GoodReads: 4 stars

Was the US government's disastrous Asia policy in the 20th century driven largely by misperceptions of reality and a concerted lobbying and PR effort from China? In "The China Mirage," James Bradley (author of "Flags of our Fathers") sets out a revisionist history of Sino-US relations that bears almost no connection to the history presented in the textbooks I read growing up. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's family fortune came from opium smuggling by his maternal grandfather, Warren Delano? Chiang Kai-shek (or, as Churchill called him, "Generalissimo Cash My-check") was a fascist crook who swindled 3x more money out of the US than we spent on developing the atomic bomb?! Pearl Buck's wildly popular (and Pulitzer / Nobel winning) "The Good Earth" and Henry Luce's influential Time Magazine portrayed a China full of "Noble Chinese Peasants" waiting to be Christianized/Americanized - an imaginary China that reflected the hopes and dreams of a shadowy "China Lobby," but one that most certainly did not exist on the ground in the Middle Kingdom?? And we were making global-scale policy based on this make-believe?! Bradley gathers evidence from a wide variety of sources to trace a shocking narrative about how American blunders in Asia led to the "loss" of China and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

I'm always skeptical of grand revisionist histories that involve murky conspiracies, and Bradley's loosely organized "China Lobby" doesn't quite get me all the way there on this one. But he does connect some fascinating dots. The cast of characters is essentially a bunch of Harvard and Yale bros (both Roosevelts, Russell, Stimson, Luce, Corcoran, McNamara, Kissinger) with several Bonesmen sprinkled in for good measure. The prominence of American universities in this whole saga beggars belief. Sun Yat-Sen's main funder, Charlie Soong was a Chinese Bible-publishing magnate who went to Duke and Vanderbilt. His daughter Ailing graduated from Wesleyan in Macon, Georgia and married a Yalie H. H. Kung who became China's richest banker. Her brother, T.V. Soong went to Harvard. And even earlier, Teddy Roosevelt's confidant and fellow Harvard alum Baron Kaneko played an integral role in securing Roosevelt's assistance to negotiate the Treaty of Portsmouth to end the Russo-Japanese war (and sell Korea out to the Japanese). And for a more modern Yalie connection, Bradley quips that "Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry’s great-grandfather was Francis Blackwell Forbes, who got rich selling opium in China."

Overall, an eye-opening read. Packed with narcotics, dirty money, and corruption, "The China Mirage" also earns a place in my 2018 reading theme on "Crime and Punishment."

My highlights below.


INTRODUCTION

There must not and cannot be any conflict, estrangement or misunderstanding between the Chinese people and America. —Mao Zedong

Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing the combatants in the Russo-Japanese War to the peace table. Almost unknown in the United States, though, are the president’s backdoor negotiations with Emperor Meiji of Japan over the fate of an independent country, the empire of Korea. During these secret talks, brokered by Meiji’s Harvard-educated envoy, Roosevelt agreed to stand aside and allow Japan to subjugate Korea as a colony, becoming the first world leader to sanction Japan’s expansion onto the Asian continent.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s grandfather Warren Delano was one of the first Americans to travel to what was seen by Americans as “Old China,” where he made a dynastic fortune in the illegal opium trade. As a U.S. consul, Delano oversaw the first American military incursion into China. It was from his Delano line that Roosevelt inherited his love of the sea, his princely fortune, and his confidence that he knew how to handle China.

This book examines the American perception of Asia and the gap between that perception and reality.

My father, John Bradley, was one of the six men photographed raising the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. When I was forty-six years old I published Flags of Our Fathers, a book about my dad’s experiences.

On December 8, the U.S. Congress declared war against Japan, but not well remembered is what Americans on that day thought they were fighting for. One of the millions who served in America’s Asian war was John F. Kennedy, who later recalled, It was clearly enunciated that the independence of China... was the fundamental object of our Far Eastern policy*... that this and other statements of our policies on the Far East led directly to the attack on Pearl Harbor is well known. And it might be said that we almost knowingly entered into combat with Japan to preserve the independence of China.

My father and millions of others fought in a conflict that didn’t have to happen, a war that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was trying to avoid, one that could have been prevented or delayed if some overconfident administration officials had heeded their president instead of the China Lobby.

The American public did not realize that five years earlier, Mao had repeatedly extended his hand in friendship, enthusiastically describing to his State Department interlocutors a symbiotic relationship combining U.S. industrial know-how with China’s limitless workforce. Mao — who had never flown in an airplane — reached out to President Roosevelt in 1945, saying he was eager to fly to the United States to discuss his vision, a historic opportunity that New China–believing Americans tragically nipped in the bud.

Chapter 1 - OLD CHINA, NEW CHINA

The Chinese saw these visitors as barbarians — more specifically, as fan kuei, “foreign devils”: second-class vassals, pitiful in their desperation for Chinese knowledge and goods.

The prime opium-producing area was a vast swath stretching five hundred miles across the Bengal region of India. Arab merchants dominated the India-to-China opium trade for hundreds of years, until Portuguese sailors took it over in the sixteenth century. The Portuguese also brought tobacco from their Brazilian colony, and the Chinese especially enjoyed smoking tobacco mixed with opium. Sensing the potential harm to his people, the emperor outlawed the sale and use of opium. Opium was big business for the British, one of the critical economic engines of the era. Britain controlled India and oversaw one million Indian opium farmers. By 1850, the drug accounted for a staggering 15 to 20 percent of the British Empire’s revenue, and the India-to-China opium business became, in the words of Frederic Wakeman, a leading historian of the period, the “world’s most valuable single commodity trade of the nineteenth century.”

To evade criticism, the British government employed the ruse of selling the opium in Calcutta to a private Crown-chartered enterprise — the East India Company — and pretended that London wasn’t involved with what happened next.

Massive bribery of local officials made the trade possible.

The India-to-China opium trade was exclusively the domain of the East India Company; no private English merchants were allowed in. The British Parliament forbade America’s colonial merchants to trade directly with China, forcing them to buy tea from British sources and thus generating substantial tax revenue for London. (The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a protest by American colonists against this British tax on a Chinese product.)

American merchants sourced a supply of opium in Turkey, and because private British merchants weren’t allowed to carry it, the Americans had a virtual monopoly on the Turkey-to-China opium trade. Soon these East Coast families — led by the Perkins clan of Boston — were raking in fortunes.

