Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman files, DullesHerter Series

No. 270
The Acting Secretary of Defense (Anderson) to the President 1

top secret

JCS 967254. To the President of the United States from Secretary Anderson. Chinese Communists initiated heavy artillery shelling against selected targets on the island of Quemoy off the city of Amoy at 0145 EDT on 3 September. This firing diminished somewhat at 0420 EDT but was reported as continuing. It is estimated that the fire is coming from approximately 60 artillery pieces. Two U.S. MAAG personnel have been killed. Remainder of MAAG personnel, numbering 14 are to be evacuated.

According to one report, a Chinese Communist assault is expected against Quemoy at daybreak 4 September their local time. CINCPAC has been alerted and directed to move carrier forces into a position from which support could be rendered, or a rescue mission undertaken, if directed. He is also being directed to place one or more ground observers on Quemoy in order that we may have good intelligence of the situation on that island. It will also be possible for CINCPAC by air reconnaissance to observe the general situation in the Amoy area. He could make an aerial demonstration in this vicinity as was recently made at Tachen if this should be considered advisable and is so directed. Quemoy Island is garrisoned by approximately 50,000 Chinese Nationalist troops and is a relatively strong position. Today, the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented a paper2 prepared prior to this attack and in reply to the earlier NSC query3 in regard to the advisability of assisting in the offshore islands of which Quemoy is one. This paper is split.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, together with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Chief of Naval Operations, recommend that National Policy should be changed to permit U.S. Naval and Air Forces to assist in the defense of 10 selected offshore islands. Quemoy is included among the 10.

The majority opinion is to the effect that the Nationalist held offshore islands near the mainland are important but not essential to the defense of Formosa from a military standpoint. However, the majority stresses the psychological effects on the Chinese Nationalist [Page 557] troops and other Asiatic countries inclined to support U.S. policy, of a further loss of territory or troops to the Communists. The majority is also concerned about the number of Chinese Nationalist troops now stationed on the off-shore islands. The majority feel that perhaps these considerations are overriding.

The Joint Chiefs point out that action taken by U.S. Naval and Air Forces in support of Nationalist efforts to defend these islands, and particularly those nearest the mainland, will in all probability, require some action by U.S. Forces against selected military targets on the Chinese mainland, and states that this factor must be considered if National Policy is changed to provide such support.

The Chief of Staff, United States Army, disagrees, pointing out that the off-shore islands are not essential to the defense of Formosa, and stating that he does not consider it within his purview to comment on the impact of the loss of these islands on the U.S. strategic position in the Far East from the political viewpoint.

The Acting Secretary of Defense has not had an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the split paper presented to him today, but is inclined to share the majority opinion as to the deteriorating effect of further loss in our international stategic position vis-à-vis the Communists. The Acting Secretary of Defense has approved the orders to CINCPAC mentioned above and feels that there is a possibility that an enlargement of the attack on Quemoy may require basic decisions as a matter of urgency.

Note: The above message has been repeated to Secretary of State and Admiral Stump in Manila and copies have been delivered to Secretary Wilson and Acting Secretary of State Smith.

  1. Teletype message sent to the President in Denver, Colorado.
  2. The memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense, Sept. 2, has not been found in Department of State files, but see the memorandum from Radford to Wilson, Document 291.
  3. NSC Action No. 1206–f; see footnote 15, Document 256.