State-JCS Meetings, lot 61 D 417

No. 17
Memorandum of the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State–Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Held at the Pentagon, April 9, 1952, 11 a.m.1

top secret

[Here follows a list of 21 persons present, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Omar N. Bradley, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William N. Fechteler, Army Vice Chief of Staff General John E. Hull, and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General Nathan F. Twining. The Department of State delegation included Bohlen, Allison, and the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Paul H. Nitze.

[The meeting began with a discussion concerning Yugoslavia, following which the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, Allen W. Dulles; the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency, Frank G. Wisner; and the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Frank C. Nash, entered the meeting.]


Mr. Bohlen: NSC 1282 came up at the Council meeting last Wednesday and, as you know, the NSC decided that State and Defense should discuss, with the participation of CIA, the Formosa problem in light of the policies set forth in NSC 48/5.3 The purpose of these discussions was to consider the recommendations contained in NSC 128 and to make recommendations for the review suggested by NSC 128. I thought we might start the discussion this morning by setting forth our present policies toward Formosa as these are set forth in NSC 48/5, and then by analyzing the changes in these policies recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

[Page 32]

It is our present policy to deny Formosa to any regime dominated by or aligned with the Soviet Union. That policy stands and so far as we know no one has any intention of changing this. A second element of our present policy is to continue the present mission of the Seventh Fleet. A third major element is to provide economic and military assistance to the Chinese Nationalists on Formosa. A fourth element is to encourage political changes in the Chinese Nationalist regime which would increase its prestige and influence on Formosa, among the overseas Chinese, and within China proper. Finally, it is also our present policy not to discuss Formosa in any political talks which might be held after the conclusion of a Korean truce.

In light of this existing set of policies we would like to seek to clarify with you this morning the particular changes which you recommend. What are the overriding military considerations referred to in the penultimate paragraph of NSC 128? What is the meaning of the third recommendation concerning the mission of the Seventh Fleet? Is it the recommendation of the JCS that the present mission of the Fleet should be changed?

General Bradley: I was not here when this paper was prepared. I believe General Vandenberg was present and unfortunately he is not able to be with us this morning. Admiral Fechteler was also here, I believe. As I understand the matter, the JCS were considering problems arising under two different hypotheses. The first hypothesis was that the war in Korea would continue about as at present. The second hypothesis was that the situation in Korea would deteriorate and there would be a widening of the war. I am not sure that the paper clearly distinguished between the problems which would arise under the first hypothesis and those which would arise under the second. In short, we may have included two kinds of problems in one paper. Perhaps in our discussion this morning we should distinguish clearly between the problems arising under the one hypothesis and those arising under the other. Our actions might be very different depending on which hypothesis we are acting on.

Mr. Bohlen: We had assumed that the paper was meant to apply to the situation following a truce. The next to last paragraph of the paper referred to the policies which we should follow “in the course of any U.S. negotiations which may follow an armistice in Korea”. Because of that language we assumed that the paper was dealing with the policies we should pursue in the event of a truce.

General Bradley: I am not sure, however, that this was clear when the paper was drawn up.

Admiral Fechteler: Our feeling was this: As regards the Seventh Fleet, right now it is supposed to stop any movement in either direction. [Page 33]We of course should continue to stop any movement eastward but we thought that there was a question whether we should close the door to movement westward if circumstances arose which would make such a movement desirable.

Mr. Bohlen: Was it your view that the necessary revision of the Seventh Fleet’s mission was something that should be done right now?

Admiral Fechteler: No.

Mr. Bohlen: Paragraph c, as you will recall, states that we should “continue that part of the mission presently assigned to the Seventh Fleet relative to the protection of Formosa until such time as conditions in the Far East permit the Chinese Nationalists on Formosa to assume the burden of the defense of that island.” The language used in this paragraph was not altogether clear to us. We did not know whether it was intended to mean that we should remove that part of the mission which now restrains any movement westward.

Admiral Fechteler: I think we should not close the door on this.

Mr. Allison: Of course I think we had in mind not only this paper but also the longer paper.4

Mr. Bohlen: There were two papers. NSC 128 is the short one, whereas there is more background in the other one.

Mr. Nitze: I think this discussion has been most helpful. We in State have no doubt that if circumstances make desirable a movement from Formosa to the mainland this movement should be undertaken. I think we were looking at paragraph c as a recommendation for action at this time. We looked at it, in short, as one which would involve an overt change in U.S. policy which would be interpreted around the world as a full commitment of U.S. power and prestige to putting the Chinese Nationalists back on the mainland. We felt, in the first place, that we are not prepared for such military action at this time, and in the second place, that a policy decision of this kind would have unfortunate repercussions politically around the world.