The rules decreed that one of the worst crimes a Chinese person could commit was teaching the Chinese language to a barbarian.

Robert Bennet Forbes — a Russell and Company contemporary of Delano’s—defended his involvement with opium by noting that some of America’s best families were involved, “those to whom I have always been accustomed to look up as exponents of all that was honorable in trade—the Perkins, the Peabodys, the Russells and the Lows.”

On a macroeconomic level, the sea barbarians had turned the tables, as Chinese silver now flowed to Europe. But to the Chinese, the opium trade was an unmixed evil, corrupting its officials, demoralizing its people (including, most vexingly, its soldiery), draining its wealth, raising the cost of living, and undermining the Son of Heaven’s authority.

In the West, the divine right of kings granted legitimacy to royal families from generation to generation, guaranteeing that the lowborn would not revolt, for revolution was a sin. In contrast, the Mandate of Heaven gave the Chinese people the right of rebellion.

Queen Victoria speedily dispatched her navy in November 1839 to bombard China’s coast, shocking the government mandarins who had built the Great Wall to keep northern intruders out, never imagining their kingdom would be humbled by sea barbarians who had gained entry through distant Canton. Thus began the First Opium War, which lasted until 1842.

Ravaged on land and sea, China reluctantly capitulated and signed the Treaty of Nanking, the first of what many Chinese still consider the odious “unequal treaties” by which the West would chip away at old China’s sovereignty.

This was a meaningless concession because Americans in their New Chinas could not be tried by Chinese courts, only by U.S. consuls. The consul at the time was Paul Sieman Forbes; he had succeeded Warren Delano in that position, as well as in the position of senior partner in Russell and Company. Therefore, the man who was head of the U.S. consular court was also the man overseeing the biggest American opium-smuggling operation.

Opium merchants like Delano provided the seed corn for the economic revolution in America. Delano invested his new fortune in a host of ventures: New York waterfront property, railroads, copper mines in Tennessee and Maryland, and coal mines in Pennsylvania, where a town was named Delano in his honor. The Perkins family, who had pioneered the transport of Turkish opium to China, built Boston’s Athenaeum, the Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Perkins Institution for the Blind. America’s first railroad — the Quincy Granite Railway — was built to carry stone from Perkins’s quarries to the site of the Bunker Hill Monument. Opium money funded any number of significant institutions in the eastern United States. John Perkins Cushing’s profitable relationship with Howqua helped finance the construction of America’s first great textile manufacturing city, Lowell, Massachusetts.

America’s great East Coast universities owe a great deal to opium profits. Much of the land upon which Yale University stands was provided by Russell family money. A Russell family trust still covers the budget of Yale’s Skull and Bones Society, and Russell funds built the famously secretive club’s headquarters. Columbia University’s most recognizable building is the Low Memorial Library, honoring Abiel Abbot Low, who worked in China with Warren Delano in the 1830s. John Cleve Green was Delano’s immediate predecessor as a senior partner in Russell and Company, and he was Princeton University’s single largest donor, financing three buildings. (Green also founded America’s oldest orthopedic hospital — Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery — from his opium fortune.)

The influence of these opium fortunes seeped into virtually every aspect of American life. That influence was cultural: the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson married John Murray Forbes’s daughter, and his father-in-law’s fortune helped provide Emerson with the cushion to become a professional thinker.

Joseph Coolidge’s heirs founded the Council on Foreign Relations. Several companies that would play major roles in American history were also the product of drug profits, among them the United Fruit Company, started by the Coolidge family. Scratch the history of an institution or a person with the name Forbes attached to it, and there’s a good chance you’ll see that opium is involved. Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry’s great-grandfather was Francis Blackwell Forbes, who got rich selling opium in China.

When the Barbarian Management Bureau refused these demands, the British, French, and American navies retaliated with the Second Opium War, this time ravaging not only coastal cities and forts but also the country’s interior; they invaded Beijing, chased the emperor out of town, and, in an orgy of fine-art and jewelry looting, destroyed the Versailles of China, the old Summer Palace.

Chapter 2 - WIN THE LEADERS; WIN CHINA

The year of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birth — 1882 — was a watershed year for U.S.-China relations. At America’s inception, the concept of illegal immigration did not exist; all foreigners had been welcome to its shores. That changed with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. For the first time, the U.S. erected a gate with the specific goal of excluding nonwhites from the country.

Governor Leland Stanford of California wrote President Andrew Johnson, “Without the Chinese it would have been impossible to complete the western portion of this great National highway.”

Samuel Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor, explained, “Racial differences between American whites and Asiatics would never be overcome. The superior whites had to exclude the inferior Asiatics, by law, or if necessary by force of arms.”

Twenty-four years old and just out of Harvard, Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed in 1882, “No greater calamity could now befall the United States than to have the Pacific slope fill up with a Mongolian population.”

Chapter 3 - THE JAPANESE MONROE DOCTRINE FOR ASIA

The U.S. Navy wanted Japan to serve as what a twentieth-century Japanese prime minister would describe as America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” Japan would be America’s springboard to China.

Many more threats by the U.S. military caused the Japanese to give in and sign the United States–Japan Treaty of Amity and Commerce on July 29, 1858, an unequal treaty similar to the ones America had forced upon China.

The Western powers were powerful because they threw their militaries around. Japanese leaders chanted a new national slogan: Fukoku kyohei, or “Rich country, strong military.” Japan built a Western-style military-industrial complex, something no other Asian nation would do for generations.

Japan required large amounts of American oil and steel to build its modern Western-style military-industrial complex. Beginning soon after Commodore Perry opened Japan and, except for 1941 to 1945, continuing until recently, Japan has been America’s number-one Asian customer.

In the spring of 1895, the fifty-four-year-old Prince Ito journeyed back to his hometown to proclaim Japan’s entrance into the league of the big powers. The little island of Japan had just shocked the world by besting huge continental China in the bitterly fought Sino-Japanese War.

