/American politician

American politician

Anna Chennault

Chennault and wife2.jpg
Native name



1923 but reported as (1925-06-23)June 23, 1925[1]

Died March 30, 2018(2018-03-30) (aged 94)
Other names Anna Chan Chennault
Anna Chen Chennault
Occupation Journalist
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Claire Lee Chennault (married 1947–1958, his death)
Children Claire Anna and Cynthia Louise
Relatives Liao Zhongkai (great–uncle)

Anna Chennault, born Chan Sheng Mai[1] later spelled Chen Xiangmei (陳香梅, actual birth year 1923[1] but reported as June 23, 1925 – March 30, 2018), also known as Anna Chan Chennault or Anna Chen Chennault, was a war correspondent and prominent Republican member of the US China Lobby.[2] She was married to U.S. WWII aviator Claire Chennault.

Controversy surrounds Anna Chennault for the crucial role she may have played on behalf of the Richard Nixon 1968 presidential campaign in seeking to delay the Vietnam War peace negotiations. Such a delay would boost the chances for Nixon to win the presidential elections. Richard Nixon was not acting on behalf of the US government as of yet, and such interference in the peace process would, when proven, constitute treason according to the Logan Act.

Early life[edit]

Anna Chennault and husband

On June 23, 1925, Chen was born in Beijing, China. In 1935, her father, a diplomat, was sent to be the Chinese consul in Mexicali, Mexico and he could not afford to take his large family to Mexico on his salary.[3] Fearing war between Japan and China was brewing, he sent his wife and children to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong to live with his mother.[3] In 1938, Chen’s mother died, and as an older sister Chen became a surrogate mother to her younger sisters.[4] As a girl, Chen was told by two of her teachers that her birthday falling on “fifth day of the fifth moon” on the Chinese calendar meant she was destined to be a writer.[5] On the morning of 8 December 1941, Chen was attending class at St. Paul’s high school when she was forced to take cover when the Japanese bombed the school.[6] Chen witnessed first-hand the battle of Hong Kong as the invading Japanese fought British, Indian and Canadian troops, ending with the surrender of Hong Kong on Christmas Day; in the interim, Chen spent much time hiding to avoid the bombs and shells as Hong Kong went up in flames.[7]

After taking Hong Kong, the Japanese declared all Chinese women to be prostitutes who were to have sex for free for the next three days with their fellow Asians, the Japanese soldiers to thank them for “liberating” them from the rule of the British “white devils”, which was merely an excuse for the Japanese to rape all Chinese women.[8] Chen together with her five sisters fled Hong Kong to Guilin in “free China” to escape the Japanese.[9] Chen attended Lingnan University, which was normally based in Hong Kong, but which had relocated to “free China”.[9] As refugees, Chen and her sisters lived in poverty during the war years, often having to eat weevil-ridden rice to survive.[9] In China, women have traditionally had a low status, and Chen remembered that her burning desire to be successful as a writer was to escape both her status as a Chinese woman and the poverty of war-time China.

Chen Xiangmei received a bachelor’s degree in Chinese from Lingnan University in 1944. She was a war correspondent for the Central News Agency from 1944 to 1948 and wrote for the Hsin Ming Daily News in Shanghai, from 1944 to 1949. She is the younger sister of Cynthia Chan, who was a US Army nurse in the Flying Tiger group under General Claire Chennault in Kunming. While visiting Cynthia Chan in Kunming, she met Chennault.[10][11] While working as a journalist in 1944, the 19-year-old Chen interviewed General Chennault, the dynamic and charismatic leader of the Flying Tigers, a man widely viewed in China as a war hero; his pilots had protected the Chinese people from the Japanese who bombed everything in China without mercy from 1937 on, killing hundreds of thousands.[12] After the interview, Chen had tea with Chennault, whose gentlemanly behavior and Southern charm left her feeling “awed” as she later remembered.[12]


Chen Xiangmei and Chennault, who was 35 years her senior, married in December 1947. In 1946, Chennault had divorced his first wife, the former Nell Thompson, whom he had wed in 1911 in Winnsboro, Louisiana, and the mother of his eight children, the youngest of whom, Rosemary Chennault Simrall, died in August 2013.[13] Anna Chennault had two children, Claire Anna (born in February 1948) and Cynthia Louise (born in 1950). After the war her husband was somewhat of a celebrity. A heavy smoker, he died in 1958 of lung cancer. The Chennaults divided their time between Taipei and Monroe, Louisiana, where Anna Chennault became the first non-white person to settle into a previously all-white neighborhood; General Chennault’s status as a war hero silenced objections to his Chinese wife.[14] At the time, there was a law forbidding non-whites to settle in the particular Monroe neighborhood that General Chennault had bought his house, but no one was willing to prosecute him for bringing Anna with him into the neighborhood.[14]

General Chennault was a Sinophile and a strong admirer of Chiang Kai-shek, and in the 1940s, he joined the China Lobby, an informal and diverse group of journalists, businessmen, politicians, intellectuals, and Protestant churchmen who believed it was in the best interest of the United States to support the Kuomintang regime. Chiang had converted to Methodism to marry his third wife Soong Mei-ling in 1927, and for much of his life, Chiang was seen by American evangelical Protestant groups as China’s great Christian hope, the man who would modernize and westernize China. Through the China Lobby was very diverse, one tended to unite them was a very a idealized and romanticized picture of the Kuomintang and of Chiang personally.[15] After the Kuomintang lost the Chinese civil war, there was much fury by American right-wing politicians about the “loss of China“, and through the “China Lobby” was not officially partisan, there was a tendency on the part of the China Lobby to tilt towards the right after 1949. The narrative promoted by the “China Lobby” pictured a idealized version of the Kuomintang government that was heartlessly “betrayed” by the Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman, who was depicted variously as at best being criminally incompetent for allowing the “loss of China” or at worse as having permitted alleged Soviet agents to carry out the United States’s China policy. A dinner hosted by the Nationalist Chinese ambassador in Washington D.C. in 1952 that was attended by Senators Patrick McCarran, William Knowland and Joseph McCarthy-all partisans of the China Lobby-began with the toast “Back to the mainland!”[16]

