"Using honey for my part instead of vinegar," Wedemeyer sought to woo Chiang. He was no more successful in convincing the generalissimo to field an army against the Japanese than Stilwell had been. Instead, with Wedemeyer's tacit cooperation, Chiang hoarded military supplies for the postwar struggle with Mao Zedong's communist forces. "Although it took me some time to acquire confirmation of the ruthless objectives of the Chinese communists, I had no illusions concerning them from the outset," Wedemeyer said later.
The war ended with Chiang jockeying for position with the communists in a renewal of civil war that had wracked that country since the early years of the century.
When the U.S. ambassador to Chongqing, Patrick V. Hurley, resigned in 1945, his political duties fell to Wedemeyer. By then a three-star general, Wedemeyer thus became the first of the military men who would redirect American diplomatic policy in the decisive years after the war. (That group included, among others, Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, later ambassador to the Soviet Union; Gen. Lucius D. Clay, U.S. high commissioner in West Germany; and two future secretaries of state, Chief of Staff Marshall, and a young colonel then on Wedemeyer's staff, Dean Rusk.)
Wedemeyer lined up behind Chiang, despite "the weaknesses and the oppressive character of the Nationalist government and its decreasing popular support," as he wrote later. But "communist totalitarian tyranny would be infinitely worse," he continued.
Wedemeyer found himself at odds with the policies of his former chief, Marshall, who spent 1946 as a special envoy in China attempting to end the civil war in that weary nation.
Marshall, Wedemeyer wrote in his autobiography, "approached the problem of unifying China on the false supposition that the Chinese communists were not real communists under Moscow's command but simply a Chinese faction that could be induced by diplomatic negotiations to come to terms with the Nationalist government."
Marshall's yearlong effort to sponsor a coalition government in postwar China collapsed, leaving Chiang's Nationalists to futilely fight off Mao Zedong's communists. Inexorably, communist field armies pushed Chiang's beleaguered forces into smaller and smaller pockets.
When the Nationalists fled to Formosa in 1949, Republican Party leaders, including the querulous Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, demanded to know "who lost China." Seeking to embarrass President Harry S. Truman and the Democratic Party, McCarthy and other members of what would become known as "the China Lobby" attacked Marshall as a traitor.
Wedemeyer, named ambassador to China in l947, found himself at the center of one of these "who-lost-China" squabbles when his report on the Nationalist government was suppressed by Truman. GOP spokesmen charged that the report was withheld from the public because Wedemeyer, by now considered an expert on China, had contradicted Truman's policies.
In fact, Marshall, then secretary of state, had recommended embargoing the Wedemeyer report--finally released two years later--because it described the Nationalist government as "corrupt, reactionary and inefficient," so much so that it could not win the loyalty of the people of China.
But Chiang's partisans in the United States chose to ignore the criticism and hear only Wedemeyer's call for the communists to lay down their arms.
In 1947, Wedemeyer authored a report on China and Korea that called, among other things, for an American-directed, South Korean force capable of defeating any Soviet-supported invasion from the north. The report was considered so controversial that President Truman decided not to make it public.
Wedemeyer's frustration led to his retirement in 1951. The following year he backed conservative Sen. Robert Taft (R-Ohio), but then supported the GOP ticket headed by his old friend from the war plans division, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 1956, he retired from business to write his book, and to take on the role of senior statesman. He was 59 and he had, in the words of the oblique Chinese curse, "lived in interesting times."
Yet his moment had passed. Neither Eisenhower nor the much younger John F. Kennedy called upon Wedemeyer to serve as one of their foreign policy wise men. The first found him too soft, his anti-communism always tempered by practical \o7 realpolitik; \f7 the second found him a relic of another era.
He would live in retirement at his farm through successive administrations, attending annual Bohemian Club gatherings north of San Francisco, staying in touch with many of the nation's most influential, but no longer himself at the heart of great events.
In 1985, he was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, by President Ronald Reagan.