Memorandum of Conversation, by
Leonard H. Price of the Office of the
Special Assistant for Mutual Security Affairs1
- Conference with Major General William Chase, Chief of Military Assistance Advisory Group, Formosa
- Major General Chase—Defense
- Major St. John—Defense
- John M. Allison—FE
- Ambassador Cowen—S
- John H. Ferguson—S/P
- Troy L. Perkins—CA
- Leonard H. Price—S/MSA
- Ambassador Dulles—S (in part)
- Charles E. Bohlen—C
Mr. Allison opened the conference by suggesting that General Chase review briefly items of interest which occurred to him in connection with his assignment in Formosa. He thought that this might serve as the basis for questions which could be directed to General Chase by other members in attendance.
General Chase stated that he would like to comment at the outset on the very good working relationships which existed among the Embassy, MAAG and the MSA group in Formosa. He also remarked that Minister Rankin enjoyed excellent relations with the Chinese Government personnel.
He felt that the operations of the MAAG group in Formosa were beginning to show results although a lot of work remained to be done. He felt, however, that it was worth the effort. He estimated that the cost of each soldier of the Chinese armed forces was about $300 for maintenance, training, etc. (This figure compares with an estimated $5,000 for each member of the United States Armed Forces.) General Chase thought that for 350,000 active members of [Page 11]a potentially effective fighting force our investment in the training and equipment of these forces was a good one.
General Chase emphasized that the utility of the Chinese Nationalist forces was potential rather than actual. In this connection he estimated that compared with United States standards, the Chinese Nationalist Army was about 15 percent effective. He rated the Air Force at 25 percent and the Navy at 10 percent. With respect to the Logistic Branch of the Combined Services, he thought that minus 10 percent was an accurate estimate.
General Chase commented on a remark which he understood Mr. Dulles had made to the Press to the effect that the Chinese Nationalist forces were a rapidly deteriorating element which would soon cease to exist as a potential fighting force. General Chase said that, personally, he felt that the Chinese Nationalist forces were a potentially effective fighting force. He pointed out in this connection that the average age of Chinese troops was 27 years, which, he said, was four years younger than the average age of the troops in the division which he commanded during World War II. Mr. Dulles did not recall making any statements corresponding to those indicated by General Chase, and suggested that perhaps certain statements which he had made on the general subject of ChiNat forces had been reported erroneously.
Mr. Bohlen inquired whether a combined attack of amphibious and paratroop forces from Red China would be successful on Formosa. General Chase said that at the present time such a combined attack would stand a reasonable chance of success even with the presence of the United States Seventh Fleet. He said this would be particularly true if simultaneously North Korea and Red China operations in Korea were reactivated on a substantial basis. He felt, however, that a single operation, either by paratroop or by an amphibious landing, could be successfully withheld by the Chinese forces on Formosa. He thought that in view of these contingencies movements of troops, planes and supplies in Red China should be watched very carefully. With further reference to the possibility of an attack from the Chinese mainland, General Chase estimated that the Chinese forces could withstand a combined attack for about 7 to 9 days. He commented in this connection that the supply situation was particularly bad and basic principles of operation applied with respect to the movement of their armies and divisions were also inadequate and out of date. He expressed the view that, in the event of an emergency, logistics and brain power would have to be supplied by the United States.
General Chase commented that as one precaution against surprise attacks there were a number of radar stations on Formosa which were operational although not the most modern. He said [Page 12]that other precautions lay in occasional reconnaissance flights by aircraft from the Seventh Fleet and from the Chinese Air Force.
Mr. Bohlen inquired whether in the event of a major attack there would be much defection on the part of Chinese Nationalist forces. General Chase replied in the negative, adding that, while absence from their homes on the mainland was a psychological disadvantage, nevertheless he felt that the morale of Chinese forces was satisfactory or better and that given proper training they would fight well and remain loyal.
Mr. Dulles inquired about the effectiveness of the Formosans. General Chase said that Formosa personnel was obtained by drafting rather than by voluntary enlistment but that, in his opinion, the Formosans accepted their lot with good grace and even developed some enthusiasm in their work in the armed forces. He remarked that Formosan troops had not proven to be very effective when used by the Japanese and that the latter had always employed them as service troops rather than front line soldiers.
Mr. Perkins inquired about the Chinese Nationalist troops now interned in Indochina. General Chase estimated the number of such troops and their families at around 30,000. He said that these were well-trained troops and it was very desirable that arrangements be made for their transfer to Formosa as soon as possible. He expressed the opinion that, in view of the efforts of the United States to assist the French in Indochina, there was ample leverage for the United States to ask for cooperation in the release of these troops.
Mr. Bohlen inquired with respect to General Chase’s views on a Combined Chief of Staff arrangement in Formosa. General Chase said that he was very much in favor of such an arrangement inasmuch as it would give the United States representative in Formosa a much greater say in Chinese Nationalist activities and would, therefore, bring about a much greater efficiency in military operations on the island.
Mr. Allison inquired whether, if there were greater activity on the part of the United States with respect to Formosa and a sharpening of United States interests in Formosan affairs, it would devolve that the United States would be given a larger voice and greater participation in Chinese activities. General Chase replied very vehemently in the affirmative.
