20. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 19, 1955, 4:45 p.m.1


  • Sec/State, Under Sec/State, Mr. Bowie, Asst Sec Robertson, Mr. Phleger, Director of Central Intelligence, R. Cutler
Secretary Dulles reported on conversations which he had been having during the day with the President and Admiral Radford. They had concluded:
that Chincom aggressive conduct against the Tachens indicated a clear intent to knock off all the Nationalist-held offshore islands; the Chincoms having already asserted a determination to “liberate Formosa”;
that it would be shocking to sit by while the Chinat forces (not able alone to defend themselves) were destroyed or taken captive [Page 51] on these islands, and that their destruction or capture would deeply prejudice the morale of the Chinat forces on Formosa and have a damaging effect upon all US friends in the Far East (Japan, ROK, Phillipines, etc.);
that, therefore, the time had come for the US to take more positive action and eliminate the fuzziness as to what the US would or would not do in the area (beyond its already declared intentions as to Formosa and the Pescadores and its various treaties—SEATO, ANZUS, ROK, etc.)
Accordingly, the following action was contemplated:
the Chinats would announce that they were withdrawing from various Chinat-held offshore islands, in order to regroup and reform on others. (Actually, while it would be for the Chinats to decide which islands to withdraw from, they would withdraw from all such offshore islands, except Big and Little Quemoy).
the US would announce that it would assist such Chinat withdrawal with ships, etc., and would protect with force the safety of such withdrawal.
the US would announce that it would help the Chinats to hold Big and Little Quemoy with all US forces necessary for purely defensive action, until such time as by UN action or otherwise such assistance was not required. (See par 3 below).
the US would encourage UN action (which tonight’s newsflashes indicate may be soon initiated by the UK, Australia, or NZ) to bring about a cease-fire in the area.
the President will commit US forces to assist in the defense of the Quemoys only on the basis of a Congressional resolution (see par 4 below)
As to defense of the Quemoys:
this is a necessary counter to the abandonment of the other Offshore islands by the Chinats.
Note by R.C.: the US should not emphasize the selection of the Quemoys as important to the defense of Formosa, because at some time the US may wish to withdraw from the Quemoys, while, of course, retaining its Formosa position, and because the Quemoys are not necessary to the defense of Formosa. (see par 6 below)
as to purely defensive action by US forces: it is contemplated that US sea and air power, rather than ground troops will be used. Defensive action would not rule out shelling Chinese mainland,—destroying there hostile build up of armament, troops, logistics, air strips; “hot pursuit”.

Attached is Draft No. 22 of what the Secretary of State will propose at 9 AM on Jan 20 to the Congressional leaders. He discussed [Page 52] this matter with Senator Knowland at 5 PM, Jan 19/55,3 who was non-committal. The Secretary and Admiral Radford will then come to the NSC Meeting for report and discussion.

The Secretary of State realizes:
this course increases the risk of war, but the risk is already existing because of our Far Eastern treaties and position as to Formosa.
this course may open up the question of two Chinas in the UN, but he hopes our allies and ourselves can contain the issue to restoring status quo in the area.
that it will have some, but not greatly prejudicial effect, on the putting through of the European treaties.4
In order to avoid an open-ended guarantee of the Quemoys from which withdrawal will be difficult without avoidable loss of prestige, Bowie suggests tying our help to the Chinats to hold the Quemoys to the request to the UN to bring peace in the area—until the UN acts.
A.W. Dulles raised question of effectiveness of Chinat troops on Quemoys; were they infiltrated? would they fight? Robertson thought they would fight. Radford told J.F. Dulles they would fight if they had some confidence of backing.
  1. Source: Department of State, PPS Files: Lot 66 D 70, China. Top Secret. Drafted by Cutler. According to Dulles’ appointment diary, the participants arrived and departed at varying times, and the conference was apparently interrupted when the Secretary met with Senator Knowland at 4:58 p.m. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)
  2. The attachment, headed “Draft #2, Jan. 19, 1955”, reads as follows:

    “The President would be authorized by the Congress to use the armed forces of the United States for the purpose of securing Formosa and the Pescadores against armed attack, this authority to include the securing of such related positions now in friendly hands and the taking of such other measures as he judges to be appropriate for the security of Formosa and the Pescadores. This authority, unless renewed by the Congress, would expire June 30, 1956, or whenever before then the President shall consider that the peace and security of the area are reasonably assured by international conditions created by the United Nations or otherwise, and shall so report to the Congress.”

  3. No record of this conversation has been found in Department of State files or the Eisenhower Library. According to notes by Phyllis Bernau, Knowland called Dulles briefly at 5:38 p.m. and told him that he thought Congressional reaction would largely depend on whether the President was prepared to make a definite recommendation. (Memorandum by Bernau, January 19, 1955, Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations)
  4. The reference is to several agreements signed at Paris on October 23, 1954, but not yet ratified, establishing the Western European Union and providing for the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to the North Atlantic Treaty.