140. Memorandum of Record and Understanding by the Chief of Naval Operations (Carney)1


  • Chief of Naval Operations’ Visit to Formosa, 3–5 March 1955

By prearrangement, I met with Secretary Dulles on his arrival at Taipei and prior to his meeting with Chiang Kai-shek. I informed him that I was deferring my own discussions with ChiNat authorities until after he (Dulles) had seen Chiang. I informed him that U.S. press notices had related our respective visits to Formosa, implying that there was a connection. I showed him the statement that I tentatively planned to give the press if they should ask for it; he approved it.

I then outlined for SecState the intended purpose of my visit and my intended manner of approach to U.S. military personnel and to the ChiNats; I stated that it was my opinion that the principal points meriting discussion all had some government-level interest and therefore any guidance which he could give me would be most helpful.

I carefully emphasized that my purpose was only to identify the problems and that I could make few, if any, decisions on the spot.

I then explained that it was now Defense policy to relate our assistance efforts to the realities of the current situation and that the Department of the Navy had been made the Executive agent for expediting the correction of deficiencies; there is implicit a greater [Page 330] degree of urgency than heretofore in view of Communist capabilities for launching attacks on the offshore islands.

I then informed SecState that there were four areas which, in my opinion, required review in the event that the provisions of the Treaty were invoked to commit U.S. forces to combat in defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores, or to the “related areas”:

Arrangements for command or direction of combined operations.
Steps for coordination of combined defense operations (e.g. staffing, planning, communications, etc.).
Intelligence. (In this connection, I stated that existing arrangements were not adequate for combined combat purposes, nor were they presently satisfactory from the Washington standpoint, that I had discussed the problem with Radford and Allen Dulles and also expected to see Overesch while in Taipei.)
Build-up of ChiNat defense capabilities; discussions of this item to include augmenting material and training assistance, expediting deliveries, etc.

The Secretary of State recognized that these items were all of potential government-level interest and stated that he concurred in the advisability of early exploration of the subjects.

Admiral Stump was present during these preliminary discussions with Secretary Dulles.

In conclusion, I mentioned to Mr. Dulles that I felt our conclusions, with respect to the defense of the offshore islands, should take into consideration the most objective possible thinking. On the assumption that the ChiNats could not defend the islands without our assistance, it then became very necessary to fully understand what the scope and character of what United States assistance must be in order to insure success; were we to embark on military measures less than necessary for success, we would find ourselves embroiled in a doomed venture. This thought was of importance when counselling the ChiNats as to their offshore efforts, as well as being of importance in determining U.S. courses of action. In other words, I said that it appeared, from a military standpoint, that we must be very factual in our own thinking and the hard facts should always be in mind in connection with any advice or opinions that we might give to the ChiNats in connection with their own efforts to hold the offshore islands.

We then departed for a ceremony incident to the exchange of instruments in ratification of the MDT.

[Here follow sections II and III summarizing the conversation between President Chiang and Secretary Dulles on March 3 and describing Carney’s activities for the rest of that day.]

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On Friday (the second day), and again on Saturday, I met with the Minister of National Defense. These two meetings were rather different in character and are therefore separately described.

At the first meeting, I outlined the four areas in which I thought there should be a review in the light of the Treaty and of the actual military situation. I stated that without implying specific intent, or implying commitment on my part, I had in mind appropriate items for exploration such matters as air defense, coordination of Naval operations, staff coordination, actual requirements for mutual planning, development of adequate communications, reevaluation of operational intelligence arrangements, review of end item deliveries, etc.

The Minister of Defense promptly launched into a strong plea for a “combined staff”; I stated very firmly that I was not prepared to sign any blank check for a combined staff setup per se. I stated that we were looking for practical ways of achieving essential planning functions and staff functions and it was necessary that these functions be very clearly delineated as a prelude to any revision or change in staff arrangements.

This question of a “combined staff” came up again and again and was obviously the pet project of the Minister of Defense; in each instance, I was equally firm in my insistence that such a proposal was premature until we had determined what planning functions were necessary. In this connection, I pointed out that CINCPAC was the proper U.S. representative for looking into what might be called strategic planning; as for operational planning, I stated that I attached little value to any operational plans other than those prepared by responsible commanders.

The Minister of Defense then made three specific proposals:

Undertaking, on an emergency basis, plans to cover the contingency of U.S. forces participating in the defense of the offshore islands, as well as the defense of Formosa and the Pescadores. I agreed to the extent that Admiral Pride would enter into discussion of these matters at once with a clear understanding that there was no U.S. commitment with respect to the offshore islands.
The establishment of a combined staff. I reiterated my views on this subject and would only agree to the extent that CINCPAC and VAdm Pride would enter into appropriate discussions of planning requirements at their respective levels.
Stepping up the scheduled April CINCPACChiNat conference2 to March. I agreed with this insofar as CINCPAC found it [Page 332] feasible and CINCPAC tentatively agreed to commencing the conference on 25 March. (This could be considered as an “area” conference which will be brought to the attention of the Department in due time by usual means.)

