794.5 MAP/3–1351

Memorandum by Richard E. Johnson of the Office of Chinese Affairs to the Director of That Office ( Clubb )

top secret

Subject: Military Chain of Command on Formosa

I was called over to the office of Mr. Forbes in S/ISA this morning to discuss with Major Ruth Briggs (a WAC) plans for the jurisdiction [Page 1592] and chain of command to govern the future activities of US military personnel on Formosa. Mr. Forbes is, I believe, the individual in S/ISA immediately responsible for MAAG operations; Major Briggs appears to have considerable authority within the Office of the Secretary of Defense in such matters. She seemed very well informed of Defense procedures in connection with advisory and training assistance and fully apprised of Defense, JCS, and CINCFE thinking with regard to Formosa operations.

For background, Major Briggs commenced by showing me a copy of a top secret telegram from CINCFE (as I recall, dated March 8)1 in which General MacArthur expressed for the information of Defense his frank views on the subject of Formosa advisory personnel. To my knowledge this telegram was never distributed to the Department (Major Briggs remarked that this information was being furnished me informally for background purposes only; under the circumstances I could, of course, take no notes regarding this telegram or subsequent remarks). General MacArthur concedes in this telegram that the State Department and Minister Rankin have a legitimate interest in MDA operations on Formosa, but adds that under the present circumstances (i.e., with Formosa under his military command and the invasion threat increasing) he believes that there should be a direct chain of command through CINCFE to JCS with respect to Formosa military matters.2 General MacArthur then outlines his views regarding the complement for training and (advisory personnel for the island, to the best of my recollection, as follows:

The most essential requirement is for approximately 270 individuals to be assigned to Formosa immediately to furnish technical advice and assistance to the Nationalist armed forces in the repair and rehabilitation of existing equipment. A second group of approximately 100 individuals would be required to provide administrative services: PX, medical, quartermaster, etc. Finally, an additional complement would be required to provide customary MAAG services, i.e., checking military aid shipments on receipt, control of distribution, and continuing end-use checks. This group would also be responsible for [Page 1593] training the Chinese Navy and Air Force, and the Chinese Army “down to the battalion level”. Although General MacArthur gave no figure for the complement of the MAAG group, Major Briggs remarked that Defense had arrived at a tentative figure of 132. I cannot be sure of these figures without a further opportunity to check, but recall clearly that the total, as we figured it during this meeting, came to almost exactly 500.

After reading this telegram and noting the progress which Defense has apparently made in MAAG planning, I mentioned briefly to Major Briggs FE’s inclination to prefer an expanded attaché staff as suggested by the Embassy and attachés. Major Briggs brushed this suggestion aside hastily, indicating that as far as Defense is concerned matters have already gone far beyond the MAAG-attaché staff debate stage. I soon realized what she meant. In conformance with General MacArthur’s views (as expressed in the telegram mentioned above) and “the practicalities of the situation”, JCS appears to have already considered and discarded the customary concept of a MAAG (in which the Ambassador has major responsibilities) for a more complicated arrangement which would provide General MacArthur virtually complete freedom of action in the field. To illustrate the inapplicability of the MAAG procedure to the Formosa situation, Major Briggs with a chuckle asked how General MacArthur would like it if he had to clear with Mr. Rankin whenever he wished to detail new personnel to Formosa. Major Briggs then showed me a top secret JCS paper setting forth the recommendation that the old China JUSMAG structure3 be revived to fit the needs of the Formosa situation.4 Major Briggs explained that the mainland JUSMAG organization has never been completely abolished. Although all the JUSMAG personnel were reassigned, the structure of the organization remains in effect today. The JCS proposal, as I recall it, was that a JUSMAG staff be appointed, to have charge under CINCFE of the customary MAAG (supervising end-use) and also the training group recommended by General MacArthur.

Major Briggs pointed out that the JCS suggestion is obviously impracticable, since a conflicting chain of command is involved. The [Page 1594] customary MAAG procedure gives the Ambassador the final authority in questions of policy as well as important administrative matters; yet under the procedures suggested by JCS, the MAAG would be part of a JUSMAG operation and subject to the JUSMAG commander’s desires. Major Briggs said that she had been assigned to work out a more practical procedure. She has two alternatives to propose: (1) a “double-header” operation, involving a separate JUSMAG group responsible directly to General MacArthur, to handle training questions, and a MAAG group, which would conform with European MAAG patterns with certain changes circumscribing the Ambassador’s powers; and (2) a single MAAG establishment handling both training and end-use functions, but in no way comparable to MAAG groups established elsewhere. The Ambassador’s clearance would no longer be required in recommendations submitted by the MAAG officer on Formosa to JCS through CINCFE; the MAAG officer would keep the Ambassador informed by furnishing him copies of all communications, giving him an opportunity to concur or comment. It could be expected, she added, that General MacArthur would insist on the right to communicate directly with JCS on Formosa military matters, and that his recommendations would be received and considered in Washington without prior clearance either by the MAAG officer or the Ambassador. General MacArthur would, however, be instructed to keep Taipei informed of his actions by transmitting copies of telegrams and correspondence.

