793.00/9–354: Telegram

No. 271
The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in the Philippines 1

top secret

Tedul 7. Eyes only Secretary. Defense sending you outline description of Red Chinese attack on Quemoy which began with artillery attack shortly after 4 A.M., EDT and may be followed by assault. I have just talked with Anderson and Radford but have been unable to communicate directly with President who is not available at the moment. I understand however that he was briefed regarding the initial reports received this morning.

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The JCS have a split opinion as to what our reaction should be in the event this operation develops into full-fledged attack on island which would risk loss of Quemoy to Chinese Communists. Radford, Carney and Twining favor U.S. intervention which inevitably would seem to entail some bombardment of mainland positions. This for the reason that they feel loss of Quemoy with the approximately 50,000 Chinese Nationalist troops would have seriously damaging political and psychological effect which might eventually endanger Formosa. The flavor of Radford’s thinking is indicated by the following analysis which he made of the general question of the defense of the islands earlier today before he learned of the attack on Quemoy “It is possible that the Chinese Communists in the current spirit of exuberant optimism may elect to attack one or more of these island positions. It is probable that such attack would be defeated with heavy losses in the event U.S. naval and air forces support the NGRC. This would constitute a serious political and psychological reverse for the Communists and a corresponding lift for all anti-Communist forces in the Far East. The loss of ‘face’ on the part of Communist leadership could have far reaching consequences.”

Ridgway disagrees with this view as it concerns the real estate involved and does not believe that the loss of Quemoy per se endangers the Formosan position. I am inclined to agree with Ridgway’s point of view as to the military value of Quemoy appreciating of course that politically and psychologically it has considerable value. Of all the island positions the defense of Quemoy undoubtedly would require striking at the mainland. It will be obvious to you of course that the timing of this operation is designed to have a maximum effect on the Manila Conference.

At the present moment personally I would be inclined to recommend against our intervention except for the purpose of rescuing the Chinese Nationalist troops on the island should they be threatened with imminent capture.

I understand from Radford that two aircraft carriers are being ordered into the area in readiness and that aerial reconnaissance is planned. As you will note from Defense telegram, two U.S. MAAG personnel were killed. It was proposed that remainder of U.S. personnel would be flown out immediately. Radford however states CINCPAC is being ordered to keep about two U.S. observers on Quemoy.

  1. Drafted by Deputy Under Secretary Murphy.