Admiral Fechteler: If the Chinese Nationalists decide now or in the future to make a foray on the Chinese coast, we are supposed to stop it. My question is really whether we should continue to stop such actions.

Mr. Nitze: I think we should until the time comes when such actions would be helpful from the point of view of our own interests.

Admiral Fechteler: How are you going to stop them, by diplomatic action, by force, or by what means?

[Page 34]

General Bradley: We might as well face it that we are going to have to back Chiang up a lot if he undertakes any such actions.

Mr. Bohlen: In light of the situation, is this something on which NSC action is now required?

. . . . . . .

Mr. Bohlen: I wonder whether we should take this up point by point or whether we should hold a general discussion. I think perhaps it might be helpful to proceed point by point. As for the first recommendation in NSC 128, I take it that we are agreed that existing policy is to take such measures as may be necessary to deny Formosa to any Chinese regime aligned with or dominated by the U.S.S.R. As for the second recommendation, which concerns the continued availability of Formosa as a base, we were not too clear about the meaning of that recommendation. Does it mean that the present arrangement should be continued or does it contemplate the establishment of new arrangements?

General Bradley: That refers to the continuation of present arrangements. We would like to be sure that in case of necessity Formosa would still be available to us as a base for our operations.

Admiral Fechteler: That is right. We have no new arrangement in mind.

Mr. Bohlen: Then this recommendation also contemplates no change in the existing situation?

Admiral Fechteler: That is correct.

Mr. Bohlen: The third recommendation concerns the mission of the Seventh Fleet. Does the recommendation mean that there should be a change in the present mission or does it mean that the present situation should be continued? If a change is necessary, when should it be made? Should it be made now or when we have succeeded in developing larger military capabilities on Formosa?

General Bradley: The time will come when Formosa does have a larger capability. When that time comes we might want to change the mission of the Seventh Fleet.

Admiral Fechteler: Looking at this again, I think that the wording could have been improved. Our intention was not to close the door to a change in the mission of the Seventh Fleet when and if circumstances warranting such a change arose.

Mr. Nitze: There are two factors to be considered, I think. The first is the capability of the Chinese Nationalist forces on Formosa. The second is the relationship of a change in the mission of the Seventh Fleet to the armistice negotiations, to the situation in Southeast Asia, and so forth.

General Hull: At present we are shackling any offensive action which the Chinese Nationalists based on Formosa might take. The real question is whether we intend to continue in this position or [Page 35]should everyone who needs to know know that when larger capabilities have been developed the shackles will be removed? The answer to this question will, I think, considerably affect our attitude toward building up capabilities on the island.

Mr. Nitze: Certainly we can use increased capabilities in the Far East generally and in Formosa in particular. They would be an asset. However, I do not think that the need for a decision whether to remove the shackles will arise until we have these large capabilities. In that situation I think we would re-look at the whole international scene in the Far East. We would take into consideration all the factors relevant to that decision. In other words, I think that we would not definitely decide at this time to remove the shackles but we would decide to take a re-look at the situation when we have larger capabilities.

Mr. Dulles: A morale factor is involved. If the Chinese on Formosa do not believe that they have a chance to return at some time in the future I don’t believe we will succeed in developing larger capabilities on the island.

Mr. Bohlen: Two years from now many elements of the situation may have changed substantially. We should not of course foreclose the possibility of removing the shackles if that becomes desirable. I, however, would have great doubts about the wisdom of passing on to the Nationalist Government any indication that the shackles will be removed. Our experience shows that they would probably exploit such an indication right now as a firm U.S. commitment.

General Hull: I, too, am not sure that it would be wise to inform them, or necessary to do so, but a decision within the U.S. Government would affect our own policy. As things now stand, we really don’t have any basis for giving them any more than they need for defensive purposes.

Mr. Bohlen: Isn’t it justification enough that we do want a large and effective force? We clearly do want an instrument which will be ready to use if circumstances make its use desirable. We might want at some time, perhaps before long, to take Hainan, to make hit-and-run raids against the mainland, or even to secure a lodgment on the mainland.

General Hull: Unless we are building toward something which is more than just a defensive goal, there is not a basis for providing much assistance to them. I think we will always distribute our resources to those who are actually doing something. For that reason I am afraid we will not realize the potential available here unless we make this decision that we are building toward something.