She thus seems to have two propositions in mind for the Formosa chain of command: The first one involves two separate military organizations on Formosa, one responsible directly to General MacArthur and the other technically responsible to the Ambassador in certain respects, but with CINCFE having a veto power; the second involves a single organization, with the Ambassador free to advise and comment but with the final authority residing in the MAAGCINCFEJCS chain of command. Under both alternatives, the Embassy would be removed from the scene as far as any real responsibility in military questions is concerned. Major Briggs did concede that the Department of State in Washington might have a certain amount of say in policy questions, but warned me that a close working relationship would have to be established between State and Defense, lest the “political desk” unduly delay or impede action on military matters.

My sole reaction to all this was to remark that I believed my office favored the maintenance of a single, well integrated chain of command on Formosa, headed by the official US representative to the Chinese Government viz: the Ambassador. I drew her attention to the difficulties which would arise if there were a double chain of command on Formosa, with the Chinese using both the Embassy and the military [Page 1595] for all they were worth. Finally, I repeated that we were by no means convinced that even a standard MAAG, with much of the authority residing in the Embassy, would be appropriate for Formosa. This argument appeared to make little impression on Major Briggs. She informed me, to my surprise, that Admiral Jarrett has already been designated acting MAAG officer on Formosa, and that a permanent MAAG officer has been nominated (but not as yet fully approved in Defense). He is, as I recall General William Curtis Chase, presently on the staff of the Third Army. According to Major Briggs, General Chase is to visit Tokyo in the near future to discuss with General MacArthur the arrangements outlined in the foregoing, in order that a procedure may be devised which fits his wishes.

Mr. Forbes’ position was for the most part neutral. He asked me what “political considerations” were involved in these alternatives, and expressed general agreement with my comments regarding the desirability of a unified chain of command. But he also remarked that under the existing circumstances, it appeared logical to give CINCFE a considerable degree of authority regarding military operations on the island, since Formosa is within his military sphere of responsibility.

Major Briggs asked me to discuss these alternatives within FE and to furnish her, through Mr. Forbes, an expression of the Department’s views as to the appropriate chain of command for the US military aid organization on Formosa. She asked that if possible we make this information available by the end of this week.


It seems somewhat strange to me that far reaching JCS plans for the control of Formosa military aid would be put to the Department so informally and at a working level. Major Briggs told me that she had been assigned the task of planning a practical military aid organization for the island, and I assume that the reason for her approach to the Department at this stage was to obtain suggestions and ideas as to what form of organization would be acceptable here. Her recommendations would not, of course, represent the final word, and it is possible that her tentative plans do not accurately reflect JCS thinking. From her remarks I would judge that her relationship with the JCS staff on matters of this sort is close. I would also judge that she has been working closely with S/ISA for a considerable period of time on military aid personnel planning. In any event, I believe her remarks (and the JCS and CINCFE documents she showed me) are of considerable interest, indicating the trend of thought in at least one sector of the Department of Defense. I gained the general impression from our discussion (which lasted almost an hour and a half) that JCS is determined to tailor the US military aid organization [Page 1596] for Formosa to fit General Mac Arthur’s own desires, regardless of the effect which such a procedure may have on the traditional responsibilities of an ambassador in a recipient MDA country. She referred repeatedly to what the General wanted and “would probably do”, with never a hint that JCS would take the initiative in establishing a generally acceptable chain of command.

If we continue to believe that military assistance should be administered as part of our foreign policy, it may be that a word to that effect to Major Briggs and her bosses would be in order at this time. Otherwise, plans of this sort are likely to progress to the point where they are difficult to alter.

  1. The reference is apparently to telegram C 57381 from CINCFE to the Department of the Army, January 19, 1951. At the time, the telegram was not circulated to the Department of State; a copy has been received from the Department of Defense and placed in file 794A.5 MAP/1–1951.
  2. The paragraph under reference read as follows:

    CINCFE is aware of the Dept of State role in general MDAP matters. Nevertheless, and in consideration of CINCFEs current mission with respect to Formosa and of the critical importance of that island to the military position of the entire FEC, it is considered that as long as Formosa is threatened, the control of any US military activities on Formosa including the provision of matériel aid and training, should be via purely military channels from the JCS through CINCFE to the Advisory Group.”

  3. A Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group to the Republic of China had been established in October 1948, but by March 1, 1949, all the JUSMAG personnel had been withdrawn; for related documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. viii, pp. 239 ff.
  4. On March 8, 1951, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended to the Secretary of Defense that a JUSMAG be authorized for Formosa immediately and recommended certain details of organization for the JUSMAG (Record of the Actions Taken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff Relative to the United Nations Operations in Korea from 25 June 1950 to 11 April 1951, Prepared by Them for the Senate Armed Forces and Foreign Relations Committees, to Be Read by the Members of those Committees and to Be Returned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 30, 1951, p. 97; Northeast Asian Affairs Files: Lot 60 D 330).