No. 283
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Murphy)

top secret


  • Meeting in Acting Secretary’s office regarding Quemoy question


  • Acting Secretary Smith
  • Acting Secretary Anderson (Defense)
  • Admiral Radford
  • Deputy Under Secretary Murphy
  • Assistant Secretary Merchant
  • Assistant Secretary Robertson
  • Assistant Secretary Key

After a discussion of the Navy plane incident and the question of UN Security Council action, (This is the subject of a separate memorandum.)1 there was a lengthy discussion regarding the defense of Formosa, with especial reference to Quemoy.

General Smith referred to the telegrams from the Secretary of State from Manila which underscored two points: (1) Is the Quemoy position defensible? (2) Is the retention by the Chinese Nationalists of Quemoy essential to the defense of Formosa, to which the United States is committed? Admiral Radford took the position that the defense of the Quemoys is practicable, citing as an example the action in 1949 when the islands were successfully defended.2 It was recalled that in 1949, however, the Red Chinese military establishment was far less effective than it is today. Admiral Radford also argued that the loss of the Quemoys would represent a political and psychological blow to U.S. prestige in the Far East generally and would demoralize the Chinese Nationalists on Formosa. Should the Chinese Reds contemplate an effort to capture Formosa, the port of Amoy would undoubtedly be a major point of departure. Admiral Radford referred with approval to the remarks of the Secretary in his recent press conference to the effect that the decision regarding the defense of the offshore islands as related to the defense of Formosa being a military rather than a political problem. He stated the opinion that if US forces participated, such participation would be limited to air and navy and that in no sense would he suggest participation of U.S. ground forces. There would be no limitation regarding depth of air attack on the Chinese mainland. He doubted that Peiping desires an all-out war with the U.S. but believed that the Russians were pushing the Chinese continually to harass the west.

There was a general discussion of pros and cons of U.S. participation leading to the agreed opinion that the decision is one for the President with the benefit of a meeting of the NSC on this subject. There was discussion whether, depending on the President’s convenience, the meeting of the NSC would take place in Denver or whether, coincident with the return of the Secretary to Washington on September 12, it might be wiser to have the meeting in Washington, where it might attract less public attention. Mr. Anderson [Page 577] and Admiral Radford indicated that they had planned to proceed to Denver to discuss this problem with the President on Thursday or Friday. General Smith agreed that as the matter had been under discussion between the President and Defense that the question regarding a meeting of the NSC should be put to the President by the Secretary of Defense.

General Smith also agreed with the recommendation made by Secretary Anderson and Admiral Radford that immediate decision in favor of supplying the Chinese Nationalists with the necessary supplies and equipment for the defense of Quemoy should be taken and that the Chinese Nationalists should be informed that their losses of equipment in the defense of the island would be compensated by the United States. Admiral Radford pointed out that the equipment provided is so precious to them that they would be loathe to run risk of losing the equipment which might endanger the successful defense of the Quemoy position. It was the understanding of the meeting that the President has the necessary legal authority to give these assurances regarding compensation for equipment losses.

  1. Reference is to a U.S. Navy patrol plane shot down in the Sea of Japan by two Soviet aircraft on Sept. 4; information regarding this matter is scheduled for publication in volume viii.
  2. The action under reference took place in October 1949; regarding this incident, see Cantel 1248, Oct. 29, and the memorandum of conversation by Freeman, Nov. 11, Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. viii, pp. 572 and 597.