Japan had its own dreams of expansion, and because it was an island nation, its first step onto the Asian mainland had to be at the Korean Peninsula. (At their closest point, Korea and Japan are less than two hundred miles apart.) Russian control of Korea would not only squash Japanese expansionism but threaten Japan’s very existence. Prince Ito styled Korea as the “dagger pointed at the heart of Japan.”

gaikoku shinbun soju, “manipulation of foreign newspapers”

In 1898, a secret U.S. Treasury memorandum identified the Philippines as a key stepping-stone to the Chinese marketplace: The Philippines [stand] guard at the entrances to trade with the millions of China... the possession of the Philippines by a progressive, commercial power, if the Nicaragua canal project should be completed, would change the course of ocean navigation as it concerns a large percentage of the water-borne traffic of the world. The Panama Canal had not been built yet, but it would complete the long-sought route that would stream China’s riches to ports on America’s East Coast. The United States then fomented the Spanish-American War and took over the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, Cuba, and Puerto Rico to establish an American sea-lane from China.

Theodore Roosevelt had entered Harvard College in 1876, at the age of eighteen. Like all American universities at that time, Harvard considered social and historical questions primarily from their race standpoint. [NOTE: Sounds like not much has changed!]

When Theodore Roosevelt became president, Terence Powderly, the former leader of the Knights of Labor, the group that had led the race war against the Chinese in the 1880s, was head of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration.

Roosevelt saw no need for China to participate in a peace conference that would give away Chinese territory.

Roosevelt discussed the peace negotiations with Baron Kaneko, knowing that Prince Ito would be apprised of the supposedly secret details. Kaneko was astonished that the president revealed so many confidential matters to him, but Roosevelt explained that he was able to speak to Kaneko without reservation as he was a fellow Harvard alumnus.

Three weeks after Baron Kaneko’s sleepover at Sagamore Hill, Secretary of War Taft arrived in Tokyo on a secret mission: to make Roosevelt’s vision of a Japanese Monroe Doctrine official.

In early September, the Russians and the Japanese signed the Portsmouth Peace Treaty, which, among other things, gave Prince Ito what he sought: control of Korea. After the treaty was announced, Roosevelt forwarded to friends highly selective accounts of his dealings with European heads of state Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm. Based on these retellings, Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Teddy kept mum about his extensive dealings with Emperor Meiji, thus cutting this critical U.S.-Japan story from American history.

With Roosevelt’s green light, Korea was now within Meiji’s grasp, a goal he had pursued through two wars. To reward Prince Ito, Meiji asked him to be Japan’s first civilian ruler of Korea. Ito would travel to Korea to inform the Korean emperor that his country now belonged to Japan.

But an American businessman who watched his fellow countrymen abandon Korea observed, “The Japs have got what they have been planning for these many moons and it is clear that Roosevelt played into their hands when he posed as the great peacemaker of the 20th century.”

Chapter 4 - THE NOBLE CHINESE PEASANT

Sun’s goal for China was what he called the Three Principles of the People: Nationalism, Democracy, and People’s Livelihood. Nationalism meant the reassertion of the ethnic Han population over Chinese affairs. In 1638, the Manchu — the ethnic majority in Manchuria — had taken Beijing from the Han and had ruled since then as the Qing dynasty.

Charlie Soong was a wealthy Shanghai publisher and mill owner and one of Sun’s key moneymen.

Charlie Soong, Duke University, 1881: “The only Chinese Christian in North Carolina.”

In April of 1881, Carr met eighteen-year-old Charlie Soong at the Durham train station. They rode in Carr’s horse-drawn carriage to Somerset Villa, one of the South’s grand homes. Soong was suddenly living in a mansion and learning from one of America’s leading Southern Methodists — who also happened to be a marketing genius — about Jesus, business, and life.

Vanderbilt awarded Charlie a degree in theology in 1885.

American missionaries were spending a small fortune to print Bibles in the United States and ship those heavy piles of paper across the Pacific. Charlie approached the American Bible Society and secured permission to print much cheaper Bibles in Shanghai. He founded the company that would make him a wealthy man, the Sino-American Press. Soong was soon China’s biggest publisher of Christian books, selling Bibles by the box to Americans chasing the dream. Charlie Soong and Sun Yat-sen met for the first time at the Shanghai Methodist church in 1894. Charlie and Sun — a rare pair of English-speaking Chinese Christians — were delighted to learn how much they had in common.

Charlie raised money from patrons in San Francisco, New York, and other cities, but the largest contributor to Sun’s cause lived in Durham, North Carolina. Julian Carr — now sixty years old — again rode in his horse-drawn carriage to the Durham train station to welcome Charlie Soong, now forty-two years old.

Julian Carr and those like him dug deep into their pockets. Charlie returned to Shanghai with over two million U.S. dollars for Dr. Sun’s revolutionary cause.

Ailing continued as Sun’s personal assistant in Japan, but she soon grew uncomfortable with the unwelcome sexual advances made by her married, older boss. Even as a young woman, Ailing was a shrewd operator, more interested in money than power. In 1914, twenty-six-year-old Ailing extracted herself from the forty-eight-year-old Sun’s grasp with no hurt feelings and married H. H. Kung, a Chinese Christian also in Japan who was reputedly China’s richest banker and a lineal descendant of Confucius.

Forty-nine-year-old Sun abandoned his wife and married twenty-three-year-old Chingling in Tokyo on October 25, 1915.

All along, the Wesleyan-educated Ailing, her Yale-educated husband, H. H. Kung, and her Harvard-educated little brother, T. V. Soong, raised funds for the Nationalist Party.

President Woodrow Wilson entered the Paris peace talks preaching “self-determination” as a salve for a ravaged world. Wilson accidentally inspired millions of colonized Asians held in the clutches of white Westerners. A young Ho Chi Minh petitioned Wilson and other leaders to help him free Indochina from the grasp of the French, a request that was cast aside.

When news of the West’s — and especially Wilson’s — sellout hit, millions of Chinese protesters flooded the streets, among them a youthful Mao Zedong who “attacked Wilson’s failure in his first recorded criticism of the United States.”

For over two generations, America had sent thousands of political, cultural, economic, and missionary workers to China. Communist Russia didn’t have a single school, church, or even debating society in China. Yet, within little time, the new Soviet Union had made a greater impression on the Chinese than all the Christian missionary influences combined.

As a boy, Mao read voraciously, developing what would become a lifelong habit. “What I enjoyed were the romances of Old China, and especially stories of rebellions,” he later recalled. “I used to read [these outlawed books] in school, covering them up with a [Chinese] Classic when the teacher walked past... I believe that perhaps I was much influenced by such books, read at an impressionable age.” Mao also devoured books about the history of Western countries, including the United States.