Anna Chennault ultimately followed her husband into the China Lobby and by 1955 was regularly giving speeches calling for American support to Taiwan and the eventual return of the Kuomintang to the mainland of China.[17] She tirelessly lobbied for American support for Chiang. Fluent in English, a good speaker, and as a Chinese-American woman who presumably was in a position to know what was good for China, Chennault’s speeches made her a popular figure for the China Lobby.[17] After she spoke in Dallas in May 1955, The Dallas News in an editorial called Chennault someone whose “opinions were worth listening to” and “a personage in her own right, by inheritance and achievement, as well as by marriage.[17]

Life as a widow[edit]

In 1894, the State of Louisiana had passed a law forbidding marriage between whites and non-whites, and General Chennault had been advised by his lawyer that his marriage to Anna was “null and void” as far as Louisiana was concerned, and the state would not respect his will leaving his assets to his wife and daughters on the grounds that his marriage was illegal.[18] There was always the possibility that Claire Chennault’s first wife and his children by his first marriage might challenge the will in the courts, on the grounds that his second marriage was illegal and his daughters by Anna were thus bastards, and to prevent this, he had his will probated in Washington, D.C. where his second marriage was recognized as legal.[19] In his will, Chennault left more money for his ex-wife and his children by her, but he left all the shares he owned in the Civil Air Transport company and the Flying Tiger Line to his wife and his daughters by her.[20]

After her husband’s death, Anna Chennault worked as a publicist for the Civil Air Transport in Taipei, Taiwan (1946–1957) and was vice-president of international affairs for the Flying Tiger Line that was founded by a former Flying Tiger pilot, and was president of TAC International (from 1976). In 1960, Chennault had her first political experience when she campaigned for Richard Nixon, being used as the Republican principal campaigner among Chinese-Americans.[21] She was an occasional correspondent for the Central News Agency (from 1965) and the US correspondent for the Hsin Shen Daily News (from 1958). She was a broadcaster for the Voice of America from 1963 to 1966. Most notably, Chennault began a career as a society hostess in Washington, which her biographer Catherine Forslund wrote had “an edge no men could match” allowing her to create “a powerful base of influence and connections”.[22] Chennault herself often noted that her “certain exotic Asian aura” helped to forge connections in the otherwise all-white society scene of Washington.[23] Chennault’s belief that the U.S. had abandoned the Kuomintang to defeat in the Chinese civil war colored her perceptions of the Vietnam war, making an ardent hawk who argued that the U.S. had a moral obligation to stand by South Vietnam, and that any effort to withdraw from Vietnam would be equivalent to the “betrayal” of Chiang Kai-shek in the 1940s.[24]

In 1958, Mao Zedong launched the Great Leap Forward in China, which led to a famine which is estimated to have killed between 30-55 million Chinese. As a result, thousands of Chinese fled to Hong Kong as refugees. Cheannault was very active as the president of a group named Chinese Refugee Relief (CRR) which sought to care for the destitute refugees in Hong Kong.[25] In 1962, Chennault testified before the Senate in an appeal for the U.S. government to fund the CRR.[26] Recalling her own life as a refugee in wartime China, Chennault said: “I know the misery of physical deprivation of the homeless and the emotional privation of the forgotten”.[27] Referring to her late husband, she called him “the symbol of deliverance to the Chinese people from the cruelty of the Japanese” and stated she “was now engaged in the unfinished business of delivering the Chinese people from the cruelty of the Communists”.[28] Chennault called the leaders of the People’s Republic “masters of Chinese slavery” who callously used food as “an instrument of life and death to kill freedom”.[29] Cheannult wanted famine relief to China to done in such a way that only the Chinese people and not the Chinese state would benefit, saying “We would be making the same mistake we did when under the pressure of scrap dealers we shipped scrap iron to Japan before Pearl Harbor. Such impossible appeasement would be shot back in our faces in Southeast Asia as it was shot back at Pearl Harbor and Korea. Do you put troops in Thailand and Vietnam to face Chinese Communists made strong with our own food?”.[30] Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, Chennault worked hard to publicize the famine in China caused by the “Great Leap Forward” and to appeal for the American people to donate money for the CRR and to adopt refugee orphans living in Hong Kong.[31]

Her strong anticommunism led her to favor the Republicans as the more hawkish party, and in the 1964 election, she worked hard as a volunteer and fundraiser for Senator Barry Goldwater, who was generally considered to be the most aggressive hawkish of all the Republican politicians at the time.[32] Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which led to accusations of racism at worse and at best that he was engaged in a “Southern Strategy” of courting conservative Southern whites who had traditionally voted Democrat by cynically opposing civil rights for Afro-Americans. To counter such allegations, Chennault played a prominent role as a speaker for Goldwater in the 1964 election, appearing on the stage with him several times starting in April 1964.[33] Chennault was useful to the Goldwater campaign not only for her work in attempting to persuade Chinese-Americans to vote Republican, but importantly to attract the support of nonwhite voters who were put off by Goldwater voting against the Civil Rights Act.[34]

Vietnam and “The Chennault Affair”[edit]

Recorded in Nixon, A Life, by Jonathan Aitken, notes of Patrick Hillings, the former congressman accompanying the candidate’s 1967 trip to Taipei, Nixon interjected just after an unexpected encounter with Mrs. Chennault, “Get her away from me, Hillings; she’s a chatterbox.”