[Page 36]

Admiral Fechteler: The Chinese Nationalists recently put on a demonstration for the Secretary of the Navy5 which was pretty good. He felt that they had shown a sizable capability.

Mr. Nitze: I thought we had an adequate basis for developing these capabilities in NSC 48/5. When we wrote that we had this possibility in mind, as I recall it, our language was along the following lines: We should provide economic and military assistance to increase the capability for the defense of Formosa and for such other purposes as might be determined. We have always felt that that meant not only defensive capability but extra capability over and beyond that necessary for defense—for example the extra capability we would like in case we do not get an armistice in Korea.

Mr. Bohlen: We would like increased capability in the light of general world conditions and in light of the general situation in China itself. For instance, our policy would be affected by our judgment as to whether the Chinese Nationalists would be well received in China. It is very difficult to foresee exactly what the circumstances will be. I don’t think we can make a decision that goes far beyond that which Mr. Nitze has just read.

General Hull: These things all eventually become questions of priority and from this point of view the Chinese Nationalists are competing with a lot of other people whom we are also trying to help.

Mr. Allison: Of course they are all being helped for defense purposes too, are they not?

General Hull: That may be so.

Mr. Bohlen: I think that is right. For example, in Western Europe are we rearming Western Germany in order to increase its ability to defend itself against the Russian attack, or in order that it can recover Eastern Germany? There are a lot of comparable situations.

General Hull: As long as the Seventh Fleet is there we don’t have to give much assistance in order to make the island defensible. The Chinese Communists cannot reach the island. If defense is all the Chinese Nationalists have to worry about they don’t need much.

Admiral Fechteler: There are two angles on this western movement point. Assume for the moment that within the limit of their capability the Chinese Nationalists start for the mainland. As things stand now the Seventh Fleet is supposed to stop any such movement. If we change that policy we will have to consider [Page 37]whether to let them go to the mainland under their own steam or whether to help them.

Mr. Dulles: Let’s look at the Chinmen situation for a moment. This might become an important question. Should we help the Chinese Nationalists defend that island in the event of Communist attack? It is right off the port of Amoy. The Seventh Fleet is not now supposed to give it protection. Can the Chinese Navy on Formosa, however, go to the defense of Chinmen?

Admiral Fechteler: They can say that they are going to Chinmen and when they get there they can go right on to the mainland if they want to.

Mr. Allison: If the situation changes enough so that the Nationalists have the capability of going to the mainland we might want to remove the Fleet altogether.

General Hull: The Nationalists will not attain this capability unless we decide to help them get it. In my opinion they will never become able to make an invasion by themselves. I think we have to face up to the question whether we want them to invade at some time.

Mr. Bohlen: Is it your view then that at present our assistance does not have an adequate basis?

General Hull: They are suffering under the present system of priorities. What we can give Formosa is in competition with what we supply to other areas.

Mr. Bohlen: Would that change if we change our policy?

General Hull: If we were planning to use these capabilities, I think we would do more to develop them.

Mr. Dulles: This is the only spot in the world where we are using U.S. forces to protect the Communists.

Mr. Nitze: I think that is illusory.

Mr. Bohlen: We are not protecting the Communists against anything which is there on Formosa now. If we thought that Greece was getting ready to jump Albania I think we would feel differently about bringing Greece into NATO. The Chinese Nationalists do not disguise their objective in any way. If we changed our policy we would give the Chinese Nationalists the ability to involve the U.S. in war with a major power. For instance, if we took the ban off today the Chinese Nationalists could send 100 planes to bomb Shanghai. The Communists could, and probably would, return this blow and at that point the Seventh Fleet would become involved. The Chinese know that the only way they can get back on the mainland is with U.S. support. This is not the kind of a risk which we would take with very many governments in the world.

Mr. Allison: Is there any possibility that in three to five years the Nationalists might be able to go over without U.S. support?

[Page 38]

General Hull: I don’t think it will ever be within their capabilities.

Mr. Allison: In other words, we would have to be in.

Mr. Bohlen: Then the change in policy is a change which means that the U.S. has decided to use its power to put the Chinese back on the mainland.

General Hull: We don’t know whether we will want to do this or not.

Mr. Allison: Do we want to decide now to do this at some time?

General Hull: No.

Mr. Allison: In that case do we need any different statement of policy than the present statement?