Mao imagined a revolution in which the powerless peasants would rise together to become powerful and take land from the landlords. This was the beginning of Maoism. When Mao revealed his new thinking, his fellow Communist Party members were aghast. Communist dogma held that peasants were low-class, simple-minded conservatives who could not be roused to revolution. Mao begged to differ and submitted an article arguing for a revolution in which the countryside would dominate the cities, but Communist leaders refused to publish his heresy.

In January of 1926 Mao published an astute analysis of rural society, identifying as China’s real problem the big landlords who controlled too much land.

Ailing made three demands that would later have a dramatic impact on U.S.-China relations. Each demand concerned her family. To assure herself of political control, Ailing told Chiang to appoint her husband, H. H. Kung, as prime minister. For financial control, Ailing told Chiang that her little brother T. V. Soong would serve as Chiang’s finance minister. The third condition was both political and personal. Ailing possessed something priceless through her father’s support of, and Chingling’s being the widow of, Sun Yat-sen: around the Soong family hovered the aura of the fabled Mandate of Heaven. Ailing offered Chiang an unimaginable prize: marriage into the Soong clan and a stake in the Mandate.

In one of history’s bloodiest betrayals, forces loyal to Chiang massacred between twenty thousand and thirty thousand presumed Communists in Shanghai alone.

The Generalissimo’s slaughter in the countryside took hundreds of thousands of lives, yet it was little reported in America, as Chiang turned his Soviet-funded and -trained armies against those who had been his Communist allies.

Ailing took her insider’s cut and channeled some to Chiang. Ailing consistently and brazenly profited from inside information. Chingling later remembered: She’s very clever, Ailing. She never gambles. She buys and sells only when she gets advance information from confederates in the Ministry of Finance about changes in government fiscal policy. It’s a pity she can’t do it for the people instead of against them... It is impossible to amass a fortune here except through criminal dishonesty and misuse of political power backed by military force. Every dollar comes right out of the blood of our poor people, who seldom have enough to eat. One day the people will rise and take it back.

Curtiss-Wright dispatched George Westervelt, a Naval Academy and MIT graduate with a distinguished record as a U.S. Navy captain, to China as their representative, and in April of 1929, after many banquets and probable payoffs, the company received the contract to develop commercial aviation in China.

Luce had grown up in a tiny New China as a missionary’s son.

A biographer wrote that “the Christianization of China” was the supreme effort of Luce’s life.

Fourteen-year-old Henry Luce left China knowing neither its language nor its people. He entered Yale in 1916 and became a serious student and the managing editor of the Yale Daily News. After being voted “most brilliant” in his class, Luce studied for a year at Oxford University in England and then worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and, in 1921, the Baltimore News. In 1922 Luce and a partner raised $86,000 to start a magazine, and on March 3, 1923, they published the first issue of Time magazine.

Luce’s genius was his ability to clarify and simplify complex events. He made it Time’s goal to summarize the week’s news using snappy language and pictures. Luce told stories through the lives of colorful personalities that he thought represented the kind of “right thinking” he wished to promote.

Chiang and Mayling would be featured on more Time covers than any other people on the planet.

Just as the fictional dispatches of Reverend Sydenstricker and his fellow delusionaries had been a nearly exclusive source of information about China to millions in the U.S., The Good Earth was the only book most Americans would ever read about China. At the same time that Walt Disney was creating lovable characters like Mickey Mouse, Buck created the Noble Chinese Peasants, whose major attraction was that they embodied American values.

The Good Earth became a phenomenal blockbuster, the only twentieth-century book to top Publishers Weekly bestseller lists two years in a row (1931 and 1932).

Teddy had died more than a decade earlier and had successfully hidden his involvement in handing Korea over to Japan.

Henry Stimson was secretary of state when the Japanese invaded North China. A Harvard Law graduate and Wall Street lawyer, he had been brought into government by Theodore Roosevelt. He would serve every president from Teddy to Harry Truman except Warren Harding.

Pulitzer Prize winner Kai Bird wrote that “no man casts a longer shadow over the American Century than Henry Lewis Stimson.”

The bottom line was that the value of U.S. trade with Japan was many times larger than it was with China. While Americans might shed a tear for Noble Peasants Wang and O-Lan, the Japanese were buying fully half of America’s cotton crop, and Japan’s military-industrial complex bought large amounts of U.S. oil and steel.

America preached democracy in Asia, but by the end of the First Wise Man’s term as secretary of state, dictators with U.S. military support ruled fifteen of Latin America’s twenty republics.

Stimson and the strongman went way back: Somoza’s first step up the ladder was serving as Stimson’s interpreter when Stimson refereed Nicaraguan peace talks in the 1920s.

Ailing’s husband, H. H. Kung, served as both Chiang’s prime minister and Standard Oil of New Jersey’s main representative in China.

Now on T.V.’s payroll, Jouett looked through confidential records and took away copies of Air Corps training manuals, expertise derived from decades of trial and error and many millions of American tax dollars.

Chapter 5 - THE CHINA LOBBY

Chiang Kai-shek and the Madame and their families, the Soong family and the Kungs, were all thieves, every last one of them, the Madame and him included. —President Harry Truman

FDR’s mother paid for FDR’s town houses and yachts; she paid his electric bills and his children’s tuitions. The money that funded the new president’s lifestyle came from Warren Delano’s made-in-China opium fortune.

Henry Luce’s presentation of a united China led by democracy-loving Christians left out informed coverage of Mao Zedong’s revolution, which meant that Time Inc. missed what was certainly — in terms of the number of people affected — one of the twentieth century’s biggest stories.

Unremarked upon by Pearl Buck, Henry Luce, and others was that Chiang admired fascist models of government, with their strong militaries and disciplined societies. German army officers trained Chiang’s elite troops from 1934 to 1937. Chiang also created the Blue Shirts — modeled on Hitler’s Brown Shirts — who swore loyalty to him. With some ten thousand members, the fascist group established branches throughout Chiang-controlled territory. And Chiang’s Special Services was a secret Chinese gestapo headed by the Dai Li, whom some called China’s Himmler.

In the People’s Army, there was upward mobility. Unlike in any other army in Chinese history, the lowliest peasant could, with hard work, advance to the rank of general.

Mao cleverly reworked Sun Tzu’s ideas into four slogans consisting of four Chinese characters each, simple enough for his peasant army to sing during their morning exercises:

  1. The enemy advances, we retreat!
  2. The enemy camps, we harass!
  3. The enemy tires, we attack!
  4. The enemy retreats, we pursue!