On 31 March 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he was withdrawing from the 1968 presidential election, announced a partial halt to the bombing of North Vietnam and stated his willingness to open peace talks with North Vietnam on ending the war.[35] After much haggling about where to hold the peace talks, talks finally began in Paris in May 1968 with W. Averell Harriman heading the American delegation and Xuân Thủy the North Vietnamese delegation.[36]

In the 1968 election, Chennault served as the chairwoman of the Republican Women for Nixon Committee.[37] According to records of President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s secret monitoring of South Vietnamese officials and his political foes, Anna Chennault played a crucial role on behalf of the Nixon campaign[38][39] which sought to block a peace treaty in what one long-term Washington insider called “activities … beyond the bounds of justifiable political combat.”[40] She arranged the contact with South Vietnamese Ambassador Bùi Diễm whom Richard Nixon met in secret in July 1968 in New York.[41]

On 12 July 1968, at the Hotel Pierre in New York, Chennault introduced Bùi Diễm, the South Vietnamese ambassador to the United States, to Nixon.[42] Unknown to Diễm, he was followed secretly by the CIA who kept him under surveillance while the National Security Agency (NSA), which had broken the South Vietnamese diplomatic codes, read all of the messages going back and forth from the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington.[43]

Henry Kissinger, the Harvard professor of political science had started his career as an unofficial diplomat involved in the peace efforts to end the Vietnam war in June 1967 when he met in Paris Herbert Marcovich, a French biologist who told him that a friend of his, Raymond Aubrac, was a friend of Ho Chi Minh.[44] Kissinger contacted Harriman, the Ambassador-at-Large with a mandate to end the Vietnam war.[45] Marcovich and Aubrac agreed to fly to Hanoi to meet Ho, and to convey his messages to Kissinger who was to pass them on to Harriman.[46] Through nothing came of Operation Pennsylvania as Ho stated the United States had to “unconditionally” stop bombing North Vietnam as the precondition for peace talks, a demand that Johnson rejected, it established Kissinger as someone who was interested in making peace in Vietnam.[47] Kissinger had served as the principal foreign policy adviser for the Republican Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, during his three failed bids to win the Republican nomination in the elections of 1960, 1964 and 1968. In the 1968 Republican primaries, Kissinger had expressed considerable contempt for Nixon, whom he wrote in July 1968 was “the most dangerous, of all the men running, to have as president”.[48] After Rockefeller lost to Nixon, Kissinger switched camps, telling Nixon’s campaign manager, John N. Mitchell that he had changed his mind about Nixon.[49] As Kissinger was a close associate of Rockefeller with a history of denigrating Nixon, Mitchell was very cool to Kissinger. In an attempt to ingratiate himself with Nixon, Kissinger offered to serve as a spy, saying that Harriman trusted him and he could keep Nixon informed about the state of the Paris peace talks.[50]

On 17 September 1968, Kissinger contacted Harriman.[51] Kissinger falsely portrayed himself to Harriman as having broken with the Republicans, writing a letter that began with: “My dear Averell, I am through with Republican politics. The party is hopeless and unfit to govern”.[52] Kissinger visited Harriman in Paris to offer his expertise and advice, and through talking with his staff learned that the peace talks were going well.[53] Upon returning to the United States from France, Kissinger contacted Richard V. Allen, another Nixon adviser, to tell him that Harriman was making progress in Paris.[54] Kissinger contacted Allen via a pay phone in an attempt to avoid FBI wiretapping.[55]

The Democratic candidate for president in 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was behind in the polls because of the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August, but on 30 September 1968, he broke with Johnson by stating his willingness if elected president to stop all bombing of North Vietnam as the price of peace.[56] Afterwards, Humphrey started to rise in the polls, and by late October 1968, the election was close.[57] In October 1968, Humphrey was leading 44% to Nixon’s 43% of the vote, a very narrow lead, but a lead nonetheless.[58] In October 1968, the American delegation in Paris led by W. Averell Harriman reported to Washington that the peace talks with Thủy were going well and he believed a peace agreement was possible before the election.[59] On 12 October 1968 Kissinger reported to Allen that Harriman had “broken open the champagne” because he believed that he was very close to a peace deal.[60] In a conversation that was secretly recorded by the FBI, Allen and Mitchell both agreed that Kissinger would have to be rewarded with a senior post if Nixon won the election as a reward.[61] Allen suggested that national security adviser might be suitable for Kissinger.[62] A peace deal might have turned the election in favor of Humphrey. The South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu did not want the Paris peace talks to be successful as he feared an American withdrawal would be the end of his regime. Throughout October, Thiệu kept demanding conditions that he knew the North Vietnamese would reject in attempts to sabotage the peace talks, leading to intense pressure from the Johnson administration on him to cease his intransigence.[63]

