22. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 20, 1955, 9 a.m.1


  • The Department
  • Secretary Dulles
  • Under Secretary Hoover
  • Asst. Secy. Robertson
  • Asst. Secy. Morton
  • Senate:
  • Senator George
  • Senator Wiley
  • Senator Byrd (for Chmn Russell)
  • Senator Saltonstall
  • Senator Clements
  • Senator Knowland
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Admiral Radford
  • House:
  • Rep. Richards
  • Rep. Chiperfield
  • Rep. Arends (for Rep. Short)
  • Rep. McCormack (for Speaker)
  • Rep. Martin
  • Rep. Vinson

Americans imprisoned in communist China

The Secretary explained that he had had a full report from Secretary General Hammarskjold concerning the Americans being held prisoners by the communist Chinese, and that the Secretary did not feel there was much solid ground for encouragement in what the S. G. had said. The Secretary said that Hammarskjold’s own words were: “my reason does not give me much warrant for hope, but my instinct does.” The Secretary said he was not able to have the same instinct at second hand that the Secretary General had at first hand. The Secretary felt, however, that the Hammarskjold mission had done much to dispel genuine suspicions on the part of the communists that these men were on a spying mission in China and were not in a legitimate sense members of the UN command. Although Hammarskjold got no assurances, he thinks he put medicine in the body and hopes the medicine works. The Secretary said Hammarskjold did [Page 56] bring back information about the prisoners, posed photographs, etc., which is being furnished the families.

Senator Knowland asked if the information concerned the 11 Americans in prison only, or the four pilots as well. The Secretary answered that there were no photographs of the four pilots, who were in Northern Manchuria, but that information and photographs had been received by some of the families of the four pilots through other channels. When Senator Knowland asked if Hammarskjold had seen the American prisoners, the Secretary said he had not.

Formosa and the Off-shore Islands.

The Secretary said that the situation in the Formosa area is developing in an acute way which seems to call for a sounder defensive concept than now prevails, particularly on the part of the Chinese Nationalists, probably involving the regrouping of their forces and strengthening their positions with our help. The Secretary explained that the present situation with reference to the off-shore islands is a matter of historic accident, rather than one of military planning. When the Nationalists were driven off the mainland, they stopped at every opportunity on these islands, relinquishing them only as they were compelled to. There has been a steady attrition in the Nationalist position within the last five to six years, largely due to voluntary withdrawals from positions which became untenable, some of them as the result of minor military action.

The Secretary and Admiral Radford pointed out the islands still held by the Nationalists on the map. The Tachen Islands, some 300 miles north of Formosa, have some 10,000 Nationalist troops, in addition to guerillas, on them. One of the islands, Yikiang was captured by the communists on January 18. On all the off-shore islands, the Nationalists have almost 1/3 of their trained troops.

The Secretary pointed out that the present disposition of the Nationalist troops is not a logical one to meet an attack. The island positions are to a considerable extent untenable, or could be held only with great effort not only on the part of the Nationalists but of ourselves as well. A serious problem confronts us as to whether the United States is justified in tying up a considerable part of its existing mobile forces in that part of the world—aircraft carriers, etc.,—to try to prevent the capture of these islands. The Tachen islands are so far from Formosa and so relatively near communist air bases that raids can be carried out and the planes return to their base before planes from Formosa could intercept them. With this situation, carrier based planes would be the only defense.

The Secretary said that there is no doubt in his mind that the ultimate purpose of the communist Chinese is to try to take Formosa and the Pescadores. The Peiping announcement of the capture of Yi-kiang [Page 57] Island referred to this ultimate objective, and there are other indications that their actions are preparatory to taking Formosa.

The Secretary stated that the problem had reached such magnitude that it had to be dealt with in a comprehensive way. The subject was discussed with the President by Admiral Radford and the Secretary at lunch yesterday (January 19) and is to be taken up with the National Security Council today. The Secretary said it was their conception, broadly speaking, that there should be a regrouping of Nationalist forces which would enable them to effect an orderly withdrawal from some of the off-shore islands, and that with some help from us they would then try to hold the remaining positions, particularly the islands in the Amoy area (Quemoy and adjacent islands).