Mr. Bohlen inquired whether the lifting of the neutralization bans from the Formosa area would have any effect on the morale of the Chinese Nationalist forces. He said that he had in mind the lifting of neutralization at the present time when the Chinese were not fully equipped nor properly trained to conduct effective operations against the Chinese mainland. General Chase expressed his [Page 13]view that even under these circumstances the lifting of the bans imposed by neutralization would have a very considerable effect on the morale of the Chinese forces. He explained that at the present time the Chinese Nationalist forces have the feeling that they may never have the opportunity of fighting to recover their home land and that even remote possibilities presented by a lifting of present bans would give them a psychological uplift in morale to a most significant degree.
In a general discussion of what Chinese Nationalist forces could do, without neutralization, General Chase indicated that any sizeable operations against the Chinese mainland would have to be supported by the United States. He said, however, that small raids, such as port bombing operations, guerrilla warfare on a small scale and expanded reconnaissance operations, would be very much in the realm of possibility. As to the success of a major hit and run operation against the Chinese mainland, General Chase did not appear very sanguine.
Mr. Bohlen posed the question whether removal of the neutralization status and acquiescence in Chinese Nationalist operations against the mainland might not provide an incentive and pretext for aggressive measures on the part of Red China. He questioned whether the neutralization status should be changed unless it provided a real military advantage and not just a psychological advantage to which reference had been made.
In reply to a question by Ambassador Cowen, General Chase said that he shared the apprehensions of CINCFE2 and CINCPAC3 with regard to the Red air raid threat on Formosa. He said he considered this a real threat and one which thoroughly justified the most careful observation of Red China’s movements on the mainland.
In reply to a question by Mr. Bohlen, General Chase admitted that, if the bans now imposed by neutralization were lifted, the United States would have practically no control over the Nationalist forces on Formosa. He pointed out in this connection that he had no command authority and that in the absence of a Joint Chiefs of Staff arrangement, there would simply be no control either by him or by Admiral Radford in charge of the Seventh Fleet. Mr. Bohlen indicated that he felt it would be preferable, therefore, to have established satisfactory controls before the bans were lifted.
In reply to a question by Mr. Perkins, General Chase said that in his opinion the Nationalists could spare troops up to the number of [Page 14]thirty or forty thousand for use in Korea. He said such troops would have to be clothed, trained and transported by the United States but that they would have their own weapons. He felt that such a force in Korea on a rotational basis would provide great advantages from the point of view of the development of leaders, the training of troops and the provision of actual battle experience. He admitted, however, that any such operation would be a calculated risk and that the troops so deployed would be sorely needed in the event of a major attack upon Formosa.
Referring to General Chase’s complaints about slow deliveries of military equipment from the United States to Formosa, Mr. Price inquired whether, on the basis of his discussions with various officers in the Department of Defense, General Chase was now more optimistic with respect to future deliveries. General Chase replied that he had received no assurances with regard to an acceleration of deliveries of matériel to Formosa, but that he now knew that the Chinese Nationalist Government was getting its share of United States production. He indicated that on his return to Formosa he would be in a better position to explain the delivery situation to Chinese Nationalist officials. He had managed while here to obtain certain items of “hardware” for early delivery.
Returning to the neutralization question, Mr. Bohlen inquired whether the bans imposed by neutralization have any presently definite bad effect on Chinese Nationalist forces. General Chase replied in the negative.
General Chase commented on his present orders and those of Admiral Radford4 and expressed the view that in both cases clarification was seriously and urgently required. Major St. John explained in this connection that, under the present arrangement in Formosa, the United States will interpose no objection to retaliation in the event of an attack against Formosa. General Chase said that the main question revolved around the word “attack”. He said that he did not know what was meant by an “attack” and that the Chinese officials were equally confused. He pointed out that a major attack would be preceded by intensive build-up on the Chinese mainland but that under present orders Admiral Radford did not know at what point he could discourage the initial phases of an attacking operation which came by sea and he, General Chase, did not know at what point he could participate, either by advice or otherwise, in repelling an attack by land. He said that the need for [Page 15]prompt action to clarify the present situation lay in the fact that Red China is known to have an attacking force of 400 jet planes which could be launched against Formosa; of these about 40 are in the vicinity of Canton on the mainland, and a number of others are at present located in North China.
It was generally agreed that the orders to Admiral Radford and those to General Chase should be clarified at the earliest practicable moment.
- Of the participants listed below, Myron M. Cowen, former Ambassador to the Philippines, was serving as a consultant to Secretary Acheson, and John H. Ferguson was Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff.↩
- Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, Commander in Chief, Far East.↩
- Adm. Arthur W. Radford, Commander in Chief, Pacific.↩
- According to JCS telegram 92666 to CINCFE, Jan. 23, responsibility for the defense of Formosa, the Pescadores, and the Philippines had been transferred by the Joint Chiefs from CINCFE to CINCPAC, the transfer to be effective at a date mutually agreed upon by CINCFE and CINCPAC. (793.00/1–2352) The transfer became effective on Mar. 15, 1952.↩