The Generalissimo, portrayed by Luce and other Americans as beloved by the Chinese people, had to kidnap most of his soldiers. Fearing that their “recruits” would desert, Chiang’s commanders marched the shanghaied men, all of them tied together with ropes around their necks, hundreds of miles from their homes. They were stripped naked at night to keep them from running away. Unsurprisingly, many perished. U.S. military attaché Colonel Joseph Stilwell observed Chiang’s dragooned “scarecrow” soldiers: many were less than four and a half feet tall, under fourteen years of age, and barefoot. Stilwell wrote in his diary, “The wildest stretch of the imagination could not imagine the rabble in action except running away.”

But while some of Moscow’s money had trickled to Mao, Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek had both accepted much more from the USSR.

Many of FDR’s innovative ideas would probably have gotten bogged down in typical bureaucratic infighting if they’d been sent through traditional channels, so Roosevelt constructed a shadow government. This shrouded latticework consisted of new executive agencies and private individuals, and FDR “deliberately organized — or disorganized — his system of command to insure that important decisions were passed on to the top.” [NOTE: This sounds like Trump!]

Once president, Roosevelt asked Frankfurter to be his solicitor general, but his friend turned him down. Instead, Frankfurter aided Roosevelt from his professorial perch, dispensing advice and enlisting Harvard’s best and brightest to help create the New Deal. It was in his role as FDR’s chief recruiter that Frankfurter most influenced America’s twentieth century.

Some of Frankfurter’s Hotdogs, particularly Thomas Corcoran and Dean Acheson, would have an enormous impact on President Roosevelt and American history.

What made Tommy invaluable to FDR was his ability to maintain complete confidentiality. Tommy instinctively recognized Roosevelt’s secretive, left hand/right hand style and was sensitive to the competing swirl of egos around the Skipper.

Corcoran, unlike almost everyone else in Washington before or since, took no title and sought no credit. Posing as a middle-level official in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, he had a standard-size office without even a picture of himself and Skipper. Corcoran observed, “[Justice] Holmes told me, ‘Never, never reach for a title, for there will always be others who want it. Instead, aspire to command.’”

Corcoran teamed with another Hotdog, Ben Cohen, to write much of the Securities Exchange Act, developed to regulate and revive confidence in Wall Street.)

With guidance from both Hitler’s and Mussolini’s militaries, Chiang began his fourth Bandit Extermination Campaign in April of 1933.

As Chiang’s troops advanced, they killed peasants in their path, an attempt to dry up the wellspring from which Mao’s warriors flowed. Chiang’s troops left behind a wasteland of torched houses and piles of rotting bodies, with over one million dead.

In a stroke of tactical genius, Mao recast what had been a humiliating retreat into what he called a triumphal march, portraying it as an advance to confront the Japanese in China’s north, a noble effort, unlike Chiang’s policy of Chinese fighting Chinese.

Chiang’s troops pursued and attacked them from beginning to end; there was about one skirmish a day. The marchers averaged an incredible twenty-four miles daily, a phenomenal pace for a harassed and beleaguered army traveling over some of the most challenging terrain on earth.

In Mao’s army, unlike Chiang’s, opium smoking was prohibited, and there were no swarms of prostitutes following the men.

Chapter 6 - THE FIRST WISE MAN’S NEW CHINA

On December 8, after promising that he would defend Nanking to the end, Chiang took Mayling and fled the capital city by airplane. The Japanese army then closed in on a defenseless population and carried out the atrocity that would later be called the Rape of Nanking — massacres of soldiers and civilians and mass rapes, with victims numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

After final instructions from Mayling and Tong, Frank Price left Chungking and set out for New York on a China Lobby mission to convince the American public that the best thing the U.S. could do for peace in Asia was embargo Japan. It would lead, three years later, to the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor.

The public never knew that the Manhattan missionaries diligently working on East Fortieth Street to save the Noble Peasants were paid China Lobby agents engaged in what were possibly illegal and treasonous acts.

When pollsters asked Americans to name the most frightening international event of the past year, Japan’s invasion of China beat out Germany’s invasion of Austria.

In late 1938 the interests of the China Lobby and Henry Stimson merged. Harry Price approached the First Wise Man about his joining the committee and becoming its marquee name. Stimson agreed and was made honorary chairman. This was a fantastic coup for Mayling; now the First Wise Man, perhaps the most powerful and articulate American voice opposing Japan, was fronting the China Lobby.

Chapter 7 - WASHINGTON WARRIORS

Manufacturers from Buffalo to San Diego depended on Southeast Asian products — rubber, tin, tungsten, and much more — that they could not source easily elsewhere. The Dutch East Indies alone supplied more than half of fifteen important commodities used in U.S. industry.

Instead of cutting Japan’s oil and starting a war, FDR sent strong signals to Tokyo warning against further expansion into Southeast Asia. One such signal was FDR’s order to move the U.S. Pacific Fleet from California to Pearl Harbor.

One of Frankfurter’s Hotdogs, Dean Acheson, coined a name for these men who supported Stimson’s hard-line stance: Washington Warriors.

Nevertheless, Roosevelt met with Soong in the Oval Office many times with neither witnesses nor note takers. One of Roosevelt’s close associates later observed, “At the White House, the making of FDR’s China policy was almost as great a secret as the atom bomb.”

John Davies, the State Department China Hand who had been born in China, spoke Chinese fluently, and understood the gap between the reality in China and the mirage in Washington, wrote, “Roosevelt’s approach to China was rooted not so much in what existed as what should be. Like so many Americans before him, he thought less in terms of the actuality than of the potential of five hundred million Chinese. China was to be treated as a great power so that it would become a great power, a grateful friend eventually helping the United States to keep order and peace in the Far East.”

Charlie Soong’s son would eventually shake from the U.S. almost three times as much as America would spend on the atomic bomb.

Many of the Hotdogs would soon be on the China Lobby’s payroll. One of them, former Harvard professor Lauchlin Currie, was serving as the very first economic adviser to an American president. On and off the Bank of China payroll even as he worked for FDR, Currie was a fortunate catch for T.V. — close to the president and almost totally ignorant about the reality in China.

Joe Alsop was a powerful syndicated newspaper columnist and a distant Roosevelt relative; at the time, Washington was essentially a small town, and a blood connection to FDR meant a lot. Alsop was soon cashing T.V.’s checks for filling the role of “adviser,” a remarkable breach of journalistic ethics and a coup for the China Lobby.

