No. 298
Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Merchant) to Roderic L. O’Connor, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State

top secret

Returning on the plane the Secretary told me that he desired no full memorandum of his talk with Eden late in the afternoon on September 17 regarding China1 but that he would dictate a short memorandum of it himself.2 I told him that I would send you my [Page 650] handwritten notes to be kept in his file for possible future reference. The participants on our side were the Secretary, Ambassador Aldrich and myself throughout. On the British side there were Eden, Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick 3 and Denis Allen 4 throughout. About midway in the conversation (which started at 5:30 p.m. and ran for forty-five minutes) Selwyn Lloyd and Sir Harold Caccia joined the group.

In addition, of course, to General Smith and Mr. Hoover I believe that copies of the Secretary’s memorandum when dictated should be seen by Messrs. Murphy, MacArthur, Robertson, Key and Bowie.


Notes of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Merchant) 5


Chinese Com propaganda agst Formosa—attack on Quemoy and trp concentrations.

What does US do about it? Show of strength but made no decision as to whether will commit ourselves to hold offshore islands. Considered at Denver—talked to Chase on Formosa & Hull & Stump.

Majority mil view and advice is to commit US to defense—psychological and because substantially related to defense of F—Quemoy cork in Amoy harbor. EWR on Tachan & Q.

Further success after IC wld create belief US unwilling fight—Effect on morale on Nats.

Arg agst—all out assault might carry Q unless A-bomb used tactically in last resort—

[Page 651]

At end of Denver, I asked no decision till I explored alternative to (a) committal to defense or (b) abandonment, i.e. UNSC under Arts 39 & 40—”provisional measures.” and seek directive agst any violent action to change present status.

Cld lead to (1) Ch Com after hearing might result in Soviet veto on ground civil war (fact is US pledge to F contains frightening possibility of war). If so we wld have exhausted peaceful measures and wld feel entitled to more world support, or (2) Coms accept SC jurisdiction and start a far-reaching negotiation which might lead to some solution of present chaotic FE position, or (3) ChiNats may strongly oppose SC (“back to mainland”)—revert to original 7th flt situation. Wld have some pressures to put on them. No assurance effective.

Wanted first to have Eden’s reaction—asking injunction pending general SC study situation.

E—Watched & worried. Terrible wicket if US involved major war over Q—different from F. Not to public same mil reasons & psychological.

S—Risk assault on F increases if Q falls. 50 thousand best trps on Q.

E—How deal with 2 unpleasant alts—UN shld be one thing thought of Exchange prot. Q & Is. for CKS pledge not to attack mainland—might try thru UN—might try thru direct negots.

S—Direct negots difficult for us. Even UN course will raise strong opposition in UN since might lead to plebiscite on F or ending blockade etc. Still exploratory project only. Duty to try to find 3rd way.

Coms say will have F—they won’t unless they lick us in war. CKS reluctant abandon hope of return—on gt divide but not sure on which side peace lies.

E—Want to give any help in thinking it out and naturally in UN if you take it there. Glad you’re trying to find 3rd way.

S—Q clearly more related to mainland than F.

K—If due to fall some day, sensible to withdraw Nats.

S—Eventually but not practical now. Effect on morale. If process negot started I assume lead ultimately to territ. adjustments.

E—Grateful—will think deeply about it.

S—Acute last wk—subsided since—we’ve advised CKS to cease his air raids on mainland. At moment not so acute but could flare up. Bld up nearby. We’re keeping them guessing partly because we’re guessing ourselves. Next full moon will bring monsoons.

E—We’ll think about it.

(Break up)—6:15 p.m.

E—(Reading from official paper)—Our Jt Chiefs say (a) Q not defensible, (b) not essential to defense of F.

S—Ours say important (not essential) to F defense.

  1. The conversation took place in London; for documentation concerning the Secretary’s trip to Bonn and London, Sept. 16–17, see vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1209 ff.
  2. No such memorandum has been found in Department of State files, but a telegram from Dulles to Eisenhower, Sept. 18, includes the following paragraph:

    “On the China matter, we met on restricted basis. Eden listened with intense interest but was totally non-committal which was natural. He remarked that US action to defend Formosa was understandable and would have wide approval but that the same was not true of Quemoy and other islands near the mainland. I explained large psychological and lesser material relationship of these islands to Formosa but I fear he was not totally convinced. He will let me know shortly his views re appeal to UN.” (Eisenhower Library, Dulles papers, Germany file)

  3. British Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  4. William Denis Allen, British Assistant Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  5. This conversation took place in London, Sept. 17, at 5:30 p.m. Participants at the meeting were Eden, Kirkpatrick, Denis Allen, Caccia, Lloyd, Secretary Dulles, Ambassador Aldrich, and Merchant.

    According to a notation in Merchant’s handwriting on his memorandum to O’Connor, above, these notes had been typed from his handwritten notes, which he then destroyed.