Senator Wiley asked how far from the mainland are the islands of the Quemoy group. Admiral Radford pointed it out on the map as about 5 miles. He added that there are some 50,000 nationalist troops on Kinmen2 island in this group, and that one-third of the entire nationalist army of 350,000 men are scattered throughout all of the off-shore islands.

The Secretary pointed out that the problem involved elements of morale, not only of the Nationalist Chinese, but of all other countries in the Far East.

Senator Wiley asked about airfields in the area. Admiral Radford pointed on the map to important communist fields on the mainland, especially the principal concentration near Canton. When Senator Wiley asked if the communists had big guns mounted off the Quemoy group, Admiral Radford said not very big, that the Nationalists had their guns on Kinmen and the other islands, and that this area could be covered from Formosa. As to Amoy’s strategic value to the communist, Admiral Radford said it was the best harbor on the Chinese mainland south of Tsingtao, and that this would undoubtedly be the assembling point for an invasion of Formosa, 100 miles away.

The Secretary pointed out that the big difference between Quemoy and the Tachens is that the former can be covered by Nationalist air forces from Formosa, while the Tachens could only be protected from carrier based planes.

The Secretary continued that this concept involved withdrawal from the Tachen and some of the other islands and a regrouping of forces in more important islands. This could only be carried out with the help of the United States, and our assistance would be necessary to enable them to get Nationalist forces, people and supplies out. The Secretary said the islands under attack would be in a hopeless position [Page 58] and could not be reinforced; recently the Nationalists were attacked while trying to resupply the island and got pretty well banged up.

Rep. Arends asked if there were 10,000 troops on the island, and Admiral Radford replied that it was a whole division of their trained troops, and that they have a lot of supplies on the island.

Rep. Martin asked if the Chinese Nationalists agree that we should abandon the islands. Admiral Radford said that we have not talked with them yet, but added that they could not continue to resupply the islands. The Secretary said that he did talk with George Yeh, the Nationalist Foreign Minister, yesterday, and that they recognize that they could not possibly hold the islands unless we can give them very considerable support—aircraft carriers in the area, etc.—and they are talking in terms of possible evacuation.

Senator Knowland asked what value the Tachens have, if any, from the point of view of an early warning network for air raids from Formosa and Okinawa. Admiral Radford said there is now an old Japanese radar, no good facilities. He added that if we had to, we could watch the whole China area to get warnings.

Senator Saltonstall asked, if we are going to help, in what way we would be called upon to help in the evacuation of the Tachen islands. The Secretary answered that this would involve some risk of tangling with opposing planes, and furnishing facilities for evacuation.

The Secretary informed the group that as another phase of the problem, we are considering a parallel move involving going to the UN to see if it is prepared to call for a cease-fire in the area and whether or not the Chinese communists will comply. The Secretary said it is his opinion that the communist Chinese will not comply with a cease-fire; in fact, such a proposal would probably be vetoed by the Soviets in the Security Council. Nevertheless, the Secretary felt that discussion in the UN might be a stabilizing factor, especially if the United States could quickly ratify the Formosan treaty. The Secretary said that he felt that one of the factors in this flare-up of activity is the feeling of the communist Chinese that they can frighten the United States from going through with this treaty. Once we nail this treaty down, there is some chance that the Chinese communists may tend to abate their efforts if the UN calls popular pressure on them. The Secretary added “That is speculative, and we don’t give any guarantees, but it is the best estimate we can make.”

Congressional authorization

If this program were adopted, the Secretary continued, we would want to have (and the President thinks we ought to have) some authority from Congress to use the armed forces of the United States in [Page 59] the area for the protection and security of Formosa and the Pescadores. Some would say that the President has inherent authority in that field, but I think that is highly doubtful. The President’s orders to the Seventh Fleet stemmed, presumably, from the authority of the President at the time of the outbreak of the Korean War. After the Korean War broke out and we became engaged pursuant to the UN Resolution, President Truman issued his orders to the Seventh Fleet to, among other things, prevent an attack on Formosa,3 and presumably the powers he exercised derived from his war powers. Since the armistice in Korea, the question as to whether the President has war powers deriving from the Korean War becomes more and more doubtful. This would especially be true when it comes to authority to send armed forces of the United States into this area to assist Nationalists in regrouping their forces and to act as against any concentration which seems clearly designed to presage an attack on Formosa and the Pescadores themselves. Those are matters on which I think the President would want to have the sanction of the Congress.

