S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167, “Southeast Asia”

No. 9
Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Lovett)1

top secret


  • United States Policies on Support for Anti-Communist Chinese Forces.
This memorandum is in response to your memorandum of 3 January 1952, in which you request that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from the military point of view, review and make comments on a letter of 11 December 1951 from the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) regarding United States policies on support for anti-Communist Chinese forces, and further, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff make such recommendations on the general subject as they deem pertinent.
This memorandum is also responsive to your memorandum, dated 9 February 1952, forwarding a letter from the DCI, dated 30 January 1952,2 both dealing with the above subject.
From the military point of view, the Joint Chiefs of Staff fully indorse the view of the DCI, as expressed in the basic letter, dated [Page 16] 11 December 1951, that the self-interest of the United States demands that Formosa be strengthened as an anti-Communist base militarily, economically, politically, and psychologically.
The denial of Formosa to communism is of major importance to United States security interests, and is of vital importance to the long-term United States position in the Far East.
Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that, for the foreseeable future and until conditions in the Far East have become peaceful and stable, the United States should:
Take such measures as may be necessary to deny Formosa to any Chinese regime aligned with or dominated by the USSR;
In its own interests, take unilateral action if necessary, to insure the continued availability of Formosa as a base for possible United States military operations;
Continue that part of the mission presently assigned to the 7th Fleet relative to the protection of Formosa until such time as conditions in the Far East permit the Chinese Nationalists on Formosa to assume the burden of the defense of that island;
Support a friendly Chinese regime on Formosa, to the end that it will be firmly aligned with the United States; and
Develop and maintain the military potential of that Chinese regime on Formosa.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the military views expressed in paragraphs 4 and 5 above should be overriding and should govern United States policy for the foreseeable future and in the course of any United States negotiations which may follow an armistice in Korea. They therefore recommend that you obtain the approval of this position by the President.
A careful review of the basic letter, dated 11 December 1951, indicates that it addresses itself to questions of possible changes in national policy regarding the Far East in general, and specifically the covert and overt use, under various circumstances, of individuals and organized units of the Chinese Nationalist forces on Formosa. In this connection, the basic letter raises numerous fundamental questions of a political nature which warrant early consideration by the National Security Council.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are grateful for the valuable suggestions of the DCI relative to overt operations. These suggestions will be of especial value in planning by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the contingencies of general hostilities, a war of limited objectives in the Far East, or application of the “greater sanction.”
Unless present United States policy is changed, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that major extensions of the scope of covert programs involving the islands of Formosa and the Pescadores which would likely involve disclosure of the covert programs, or would cause the covert activity to merge into a field of covert [Page 17] United States operations, should not be pursued at this time. Subject to the above, this comment is not intended to imply any restriction on approved covert programs involving Formosa.
The basic letter, dated 11 December 1951, clearly establishes the need for the United States to support the Chinese Nationalist Government of Formosa, and advocates United States support of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and the return of the Nationalist Government to China, subject to the extent that the Generalissimo and his government demonstrate their fitness as trustees of mainland China.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are informed by the Chief of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group in Formosa that the morale of the Chinese Nationalist forces is satisfactory or better and is sustained by a desire to liberate the mainland. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are inclined to accept this estimate inasmuch as it is based on first hand observation over an extended period by a qualified representative of the Department of Defense.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff hold the following views with reference to certain of the suggestions in the basic letter:
They agree that the provision of material assistance to Nationalist China should be continued with a view to:
Maintaining the internal security of Formosa;
Providing for the external security of the island; and
Eventually establishing ready units in the Chinese Nationalist forces capable of overt military action outside of Formosa. Program should be limited initially to a force on the order of a Chinese army of two divisions. All of these matters lie within the purview of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and will be handled by them with due regard for other commitments, budgeting and funding limitations.
From the military point of view, they agree that the United States should undertake to improve the prestige and posture of the Chinese Nationalist Government on Formosa;
The Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that the military effectiveness of the Chinese Nationalist forces on Formosa could be improved through changes in the administration of that government. On the other hand, they feel that appropriate United States officials on Formosa, acting under integrated policies, should be the judges of the scope and pace of any reforms in the military administration of the Chinese Nationalist Government which may be necessary to further United States objectives, and that those United States officials should be vested with the authority of the United States in pressing for such reforms. Their actions, however, should, as far as practicable, strengthen rather than weaken the prestige and leadership of the Nationalist Government. Moreover, the United States officials concerned with assistance programs on Formosa should prescribe objectives in furtherance of United States policy, screen the equipment required and check the effcient use of both equipment [Page 18] and funds. They should not, however, attempt to force the Chinese, against their will or judgment, to conform rigidly to United States concepts and practices as to the training and organization of military forces;
The Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that programs along the lines of subparagraphs a, b, and c above should be initiated in order to enhance the Chinese Nationalist capability of contributing to the containment of communism in Asia, and thus to lead to the possible eventual liberation of Communist China by the Chinese people under Chinese Nationalist leadership supported by other free nations of the world;
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that United States current programs for covert operations in the Far East should continue and, if practicable, be accelerated. In this connection, consideration should be given to accelerating covert unconventional operations in the Far East (including Southeast Asia), directed toward increasing the solidarity of indigenous peoples and their support of United States objectives;
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that recruitment and training for covert operations of organized units among the Chinese Nationalist forces on Formosa would, at least in some degree, impair the military efficiency of the Chinese Nationalist forces on that island. On the other hand, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have no objection to the recruitment of individuals on Formosa for covert operations, subject to the absence of objection on the part of the appropriate authorities on Formosa;
In this connection, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the Chinese Nationalist forces now interned by the French in Indochina have a military potential which should warrant efforts to obtain their release for overt or covert operations. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that you initiate action which would provide for the repatriation to Formosa of the personnel of these forces; and
The Joint Chiefs of Staff note the military potential inherent in the Chinese Nationalist forces along the northern frontier of Burma.3
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Hoyt S. Vandenberg

Chief of Staff, United States Air Force
  1. Filed with a memorandum of Mar. 24 from Allison to Secretary Acheson, which stated that it had recently been received informally from the Department of Defense, along with a memorandum for the NSC Executive Secretary, the text of which is identical to NSC 128, Document 11. Allison commented that the implications of these papers were so far reaching that they should have prompt and thorough consideration by the Department of State; he recommended that the Policy Planning Staff be directed as a matter of urgency to undertake a through study of these problems in cooperation with the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs and the Office of the Counselor. (S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167, “Southeast Asia”)

    A similar recommendation was contained in a memorandum of Jan. 3 addressed to the Secretary by Allison but not sent, commenting on a letter of December 11, 1951, from Director of Central Intelligence Walter Bedell Smith to Lovett, not printed. Allison’s Jan. 3 memorandum, initialed by him but marked “not sent”, is in CA files, lot 59 D 228.

  2. Neither printed.
  3. A number of Chinese Nationalist troops under the command of Gen. Li Mi had fled into Burma after the defeat of the Nationalists on the Chinese mainland in 1949. For documentation relating to U.S. concern with their presence in Burma and to the repatriation of several thousand to Formosa in 1953–1954, see volume xii, Part 2.