Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Kyle G. Volk

Commitee Members

Kyle G. Volk, Michael S. Mayer, Steven I. Levine


Mansfield, Marines, China, Truman, Chinese Civil War, Intervention


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Asian History | Diplomatic History | Military History | Political History | United States History


At the conclusion of World War II, American citizens, including millions of deployed servicemen, reasserted the democratic freedoms they sacrificed to win the war. The American intervention in North China during the Chinese Civil War presented a ripe opportunity for civic restoration in late 1945. Controversial and seemingly at odds with the stated goals of the Second World War—namely the “Four Freedoms” and the Atlantic Charter—the US military presence in North China faced formidable domestic political obstacles. This thesis explores the nexus of domestic politics and foreign policy in the post-World War II era. Focusing on 1945-1946, this project steps beyond the oft-studied foreign service personalities to examine the important role of Congress, the military, and public opinion in constraining US participation in the Chinese Civil War.

As the title suggests, Mansfield, Marines, and mothers are important political characters anchoring this research. I argue that Representative Mike Mansfield, from Montana’s first congressional district, served a vital role in elevating the dangers of the North China intervention in the public consciousness. With speeches critical of the Truman administration’s China policy in the House of Representatives, Mansfield’s words resonated with deployed Marines, their families, and with organized citizens’ groups. The lifting of wartime censorship also allowed Marines in China to write congressmen, newspaper editors, and their families expressing opposition to direct participation in the Chinese Civil War. Marine leadership also skillfully interpreted opaque orders and carefully avoided an expanded role. Marines’ families, and in particular mothers and spouses, crafted sophisticated arguments against expanded US military intervention in the language of self-determination, freedom, and democracy. Finally, I conclude that the deluge of public opinion at the outset of the North China intervention was an important factor in constraining American participation in the Chinese Civil War and in the genesis of the Marshall Mission.



© Copyright 2022 James Robert Compton