Vinegar Joe, cartoonist

I did not know that Stillwell’s diaries were transcribed  and on-line at the Hoover. Vinegar Joe was the commander of U.S. forces in China during the first part of WWII who had a famously rocky relationship with Chiang Kai-shek. Stillwell  got the command in China in part because he knew some Chinese and had spent more time learning about China and Asia that the vast bulk of American officers. The early diaries are a mix of observations about everything from the state of the Chinese military to the state of Stillwell’s digestive tract, with an interesting mix of sharp observations and orientalist cliches.  He liked to draw, so if the words don’t get you the pictures may.  In 1927 he was watching warlord troops try to decide if they were advancing or retreating in the face of the Northern Expedition.


as one might expect there are plenty “technical” drawings, like the armed train above. In addition to obvious military things he also did pictures of silk reeling machines, tobacco presses, etc. Like other foreign observers he was interested in Chinese technology and/or the lack of it. The diaries also make it clear that whatever other problems he may have had during the war, getting over a deep-seated Japanophilia was not going to be one of them.


Even this early you can see some of the the Vinegar Joe personality. You can see his contempt for staff officers above, and his empathy for the common solider looking for a non-existent First Aid station below.

1st aid

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