Rep. McCormack asked if the President didn’t have certain powers as Commander-in-chief. He added that he was not disagreeing with the Secretary, but in a matter of an emergency in which the national security might be involved—

The Secretary said that even if the treaty were in force, he did not think the President would want to use forces of the United States under the treaty without Congressional approval, either formal or informal. These treaties read that an attack on the area would be a danger to the United States, and the United States would act according to its constitutional processes. There has always been some debate between the Senate and the Executive as to just what that meant. The debate came up on implementation of the North Atlantic Treaty. The Secretary explained that he had always interpreted that language to mean that if Congress were in session and could be consulted the President should consult the Congress to support any action which might have a belligerent character. If Congress were not in session and could not be brought back in time, presumably the President would be justified in acting on his own responsibility. The Secretary said the President expressed that view to him and Admiral Radford yesterday and that the President was to meet with them further as the program unfolds.

Senator Wiley asked if we have any troops on any of the off-shore islands, and Admiral Radford replied that we have some observers, the number varying from two to eight.

[Page 60]

Senator Wiley pointed out that usually Presidential intervention depends on protection of our own citizens, but that here we would be intervening on the part of one of the sides to a civil war. He said he firmly believed this would require congressional action, but that we must not fall into the plot the Kremlin might want us to for this would mean out and out war.

Secretary Dulles said that if we do not withdraw from some of the islands and regroup the Nationalist forces, there will be a falling of the islands one by one, including Quemoy, involving wiping out more than a 100,000 of the best Nationalist troops, a drop in morale on Formosa so that the defense of Formosa would be extremely difficult and might require considerable replacements of Nationalist and United States troops. We would be charged with turning and running and making excuses, and the whole effect on the non-communist countries in Asia would be extremely bad.

Senator Saltonstall said he thought the same thing.

The Secretary said he felt that if this action were taken, the Formosan treaty were ratified, and the President were given these powers, there will be a realization that we have reached the point that we are not going to retreat more and it possibly will have a stabilizing effect. “In my mind, the risk of war is greater if we don’t take this action.” One of the dangers leading to war comes from miscalculation. A country that has gained one objective after another becomes too ambitious, goes too far and war is the result. That could result here if we don’t quickly map out what we are prepared to do. Up to the present time we have been covering this situation by hoping the communists would be deterred by uncertainty. They are probing and will continue to probe to find where we will stop them. Our position has deteriorated and this step must be taken.

Senator Saltonstall asked if there can be a resolution presented to Congress to give the President power to use troops to help Nationalist China without making it a declaration of war. The Secretary said he does not suggest a declaration of war. Senator Saltonstall said the resolution would be simply general approval to use troops to help defend our security. The Secretary said “yes”, and to use the armed forces to secure Formosa and the Pescadores and whatever might be necessary to their defense. Such a resolution might be effective for a year, to be renewed, if necessary, and possibly with a provision for termination if as the result of UN action there were a cease-fire in the area.

Senator Clements asked if we were ready to take a position that we are drawing a line and that from that line we retreat no further.

The Secretary said “No”, but the position should be made clear, for he felt that a continued attitude of uncertainty and of bluff from now on would carry great danger.

[Page 61]

Senator Saltonstall asked if the Secretary thought there was any connection between the prisoner of war problem and the communist attacks on the islands. The Secretary said he had asked Hammarskjold if he thought the communists reasoned that we would not engage in any defense operation for fear of endangering the negotiations, and he said he did not think there is a connection between the two. The Secretary added that he thought it was anybody’s guess.