On 23 October 1968, Diễm cabled President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu saying he was in close contact with Chennault and that: “Many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand firm. They were alarmed by press reports to the effect that you have already softened your position”.[64] In another message from Chennault, Diễm reported to Thiệu that she wanted him to object to the American offer to cease bombing North Vietnam altogether, saying this would be deal-breaker at the Paris peace talks.[65] The messages that Thiệu received from Chennault to the effect that Nixon, if elected, would bargain for a better peace deal than Humphrey, encouraged him in his intransigence.[66] According to notes of Nixon’s aide, Robert Haldeman, his orders were: “Keep Anna Chennault working on SVN [South Vietnam]”..[67] Both the CIA and the FBI had tapped Chennault’s phone and were recording her conversations with Diễm.[68] Besides for the NSA intercepting the South Vietnamese diplomatic cables, the CIA had also bugged Thiệu’s office, and as a result knew that Cheannult’s messages were indeed encouraging Thiệu to make unreasonable demands at the Paris peace talks.[69] Johnson phoned Nixon to tell him that he knew very well what he was doing and to stay away from Chennault.[70] Johnson’s call convinced Nixon that the FBI had bugged his phone as Johnson seemed very well informed about all of the details of the “Chennault affair”.[71] In fact, Chennault was under FBI surveillance.[72] One FBI report stated: “Anna Chenault contacted Vietnam Ambassador Bùi Diễm and advised him that she received a message from her boss…which her boss wanted her to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was that, ‘Hold on. We are gonna win…Please tell your boss to hold on”.[73]

It was through Chennault’s intercession[74][75] that Republicans advised Saigon to refuse participation in the talks, promising a better deal once elected.[76][77][78] Records of FBI wiretaps show that Chennault phoned Bùi Diễm on November 2 with the message “hold on, we are gonna win.”[79][80] Before the elections President Johnson “suspected (…) Richard Nixon, of political sabotage[81] that he called treason“.[82]

On January 2, 2017, The New York Times reported that historian John A. Farrell, a biographer of Nixon, had found a memo written by H.R. Bob Haldeman that confirmed that Nixon himself had authorized “throwing a monkey wrench” into Johnson’s peace negotiations.[2] Objections from President Thiệu sabotaged the peace talks in Paris.[83] On 30 October 1968, Thiệu announced flatly that South Vietnam was withdrawing from the peace talks in Paris.[84] Thiệu’s reasons for withdrawing from the talks were supposedly due to the seating arrangements, claiming that it was unacceptable to him that the Viet Cong delegation should be seated apart from the North Vietnamese delegation, stating the entire Communist delegations should be seated together.[85] The South Vietnamese peace delegation did not return to Paris until 24 January 1969.[86]William Bundy, the Assistant Secretary of State for Asian Affairs, summoned Diễm to a meeting where he accused him to his face of “improper” and “unethical” contacts with Chennault.[87] Johnson knew from information provided to him from the FBI, CIA, and the NSA of Chennault’s efforts to sabotage the Paris peace talks, saying that the “bitch” as he called her was guilty of treason.[88] John told his friend, the Republican Minority Leader in the Senate, Everett Dirksen, that: “We could stop the killing out there. But they’ve got this…new formula put in there-namely wait on Nixon. And they’re killing four or five hundred a day waiting on Nixon”.[89] On 2 November 1968, Johnson called Dirksen to say “I’m reading their hand. This is treason” with Dirksen saying in response “I know”.[90] As much of this information was gathered illegally such as the FBI wiretapping phones without a warrant or was embarrassing to admit to such as that the NSA was reading South Vietnamese diplomatic cables, Johnson felt he could not have the Justice Department charge Chennault as much as he wanted to.[91] To charge Chennault would mean having to admit in court that NSA had broken and was reading South Vietnam’s diplomatic codes, which in turn might trouble relations with other American allies who might might wonder if the NSA was reading their diplomatic cables as well. Johnson’s National Security Adviser, Walt Whitman Rostow, urged him to “blow the whistle” and “destroy” Nixon, but the president demurred, saying it would be much too of a scandal if it emerged that the United States spied on South Vietnam, supposedly one of its leading allies.[92] The election was extremely close with Nixon winning 43.4% of the popular vote while Humphrey won 42.7% of the popular vote.[93] Given the extremely tight election, it was widely believed that Chennault’s intervention may have been decisive as a peace agreement might have tipped the election in favor of Humphrey.[94]

In part because Nixon won the presidency, no one was prosecuted for this violation of the Logan Act.[95][96][97]Cartha “Deke” DeLoach, then FBI Deputy Director, mentioned in his book Hoover’s FBI that his agency was only able to connect a single November 2, 1968 phone call from the then Vice President candidate Spiro Agnew to Anna Chennault, unrecorded details of which Johnson believed were subsequently transmitted to Nixon. Later liaisons with Nixon staff were by telephone to then aide John N. Mitchell via direct personal numbers that changed every several days, as was his custom.[98]

A week after the election and Nixon’s fence-mending with Johnson in a joint statement announcing Vietnam policy, Mitchell asked Chennault to intercede again, this time to get Saigon to join the talks. She refused. According to her account, Nixon personally thanked her in 1969, she complained she “had suffered dearly” for her efforts on his behalf, and he replied, “Yes, I appreciate that. I know you are a good soldier.”[99] The American historian Catherine Forslund argued that Chennault would have been in a good position to demand that Nixon appoint her ambassador to an important American ally or that she be given some other prestigious job as a reward, but Chennault declined, fearing that she might have to answer difficult questions during the Senate confirmation hearings.[99]