General Hull: Perhaps what we need is a better interpretation and understanding of that policy.

Mr. Nitze: The question whether the Chinese Nationalists can obtain a real position of power on the mainland is really a question of combined capability of the Nationalists and the U.S. Isn’t this a problem which is closely related to the problems we have been considering in the Southeast Asia paper?6

Mr. Allison: I think it is. For example, we might want to take Hainan as one phase of a campaign in Southeast Asia, if we become involved there. If so, we would probably want to use Nationalist forces from Formosa for that purpose. Or, in case of Chinese Communist aggression we might decide the balloon is up and that we want to use Formosan forces in various places.

General Bradley: Was not NSC 128 prepared in connection with the SEA paper?

Mr. Bohlen: I don’t think so.

Mr. Nitze: One thing is clear to me. We want to have as much strength as we can have. Contingencies may well arise in which we will want to use Chinese Nationalists. Apart from that there is the problem of developing capabilities to bring down the Communist Chinese regime at some time. All of this is, I think, related to the SEA problem.

General Bradley: There is a problem of time which enters into this. The guerrillas in South China will gradually get themselves liquidated. The fellows on Formosa are getting older.

Mr. Dulles: I was just going to raise this very question. I think NSC 128 had its origin in General Smith’s letter to Mr. Lovett.7 [Page 39]Formosa is undoubtedly a waning asset. Although the Seventh Fleet is there and is now protecting the island, we may well have a deteriorating situation on Formosa itself. It is not inconceivable that a revolution might occur in Formosa. The situation is not a level one. U.S. controls are not adequate. Over a period of time it would be our estimate that the situation will deteriorate, that the army will not sit there idle forever. They want to go home. If they have no hope of fighting their way back, they will go back as individuals. For this reason we think a review is necessary and the purpose of the review should be, in our judgment, to develop policies which will assure that Formosa is an asset.

General Bradley: What you have just said raises the question whether we should be spending $200 million a year to rearm these people. If they are going to collapse on us it would not appear to be a wise investment. I was asked only the other day whether we can justify $200 million to Formosa as compared with $300 million to Indochina where there is actual fighting going on.

Mr. Dulles: And we have about $100 million tied up here.

General Bradley: If the situation is really deteriorating perhaps we should not be spending $200 million there under our present policies.

Mr. Nitze: I got the impression from Mr. Schenck that we could devise a longer range program which would develop Formosa as an asset. If we do not foresee a combined Chinese Nationalist–U.S. capability adequate to bring down the Chinese Communist regime, even so we do not want to lose Formosa and we ought to address ourselves, under these circumstances, to building a healthier internal situation so that the island will not collapse around us.

General Bradley: I got the impression that there was only a limited time in which we could do anything. The chance of overthrowing the Chinese Communist government is slim—certainly without overt U.S. action. We have one situation on our hands if circumstances require the U.S. to go to war with the Chinese Communist regime. Short of this, we are not prepared to begin a general war with Communist China and our discussion seems to indicate that this is the only way in which that regime can be overthrown. We have to consider what we are going to do on Formosa on each of these two hypotheses. If we are not going to war with Communist China, then what do we do in Formosa? How long can we hope to hold the situation? We might be wasting all the money we are spending there. We have said many times and still say that the loss of Formosa would be bad but that it would not be so bad as to justify sending U.S. forces there to hold it.

Mr. Nash, do you have anything which you wish to add to this discussion?

[Page 40]

Mr. Nash: No, I don’t think I have anything to add. I take it that NSC action calls for an examination of the Formosa problem from the longer run point of view. This is a question which goes beyond that of merely removing the restrictions on the Seventh Fleet. If we are going ahead with the study of the long run problem any questions I have might better be raised in the preparation of that study.

General Bradley: Returning to our third recommendation, I think we can conclude that there is no point in removing this restriction at this time. However, we should know what our longer-range policy and attitude will be.

Mr. Dulles: I assume that the restriction does not prevent the Chinese Nationalists’ fleet from participating in the defense of these coastal islands.

General Bradley: We have never felt that it was necessary to intervene in this matter.

Mr. Bohlen: I think we could work out a re-wording of this recommendation which would bring out this point. We might say, for example: “Continue the mission presently assigned to the Seventh Fleet with regard to Formosa but keep the possibility of revision of that mission under continuous review in the light of the world situation and the situation in the Far East.”

Admiral Fechteler: That is about what we want.

