"my natural tendency is to aid the underdog"

Carlson, Evans, American Navy military observer in China (1896-1947). Typed letter signed.

Hankou, 27. VIII. 1938.

4 pp. Typed letter, signed in ink.


"I have seen a new China in the making": an American military observer champions China's cause from the front lines of the Japanese invasion. Evans Carlson spent most of 1937-38 in China, travelling first with the KMT and then extensively with the communist forces of the 8th Route Army; the latter experience is the subject of this letter, written to his family back in America. Carlson was deeply affected by his time in China, and was more open about this in his personal letters than his public communications. To his family he writes:

"My sympathies become very much involved because my natural tendency is to aid the under dog. In the present situation my sympathies are of course entirely with China, as are those of all fair minded and peace loving people.. [...] I am so thoroughly aroused to the righteousness of their cause and the fundamental honesty of their effort that I would cut my ties with our own civilization and throw my lot in with theirs if I was not so conscious of material and moral obligations which have developed during my past life. […] The point is that life is not worthwhile unless one is convinced that he is making a definite contribution to human progress. […] This must sound terribly immature and dramatic to you all, but it represents a phase of mind through which I am passing at present".

Carlson was also careful to express the realities of the situation: "I was less fortunate from the health standpoint for I contracted relapsing fever, dysentery and trachoma. […] The disease [i.e., trachoma] is everywhere in the interior, and I had tried to guard against it by refusing the traditional hot towel, and by carrying my own wash basin. But travelling with communists means that property cannot be kept private, and I could not very well refuse requests to use my basin when basins were at a premium. […] I mention these things not to alarm you, but to show that these travels in the interior are not the glamorous excursions which writers try to imply."


From the collected papers of Evans Carlson.


In excellent condition.