Chennault’s interaction with the Paris Peace Accords on behalf of Nixon is sometimes called the “Chennault Affair.”[100][101] Bundy in a later book stated about the “Chennault affair” that “probably no great chance was lost” for peace.[102] Farrell argued that given the incompatible agendas of Hanoi and Saigon with one wanting one Communist Vietnam and the other equally opposed that the chances for peace in the fall of 1968 were overrated.[103] He also argued that there was at least a moment of hope that there would be peace in Vietnam in 1968, and Nixon by encouraging Thiệu to be obscurantist via Chennault had ended that hope for purely partisan reasons, making it the “most reprehensible” of all Nixon’s actions.[104] Assessments vary about the importance of Chennault’s intervention in the 1968 election. The American historian Jules Witcover wrote that because Nixon won the election by 0.07% points that a peace agreement just before the election in October 1968 could have been decisive as even a small boost in the polls for Humphrey might have made the difference.[105] By contrast, Chennault’s biographer, Catherine Forslund, told The Wall Street Journal that Thiệu would have acted to sabotage the peace talks in October 1968 without any prompting from Chennault, and at most the effects of her intervention was to encourage him to take a course of action that he would have taken anyhow.[106]

Later life[edit]

In 1970, she received appointments from now-President Nixon to the President’s Advisory Committee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the US National Committee for UNESCO. She was president of Chinese Refugee Relief from 1962 to 1970 and has served as president of the General Claire Chennault Foundation after 1960.[107]
Chennault served as a national committeewoman for the District of Columbia of the Republican Party (since 1960) and led the National Republican Asian Assembly. She has assisted many Chinese Americans to become active in politics and in 1973 helped found the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA).[108]

In October 1971, when the United Nations general assembly voted to expel the Republic of China and to give China’s seat to the People’s Republic of China, Chennault as one of the leaders of the China Lobby was involved in an unsuccessful effort to stop the expulsion.[109] In a speech at the time, Chennault said “let’s hope the United Nations doesn’t end up like the League of Nations…Its effectiveness is in grave doubt…Fortunately, the big events cannot be settled in the UN anyway”.[109] Chennault told the press about the UN giving China’s seat to the People’s Republic: “I consider this an anti-American vote and I question if the American people will continue to give…financial support to this world organization”.[109] In the 1972 election, Chennault raised $90, 000 (about $375, 000 dollars in today’s money) for the Nixon reelection campaign.[110]

After President Nixon visited the People’s Republic in 1972, there was a real possibility that the United States might finally recognize the People’s Republic as the legitimate government of China and in 1974 the US opened an “Information Office” in Beijing that was a de facto embassy. On 21 April 1975 as South Vietnam crumbled, President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu resigned as president and fled for his life, going to Taiwan.[111] Shortly after he arrived in Taiwan, Chennault visited him to tell him that President Gerald Ford was willing to grant asylum to his family, but not to him, saying he was too controversial to be allowed to live in America.[112] Thiệu told her: “it is so easy to be an enemy of the United States, but so difficult to be a friend”.[113]

All through the 1970s, Chennault had lobbied against US recognition of the People’s Republic and in 1977 she, together with 80 prominent Chinese-Americans, signed a public letter to President Jimmy Carter drawing attention to the poor human rights record of the People’s Republic and asked that the US not establish diplomatic relations with Beijing.[114] Despite the letter, in 1979, Carter recognized the People’s Republic. Believing that the U.S. had betrayed South Vietnam by withdrawing in 1973 and allowing North Vietnam to conquer the south in 1975, Chennault set herself up as the “conscience of the U.S in Vietnam” and lobbied Congress to admit Vietnamese refugees fleeing the communist regime.[22] In the 1980 election, Chennault raised $675, 000 dollars (about $1.41 million in today’s money) for the Republicans, making it into one of the leading Republican fundraisers.[115]

In January 1981, Chennault visited Beijing to meet the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, ostensibly as a private citizen, but in fact as an unofficial diplomat representing the incoming Republican president Ronald Reagan, who was due to be sworn in as president on 20 January 1981.[116] As a long-time Republican politician Reagan had been strongly critical of the People’s Republic, but as president Reagan wanted to focus on the struggle against the Soviet Union, which he had dubbed the “evil empire”, and wanted China as a de facto US ally against the Soviet Union, which was the message that Chennault had conveyed to Deng.[117] Additionally, Chennault told Deng that Reagan’s denunciations of the evils of communism applied only to Soviet communism, not Chinese communism.[117]

As Chennault was a long-time Republican and one of the doyennes of the China Lobby, her meeting with Deng attracted much media attention in the United States.[116] Chennault stated at the time that Deng had complained to her that none of the American “China Hands” were huaren (overseas Chinese), asking “Why do all the so-called China experts have blue eyes and blond hair?”[116] During her visit to the People’s Republic, Chennault also met her relative, the Communist politician Liao Chengzhi. Chennault told The Washington Post that she and Liao had “talked about the Cultural Revolution and the Gang of Four and how they had lost an entire generation. They told of their need for administrators and technicians to run the country and how they are having to reeducate the people in the new technology because when the Russians left China they took everything with them. Now the Chinese realize it was wrong to copy the Russians.”[118] After her visit to Beijing, Chennault visited Taipei to meet President Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek, to brief him on what she had seen in the People’s Republic.[119] Chiang was displeased about the trip as it disbursed him of the illusion that Reagan might break relations with the People’s Republic and once again recognize the Republic of China as the legitimate government of China, but he told her he was pleased that it was she who made that trip as he knew she was a friend of the Kuomintang.[119] Very cautiously, Chiang distanced himself from the policies of his father, saying that it was time for new thinking about relations across the Taiwan straits, saying the People’s Republic under Deng was moving away from the policies it had pursued under Mao.[119]