After this, there was a rather general conversation concerning defense matters in lieu of a briefing which MND had proposed and which I did not consider appropriate at that time and which was deferred at my request. Out of these discussions, there came agreement that the two most important matters requiring resolution at this time were:

Air defense.
The preparation of joint codes to permit initiation and conduct of combined operations.

The second meeting with the Minister of Defense was held at his request and obviously at the direction of the Gimo and as a result of a discussion which I had with the Gimo on Friday night at a dinner which he gave in my honor.

At this second meeting with the Minister of Defense, he led off by saying that the problem of the first and most urgent importance concerned the Communist buildup across the Straits.

He then conveyed to me the Gimo’s viewpoint on four items (the Gimo’s views on items one and two, as expressed to me by the Minister of Defense, are of particular interest because they give the appearance of concurring with U.S. proposals which were not, in fact, actually made):

The Gimo would accept U.S. command of operations in defense of the offshore islands (that is exactly the Gimo’s viewpoint as conveyed to me at this meeting. In this connection, see my account of my meeting with the Gimo on the evening of 4 March).
With respect to air defense, the Gimo would accept, in principle, the assignment of the over-all responsibility to a U.S. commander in time of war, but as a prerequisite, it would be necessary for the terms and scope of such command to be clarified and defined (this is exactly as the message was transmitted to me. In this connection, see my account of my discussions with the Gimo on this subject).
The Gimo pleads for three groups of F–86’s together with U.S. engineers and other U.S. supporting units as may be necessary.
The Gimo attaches the greatest importance to the plan involving the nine reserve divisions.

There then followed another long plea by the Minister of Defense for a combined staff to which I replied that my own views, as earlier stated, had not changed.

At the end of the meeting, Dr. George Yeh, the Foreign Minister who had attended both of my conferences with MND, suggested a review of the “inventory” of past “agreements” of various sorts to [Page 333] determine which remained valid, which might have been overtaken by events, and to have them in a convenient package.


On Friday night, 4 March, the President and Madame Chiang Kai-shek gave a very small and intimate “family dinner” in my honor, present: Admiral and Mrs. Stump, General Chase, Vice Admiral Pride, the flag officers of my party, Dr. Yeh, Minister Yu, and Admiral Liang.3 Pride and Chase said that the atmosphere was uniquely warm and merry. The conversation was completely devoid of problem topics.

After dinner, I talked with the Gimo for the better part of an hour, outlining for him the four areas which I sought to explore with the U.S. military officials and the MND. I carefully explained that I was not here to make decisions, but to insure that we identified items which would be essential to effective operations in the event that U.S. forces were employed in support of the Mutual Defense Treaty. If the interpreting was accurate, and the Gimo’s replies and remarks as interpreted to me indicate that it was, there can have been no misunderstanding on the Gimo’s part as to the exploratory nature of my discussions or as to the fact that any major decisions of a policy nature would be made in Washington, subject to such recommendations as might be received from CINCPAC.

The Gimo was evidently most concerned about air defense and urged the delivery of more planes to the ChiNats; I pointed out that mere delivery of planes was not the answer in itself because there must be effective parallel programs to meet such functions as early warning, intercept, A.A. protection and the various aspects of logistical support, not to mention the satisfactory training of CAF personnel—all of which was a task of such magnitude as not possible of timely accomplishment should there be an urgent need for air defense in the immediate ensuing weeks. The Gimo then stated, and I must agree, that the only alternative would be for the USAF to take over; in this connection, I pointed out that there would be many matters of high U.S. policy to be decided, not the least of which would be the assignment of responsibility compatible with the obligations imposed. It was obviously this interchange which prompted the message he sent to me the following day, via MND, to the effect that he would accept U.S. command, subject to certain stipulations.

. . . . . . .

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On Saturday morning, 5 March, at my request, MND gave me an appraisal of the tactical situation with respect to the offshore islands. This was primarily for my own education and nothing very noteworthy of interest to Washington was forthcoming, except a general discussion concerning intelligence efforts, collection, evaluation, and effectiveness. The three F–86 photo recon planes are now in the hands of the ChiNats and were only awaiting good weather for their first photo flights. I looked at their various photographs of the mainland fields, together with a number of other interesting photographs of the areas in the vicinity of Quemoy and Matsu, and I was favorably impressed with the fact that their efforts in this respect are increasingly progressive and improving in effectiveness. As a matter of fact, there appears to be very little evidence of ChiCom air buildup as yet, except at the large field in the vicinity of Tachen, which appears to be a major air base development.

