740.0011 PW/4–2545: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Commissioner in India (Merrell)

325. For Bishop.69 Your 334 April 25.70 1. Relation between India-Burma command and SEAC is primarily a military problem [Page 1265] but Dept will endeavor to answer any specific questions you may have. You should, of course, be alert to detect and to advise General Sultan against any attempts by SEAC to involve American military in British political propaganda or plans in that area. Dept would strongly resist any effort to have American civil affairs officers participate in governance of any part of Burma.

2. OSS in Burma should do or say nothing which could be interpreted as political promise and should not under any circumstances become associated in Burmese minds with SOE or any British political propaganda organization. If 101 Unit is withdrawn from Burma the foregoing applies to any unit substituted therefor. From political standpoint Dept would not object to withdrawal of OSS from Burma altogether except personnel left there for attainment of our objectives in Thailand.

3. Dept is opposed to OWI71 operations in Burma prior to reestablishment American consular representation there. Dept has requested agreement of British Government to reopening of Consulate General at Rangoon soon as possible after reoccupation. Even then OWI should refrain from anything savoring of political propaganda and confine itself to newsfile relating to war developments and events of interest in United States. The foregoing does not apply to psychological warfare activities projected by OWI from Burma to enemy occupied territory after clearance with State Department or its representatives as at present.

4. United States political policy towards Thailand unchanged. It is essential that close and friendly relations with Ruth and his colleagues and with individual Thai be maintained. Our political views regarding Thailand have been made known to Ruth. In a recent personal message from the Secretary to Ruth,72 it was explicitly stated that we hope Thailand will soon be liberated and take its place once more in the family of nations as a free, sovereign and independent country. Mere statements, however, are not sufficient. If not affirmatively implemented, we risk serious impairment of United States influence with the Thai, weaken our efforts to establish Thai independence, and increase the influence of forces not in sympathy with our position.

On April 21, the Joint Chiefs of Staff with Dept concurrence through the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee formally favored provision through OSS of aid to resistance forces in Thailand, consistent with other theatre requirements, and within the resources available to General Sultan. The Joint Chiefs reiterated the vesting in Mountbatten of overall operational control of OSS activities in Thailand.

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The Dept is advising Ruth74 that OSS assistance to the Free Thai resistance movement will be extended as indicated, but with the understanding that the contemplated action will carry no United States commitment to provide military assistance as distinguished from incidental supplies and personnel necessary for the operations of OSS.

The Dept considers that the matter of furnishing supplies to Thai resistance forces is of highest political importance, especially as a promise to do so was made to the Thai Minister by a high OSS officer many months ago, and Ruth, we understand, was so advised. This promise may well have been unauthorized, but we believe politically it is of highest importance to honor it as fully as possible under the April 21 decision.

The question of timing of guerrilla activity is entirely for military decision, but for your information it would appear to the Dept desirable not to disrupt military intelligence or sacrifice Thai by premature action, or by such action possibly precipitate the taking over of Thailand by the Japanese. Rather, it would appear to us desirable that OSS (which has authority to do so) undertake the training of guerrilla forces essential to the most effective aid of military operations or resistance to the Japanese if Thailand is taken over. The more effective such aid or resistance, the more valuable it will be politically as evidence to the world that the Thai are “working their passage” as demanded by the British. In any event, we believe not only that OSS clandestine activities in Thailand should be continued as heretofore, but that they should be expanded as far as possible within the limitation of the April 21 decision.

An OSS report was received by the Dept on April 2675 that Dening has informed Suni that the British now oppose premature outbreak, desire Ruth to avoid unnecessary provocation of Japanese, and want earliest possible warning when Japanese action appears imminent.

British attitude here appears generally more cooperative with regard to Thailand, and it is hoped we may be able to take advantage of Eden’s presence to reach accord.

Recommendations urtel 309, April 17, 1 p.m.,75 which was much appreciated, are being given urgent consideration.

Sultan has been informed by the War Department of April 21 decision and is being advised, we understand, against any curtailment of 404 detachment. (Urtel 343, April 28, 2 p.m.75) If Mountbatten requests cessation of 404 activities, the request should be referred to Washington prior to action in the field.

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Regarding OWI activities relating to Thailand, there should, in our opinion, be no change of policy from earlier directives.

5. Regarding Malaya, we consider it important to continue OSS activities which in any way bear on Thailand, including military and political intelligence affecting especially the peninsula, even though, of necessity, clandestine operations may be essential for securing intelligence. It is important, however, that OSS activities in Malaya not be associated in native opinion with British policies toward Malaya or Southeast Asia.

6. A recent OSS report indicates that British propose the use of Malay dollars throughout the isthmus. We hope to inform you very shortly on United States position relative to military and post-military Thai currency.

  1. Max W. Bishop, Secretary of the Commission in India.
  2. Not printed; it transmitted Mr. Bishop’s request for guidance and instruction in connection with early discussions with General Sultan on U.S. policy toward Thailand (892.01/4–2545).
  3. Office of War Information.
  4. Sent to the Thai Minister on April 20.
  5. Memorandum of May 23 to the Thai Legation, not printed.
  6. Not printed.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Not printed.