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Loureiro, "Intelligence success: The evolution of Navy and Marine intelligence operations in China, 1931-1941," 1995

USC Dissertation in History.
August 26, 2009

Pedro Anthony Loureiro, Ph.D.

Abstract (Summary)
The United States assessment process of East Asia prior to the Pacific War has generally been regarded as a failure; from political developments in China to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. However, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) was able to successfully identify China as a potential ally that could best help the Navy and the United States by trapping Japan in a quagmire on the mainland. The U.S. Navy's assessment of pre-war China was conditioned by its primary mission of protecting American lives and interests. Memories of the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and anti-foreign outbreaks in 1927 convinced ONI that the major threat to American interests would result from the chaotic and turbulent struggle for unification by Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang. For the most part of the 1930s, ONI's large presence in China was designed to monitor Chinese political and military developments. But ONI also did not fail to take full advantage of the intelligence opportunities provided by Japan's military incursion in North China.

As Sino-Japanese hostilities turned into a full-scale war in 1937, ONI's assessment of China was changed gradually by the experiences of its own officers in the field. In order to better assess the potential for threat from China, a select group of Chinese language officers began to cultivate closer contacts with leading Chinese officials. With this new approach, they concluded that Chiang Kai-shek was the only figure who could unite the Chinese against Japan. Moreover, these mid-level ONI officers determined that it would be in the best interests of the United States to assist China in its war with Japan. Thus, by the late 1930s, ONI developed a new strategic assessment of East Asia because of the influence of its personnel in China.

Advisor: Dingman, Roger V.