In 1984, Chennault led the President’s Export Council mission to China, which was intended to facilitate US-China trade as Deng’s reforms in the 1980s opened up China’s economy.[117] As someone closely linked to the Kuomintang, Chennault served not only as a consultant on American-Chinese trade but on trade between Taiwan and China.[117] Despite the long-standing hostility between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang, in the 1980s Taiwanese companies began to invest in the mainland, bringing much-needed capital and skills.[117] It was the hope of both Deng and Chennault that economic integration between Taiwan and China might lead to reunification, but political reforms in Taiwan during the 1980s led to that nation evolving into a democracy.[120] Though the majority of the Taiwanese are ethnic Chinese, a sense of Taiwanese nationalism had emerged by the 1980s, and many Taiwanese had no desire to be reunited with China under any conditions, which meant that economic integration did not lead to political integration as hoped.[120] Chennault was attacked in the Taiwanese media in 1989 for her statement that she was in favor of “separating economics from politics”, which led the China Times newspaper to condemn her in an editorial for letting “personal financial considerations” influence her political views.[121]

After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army shot down protesting university students demanding democracy, the US publicly pulled away from China.[122] At the request of the US government, Chennault passed along a message to Deng saying that Washington still wanted a good relationship with Beijing, the sanctions imposed on China were only to appease American public opinion, and the sanctions would be ended as soon as it was opportune (i.e. once the American people forgot about the Tiananmen Square Massacre).[122] To further press the point, on 30 June 1989, the US National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft secretly visited Beijing to tell Deng that “President Bush recognizes the value of the PRC-US relationship to the vital interests of both countries” and that the US viewed the Tiananmen Square massacre as an “internal affair”.[123][124] Despite the controversy, in December 1989 and again in March 1990, Chennault led delegations of Taiwanese businessmen to China to “study the investment climate on the mainland”.[125] About her changed attitude towards the People’s Republic, she stated that people must be “humble enough to learn, courageous enough to change their positions.”[126][127][128][129]

She died on March 30, 2018 in Washington, District of Columbia at the age of 94. Some news stories gave her age at death as 92, based on June 23, 1925 as her generally reported date of birth,[130] but she was actually[130] born in 1923.[131] She is buried next to her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.


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  • Hyung-chan Kim, chief editor. Distinguished Asian Americans, A Biographical Dictionary, Greenwood Press (1999)
  • Anna Chennault. Chennault and the Flying Tigers: Way of a Fighter (January 1, 1963 ed.). New York, NY Paul S. Eriksson, Inc. B001YUDCZA.
  • Anna Chennault. A Thousand Springs: The Biography of a Marriage (January 1, 1962 ed.). New York, NY Paul S. Eriksson, Inc. B000JD0KCQ.
  • Anna Chennault (1980). The Education of Anna (1980 ed.). Times Books; Second Printing edition. pp. 242. ISBN 0-8129-0844-9.
  • Anna Chennault. Song of Yesterday (1961) in Chinese
  • Anna Chennault. M.E.E. (1963) in Chinese
  • Anna Chennault. My Two Worlds (1965) in Chinese
  • Anna Chennault. The Other Half (1966) in Chinese
  • Anna Chennault. Letters from the U.S.A. (1967)
  • Anna Chennault. Journey among Friends and Strangers (1978, Chinese edition)