These and other discussions also pointed up the fact that the reorganization and employment of the ChiNat Navy has been attended by a more aggressive attitude both in MND and on the part of the Navy.

On the completion of this MND briefing, I was once more invited to the Gimo’s office, but this was a matter of courtesy and ceremony and did not involve any business. The Gimo was extremely cordial, stated that he considered that my visit had been helpful and timely, expressed his high confidence in Stump, Pride, and Chase, and asked me to convey his warm personal regards to Admiral Radford and Major Carney.


While in Taipei, I conferred with Admiral Overesch; this meeting is described in a separate memorandum.4


In addition to the broad discussions described above, I took the opportunity of inquiring into the affairs of the Chinese Navy and had appropriate discussions with Minister Yu, Admiral Liang, General Chase, Chief Navy Section MAAG (Brodie), as well as Admirals Stump and Pride.

The ChiNats responded wholeheartedly to the very critical analysis which I made of their organization and programs on the occasion of my last visit in December 1953. They have now established a [Page 335] sound framework of departmental and operational organization, their operational training and maintenance planning is on a far sounder basis, and they are manifesting a more aggressive outlook with respect to operations vis-à-vis the Commies. In this connection, the Minister of Defense very forcefully stated that he wanted them to fight and was not holding back.

There is still room for much improvement, but the improvement which they have achieved in the past year deserves commendatory notice which I did not withhold.

At all levels, they beg for more DD-DE ships; I was very frank with them and told them that whereas I sympathetically understood their desire and need, the United States had its own problems in this very valuable category and that I was not prepared to make any promises which I could not fulfill, other than to say that I stood by my earlier promise to Mr. Yu that I would wholeheartedly support replacement of any ship lost in honest combat.

The request for LST’s was also very much on their minds and I came to believe that they are still making use of ships that no sailor in his right mind would go to sea in if he could avoid it. I have directed Captain Brodie (Navy Section, MAAG), to make another careful review of this matter of LST’s, taking into cognizance actual operational needs, seaworthiness of ships, minimum maintenance requirements, and other pertinent factors as a basis for permitting me to determine what recommendation I should make for any additional procurement of LST’s for the ChiNat Navy.


I have furnished CINCPAC with a copy of this memorandum as an Aide-Mémoire and for his guidance. I intend to await further recommendation from CINCPAC on the items discussed, and hereinbefore described, but I have emphasized to him the necessity for handling his further studies in the premise as a matter of urgency. The only decision rendered on the spot had to do with the initiation, on an emergency basis, by Vice Admiral Pride, of requirements for contingent operational plans and arrangements for combined operations should they be ordered.

I have emphasized to CINCPAC, and informed MND, that air defense and the development of suitable joint codes constitute the two most urgent requirements at the moment.

Pursuant to certain purely U.S. discussions, CINCPAC and CNO concurred in General Chase’s opinion that the U.S. should support troops deployed to Kinmen and Matsu.

The need for more full and prompt furnishing of intelligence information to CINCPAC and to the Pentagon was stressed. The intelligence [Page 336] available in Taipei is better than had been apparent in Washington and there can be immediate improvement in the distribution process. There is, however, also an overall need for greater capability for collection, evaluation, and distribution of intelligence and the Department of Defense should be prepared to furnish additional assistance as will be shortly requested by CINCPAC.

Finally, I would again invite attention, as said to the Secretary of State, that U.S. policy with respect to defense of the offshore islands should be based on completely objective appraisal. If the offshore islands can not be held without U.S. assistance, then the character and scope of U.S. assistance required to insure such defense must be thoroughly understood. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming embroiled in an unsuccessful venture. From a military point of view, I believe that this factor must be kept closely in mind in connection with any counsel we may give to the ChiNats, as well as in connection with any U.S. decision that may be taken.

Robt. B. Carney%%5
Admiral, U.S. Navy
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.5/3–655. Top Secret. Sent to Under Secretary Hoover with an attached note stating that copies had been sent to Secretary Dulles and to Murphy, MacArthur, and Robertson. A note on the source text indicates that it was distributed to Secretary Wilson, Admirals Radford, Stump, and Duncan, and Secretary of the Navy Charles S. Thomas.
  2. Reference is apparently to a conference held April 18–22 by U.S. and ROC military representatives, headed by Admiral Pride and Defense Minister Yu. See footnote 6, Document 240.
  3. Vice Admiral Liang Hsu-chao, Commander in Chief of the Navy of the Republic of China.
  4. Not found in Department of State files.
  5. The source text bears a typed signature.