March 6, 1942: Johnson Mission

  • On March 6, 1942, the State Department announces a “war production mission,” to India to be headed by Louis Johnson, the former Assistant Secretary of War (Kux, 13).
  • Before departing, Johnson’s position is changed and instead is the president’s Personal Representative to India while Henry Grady is appointed as the leader of the economic mission (hess, 41)
  • On April 3, Johnson arrives in New Delhi.
  • returned in mid-May for health-related reasons

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • Kux explains shift of Johnson’s position as the expression of FDR’s effort for the U.S. to play a more active role in the negotiations between India Britain (13)
  • Johnson acted as a go-between, working with both British and Indian leaders, making Linlithgow worry that Johnson was “concerning himself too closely in detailed negotiations between HMG and Indian politicians” (15)
  • within two days of arriving in India, Johnson wrote FDR suggesting that the president personally intercede with Churchill on the matter (15)
  • Cripps allowed Johnson to help rewrite defense proposals, which would be a compromise between the British and Indians, causing the Linlithgow, as Viceroy, to send pleas to the PM to reject the cooperative effort between Johnson and Cripps. Churchill told presidential aide Harry Hopkins that Johnson was causing tension in the Mission and Hopkins responded that Johnson was not FDR’s personal emissary (16-17)
  • Johnson, unaware of Hopkins interceding, reported back to Washington that the progress at the talks had broken down. Though Churchill believed that “public opinion in the U.S. believes that the negotiations have broken down on general broad issues,” Roosevelt, in a personal message to the PM stated: “The general impression here is quite the contrary. The feeling is almost universally held that the deadlock has been due to the British Government’s unwillingness to concede to the Indians the right of self-government.” The President followed his blunt assessment with the assertion that if Japan invaded India successfully after the failure of the Mission: “the prejudicial reaction on American public opinion can hardly be over-estimated” (17-18, qtd. from FRUS vol. 1, 633-34)

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006).

  • “to demonstrate the US administration’s deep concern for the outcome of these negotiations [the Cripps Mission], Roosevelt dispatched a trusted advisor, Colonel Louis Johnson, as his personal representative and advisor” (26)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • Mission=culmination of increased US interest in Indian affairs following entry into war (33)
  • “this official concern reflected an unparalleled public interest in India. In 1942, American periodicals carried three times as many articles as they had in any previous year; editorial comment was extensive, and public opinion polls indicated a high degree of awareness of Indian developments” (33, no footnote)
  • “If Roosevelt had intended to withdraw from the Indian problem, he would have sent someone other than Johnson” given Johnson’s tenacious character (42)
  • describes Johnson as a mediator between Indian and British leaders (48)
  • Does not credit Hopkins’ interference as the downfall of the Johnson mission; instead suggests that the Indians may still not have accepted the “Johnson formula” (50)
  • Johnson urged Washington to push for an interim India government one last time, but on Welles’ advice, Roosevelt rejected Johnson’s plan (58)
  • “Johnson’s mission demonstrated American’s interest in India, but is also illustrated the limitations of that involvement” (59)

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