Senator Wiley: If we intervene, and that is going to be the policy of the Executive, do you think they would interfere with our airforce? Admiral Radford said it was not so much a question of intervention. The first action we would have to take, and there is urgency in this decision because the communists are getting ready to attack the main position of the Nationalists on Tachen Islands—We don’t want to lose the whole division and its equipment on those islands. We would have to cover their withdrawal, for they couldn’t get out without our help. Senator Knowland suggested “Dunkirk”, and the Secretary said if we didn’t help, it wouldn’t be a Dunkirk for they wouldn’t get out. Admiral Radford continued, if we went in, first we would have to put carriers in the area and keep our fighter pilots in the air while the evacuation is going on, and the communists might engage them.

Senator Wiley asked, in case of dog-fights, how far would we go? Would we pursue them inland? What if they sink a carrier? We understand they have the best undersea craft in the world and have more in the Far Eastern area than we have in our total fleet. Admiral Radford said that in case of a defensive action, we probably would not have to pursue communist planes back to their bases; we would cover the islands and shoot them down if they come over, and there would not be much danger of a defensive action expanding. As far as carriers are concerned, I doubt that communist planes would attack the carriers. Their submarines are a long way from there, and we keep close watch of where they are. The Chinese communists have only one or two in Tsingtao. The carriers are protected by a submarine screen, and it is my opinion there would be no Russian intervention. If they did intervene we could take care of it.

Senator Wiley: What would be the effect upon morale if we got these troops off the islands—in Formosa and the Far East. Some think the whole Far East would be against us if we meddle in this thing. Admiral Radford said he thought there was no such opinion in the Far East. I think our greatest problem in the Far East is making clear to our friends what we are for and what we are against. I think the most important aspect of this particular problem is, whatever we decide to do, it must be published to the whole world in unmistakable language.

[Page 62]

Senator Clements asked what the Admiral meant by “we”. Admiral Radford said he meant the United States, that we might expect some moral support, but as far as military help from our allies is concerned, no one else has the strength at this time.

Rep. McCormack asked what the position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is. Admiral Radford said that in September three of the Joint Chiefs recommended that we hold all the off-shore islands (Ridgway dissented at that time). The Admiral added that there would probably be the same division now, but that he had not talked over the immediate problem with them. The September decision involved a total of 10 islands.

Rep. Vinson: What number would you propose to hold now? Admiral Radford said definitely all of the Amoy area islands (four), and that he believed the Joint Chiefs would advise holding Matsu and the Dog group.

Senator Knowland observed that with radar on those islands there could be good coverage. Admiral Radford added that they would also serve as observation posts for any seaborne convoys of the communists, but that we do have plane and sea patrols in the straits now.

Senator Saltonstall said this decision would primarily mean giving up the Tachen Islands. Admiral Radford replied that the Nationalists are still on two small islands in the Tachen group. We would expect them to get off the northern islands and we would cover their withdrawal. There are some 10,000 civilians on those islands which we would have to offer to evacuate.

Rep. Richards commented that he agreed that if we plan to get out of some of the islands we must tell the world how far we are going and that we are going no further. On his trip this year, he had found that most of the people don’t know what we are doing and would like to know. Admiral Radford said it was his view as the result of his recent trip that Far Eastern countries don’t know what we plan to do. The only way we can stabilize the situation and probably prevent a live war is by a firm stand now.

Rep. McCormack: “We are committed to the defense of Formosa and the Pescadores.” Admiral Radford said that is a protective motive. Communist control of this area would outflank the Philippines and cut across all our defenses. The Secretary said that it would so jeopardize our offshore defenses that it would really be a matter of time before we would be forced back to Hawaii or the West Coast. He added that the sentiment in the Philippines is extremely sensitive to the Formosan situation. Admiral Radford pointed out that the psychological effect of the loss of Formosa, in Japan and other countries in the Far East would be terrific.

[Page 63]

Secretary Dulles said that this position would implement the pending treaty which covers only Formosa and the Pescadores. He said he was not suggesting a permanent position any different from the treaty, but the treaty also says we will react to an attack against Formosa and the Pescadores. Considering the present mood of the Chinese communists, the proposed position seemed the only one to take. If the situation changes so that there is acceptance by the Chinese communists of the treaty position that we have taken concerning Formosa, or if the UN cease-fire pacifies the area, then the commitment insofar as the off-shore islands is concerned would disappear. I would not recommend our assuming any permanent obligation to defending anything other than Formosa and the Pescadores. The other islands come in only because the Chinese communists profess that they are attacking Formosa and the Pescadores. The Nationalists have large numbers of their best troops on Kinman (Chinmen). As long as the Chinese communists profess their goal to drive them out, then I think it would be criminal folly on our part to sit and watch the taking of the approaches to these islands which could be held with minor help on our part. We would be weakening our ultimate position that we are obligated to defend Formosa and the Pescadores themselves.