On September 30, Japanese planes bombed the city of Kunming, China, for the first time, marking an expansion of the fighting. Japanese navy pilots flew out of their newly acquired airport near Hanoi that until recently had been controlled by the French. In the Japanese planes’ bellies was U.S. gasoline. The bombs that fell on the Noble Chinese Peasants were made from U.S. steel.

In a major speech in the Boston Garden, Roosevelt said, “And while I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your sons are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

Roosevelt (“in strictest confidence”) instructed Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau and Warren Lee Pierson, president of the Export-Import Bank, to give Chiang a one-hundred-million-dollar loan in two fifty-million-dollar chunks within twenty-four hours. Roosevelt said the U.S. had to “do something fast” to save “free China.” “It is a matter of life and death... if I don’t do it... it may mean war in the Far East.” Two poker-playing buddies of T. V. Soong’s would dispense the money in two equal chunks: fifty million from Morgenthau and fifty million from Pierson. The U.S. would pay the money to the Bank of China — controlled by Ailing — with T. V. Soong “guaranteeing” the loan. The hundred million dollars in “aid to China” would flow through T. V. Soong’s hands to Ailing and on to Chiang.

Chapter 8 - SECRET EXECUTIVE AIR WAR IN ASIA

Roosevelt began relying less on Tommy and more on Harry Hopkins, his alter ego, chief aide, closest confidant, and global gofer.

Corcoran opened a law office at 1511 K Street, four blocks from the White House, a street that today is known as Lobbyists’ Row. Tommy — recognizing that the coming war would make the New Deal yesterday’s game — went on to become Washington’s number-one lobbyist for what President Eisenhower would call the military-industrial complex.

Hull hosted a meeting on Monday, December 23, at the State Department for Morgenthau, Knox, Stimson, and Marshall to formulate a policy that would please FDR and mollify Chiang. All agreed that the United States would transfer a hundred outmoded P-40 fighter planes to the Chinese. Roosevelt immediately approved the compromise. FDR chose to control this secret air force from outside the War Department and within the White House, creating the historical precedent for the executive branch’s use of air war with no Pentagon or congressional oversight. Roosevelt instructed T. V. Soong to establish a private company to purchase the airplanes, ship them to China, and clandestinely recruit U.S. Armed Services personnel as mercenaries. FDR even suggested the name of Soong’s company: China Defense Supplies. FDR and T.V. agreed that Tommy Corcoran would run CDS under the title of adviser. Tommy hired his brother David Corcoran as president and staffed CDS with men from the administration, some of whom Roosevelt personally recommended.

The first months of 1941 were ones of impressive creativity for Henry Luce. On February 17, he authored a lengthy Life magazine editorial called the “The American Century,” his signature piece that would be cited in his obituary. Luce then defined Asia’s place in his American Century with an April 1941 spread in Fortune entitled “The New China.”

United China Relief’s board of directors had star power. Eleanor Roosevelt became honorary chairwoman of UCR’s national advisory committee, Pearl Buck was chairwoman, and UCR board members included luminaries like John D. Rockefeller III, movie producer David O. Selznick, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Wendell Willkie, and Luce himself.

UCR Children’s Committee — headed by none other than Walt Disney

Teddy White was one of the very first Harvard graduates who spoke Chinese and who had studied Chinese culture. Professor John Fairbank had founded Harvard’s China program only recently, in 1936, and White was one of his original students. White’s title was adviser to the Chinese Ministry of Information. Teddy later recalled, “In reality, I was employed to manipulate American public opinion.”

Here was one of Frankfurter’s more brilliant Harvard Hotdogs, the first economic adviser to a president in American history, FDR’s point man on China, and yet he had no idea that Chiang’s war was not against the Japanese but against Mao. The American misperception of “your war is our war” would embolden Chiang and enrich the Soongs as they sat back and waited for their American barbarians to perform their assigned function.

Chapter 9 - A WAR OVER OIL

Like Morgenthau, Acheson bought the First Wise Man’s China Lobby line that the U.S. could embargo Japan with no repercussions. He also agreed that a few Wise Men should control U.S. foreign policy, that transparent democracy was fine for domestic matters but secrecy was vital in the conduct of foreign affairs.

Tommy and the Skipper cooked up a scheme that utilized private front companies to recruit and pay American pilots outside of government channels (a process the CIA would later call sheep-dipping). U.S. Army pilots and airmen would “resign” from the service and then sign private contracts with CAMCO, Ailing Soong’s company.

Mao founded the University of Resistance, which graduated over ten thousand students a year.

Mao — like Chiang — had a torture and detention center out of sight. After all, this was a Chinese civil war, and Mao was no saint. The difference was that Mao inspired the Four Hundred Million to reclaim their country.

At 9:30 p.m. on June 21, a U.S. Navy ambulance arrived at the White House, and medics carried Missy LeHand out on a stretcher. Missy had been at FDR’s side as his secretary and companion since the early 1920s; she had arranged the president’s days and enlivened his nights. Her bedroom was above FDR’s in the White House. Wrote historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Missy was in love with her boss and regarded herself as the other wife.”

On Thursday, July 31, 1941, Roosevelt met with a Soviet military delegation. Communists were in the White House.

Acheson had just secretly changed Roosevelt’s Asian policy and done the specific thing the president feared would lead to war. As Utley wrote, “Roosevelt intended the freeze... to bring Japan to its senses, not to its knees.” History well notes the insanity of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor but little notes the inanity of the so-called Wise Men — focused on the China Lobby mirage — who provoked it.

Chapter 10 - ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL

Instead of empowering moderates in Tokyo, Washington’s demands resulted in the fall of a moderate government and in the Japanese military taking full control.

The historian John Toland, in his bestselling The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, concurred about the U.S. going to war over China: America made a grave diplomatic blunder by allowing an issue not vital to her basic interests — the welfare of China — to become, at the last moment, the keystone of her foreign policy. Until that summer [of 1941] America had two limited objectives in the Far East: to drive a wedge between Japan and Hitler, and to thwart Japan’s southward thrust. She could easily have obtained both these objectives but instead... insisted on the liberation of China... America could not throw the weight of her strength against Japan to liberate China, nor had she ever intended to. Her major enemy was Hitler. [The Pacific War was] a war that need not have been fought.

