Who is Dixie Mission (1944-1947)?

Dixie Mission (1944-1947)

After mid-1943, Americans grew dissatisfied with China’s Guomindang (GMD, or Kuomintang, KMT; the Chinese Nationalist Party) leader Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) (1887-1975) and became interested in harnessing Mao Zedong’s (Mao Tse-tung) (1893-1976) Chinese Communist Party (CCP, or the Communist Party of China) to the war effort. In early 1944, U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) approved the distinguished diplomat John Paton Davies’ s proposal that American observers be sent to the Communist-controlled areas. Chiang reluctantly gave his consent in late June when meeting with Vice President Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965).

The Dixie Mission began when the U.S. Army Observer Group arrived in Yan’an, the Chinese Communist capital, on July 22, 1944. The Army Observer Group was redesignated the Yan’an Liaison Group after April 13, 1946. The mission was headed by seven army officers until it ceased operation in March 1947. The best known of these was Colonel David D. Barrett, the first Group officer, who served until the end of 1944. He was presiding at a critical moment when Americans and the Chinese Communists first came into contact, militarily and politically. His duties included the gathering of intelligence and weather information, assistance in the rescue of downed American pilots, and assessment of Communist military strength and political aims.

The highlights of the mission included the soon-to-be ambassador Patrick Hurley’s (1883-1963) visit in November 1944 and General George Marshall’s (1880-1959) visit in March 1946. Both presidential envoys failed in their efforts to mediate between Jiang and Mao. While working as political officers with the mission under Barrett, Davies and diplomat John S. Service recommended that the United States follow a policy of “conditional” but not “exclusive” support of Jiang by working directly with Mao. They were soon accused of being procommunist by Hurley and eventually persecuted by McCarthyism in the 1950s. Since the early 1970s, however, they have been remembered as advocates of a more realistic China policy and even as forerunners of President Richard Nixon’s (1913-1994) opening to China.

Dr. Jingbin Wang

See also: Anti-Japanese War; Chinese Civil War; Chinese Communist Party; Guomingdang; Jiang Jieshi; Mao Zedong; Marshall Mission to China; U.S.-PRC Normalization of Relations; Yan’an.


Barrett, David D. Dixie Mission: The United States Army Observer Group in Yenan, 1944-1947. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.

Carter, Carolle J. Mission to Yenan: American Liaison with the Chinese Communists, 1944-1947. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997.

Esherick, Joseph W., ed. Lost Chance in China: The World War Il Dispatches of John S. Service. New York: Random House, 1974.

Westad, Odd Arne. Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Yu, Maochun. The Dragon’s War: Allied Operations and the Fate of China, 19371947. Annapolis, MD: Naval Academic, 2005.