During World War II, personal relations between Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese Nationalist leader, and General Joseph Stilwell, America’s top military adviser to China, grew famously acrimonious. The strained relationship, some have argued, may have had dire consequences for the Nationalists, who lost the Chinese civil war to the Communists in 1949.
Newly opened documents in the Hoover Institution Archives of T. V. Soong, one of Chiang’s closest aides, shed new light on the matter. Chiang, the documents show, considered firing Stilwell as early as 1942—and had the blessing of top American officials to do so—but ultimately chose not to. Had Stilwell been replaced, might history have been different? Tai-Chun Kuo, Hsiao-Ting Lin, and Ramon H. Myers consider one of history’s most intriguing “what-ifs.”
SIDEBAR: A New Window on Modern Chinese History