Library and Archives
Library and Archives

Diaries of General Joseph W. Stilwell (1900–1939, 1945–1946)

Joseph W. Stilwell, circa 1917. Photo courtesy of John Easterbrook.
Joseph W. Stilwell, circa 1917. Photo courtesy of John Easterbrook.
Joseph W. Stilwell, 1940. Photo courtesy of John Easterbrook.
Joseph W. Stilwell, 1940. Photo courtesy of John Easterbrook.
Joseph W. Stilwell, 1946. Photo courtesy of John Easterbrook.
Joseph W. Stilwell, 1946. Photo courtesy of John Easterbrook.

Symbols Used
* Indicates Stilwell’s use of military unit designations that have been translated into words because the designators are not reproducible online.

*** Indicates words or sentences redacted. Redactions were made where the words or sentences might negatively affect persons still living or where words or sentences are personal and have no impact on the historical content of the diaries. Redactions were made in the 1935, 1938, and 1946 diaries.

Words written in italics are editorial comments for which explanations were warranted.

Transcribed Diaries

Related Resource

World War II Diaries of General Joseph W. Stilwell (19411945)

Project Information

These diaries of General Joseph W. Stilwell are those remaining in the Stilwell papers at the Hoover Archives that had not been placed on the Hoover Archives web site.  In addition to chronicling his career and activities up to and following World War II, they offer insights into his developing character, as he matured from a twenty-one-year-old second lieutenant, fresh out of West Point, to a mature four-star general officer. They provide evidence of his early passion for exploring and observing different cultures and people and his innate curiosity, which led to an expanding mind and widespread interests. The entries also reveal his keen sense of humor, his ability to assess the character of others, his command of the English language, his artistic abilities, and his warmth for his family.

The diaries were Stilwell’s private writings and notes; he never intended others to see them. Some of the language used in the diaries was commonly accepted during the periods in which they were written; it is not appropriate or valid to apply today’s standards to it to draw conclusions about Stilwell’s character or views. Writing about some of the language and labels in the diaries, Barbara Tuchman, in her book Stilwell and the American Experience in China, makes the following statement, “Lesser vulgarities he used easily and seemingly without pejorative content.”

Often the diaries contain short notes and observations made by Stilwell. Some of those entries he incorporated into the daily entries, some he later crossed out, some were simply meant to remind him of something, and some are so cryptic they make no discernible contribution to the diaries’ historical significance. In those cases such entries have not been transcribed. When they are of interest or add to the daily entries, however, they have been incorporated into the transcripts.

Principles of Transcription

Stilwell’s spelling throughout the diaries was remarkably correct. Distinguishing between his handwritten n’s and u’s, however, was sometimes difficult, and errors in place names or names of people containing those letters could have made their way into the transcripts. Based on Stilwell’s superb spelling elsewhere, then, any such errors must be attributed to the transcriber, not to Stilwell.

In some of the diaries Stilwell included drawings of maps, people, places, and things that interested him. Those drawings have been incorporated into the transcriptions, with the exception of partially completed drawings or those not germane to the diaries.

Where Stilwell wrote Chinese characters in the diaries, those characters have been translated using the Wade-Giles convention, which was in use at the time he wrote them.

Copyright Statement

Joseph W. Stilwell's diaries are covered by the copyright law of the United States.

Please refer all requests to publish excerpts or quotations to the Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 94305-6010,or to Such requests will be forwarded to the Stilwell family, who owns the rights to the diaries.

Guide to the Stilwell Papers

An online guide to the Joseph W. Stilwell papers at the Hoover Archives is available.

Source Material on General Joseph W. Stilwell Available Elsewhere

Claremont Graduate University (Claremont, California) has Stilwell material in its W. B. Pettus Collection. Pettus was president of the College of Chinese Studies in Beijing, which Stilwell attended as the army's first Chinese-language student. Pettus and Stilwell maintained a friendship through World War II, and correspondence between them is contained in the collection. Topics include the honorary PhD awarded to Stilwell, Chinese language instruction for the US military during World War II, and Pettus's assistance to Stilwell's daughter Alison—a painter in the Chinese style—in arranging exhibits for her across the United States.

The United States Military Academy (West Point, New York) has a collection of twenty-five items (letters, photographs, and clippings) concerning General Stilwell. These items were a gift from William R. Wigley in 1964.

Select Bibliography

Haith, Michael E. “Joseph W. Stilwell as Attaché, 1935–1939: Foundations for Command in the CBI.” Thesis submitted to the Temple University Graduate Board, April 1985.

Schaller, Michael. The U.S. Crusade in China, 1938–1945. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

Tuchman, Barbara.Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911–45. New York: Macmillan Company, 1970.

The diaries were first transcribed several decades ago, when his widow and a daughter-in-law, Bettye Stilwell, manually typed them. The diaries, along with the rest of Stilwell's papers, were deposited at the Hoover Institution in stages from 1951 on. In 1998, my cousin, Deborah Bunce, began entering the manually typed transcriptions into a computer database. When Richard Sousa (senior associate director) and Linda Bernard (deputy archivist) agreed that the diaries should appear on the Hoover Archives web site, I began proofing the computer database text against the original diaries. Lisa Miller (associate archivist) provided the impetus for the project and coordinated formats, scanning of drawings and maps, and integrating the various elements into the final product. Lisa Nguyen (East Asia curator) transcribed and translated the Chinese characters Stilwell used in the diaries. Russell Rader (digital archivist) and Daniel Jarvis (digitization production specialist) did the scanning of the drawings and maps and the integration.
-John Easterbrook