CA Files: Lot 56 D 625

The Chargé in the Republic of China ( Rankin )1 to the Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs ( Clubb )


Dear Clubb: Your helpful letter of January 92 is much appreciated, and I fully understand that FE is confronted by many difficult practical problems from day to day. As you say, we have our own radio facilities, but since arriving here last August I have endeavored to step up our written reporting and reduce telegraphic traffic at the same time. From September through December our outgoing volume of telegrams was kept consistently below the August level, although incoming traffic from State, ECA, Army and Air Force in December was the highest on record (Navy now has its own station here). Rinden’s3 assignment and speedy arrival are of great help, and my appreciation is indicated in the enclosed letter to FP.2

I agree with you that a strange situation exists in respect to military aid for Formosa. You may imagine how the Chinese here interpret a case in which numerous persons in Washington and Tokyo (even Radio Moscow has a figure of $200 millions) are informed on this subject, while Admiral Jarrett4 and I quite evidently have yet to see the Fox Report of last August. In one of my first telegrams to the Department after arriving here last summer I urged that in our relations with American military and economic officials the principle of full and free exchange of information should be established. I have been through all of this before, and I am convinced that our foreign relations cannot otherwise be conducted effectively. Frankly, however, I was not prepared for a situation in which, after five months, the Embassy and its Armed Services attachés are still studiously excluded from military plans for keeping Formosa outside the Iron Curtain. I consider this subject so vital that, at the risk of repeating much that has been said before, the remainder of this letter is devoted to a review of what seem to me the basic considerations involved.

First, we have the very practical problem of making the Seventh Fleet’s mission effective. It has been recognized all along and by all concerned that this island could not be defended successfully against a massive Communist attack simply with the available strength of [Page 1524] the Seventh Fleet, the Thirteenth Air Force and the Chinese Nationalist forces as the latter existed on June 27, 1950. Our avowed intention, therefore, was to increase the effectiveness of the forces on Formosa by “selected military aid.” During the past seven months, such aid has been limited to one shipload of ammunition. Important as this shipment was and is, the net effect is to leave the island even less well prepared to resist aggression than it was last June. Equipment has suffered wear and tear in the meantime, and not inconsiderable amounts of ammunition and other supplies have been used up in the normal processes of training and maintenance.

We shall be much interested in seeing a copy of the Fox Report, which you say will be sent to us as soon as it is available (it has been available to persons in Tokyo for the past five months). Inevitably the Report is already out of date, which need not have been the case had it been in the hands of our attachés in the meantime; and with the best will in the world it could not have been complete in the first place. We learn, for example, that no provision was made for supplying aviation and motor gasoline and fuel oil,5 to say nothing of the large incidental expenditures involved in handling, storing, maintaining and utilizing an important amount of military equipment. The Chinese Government is close to the end of its financial tether, and has no funds for such purposes. Moreover, our latest information is to the effect that the entire project is being held up while Tokyo pares down the Fox lists to meet new limits fixed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (reportedly $50 million for the Chinese Army, $5 million for the Navy and $16 million for the Air Force).

The exact amount to be allotted for military aid to Formosa is far less important, however, than the filling of urgent needs immediately in preparation for a possible attack in March or April. As I remarked in a communication to the Department last spring, we must plan on “… getting a supply of 3-inch shells to a friendly army before it runs out of ammunition, rather than forwarding $30 million worth of assorted surplus war material after a critical campaign is lost.” One of the most urgent needs at the present moment is for anything up to 250 propeller-driven fighter aircraft, with the necessary spare parts and fuel. Whether or not those aircraft are here and operational at the time of a Communist attack may well determine the fate of Formosa. If they are not here, and this island is lost, someone will have to do a lot of explaining which will transcend such questions as to whether aid to Formosa should amount to $212.2 million or only $71 million, or who should not have been allowed to see [Page 1525] the Fox Report. Presumably funds have been available all along which could have covered really urgent needs, and I understand that the fighter aircraft required are available in our mothball reserve.

Second in importance to filling urgent military requirements without further delay is the determination of the form of organization the United States should employ on Formosa to assure the effective use of our aid. Indications are that an “Advisory Group” may be established. I have suggested a somewhat different approach, as you may have noted, which would involve starting from where we are rather than from where we left off in 1948 with something less than glory. At the present time I believe that the United States Government has a good team in Formosa. The Embassy proper, the ECA mission and our Armed Services attachés are operating harmoniously and in the closest liaison. We have joint weekly meetings, and files of current telegrams, etc., of each group are made available to key personnel in the other groups. Moreover, we are all in general agreement as to what should be done and how we should go about it.

My past experience under similar conditions convinces me that there is no justification for maintaining both a Military Advisory Group and a staff of Armed Services attachés. In Greece we had both, which resulted in duplication and a consequent waste of good talent, besides causing friction. In Austria, with the Army in occupation, we had no Service attachés at the Legation, which was quite logical. I may add that our three senior attachés here in Taipei agree with me: they and their staffs, expanded as necessary, should either assume such advisory and related duties as may be decided upon, or they should all be absorbed into any new Advisory Group that may be established. Of these two alternatives, I strongly favor the first for reasons which I shall now elaborate.