Senator Knowland: Even assuming for the moment that the UN cease-fire should be tentatively or otherwise accepted by the Chinese communists, do you have any reason to believe they would respect a cease-fire any more than they have complied in other instances such as Indochina, where they were building up their fire-power six times what it had been—or is there any reason to believe they would use a cease-fire to gather equipment in this instance and improve their position?

Representative McCormack: If we get the UN into it won’t we compromise ourselves further. It seems to me that if we take affirmative action, it should be without qualification, without any if’s to it. I pointed out in a speech in Boston the other day that confining ourselves to the Pescadores and Formosa was an invitation to the communists to take the other islands. If we take this action, we better be firm without qualification.

Senator Clements referred to the September decision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to retain 10 islands,4 and asked if there is any unanimity among them now. Admiral Radford said this situation arose [Page 64] at lunch with the President yesterday and he had not had a chance to discuss it with the Chiefs.

Senator Clements asked if such a resolution came to Congress whether the President would state the United States’ position. The Secretary said it would be on the basis of the President’s message, whether he delivered it in person or not. Senator Clements asked if our position would be clearly drawn, what we are willing to defend, where we will draw the line, and where we will retreat no further. The Secretary said it was his view that this should be made clear, leaving some latitude for details for the military exigencies of the situation, but this should be made clear in the President’s message or in subsequent action of the Executive. He agreed that the time has come when we need to make our position clear and that we will stick to it. Senator Clements reiterated that not only must our position be made clear, but there must be assurances given that we will make it stick.

Representative Vinson: You stated the off-shore islands would not be kept permanently. I assume that was on the ground they have no particular value to the defense of Formosa. The Secretary explained that Formosa and the Pescadores form a natural part of the off-shore island chain; he did not think the United States should be permanently committed to holding these small islands as part of the treaty obligation.

Representative Vinson asked, if the Reds took these islands, would this jeopardize the proper defense of Formosa. The Secretary believed that if they fell into the hands of the communists in the present circumstances, he felt it would jeopardize the defense of Formosa from the psychological factor. The value of the islands at the present time is partly military and partly psychological, and those factors do change. Some of the islands are virtually unhabitable except at terrific cost. To extricate ourselves from some of them, we would have to firm up our position somewhere else.

Senator Knowland commented that amphibious operations against small islands involve considerable vessels and air coverage from communist China, but to take Formosa and the Pescadores a much larger operation would be involved, with 9 million people on Formosa. The communists would have to count on a sizable invasion fleet in some harbor area. He asked whether the harbor of Amoy is a likely spot where an invasion force would be gathered for an invasion of Formosa if Quemoy and the other islands were not held. Admiral Radford said it would be a logical base for assembling large convoys.

Admiral Radford referred to Representative Vinson’s question concerning intangible factors which the Secretary had mentioned. He added that if we decided we would not support any of the off-shore [Page 65] islands and told the Nationalists they must withdraw and we would cover, they might not agree with us. We are not even sure they will agree with this much. We must look at our own interests—holding Formosa means having friendly, non-communist forces on that island. They might say this is hopeless and Formosa would fall from internal collapse. If the troops on Formosa became convinced this is hopeless, we might have to go in ourselves.

Senator George asked what attitude or reaction there had been from the Chinese Nationalists on the proposal of a cease-fire. Secretary Dulles said their attitude was negative. The question of going to the UN on such a proposal has been under consideration for some time—since the September meeting of the Joint Chiefs. The Secretary said the President of [in?] the NSC had asked that alternatives be explored and that he has been working actively on the subject and had worked out a plan that has been pretty well covered with the UK, Australia and New Zealand. When Assistant Secretary [Robertson] was in Formosa in October,5 he discussed the subject with the Generalissimo who had indicated they would go along, reluctantly, if as a counterpart the United States entered into the treaty with Formosa and made some arrangement for assisting them on some of the off-shore islands. Since the treaty has been signed, however, they have not been as favorable as they were previously.

