15. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the President and the Secretary of State, Washington, January 18, 1955, 10:06 a.m.1

Called Secy. Dulles to remind him he wanted to talk to Pres. about “that message to Jim Hagerty2 on amphibious attack on little island off coast of Formosa. Only caution Pres. observes is that we must not commit ourselves to point of encouraging attack. He thinks it would be perfectly well to say that this island lies at such a distance, & is of such little importance, that we could not view this with any great concern. In otherwords, it is not a matter of significance & would not affect vital interests of Formosa or ourselves.

Dulles gave its location: About 10 statute miles north of the northern [most] Tachen Island; about 4 miles from a Communist-held island; about 12 miles off the coast. It is over 200 miles north of Formosa, & really quite an indefensible position. It is not held by regular forces of the nationalist “guerrillas”—is part of a group where there has been a pretty steady attrition for some time. Pres. feels we could say it’s a skirmish of no significance whatsoever—but asked Dulles to check with Radford,3 which he’s doing immediately.4

[Page 38]

[Here follow notes of another, unrelated telephone conversation.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Apparently prepared by the President’s personal secretary, Ann Whitman. The conversation is also recorded in notes of the same date prepared by Phyllis Bernau. (Ibid., Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations)
  2. Hagerty had called Dulles earlier at the President’s request to ask for his comments concerning a Communist attack that day on the Nationalist-held island of Ichiang (Yikiangshan). Dulles told Hagerty that he wanted to talk to the President before his press conference that morning. (Hagerty Diary, January 18, 1955; ibid., Hagerty Papers and memorandum by Phyllis Bernau of telephone conversation between Dulles and Hagerty, January 18, 1955; ibid., Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations)
  3. According to notes by Phyllis Bernau of Dulles’ conversation with Radford, the Secretary said the President’s disposition was to “play down the importance of this Island” and Radford replied that that was “technically correct”. (Memorandum by Bernau, January 18, 1955; ibid., General Telephone Conversations)
  4. For text of remarks by Dulles at his press conference on January 18 concerning Formosa, Ichiang, and the Tachen Islands and Hammarskjold’s mission to Peking, see Department of State Bulletin, January 31, 1955, pp. 190–192. For the transcript of President Eisenhower’s press conference of January 19, in which he commented on these subjects, see Public Papers of the Presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1955, pp. 185–199.