  1. ^ a b c d Schudel, Matt (April 3, 2018). “Anna Chennault, Secret Nixon Envoy and Washington Figure of ‘Glamour and Mystery,’ Dies at 94”. Washington Post. Washington, D.C.
  2. ^ a b
    Peter Baker (2017-01-02). “Nixon Tried to Spoil Johnson’s Vietnam Peace Talks in ’68, Notes Show”. The New York Times. p. A11. Retrieved 2017-01-04. Through much of the campaign, the Nixon team maintained a secret channel to the South Vietnamese through Anna Chennault, widow of Claire Lee Chennault, leader of the Flying Tigers in China during World War II. Mrs. Chennault had become a prominent Republican fund-raiser and Washington hostess.
  3. ^ a b Forslund, page 8.
  4. ^ Forslund, page 9.
  5. ^ Forslund, page 6.
  6. ^ Forslund, page 10.
  7. ^ Forslund, pages 10–11.
  8. ^ Weisbord, Merrily & Mohr, Merilyn SimondsThe Valour and the horror: the untold story of Canadians in the Second World War, Toronto: HarperCollins, 1991 pages 38–39
  9. ^ a b c Forslund, page 11.
  10. ^ Rebecca Chan Chung, Deborah Chung and Cecilia Ng Wong, “Piloted to Serve”, 2012
  11. ^ “Piloted to Serve”.
  12. ^ a b Forslund, page 16.
  13. ^ “Rosemary Chennault Simrall”. Monroe News-Star. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Forslund, page 34.
  15. ^ Forslund, Catherine page 27
  16. ^ Fried, Richard page 148
  17. ^ a b c Forslund, page 35.
  18. ^ Forslund, page 40.
  19. ^ Forslund, pages 40–41.
  20. ^ Forslund, page 41.
  21. ^ Forslund, pages 41–42.
  22. ^ a b Forslund, page 98.
  23. ^ Forslund, page 43.
  24. ^ Forslund, page 53.
  25. ^ Forslund, page 43.
  26. ^ Forslund, page 44.
  27. ^ Forslund, page 44.
  28. ^ Forslund, page 44.
  29. ^ Forslund, page 44.
  30. ^ Forslund, page 44.
  31. ^ Forslund, page 45.
  32. ^ Forslund, page 45.
  33. ^ Forslund, page 45.
  34. ^ Forslund, page 45.
  35. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 493 .
  36. ^ Langguth, A.J pages 505-506.
  37. ^ Power, Charlotte p.69
  38. ^ Robert “KC” Johnson. “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal”. History News Network, January 26, 2009. Transcript from audio recording on YouTube of President Johnson: “We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee—our California friend [Richard Nixon]—has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends, both—our allies and the others. He’s been doing it through rather subterranean sources here.”
  39. ^ Jules Witcover (2005). The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch: Half a Century Pounding the Political Beat (October 4, 2005 ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 131. ISBN 0-8018-8247-8. I tracked down Anna Chennault (…) she insisted she had acted under instructions from the Nixon campaign in contacting the Saigon regime. ‘The only people who knew about the whole operation,’ she told me, ‘were Nixon, John Mitchell [Nixon’s campaign manager] and John Tower (senator from Texas and Nixon campaign figure), and they’re all dead. But they knew what I was doing. Anyone who knows about these things knows I was getting orders to do these things. I couldn’t do anything without instructions.’
  40. ^ Clark M. Clifford (1991). Counsel to the President: A Memoir (May 21, 1991 ed.). Random House. p. 582. ISBN 0-394-56995-4. The activities of the Nixon team went far beyond the bounds of justifiable political combat. It constituted direct interference in the activities of the executive branch and the responsibilities of the Chief Executive, the only people with authority to negotiate on behalf of the nation. The activities of the Nixon campaign constituted a gross, even potentially illegal, interference in the security affairs of the nation by private individuals.
  41. ^ Diem Bui with David Chanoff (1999). In the Jaws of History (April 1, 1999 ed.). Indiana University Press. p. 237. ISBN 0-253-21301-0. Waiting for me in the lobby was Anna Chennault. A few minutes later I was being introduced to Nixon and John Mitchell, his law partner and adviser. (…) Nixon (…) added that his staff would be in touch with me through John Mitchell and Anna Chennault.
  42. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 512-513.
  43. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 512.
  44. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 496
  45. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 496-498
  46. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 497
  47. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 497
  48. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 585
  49. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 585
  50. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 585
  51. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 522.
  52. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 522.
  53. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 523.
  54. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 523.
  55. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 523.
  56. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 521.
  57. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 521-522.
  58. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 527.
  59. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 525.
  60. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 523.
  61. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 523.
  62. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 523.
  63. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 523-524.
  64. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 524.
  65. ^ Karnow, Stanley page 586
  66. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 525-526.
  67. ^ Farrell, John page 342.
  68. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 586
  69. ^ Karnow, Stanley page 586
  70. ^ Karnow, Stanley page 586
  71. ^ Karnow, Stanley page 586
  72. ^ Farrell, John page 343.
  73. ^ Farrell, John page 343.
  74. ^ Seymour M. Hersh. “The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House”. Summit Books, 1983, p. 21. “A few days before the election, she wrote, Mitchell telephoned with an urgent message. ‘Anna,’ (Chennault) she quotes him as saying. ‘I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made that clear to them.’”.
  75. ^ Robert “KC” Johnson. “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal”. History News Network, January 26, 2009. Transcript from audio recording on YouTube of President Johnson: “Mrs. [Anna] Chennault is contacting their [South Vietnamese] ambassador from time to time—seems to be kind of the go-between”
  76. ^ Robert “KC” Johnson. “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal”. History News Network, January 26, 2009. Transcript from audio recording on YouTube of President Johnson: “He (Richard Nixon) has been saying to the allies that ‘you’re going to get sold out. Watch Yalta, and Potsdam, and two Berlins, and everything. And they’re [the Johnson administration] going to recognize the NLF. I [Nixon] don’t have to do that. You better not give away your liberty just a few hours before I can preserve it for you.’”
  77. ^ Robert “KC” Johnson. “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal”. History News Network, January 26, 2009. Transcript from audio recording on YouTube of President Johnson: “The next thing that we got our teeth in was one of his associates—a fellow named [John] Mitchell, who is running his campaign, who’s the real Sherman Adams (Eisenhower’s chief of staff) of the operation, in effect said to a businessman that ‘we’re going to handle this like we handled the Fortas matter, unquote. We’re going to frustrate the President by saying to the South Vietnamese, and the Koreans, and the Thailanders [sic], “Beware of Johnson.”’ ‘At the same time, we’re going to say to Hanoi, “I [Nixon] can make a better deal than he (Johnson) has, because I’m fresh and new, and I don’t have to demand as much as he does in the light of past positions.”’”