Rep. Vinson asked if it had been determined that a joint resolution will be requested from Congress to authorize the President to supply forces. The Secretary answered that there has not been a final decision by the President, but that he is thinking along those lines and had asked the Secretary to explore it with the leadership today. Later, the Secretary said, he would join the President and Admiral Radford at the National Security Council meeting today, and it is likely that a firm decision will be taken.

Rep. McCormack asked how quick action must be. Admiral Radford said that communist attacks on the Tachens would depend on the weather. If the decision is made that we will cover the Nationalist withdrawal from the Tachens we would move three carriers to Okinawa to be in readiness. If there is good weather in the Tachens, it is just a question of what day the communists will pick.

Senator Wiley asked what the possibilities would be if the Nationalists didn’t agree to the proposal. The Secretary replied that we would be in a hell of a fix. Before any steps are taken by this Government, however, we would try to get their agreement. Admiral Radford said he thought the Nationalists would agree to this proposal.

[Page 66]

Senator Wiley said the newspapers had reported that George Yeh, the Nationalist Foreign Minister, had left the Department the day before in a huff. Assistant Secretary Robertson said he had left the Secretary’s office with George Yeh the day before and that he was not in a huff and was in as good a humour as he could be. The Secretary said that when he mentioned such a plan Yeh had said he would report to the Generalissimo, and we are now awaiting his views.

Senator George commented that a quick ratification of the Formosa treaty would be necessary. The Secretary agreed, pointing out that he thought one of the factors back of the communist activity at this time was in the hope that they would scare us out of ratifying the treaty. With ratification an accepted fact, it might take some of the heat out of the situation. If they think they can frighten us out of the treaty, they will continue their activity, and the Secretary considered it very desirable that we act on the treaty as soon as possible.

Senator Saltonstall referred to the possibility of UN action, and as one who wants to believe in the UN, after the unsuccessful efforts on the prisoners of war, he asked if it would not weaken the UN to give it another job doubtful of success. Secretary Dulles said that there are pressures from many quarters to get this matter into the UN. He believed the UN will be a good place to mobilize world opinion as to what we are thinking and that it would be better to do that. He said he did not believe anything would be accomplished other than that. The UN’s principal function is as an opinion forming body. Undoubtedly a veto would [be] made if the matter came before the Security Council, but we would be able to get world opinion to support us which is important. We also have a critical situation in Europe, and it is extremely important that we make an effort to get UN support rather than giving the impression that we are acting on our own in a reckless way and trying to get into war with the communists. On the whole, the Secretary thought we would gain more than we would lose in trying to get the UN to act and that to oppose such a procedure would be a mistake.

Rep. Chiperfield asked if the Secretary feels that the treaty should be ratified before Congress is asked to take other action. The Secretary said that although time would be important in both cases, he did not think it is vitally important which comes first. As he had pointed out, he felt the treaty is extremely important. Even if it were in force, however, he felt the question of implementation would arise, and he felt the President would not want to rely merely on the treaty powers but would want to bring the matter to the Congress. So the treaty would not replace the need for Congressional action, although, if consummated, it might destroy one of the objectives the [Page 67] communists have in their present operation. The two things could go ahead concurrently.

Rep. McCormack commented that we have had commitments in this area since June 20 [27], 1950. The Secretary agreed, although he said the question of the President’s authority is obscure following the Korean armistice.

Senator Byrd asked if this proposal would get the support of the UK having in mind their efforts to get Chinese communists admitted to the UN. The Secretary said he thought they would be sympathetic to the position. He said he thought the British were beginning to be frightened as to the Chinese communist menace and are beginning to feel that it endangers Malaya. He said he believed they would be sympathetic to this course of action. Admiral Radford agreed that the British are more concerned than they were.

Rep. Arends asked if it were a matter of days or weeks. The Secretary replied that it is a matter of days.

