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Conventional wisdom informs us that “only Nixon could go to China.” In fact, in 1944, nearly thirty years before his historic trip, the American military established the first liaison and intelligence-gathering mission with the Chinese Communists in Yenan. Commonly referred to as the Dixie Mission, the detached military unit sent to Yenan was responsible for transmitting weather information, assisting the Communists in their rescue of downed American flyers, and laying the groundwork for an eventual rapprochement between the Communists and Nationalists, the two sides struggling in the ongoing Chinese Civil War.

Following extensive use of archival sources and numerous interviews with the men who traveled and served in Yenan, Carolle Carter argues that while Dixie fulfilled its assignment, the members steered the mission in different directions from its original, albeit loosely described, intent. As the months and years passed, the Dixie Mission increasingly emphasized intelligence gathering over evaluating their Communist hosts’ contribution to the war effort against Japan.

Some American politicians in the 1950s portrayed the participants in the Dixie Mission as too sympathetic to the Chinese Communists. But during the 1970s many looked back at these individuals as wise but ignored oracles who could have prevented the “loss of China.” Carter strips away these simplistic portrayals to reveal a diverse and dedicated collection of soldiers, diplomats, and technicians who had ongoing contact with the Chinese Communists longer than any other group during World War II, but who were destined to be a largely unused resource during the Cold War.

"Carter deserves praise for illuminating a wide spectrum of official American wartime opinion about the Chinese Communists and the American Experience at Yenan."—American Historical Review

"Aficionados of American political and diplomatic history may be pleasantly surprised at the riches in this book."—American Historical Review

"Significantly enhances the understanding of the controversial mission during the critical period between the end of World War II and the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War."—Army History

"A successful effort to portray the day-to-day inner workings of the mission and to evaluate its successes and failures."—Choice

"The Dixie Mission in retrospect embodies more significance than its wartime performance."—Military History

"Carter is correct in saying that the Dixie Mission—the American observer/liaison group with the Chinese Communists based in Yenan from July 1944 to March 1947—is a fascinating subject particularly for scholars interested in the American involvements in China and those keen to see the Chinese Communist efforts in the Pacific War in proper perspective."—Pacific Affairs

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






United States foreign relations, Dixie Mission, Chinese Civil War


United States History

Mission to Yenan: American Liaison with the Chinese Communists, 1944-1947
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