Not only have we a good team here at present but there has been gratifying progress in reestablishing confidence between the Chinese and ourselves at all levels. Our sizable staff of Armed Services attachés, including as it does a number of highly qualified senior officers, has been particularly successful in this regard, despite the setback which they received at the time of General Mac Arthur’s visit at the end of last July (see, for example, pp. 4–5 of our despatch No. 78, November 1, 1950).6 Our attachés are now well set up and ready to start the implementation of a military aid program without delay. On the other hand, the creation of an independent Military Advisory Group, with new heads and with all of the trimmings which traditionally adorn such organizations, could easily delay the practical implementation of an aid program by vital weeks or even months.

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Judged by our experience with the FEC Survey Group last summer (see, for example, pp. 5–6 of despatch No. 78, November 1), and subsequently over the fabulous Fox Report, we must expect that any new Advisory Group which may be established here would exclude the Embassy from its counsels if permitted to do so. We might also expect that direct dealings between the Chief of the Group and the Generalissimo (not to mention Madame Chiang) would become the rule rather than the exception, with the result that our China policy would again depend very largely upon the success or failure of the Chiang charm in winning over individual American generals. However this might work out in detail, it would be only prudent to expect the Embassy and the ECA Mission to be bypassed more and more, as the Military Advisory Group increased in size and experience. A picture closely resembling that of our occupation of Japan presumably would emerge, facilitated by the traditionally military and quasi-dictatorial character of the Chiang regime.

I am sure that I need not argue a case with you in favor of retaining the coordinating authority and responsibility for the conduct of our foreign relations in the hands of the Department and the Foreign Service. But all past experience points to the probability of the military taking over if and when they are given huge sums to spend, along with the authority to decide when to withhold information and otherwise act independently of American civilian officials. Failure of the Department to take a stand on this issue in advance will be equivalent to abdicating primary responsibility for the conduct of our relations with China. If it is necessary to do this, then let us proceed with our eyes open and have the record straight at the outset.

The foregoing opinions should not be construed as indicating any lack of appreciation on my part of the enormous difficulties to be overcome in carrying out a new military aid program for China. It will require the best efforts of all of us, civilian and military. Actually, our work might be simplified by letting the Army assume major responsibility, while we sat back to enjoy such commissary, PX, APO, club, transportation, USO and other facilities as they might provide. But I do believe that broad political decisions should govern rather than military. Sound political decisions take account of military and economic factors. Military decisions often are based on purely military factors of relatively short-range character. It seems to me the clear duty of the Department and the Foreign Service to play the central, coordinating role in developing and implementing our foreign policy in all of its phases.

I realize that the questions I have raised must be considered against [Page 1527] a background far larger than Formosa or even China. Some of our military minds, both in and out of the Services, may be coming around to a conception not only of handing over Asia to MacArthur but of giving Europe to Eisenhower. I trust that matters will not go quite so far, but at the present time a highly significant pattern is being worked out in Europe which should serve as a useful guide in Asia. I say this chiefly because much more attention quite inevitably will be given to respecting the sovereignty of the several states of Europe. Yet this factor is no less important in Asia, where greatly expanded American military authority, cutting across boundaries and seas, will appear to countless millions as a new form of imperialism. It might even become such in fact.

I may add that I have the very highest respect and admiration for General MacArthur, and that I recognize the desirability of his having authority over any military operations which may involve Formosa, the Philippines and various other areas in the Far East. But the fact remains that MacArthur is not on Formosa, and that we have here a sovereign state which our Government recognizes. I would have no secrets from General MacArthur, but he is an extremely busy man; I would avoid any bottle-neck, in the form of subordinates in Tokyo or elsewhere, between Taipei and Washington, where all major and many minor decisions will have to be made in any case. This would apply to political and economic affairs under any circumstances, as well as to administrative and other military matters not involving actual operations.

I justify this incursion into the military field primarily on political grounds, but I also have in mind an episode of 1942. Operations in Egypt were not receiving a high priority in the allocation of American tanks and planes; our Minister in Cairo, Alexander Kirk, kept hammering at Washington on the urgent need for both if Egypt and the Suez Canal were to be held. Members of his staff were later convinced that but for his efforts Alamein would have been Rommel’s7 victory. Montgomery8 got the credit, deservedly enough, but who can say what would have happened to the Allied cause in the Middle East had Kirk kept strictly out of the military field?

I have written at some length because of what seems to me the paramount importance of the subject. Please discuss it with Mr. Rusk at an early opportunity.

Sincerely yours,

K. L. Rankin
  1. The U.S. Ambassador, John Leighton Stuart, was in the United States; Karl Lott Rankin was Minister and Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Robert W. Rinden, Second Secretary of Embassy in Taipei.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Rear Adm. Harry B. Jarrett, Senior Military Attaché, Naval Attaché, and Naval Attaché for Air in Taipei.
  6. A handwritten notation in the margin of the source text read “provision made for small quantities, I believe.”
  7. Not printed.
  8. General Erwin Rommel, commander of the Italo-German forces at El Alamein in 1942.
  9. Lt.-Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery, Commander of the British Eighth Army in 1942.