Americans would always “Remember Pearl Harbor,” but the attack was not meant to be an invasion of the U.S.; rather, it was an attempt to cripple the U.S. Navy’s ability to block Japan’s all-important thrust south. The much more significant opening salvo of the Pacific war occurred one hour and twenty minutes prior to Pearl Harbor, when General Hirofumi Yamashita landed twenty thousand troops on the east coast of Malaysia and sent them south — as Franklin Delano Roosevelt had predicted — to Singapore and then on to the Dutch East Indies for oil.

Americans experiencing the blowback of their government’s actions saw Japan’s act of violence as a surprise attack; they were unable to put it into context because they were unaware of the United States’ secret acts of violence against the other country. The American public did not know that Acheson had cut Japan’s oil without FDR’s knowledge or that Roosevelt had been building an air force for Chiang to burn down Japan or that Tokyo knew of T. V. Soong’s lobbying of FDR and of the airplanes and pilots arriving at Rangoon. As lawyer and author Alan Armstrong wrote in Preemptive Strike, if the public had been aware that for one year FDR had been planning offensive air operations against Japan, “President Roosevelt may have risked impeachment.”

Chiang Kai-shek — who for a decade had predicted a war “in which the United States will figure as the champion and savior of China” — was so happy when he learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that he pulled out his phonograph and played a recording of “Ave Maria” over and over. At long last, Chiang had his barbarian.

Chapter 11 - THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN

What will the American people say when they finally learn the truth? —General Joseph Stilwell

Once Stilwell arrived in China and met with Chiang, he told a reporter off the record, “The trouble in China is simple: We are allied to an ignorant, illiterate, superstitious, peasant son of a bitch.”

Stilwell understood that he was dealing with two realities: We were fighting Germany to tear down the Nazi system — one-party government, supported by the Gestapo and headed by an unbalanced man with little education. We had plenty to say against such a system. China, our ally, was being run by a one-party government and supported by a Gestapo and headed by an unbalanced man with little education. This government, however, had the prestige of the possession of power — it was opposing Japan, and its titular head had been built up by propaganda in America out of all proportion to his deserts and accomplishments.

Many outside the U.S. cultural box understood that China was not destined to evolve into a Christianized and Americanized nation. Winston Churchill wrote to one of his generals, “I must enlighten you upon the American view. China bulks as large in the minds of many of them as Great Britain... If I can epitomize in one word the lesson I learned in the United States, it was ‘China.’

One of Roosevelt’s shrewdest wartime moves was to arm Communist Russia, allowing Joseph Stalin’s soldiers and civilians to bear the brunt of Germany’s military juggernaut. For example, on June 6, 1944 — D-day at Normandy — the Allies suffered about ten thousand casualties. But at Kursk a year earlier, the Russians and the Germans had waged the biggest tank battle in world history, a conflict that produced over a million casualties. The Battle of Stalingrad saw an incredible two million German and Russian dead and wounded. The vast majority of German soldiers who died in World War II were killed by Communists armed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

After one month, Mao invited Service to his cave home, where the two men talked for eight hours, with a break for dinner cooked by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing. Service had more substantial conversations with Mao than any other American government official would have for the next quarter century.

Ailing and Mayling settled in River Oaks, a seventeen-room mansion in the tony Riverdale section of New York City. As the Mandate moved farther from Chiang in China, Ailing tended to her U.S. financial pipeline while Mayling minded the China Lobby propaganda front. As a break from her efforts, Mayling had a Secret Service agent teach her how to drive.

In retrospect, Stilwell’s advice could well have resulted in a lasting friendship between China and the United States, saved millions of lives, and averted the Chinese civil war, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Here are some of the great what-ifs of American-Chinese relations. FDR met with Russian Communists in the White House. What if Mao’s message had not been spiked by Chiang’s secret police and Roosevelt had met with a Chinese Communist? What if Zhou Enlai had told Roosevelt that he was being blackmailed by Chiang? What if Mao had convinced the American commander in chief that his Chinese Communist forces armed by the U.S. could succeed against the Japanese, just like Soviet Communist forces were pounding Germany? What if Mao could have told FDR about his desire to cooperate with Wall Street to industrialize China?

Chapter 12 - WHO LOST CHINA?

On March 11, 1945, American B-29s with bellies full of napalm flew over Iwo Jima, headed north. LeMay launched the biggest air attack in history against Tokyo, killing around one hundred thousand civilians in about three hours. More Tokyo civilians died in a shorter time than in any previous military operation in any war. As LeMay later wrote, “We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night of March 9–10 than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.”

Quoting Thomas Jefferson in Vietnam’s declaration of independence was a pretty broad hint that Ho Chi Minh desired friendship with the United States.

The Wise Men disagreed about whether Asians should be free. America’s defeat of Japan did not result in liberty for Asians. On President Truman’s orders, the U.S. Navy ferried British, Dutch, and French government officials and military men back to Southeast Asia to reassert control of their colonies. The merchant-missionary dream that foreigners would control events in Asia was still alive.

Nevertheless, Chennault — who had now been drummed out of the U.S. military twice — would continue to spin the mirage in Washington, and with Tommy the Cork and the Soong family, he would make his postwar fortune in Asia through the private airline they founded, China Air Transport (CAT). China Air Transport was an airline with few customers; most Chinese couldn’t afford a plane ticket. No matter — Corcoran solved CAT’s cash-flow problem. Tommy’s old friend Fiorello La Guardia, former mayor of New York, was in 1945 the director general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Tommy presented La Guardia with a plan to have CAT deliver UNRRA supplies within China. UNRRA officials turned down this costly proposal. China Air Transport was an upstart airline fronted by the discredited Chennault with shadowy China Lobby ties. Tommy pressured La Guardia, who told him there was nothing he could do. Tommy kept the heat on. Just before he resigned as director general, La Guardia reversed his officials’ ruling and awarded CAT a nearly four-million-dollar UNRRA contract.

By June of 1948, Mao and Chiang had roughly equal numbers of men and armaments. In October 1948, an astonishing three hundred thousand of Chiang’s soldiers defected to Mao’s side.

(Like the British, Truman referred privately to Chiang as “Generalissimo Cash My-check.”)

I discovered after some time, that Chiang Kai-shek and the Madame and their families, the Soong family and the Kungs, were all thieves, every last one of them, the Madame and him included. And they stole seven hundred and fifty million dollars out of the 3.5 billion that we sent to Chiang. They stole it, and it’s invested in real estate down in Sao Paolo and some right here in New York.

