1946-1947 – Two items related to the massive and unprecedented humanitarian support provided to China following the end of World War Two
Chevy Chase, Maryland to Shaoyang, Hunan, China: 1946-1947. Envelope or Cover.
This lot consists of two items:
A United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) form letter, hand stamped April 17, 1946, from Washington DC intended for “Relatives and Friends of UNRRA Employees in China” that was Shaoyang, Hunan, Chinasent to the “A.I.S. [Agricultural Industry Service] / CNRRA [China National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] / Box #2 / ”. The letter has wear and soiling along the left margin.
This form letter explains that the Army Post Office (APO) system is being withdrawn from China and will no longer support the agency. Instead, it recom mends mail to UNRRA employees be sent through the civilian mail system to the Embankment Building in Shanghai for forwarding.
A two-page typed letter with its original mailing envelope sent to “Mr. Luther R. Ray / c/o UNRRA / Embankment Bldg., / 370 North Soochow Road / Shanghai, China” by his wife. The envelope has a Chevy Chase, Maryland return address and is franked with a 25c red-lilac William McKinley stamp (Scott #829) that has been canceled with a Washington DC “Benjamin Franklin Sta” machine postmark dated April 15, 1947. The letter bears several Chinese handstamps on the reverse. The letter is in nice shape; the envelope has some soiling and has been roughly opened on the right.
In this letter, Ray’s wife notes that she has been informed by Mrs. Clement (apparently a stateside employee of the UNRRA) that he was still located at Shaoyang with the CNRRA and would remain there until the end of April to get a cement plant build with recovery funds into full production after which he would travel by “LSM” (a U.S. Navy Landing Ship (Medium) to Shanghai and then by the American-President Lines steamship SS Lynx to San Francisco.. Good to Very Good. Item #010058
UNRRA was established in 1943 after 44 Allied Nations agreed to provide supplies and services to areas that were occupied by the Axis Powers, and a Shanghai office was opened in late 1944. By far, the largest UNRRA effort was made in China where it expended $658.4 million dollars by the end of 1947 (that’s over $9.2 billion dollars in today’s money). Almost 75% of those funds were supplied by the United States.
The Nationalist Chinese government, which was in the midst of a civil war against the Communists, insisted that UNRRA be involved in the actual distribution of that aid, whether in money, materials, or services. Rather when the any form of aid reached China it was immediately turned over to the CNRRA, a quasi-official arm of the Nationalist government. Further, the CNRRA insisted that 25% of the aid be made to it in cash payments for administrative payments to cover its overhead. Of course, the entire system was corrupt, and although, some help was provided, a substantial amount of the remaining aid was siphoned off by the government officials who ran the CNRRA and their relatives and associates. The Chinese Communist also wanted a share of the aid for the territory they had occupied, and after arm-twisting by UNRRA, the CNRRA did provide about 5% to the Chinese Liberated Areas Relief Association (CLARA). As one would expect, CLARA was just as corrupt as the CNRRA, and much of the equipment, supplies, and other aid sent to those regions was seized by communist guerilla units and advancing communist armies and diverted from its intended purpose. After it became clear that the Communists were ultimately going to be successful, UNRRA ceased operations in China.
(For more information, see Greene’s “UNRRA's Record in China” in Far Eastern Survey Vol 20 No 10, Edgerton-Tarpley’s “A River Runs Through It; The Yellow River in the Chinese Civil War, 1946-1947” in Social Science History Summer 2017, “The UNRRA-CNRRA Story” in Formosa Betrayed, Kerr’s Formosa Betrayed, and “Tung Pi-wu” at World Biographical Encyclopedia online.)
Scarce. At the time of listing, there is only one original source UNRRA-CNRRA item for sale in the trade, a typed letter signed by Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai). The Rare Book Hub Shows that several related Zhou Enlai, Chiang Kai-shek, and T. V. Soong have appeared at auction. The Rare Book Hub shows no holding of original source items related to the UNRRA, CNRRA, or CLARA, however the Hoover Institution at Stanford University holds the retired records of the UNRRA’s China Office at Shanghai..