Mr. Bohlen: Recommendations d and e are, as I understand it, statements of existing policy. There may be some deficiency in our assistance program but that is really another matter. The only issue that I can see is the one which General Hull raised: Can we really develop the potential under existing policies? Suppose that we decided that we are trying to train up the Chinese Nationalists for offensive operations. Would that change our existing military programs?

General Hull: It would over the course of time. If that was our policy then General Chase would have a better chance of getting the supplies and people he needs and wants. The whole training problem would have a different aspect. I think Formosa would have a somewhat more favored position in the scale of priorities. This is partly a question of the philosophy underlying our actions.

General Bradley: With reference to the $200 million program, it is one thing if our policy has a purely defensive goal. It is another thing if we are planning to put the Chinese Nationalists ashore. In the second case they would need more vehicles, landing craft, and so forth.

Mr. Bohlen: Would not the assistance programs be the same up to a certain point? At that point we might have a decision to make, but we aren’t at that point yet, are we?

[Page 41]

General Bradley: I think that is right. This would not make much of a difference through 1953.

Mr. Nitze: When we reach that point we may have a difficult problem. It is hard to foresee at this time whether it would be more important at that time to build up the Vietnam forces, the Japanese forces, or the forces on Formosa. We will have to make our decision at that time in the light of circumstances then existing.

Mr. Bohlen: We want to have a capability ready for use in case of certain eventualities. We want to be ready to use it if and when certain circumstances arise. The question this raises is whether we can keep Formosa as an asset with our present policy.

Mr. Dulles: That is a big question. I don’t think anyone can answer it categorically.

Mr. Bohlen: General Chase thought that the lifting of the restriction would boost morale on the island but he did not think, as I understand him, that the presence of the restriction had a depressing effect on morale. On the contrary he strongly asserted that morale was good. As far as the age question goes, he told me that the average age of the Chinese Nationalist forces is four years lower than the U.S. troops he took into the Philippines.

General Bradley: Is that so? I am surprised at that. I thought they were somewhat older.

Mr. Bohlen: The ones who retreated to Formosa with Chiang were the ones who had the most zing. The older ones and tireder ones tended to stay at home.

General Bradley: I think we could agree on the revised wording of paragraph c and I think that d and e do express present policy.

Mr. Bohlen: In this case we could undertake a long-range study of what we can do to build up the situation on Formosa.

Mr. Nitze: That is right. We should discuss this problem with Frank Nash.

Mr. Allison: I think it ought to be a tripartite program involving State, CIA, and Defense and the JCS.

Mr. Nash: That is what the NSC called for. I think it would be a regular Steering Committee study.

General Bradley: I understood that we were to talk this thing over and then make a recommendation as to what to do.

Mr. Lay: That is right. It was the intention of the NSC that you should talk this over and then refer the matter to the NSC.

Mr. Nash: We are to produce an over-all paper which will not be limited to the four or five points we have been discussing this morning.

[Page 42]

Mr. Bohlen: That is right. We have disposed of those four points this morning, I believe. What we are now considering is a wider study.

Mr. Dulles: I would like to have it clear that our present policy stands.

(At this point Mr. Dulles referred to an Indochinese operation and there was an exchange between Mr. Dulles and General Bradley which the reporter did not understand.)

Mr. Nash: With reference to the longer-range measures which can be taken to preserve Formosa as an asset, I think it is important to note that the Bureau of the Budget is not permitting MSA to plan such a program at this time. The Bureau of the Budget takes the position that the policy set forth in NSC 48/5 is a short-range policy. We have, therefore, an urgent reason why it is necessary to develop a long-range policy.

Mr. Nitze: I think our discussion has been very helpful for that reason.

  1. A note on the title page reads: “State Draft. Not cleared with any of participants.”
  2. See the memorandum by Foster, Document 11.
  3. Dated May 17, 1951, Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. vi, Part 1, p. 33.
  4. See the memorandum by the JCS, Document 9.
  5. Secretary of the Navy Dan A. Kimball visited Formosa Mar. 24–27 during a tour of naval installations in the Far East. While in Formosa, he inspected Chinese naval bases and observed a demonstration of amphibious landing operations staged by the Chinese Navy and Marine Corps.
  6. The National Security Council was then in the process of preparing such a paper. For text of the final paper, NSC 124/2, “United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Southeast Asia,” June 25, 1952, along with related documentation, see vol. xii, Part 1, pp. 1 ff.
  7. Dated Dec. 11, 1951, not printed.