The United States had invested more money in backing Chiang than it had in developing the atom bomb. Then, just like that, China had been taken over by a pagan Communist who had recently been living in a cave.

Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin was sworn in as a United States senator on January 3, 1947. In Washington, he was a bachelor far from home. Sometimes on Friday afternoons, McCarthy would take a taxi from his office to the airport, where a Kennedy family private plane would whisk him and Congressman John F. Kennedy to Hyannis Port for the weekend. As a frequent guest, McCarthy played touch football with Jack, Bobby, and Teddy, and he fancied Eunice.

In 1986 Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas coauthored a book entitled The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made, about Henry Stimson’s ideological descendants, the officials most responsible for the creation of the post–World War II national security state. The six Wise Men were Dean Acheson, Charles Bohlen, Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Robert Lovett, and John McCloy, all of whom had served one or more U.S. presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson and who first coalesced as a group under Harry Truman.

On August 10, 1945 — the day after the second atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki — Wise Man John McCloy divided Korea for the purposes of accepting the surrender of Japanese troops. He drew an imaginary line at the thirty-eighth parallel. Above the parallel would be a new country called North Korea dominated by Russia; below it would be the U.S. ally South Korea. No Wise Man thought to consult the Korean people about this division of their ancient land.

North Korean leader Kim Il Sung had begun his military career fighting the Japanese in the spring of 1932, and his government was first of all, and above all else, anti-Japanese.

The Wise Men’s Policy for Asia was a blueprint for American disaster in post–World War II Asia, as it called for the U.S. military to enforce the Japan-centric model, a “for us or against us” policy designed to contain Mao Zedong.

Dean Acheson published his memoir Present at the Creation in 1969. The title referred to the birth of the modern U.S. state, which he had done so much to midwife. Acheson recounts the founding of the CIA, the Defense Department, the NSA, the World Bank, and other organizations. But in his Pulitzer Prize–winning tome, the aging Wise Man didn’t mention perhaps his biggest contribution to modern America: the secret policy that he as secretary of state had inspired and that reoriented the United States, changing it from a robust democracy with a small professional military into the militarized national security state it had become by the time he published his book. Acheson’s fateful 1950 policy document was still classified top secret in 1969.

Acheson’s top secret policy was laid out in National Security Council document 68, or NSC-68, which called for something new in American history: an enormous U.S. military encircling the globe to protect the “war-making capabilities” of its allies, a euphemism referring to countries with resources that American industry needed to manufacture arms to contain Communism worldwide.

(Truman secretly gave the French military more money to fight Ho Chi Minh in Asia than he publicly gave Paris under the Marshall Plan to promote democracy in Europe.)

Korea was General Douglas MacArthur’s responsibility. MacArthur was seventy years old now and a China Lobby favorite. (He shared the record of most appearances on Time’s cover—seven—with Chiang.)

Reflecting Mao’s thinking, the Chinese official told Panikkar: “We all know what we are in for, but at all costs American aggression has to be stopped. The Americans can bomb us, they can destroy our industries, but they cannot defeat us on land.,, They may even drop atomic bombs on us. What then? They may kill a few million people. Without sacrifice a nation’s independence cannot be upheld.”

Though the Chinese had no airpower, they pounded the Americans on the ground in their first clashes. Mao’s troops pushed MacArthur’s forces out of North Korea within two weeks.

Bruce Cumings concludes, The Korean War was the crisis that finally got the Japanese and West German economies growing strongly, and vastly stimulated the U.S. economy. American defense industries hardly knew that Kim Il Sung would come along and save them either, but he inadvertently rescued a bunch of big-ticket projects... The Korean conflict [would transform] the United States into a very different country than it had ever been before: one with hundreds of permanent military bases abroad, a large standing army and a permanent national security state at home.

Just as the Protestant China Lobby had propagandized for Chiang, a Catholic Vietnam lobby — called the American Friends of Vietnam — beat the drums for Diem.

In 1958, author Edgar Snow observed that there was not one Chinese-speaking officer remaining in the State Department.

In 1960, author Ross Koen was getting ready to publish his book The China Lobby when shadowy yet powerful China Lobbyists forced Koen’s publisher, Macmillan, to withdraw the exposé. It was allowed to emerge only fourteen long years later, as a paperback.

Harvard Wise Men McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, and Henry Kissinger dropped more bombs on Asia than the U.S. military had worldwide in all of World War II, yet they lost.

American airpower in Asia was defeated by the same simple and relatively cheap defense that Mao Zedong had employed: the people went underground.

The United States dropped 2 million tons of bombs on the combined European and Pacific theaters in World War II, but more than three times as much — 6.7 million tons — on Southeast Asia. McNamara later estimated that the U.S. had killed 1.2 million Vietnamese civilians. The U.S. bombing killed, maimed, or made homeless tens of millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians.

Chapter 13 - THE CHINA MIRAGE

Ellsberg then leaped out of his chair and said, “I’ve been talking to you about seven thousand pages of documentation of crimes: war crimes, crimes against the peace, mass murder. Twenty years of crimes under four presidents. And every one of those presidents had a Harvard professor at his side, telling him how to do it and how to get away with it.

Air America is another legacy of Franklin Roosevelt’s secret executive air war in Asia run by Claire Chennault and Thomas Corcoran. In 1947 Chennault and Corcoran talked the CIA into purchasing China Air Transport. (Unknown is the extent of the Soong family’s continuing financial involvement.) In early October of 1948, CAT flew its first mission, a CIA effort to support the crumbling Soong-Chiang regime. Later, the CIA rebranded CAT as the airline Air America, based out of Chiang’s New China on Taiwan. Today, the president of the United States commands a private CIA air force. It all began when FDR went around General George Marshall, listened to the Chiang-Chennault siren song, and created a secret executive air force in Asia.

A Harvard-educated Japanese baron guided Teddy’s approach. A Harvard-educated Chinese financier shared sandwiches with Franklin in the Oval Office and convinced him that an Americanized New China was near.

About one hundred thousand Americans died in World War II in the Pacific. About fifty-six thousand Americans died in Korea, and another fifty-eight thousand in Vietnam.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR JAMES BRADLEY is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Imperial Cruise, Flyboys, and Flags of Our Fathers and is a son of John Bradley, one of the men who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.