CA files, lot 59 D 110, “U.S. Aid to Nationalist China, 1954”

No. 296
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Director of the Office of Chinese Affairs (Martin) 1

secret

Subject:

  • Understanding With GRC on Defense of Formosa

Participants:

  • Rear Admiral T.J. Hedding, USN, Deputy Director for Strategic Plans
  • Everett F. Drumright, Deputy Assistant Secretary for FE
  • Edwin W. Martin, Acting Director for CA

Admiral Hedding called on Mr. Drumright this morning to discuss a statement contained in a memorandum prepared by the Chinese Goevernment entitled “Answers to Questions Raised by the Van Fleet Mission” (revised version),2 which Mr. Robertson had taken up with Admiral Radford. The statement in question appears on page 1–3 of the Chinese memorandum and reads as follows:

“b. The U.S. forces will not participate in preventive attacks to be launched by the GRC forces against the mainland coast while the Communists are staging an invasion on Taiwan, nor in attacks on the sea against the Communist navy and convoys sailing toward Taiwan.”

After handing Mr. Drumright a copy of a memorandum which he had prepared for Admiral Radford on this subject,3 Admiral Hedding read from his own record of the conferences which he had held with the Chinese Ministry of National Defense in May 19534 in pursuance of a CINCPAC directive to coordinate plans with the Chinese Government for defense of Taiwan. While it was agreed between the two sides that defense of Taiwan must include “retaliatory action against the mainland of China by both U.S. and Chinese forces”, it was made clear by the U.S. side that such retaliatory action by U.S. forces would be as directed by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Moreover, it was understood that U.S. forces were not authorized to attack concentrations of Communist land, sea and air forces preparing for an attack on Formosa, although it was explained that CINCPAC intended to ask the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for permission to implement appropriate plans if invasion appeared imminent. These statements by the U.S. representative clearly related to U.S. retaliatory action against the mainland and attacks on enemy concentrations prior to an invasion. They did not restrict action by U.S. forces against the Communists while they “are staging an invasion on Taiwan”, or “against the Communist navy and convoys sailing against Taiwan”.

Admiral Hedding believes that the Chinese are fully aware of this, but agreed to Mr. Drumright’s suggestion that CINCPAC representatives on Taiwan bring to the attention of appropriate MND officials the error in the sentence in question.

[Page 647]

In discussing the conferences which he held with the MND in May 1953, in his capacity as Chief of Staff to CINCPAC, Admiral Hedding said that while he received the Chinese plans for the defense of Taiwan he had not revealed what the U.S. plans would be. He said that the U.S. had refused to set up a combined staff for the defense of Formosa, since it was impractical to have a single staff with two heads. While it was made clear to the Chinese the U.S. would participate in defense of Formosa, such participation must be subject to the direction of the Chiefs of Staff and no advance assurance could be given to the Chinese as to the extent of U.S. participation (e.g., in terms of number and types of ships, etc.) since we could not know what other commitments our forces in the area might have at the time of an attack on Formosa. On the other hand, the Chinese had been assured that we would do everything necessary to fulfill our commitment to defend Formosa.

Admiral Hedding confirmed that during the conferences he had indicated that in the event of an attack on Formosa or Penghu (Pescadores) the U.S. Navy would participate in defensive operations within 36 hours and the U.S. Air Force within 72 hours. Pointing out that the U.S. sea and air forces in the area were scattered, Admiral Hedding said that these time figures represented our best estimate of how soon adequate forces could be concentrated. Admiral Hedding emphasized, however, that to his mind invasion of Formosa by the Communists was a purely academic question for the forseeable future. While acknowledging that the Communists might be able to secure a logement on the Formosa coast before sufficient U.S. naval and air forces could be mobilized in the area, he stressed that the Communists could not maintain a supply line across the Straits once U.S. naval and air power was brought to bear. Whatever beachhead was secured on Formosa by the Communists would be completely cut off and left without support to deal with superior Chinese Nationalist land forces on Formosa.

Admiral Hedding indicated that during the conferences with the MND it had been agreed that the off-shore islands were an integral part of the defense of Formosa, and Penghu. It was made clear, however, that U.S. was not committed to their defense and that any U.S. action with respect to them would be subject to orders from CINCPAC.

Admiral Hedding said that he had also discussed with the MND the understanding obtained from the Chinese Government that it would not radically alter the tempo or pattern of its offensive operations without consulting the United States. (The decision to obtain such an understanding was taken by the NSC in April 1953 in connection with the delivery of jet aircraft to the GRC.) Admiral Hedding explained the need for such an understanding in terms of the [Page 648] danger of provoking Chinese Communist air raids on Formosa at a time when the Chinese Nationalists were not prepared to deal with such attacks. He indicated that although the Chinese Nationalists’ capability of defending against air attacks had been considerably increased through the delivery of F–84s, they were still not ready to repel large-scale air attacks. Under U.S. direction, however, steps are being taken to prepare four jet strips, with requisite POL, barracks, ammunition magazines, etc., which will be capable of accommodating a minimum of 9 jet squadrons. At the same time the radar capabilities of the Chinese Nationalists are rapidly being built up both on Formosa and on the off-shore islands. Admiral Hedding felt, however, that there was little danger at present of large-scale Communist air raids on Formosa since the Communists do not have the capabiltiy of providing jet fighter cover for bombers on missions over Formosa. He felt that any Communist air raids would probably be night raids of limited scope.

In response to a question from Mr. Drumright as to whether the Navy was contemplating supplying additional destroyers to the GRC, Admiral Hedding said that would depend upon how the Chinese used the two destroyers turned over to them earlier this year. He pointed out that those destroyers were only loaned for five years, and if they were not properly utilized we would demand them back. On the other hand, if the Chinese demonstrated that they were capable of making good use of these two, they might get more. Admiral Hedding pointed out that in case of war the U.S. would be short of destroyers and could not afford to give any away unless we were sure that they would be fully utilized.

  1. On the ribbon copy of this memorandum, the date has been changed by hand to Sept. 16. (120.290/9–1654). A carbon copy is the source text because one page of the ribbon copy is missing.
  2. The reference memorandum, given to the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Taipei on July 28, was a revision of a memorandum with the same title, dated June 27; they were transmitted to the Department of State as enclosures to despatches 37 and 56 from Taipei, July 21 and 29. (120.290/7–2154 and 120.290/7–2954)
  3. Dated Sept. 2. (CA files, lot 59 D 110, “U.S. Aid to Nationalist China, 1954”)
  4. See despatch 660 from Taipei, Document 112.