Rep. Martin: If the President can do this without action on the part of Congress—today’s session in the House will be our last one until next Monday.6 The Secretary said the President would probably not be able to send up a message until Monday. Rep. Martin said that if the plan is to go to Congress and time is important, if the support of the leadership on the policy were obtained, would the President go ahead, in the interest of secrecy. He said his thought was that once the President presents the plan to Congress, the communists would attack right away. The Secretary said he thought it would be better to have a clear indication of national unity with Congress behind it. Rep. Martin said his use of the word “secret” was probably unfortunate, but that he had in mind the national interest.

Admiral Radford said if the situation got critical we might just fly some patrols over and make a demonstration.

Rep. Richards said it is vital to decide whether we are going to bring up the treaty or the other thing first. The treaty discussion in the Senate will blow the whole thing wide open and may damage the other, so this question should be decided quickly. Senator Knowland said there could be prolonged debate in the Senate under its rules on the treaty, and since it would be a matter of days within which the communists could destroy the division on Tachen, he would think the resolution should be offered first rather than the treaty.

Senator Clements said that if it is a question of speed, a resolution is not the way to get it; there will be discussion in the Senate on the resolution. If the President can make it positive, that would help.

Senator Knowland commented that if the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the NSC, and the President recommend this in the national interest, [Page 68] that would give it a strong position. Senator Clements said this information would have been valuable to have had before this meeting was called, and they would have been in a much better position to handle the problem.

Senator George said that the SEATO defense pact hearings have been completed, and as soon as the list of witnesses on the Formosa treaty has been made up his Committee would be ready to act on the treaty. He said those were the preliminary steps and his committee would go ahead.

Rep. McCormack commented that if the Congress adopted the resolution that would be as good as approval of the treaty. He said he wanted action and thought we have been duly dallying too long.

The Secretary, referring to Senator Clements’ reference to the time of the meeting, said we might be criticized for not consulting before the executive branch had come to a decision. Senator Clements said his comment was not intended as criticism but only as an observation.

Senator Knowland asked what is going to be said to the press about this meeting, since they were hovering around outside like bees. The Secretary suggested that they simply say that it was a briefing on the status of the American prisoners of war and recent military activity off the China coast—to by all means avoid anything that might involve a war scare.

Rep. McCormick said that assuming that the President decides a request for a resolution should be sent up, he thought the Secretary and Admiral Radford should have an expression of views of the legislative branch (he doesn’t like word “leaders”), and that this would be of assistance when the decision is made.

Senator Knowland said he thought the President should come to the Congress in person to present this proposal.

Senator Wiley said he was no specialist in this field but that he thought it would be necessary to have a private understanding with Chiang as to the islands. He said that Senator George feels that we are losing caste and position and are liable to get into war anyway.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda. Secret; Personal and Private. Prepared in the Department of State.

    Thruston B. Morton was Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations.

    Members of the Senate are identified as follows: Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin, ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Richard B. Russell of Georgia, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, Senate Minority Whip and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Earle C. Clements of Kentucky, Senate Majority Whip.

    Members of the House of Representatives are identified as follows: James P. Richards of South Carolina, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Robert B. Chiperfield of Illinois, ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Leslie C. Arends of Illinois, Minority Whip and member of the House Armed Services Committee; Dewey Short of Missouri, ranking minority member of the House Armed Services Committee; John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, House Majority Leader; Sam Rayburn of Texas, Speaker of the House; Joseph W. Martin, Jr., of Massachusetts, House Minority Leader; Carl Vinson of Georgia, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

  2. Chinmen, or Quemoy.
  3. For text of President Harry S. Truman’s statement of June 27, 1950, in which he announced his directive to the Seventh Fleet, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. vii, p. 202.
  4. The reference is unclear. In September 1954 the Joint Chiefs of Staff held divided views concerning U.S. policy with respect to the Nationalist-held offshore islands. See the memorandum of September 11, 1954, from Radford to Wilson and its attachments ibid., 1952–1954, vol. xiv, Part 1, p. 598.
  5. For text of McConaughy’s memorandum of Robertson’s conversations with Chiang Kai-shek during his visit to Taipei, October 12–14, 1954, see ibid., p. 728.
  6. January 24.