  78. ^ Diem Bui with David Chanoff. In the Jaws of History. Indiana University Press, 1999, p. 244.“I began reviewing the cables I had written to (Nguyen Van) Thieu (…). Among them, I found a cable from October 23 (…) in which I had said, ‘Many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand firm. They were alarmed by press reports to the effect that you had already softened your position.’ In another cable, from October 27, I wrote, ‘I am regularly in touch with the Nixon entourage,’ by which I meant Anna Chennault, John Mitchell, and Senator Tower.”
  80. ^ Robert “KC” Johnson. “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal”. History News Network, January 26, 2009. Transcript from audio recording on YouTube of President Johnson: “They’re going around and implying to some of the embassies that they might get a better deal out of somebody that was not involved in this—the “somebody not involved” is what they refer to as “their boss.”(…) “Their boss” is the code word for Mr. Richard Nixon.”
  81. ^ Thomas Powers. “The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms & the CIA”. Alfred A. Knopf, 1979, p. 198. “during the week which ended Sunday, October 27 [1968], the National Security Agency intercepted a radio message from the South Vietnamese Embassy to Saigon explicitly urging (Nguyen Van) Thieu to stand fast against an agreement until after the election. As soon as Johnson learned of the cable he ordered the FBI to place Madame (Anna) Chennault under surveillance and to install a phone tap on the South Vietnamese Embassy”
  82. ^ Mark Lisheron. “In tapes, LBJ accuses Nixon of treason”. Austin American-Statesman. December 5, 2008. “Johnson tells Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Republican minority leader, that it will be Nixon’s responsibility if the South Vietnamese don’t participate in the peace talks. ‘This is treason,’ LBJ says to Dirksen.”
  83. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 524-525.
  84. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 526.
  85. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 586
  86. ^ Karnow, Stanley p. 586
  87. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 526.
  88. ^ Langguth, A.J. pages 527.
  89. ^ Farrell, John page 342.
  90. ^ Farrell p.343
  91. ^ Langguth, A.J. page 527.
  92. ^ Farrell p.343
  93. ^ Power, Charlotte p.69
  94. ^ Power, Charlotee p.69
  95. ^ Robert “KC” Johnson. “Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What the New LBJ Tapes Reveal”. History News Network, January 26, 2009. Transcript from audio recording on YouTube of President Johnson: “Now, I can identify ‘em, because I know who’s doing this. I don’t want to identify it. I think it would shock America if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter this important. (…) I don’t want to do that.”
  96. ^ Jules Witcover. “The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch: Half a Century Pounding the Political Beat”[permanent dead link]. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005, page 131.Johnson had turned over incriminating evidence about (Anna) Chennault’s activities to (Hubert) Humphrey for use in the final days of the campaign. The idea was that such an act of treason would sink Nixon and elect Humphrey. But Humphrey declined to use it, partly because he felt he could not reveal the sources of the classified material (…) Later, in his memoir, Humphrey recounted a memo of his own at the time: “I wonder if I should have blown the whistle on Anna Chennault and Nixon. I wish [his italics] I could have been sure. Damn Thieu. Dragging his feet this past weekend hurt us. I wonder if that call did it. If Nixon knew.”.
  97. ^ Mark Lisheron. “In tapes, LBJ accuses Nixon of treason”. Austin American-Statesman. December 05, 2008. “Confronting Nixon by telephone on November 3, Johnson outlines what had been alleged and how important it was to the conduct of the war for Nixon’s people not to meddle. ‘My God,’ Nixon says to Johnson, ‘I would never do anything to encourage the South Vietnamese not to come to that conference table.’”
  98. ^ Anna., Chennault (1980). The education of Anna. New York: Times Books. ISBN 0812908449. OCLC 5289388.
  99. ^ a b Forslund, page 85.
  100. ^ “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968–January 1969 – Office of the Historian”.
  101. ^ David Greenberg (31 July 2014). “Book Review: ‘Chasing Shadows’ and ‘The Nixon Tapes. Washington Post. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  102. ^ Farrell p.344
  103. ^ Farrell p.344
  104. ^ Farrell p.344
  105. ^ Witcover, Jules (9 April 2018). “Anna Chennault: the woman who helped Nixon sell out peace to win the presidency”. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2019-08-03.
  106. ^ Hagerty, James (6 April 2018). “Anna Chennault helped to bridge East and West but wasn’t always appreciated”. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2019-08-03.
  107. ^ Hyung-chan Kim, pages 55, 56.
  108. ^ “Chinese-Americans Told to Be More Political”.
  109. ^ a b c Forslund, page 92.
  110. ^ Forslund, Catherine p.93
  111. ^ Langguth, A.J. Our Vietnam, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000 page 656.
  112. ^ Langguth, A.J. Our Vietnam, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000 page 656.
  113. ^ Langguth, A.J. Our Vietnam, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000 page 656.
  114. ^ Forslund, page 93.
  115. ^ Forslund, Catherine p.94
  116. ^ a b c Radcliffe, Daniel (15 February 1981). “The Transformation of Anna Chenault [sic]”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  117. ^ a b c d e Forslund, page 136.
  118. ^ Radcliffe, Daniel (15 February 1981). “The Transformation of Anna Chenault [sic]”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  119. ^ a b c Forslund, page 135.
  120. ^ a b Forslund, page 138.
  121. ^ Forslund, page 141.
  122. ^ a b Forslund, page 140.
  123. ^ Tan, Andrew T. H. (2016). Handbook of US-China relations. Tan, Andrew T. H. (Andrew Tian Huat). Cheltenham, UK. ISBN 9781784715724. OCLC 960447490.
  124. ^ “Tiananmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History” (PDF). National Security Archive. 29 June 1989. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
  125. ^ Forslund, page 142.
  126. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (2018-04-03). “Anna Chennault, Behind-the-Scenes Force in Washington, Dies at 92”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  127. ^ “Anna C. Chennault: A Legendary Woman – All China Women’s Federation”.
  128. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (2018-04-03). “Anna Chennault, Behind-the-Scenes Force in Washington, Dies at 92”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  129. ^ “Anna C. Chennault: A Legendary Woman – All China Women’s Federation”. www.womenofchina.cn. Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  130. ^ a b http://www.facebook.com/matt.schudel. “Anna Chennault, secret Nixon envoy and Washington figure of ‘glamour and mystery,’ dies at 94”. Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  131. ^ Hagerty, James R. “Anna Chennault Bridged East and West but Wasn’t Always Appreciated”. WSJ. Retrieved 2018-11-25.

External links[edit]