. Jeans points out, there is no full and balanced study of Wedemeyer's life. The letters and diaries of Colonel John Hart Caughey provide valuable insight into Wedemeyer's service in the final year of the China Theater in World War II China.
Caughey was by no means an ordinary officer in the Wedemeyer headquarters. When Wedemeyer arrived in China for his new post, he found that American officials and officers there were incompetent in their profession and were also unsympathetic and unfriendly toward the Chinese allies. Wedemeyer responded by establishing his own command nucleus. Against this background, Caughey was brought into the China Theater as Assistant Theater Planning Officer in Wedemeyer's Theater Planning Section. Caughey was one of several staff officers who drafted major plans and accompanied Wedemeyer to tour battlefields and attend important conferences. Caughey and another officer (Paul W. Caraway) were even praised by Wedemeyer as "two of the ablest officers on my staff" (p. 64). Considering this position, Caughey's diligent writing of diaries and letters to his wife while he was in China provided a useful and valuable source to understand the Wedemeyer mission, U.S.-China relations, and the U.S. soldier's life in wartime China.
Prof. Roger B Jeans has done admirable work in editing a collection of Caughey's writing from 1944 to 1945. In order to present Caughey's diaries and home letters in a meaningful and readable way, Jeans first deciphers and annotates all names and events, and then composes an excellent two-part introduction—"The China Theater under General Albert C. Wedemeyer, 1944–1945" and "War Planner for Wedemeyer: John Hart Caughey and the 'Asiatic Operations Division,' 1944–1945." This 88-page long introduction comes from Prof. Jeans's profound scholarship on modern China and U.S.-China wartime relations, and offers a very good background for understanding the problems and difficulties that Wedemeyer and his subordinates encountered. [End Page 122]
Caughey's writing is a witness to wartime China and also to U.S.-China relations. In accompanying Wedemeyer, he had multiple opportunities to associate with major figures in the China Theater. Interestingly enough, contrary to past understanding, he praised some controversial figures such as Commander of the US fourteenth Air Force Claire L. Chennault and U.S. Ambassador Patrick J. Hurley. Furthermore, according to Caughey, Wedemeyer, his boss, was especially well-respected both in administration and also in diplomacy.
Some readers might question if Caughey was partial to Wedemeyer in his writing. Caughey might have needed to take sides in the Marshall-Wedemeyer confrontation regarding U.S. policy toward the Nationalist Government in the early Cold War era. Wedemeyer was his former boss in the last part of World War II, but Caughey served as Marshall's executive officer in Chungking while Marshall mediated the Chinese civil war from December 1945 to January 1947. Prof. Jeans did raise this question to Mrs. Caughey, and got the answer that Caughey never felt he had to choose between them. Jeans writes that "the colonel deeply admired both Marshall and Wedemeyer" (p. xxvi).
Caughey's writing was not limited to his jobs or military matters; he reported to his wife almost everything he had seen and experienced in daily life. Thanks to Mrs. Caughey's unfamiliarity with China, Caughey tried to describe everything in a detailed and interesting...