Executive Secretariat Files

Note by the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council ( Souers ) to the Council

NSC 37

The Strategic Importance of Formosa

Upon the request of the Acting Secretary of State1 for an appraisal of the strategic implications to U.S. security should Formosa and its immediately adjacent islands, including the Pescadores, come under an administration which is susceptible of exploitation by Kremlin-directed communists, the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the subject were obtained and are circulated herewith for the information of the National Security Council.

Sidney W. Souers
[Annex]

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense ( Forrestal )

Subject: Strategic Importance of Formosa.

In accordance with the memorandum from your office dated 8 November 1948, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the memorandum attached thereto from the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council in which an appraisal by the Joint Chiefs of Staff is requested as to the strategic implications to the security of the United States should Formosa and its immediately adjacent islands come under an administration which would be susceptible to exploitation by Kremlin-directed Communists.

[Page 262]

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that, under the assumption set forth above, the strategic implications to the security of the United States would be seriously unfavorable.

Since the basic assumption could in all probability become valid only if we have been unable to prevent China itself from becoming largely Communist-controlled, the strategically valuable areas of that country, including air base sites, harbors and coastal railroad terminals, would have little utility to the United States in the event of war. This would enhance, from the strategic viewpoint, the potential value to the United States of Formosa as a wartime base capable of use for staging of troops, strategic air operations and control of adjacent shipping routes.

Unfriendly control of Formosa and its immediately adjacent islands would be of even greater strategic significance. Unless Formosa can be denied to Kremlin-directed exploitation, we must expect, in the event of war, an enemy capability of dominating to his advantage and our disadvantage the sea routes between Japan and the Malay area, together with a greatly improved enemy capability of extending his control to the Ryukyus and the Philippines, either of which could produce strategic consequences very seriously detrimental to our national security. In the latter connection, it should be noted that the distinct possibility of unfriendly control of Formosa makes it even more essential that strategic control of the Ryukyus, as previously recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remain in United States hands.

An additional strategic implication of importance rests in the fact that Formosa is capable of serving as a major source of food and other materials for Japan, a source that would, of course, be denied under the assumed conditions. This in turn could quite possibly be a decisive factor as to whether Japan would prove to be more of a liability than a potential asset under war conditions.

Based upon the foregoing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that it will be most valuable to our national security interests if, in spite of the current Chinese situation and its obvious trends, Communist domination of Formosa can be denied by the application of such diplomatic and economic steps as may be appropriate to insure a Formosan administration friendly to the United States.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
William D. Leahy

Fleet Admiral, U.S. Navy
Chief of Staff to the
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces
  1. Robert A. Lovett.