24. Draft Message From the President to the Congress1

The situation in the Far East leads me to ask the Congress for authority to employ the armed services of the United States, if necessary, to insure the security of Formosa and the Pescadores.

Since the end of Japanese hostilities, these islands have been in the friendly hands of the Republic of China. Also, it has been recognized by the United States that it was important for the security of the United States that these islands should remain in friendly hands. In June 1950, when the Communists committed armed aggression in Korea, President Truman ordered our Seventh Fleet to defend Formosa from possible invasion from the Communist mainland. Last December we signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of China covering Formosa and the Pescadores.

The Chinese Communists have recently embarked upon active military operations which they assert are designed for the avowed purpose of conquering Formosa by force.

In September 1954 they opened up intensive artillery fire upon the island of Quemoy, approximately 125 (?)2 miles due west of Formosa. This island had theretofore been peacefully held by the Republic of China for approximately five years. This aggressive activity was followed by air attacks of mounting intensity against other islands, notably those in the vicinity of the Tachen group approximately 200 miles north of Formosa. One of these islands (Ichiang) was seized as the result of an intensive air and sea operation on January 18. There have been recent heavy air attacks against the main Tachen Islands themselves.

Such attacks are related by the Communists themselves to their purpose to conquer Formosa. Thus, following the seizure of Ichiang, the Peiping Radio said “the victory shows that the Chinese people are unshakeable in their determined will to fight for the liberation of Taiwan (Formosa). Our people will use all their strength to fulfill that task.”

In the light of the announced plans of the Chinese Communists to retake Formosa by force, it is essential for the United States to [Page 84] make sure that war does not occur by reason of any possible miscalculations of our intentions. In the interest of peace, the United States must remove any doubt regarding our intentions or our willingness to fight, if necessary, to preserve our vital interests in Formosa and the Pescadores. This requires not only Presidential action but also Congressional action.

Under existing conditions, in the interest of its own security, the United States must undertake several actions for the safety of Formosa and the Pescadores:

It must assist the Republic of China to regroup its forces. Many of these are scattered throughout the smaller offshore islands as a result of historical rather than military reasons. Since many of these forces are exposed to vastly superior air power they can probably not be redeployed without assistance of the armed forces of the United States.
Under present conditions two groups of islands now held by the Republic of China would constitute useful stepping-stones in the hands of the Communists if they are determined to pursue their design to conquer Formosa. These are the Quemoy Islands, which dominate Amoy Harbor, and the Matsu Islands, which are outside of the Foochow Harbor. These two harbors, directly opposite Formosa, would be most useful in mounting a direct attack against Formosa as threatened by the Chinese Communists. In the light of the present threat of attack against Formosa, the United States must be prepared to join in denying control of these islands by the Chinese Communists until the peace and security of the area are reasonably assured by international conditions created by the United Nations or otherwise.

In view of the foregoing facts, I ask the Congress for prompt but limited authority to use the armed forces of the United States, if necessary, for the purpose of securing Formosa and the Pescadores against armed attack. This authority should have the limited scope I have indicated.

Because I believe that the present danger, if it is faced firmly, may prove temporary, I suggest that the authority accorded me should also be limited in time. It might well expire on June 30, 1956, or whenever earlier I am able to report to the Congress that the peace and security of the area are reasonably assured by international conditions created by the United Nations or otherwise.

No doubt I already possess some of the authority which I request, and I shall not hesitate to exercise it if emergency conditions make this seem important from the standpoint of the welfare and security of the United States. However, in this matter it should be made evident that the full authority of the Congress is behind whatever has to be done to preserve the peace and security of Formosa. The very fact that the full power of government is thus made manifest [Page 85] will itself be a factor in deterring those who otherwise might be disposed to challenge the position of the United States.

Let me make my position crystal clear: I do not now suggest that the United States should permanently enlarge its defensive obligations beyond Formosa and the Pescadores. That was the present area of mutual concern which was agreed upon as between the Republic of China and ourselves. That, unhappily, is the danger if armed attack directed against that area now confronts us. The existence of that danger requires us to take into account closely related areas which might to an important degree contribute to the failure or the success of such an attack. The offensive military purpose of the Chinese Communists has been made unmistakably clear not merely by words but by deeds. Thus, the issue has been presented by their choice, not ours. Just as they created that issue, so they can end it.

The situation which has been created by the Chinese Communists is obviously one which has led to international friction and may indeed constitute a threat to the peace within the meaning of the Charter of the United Nations. Therefore, we would welcome action by the United Nations which might, in fact, bring an end to active hostilities in the area.

In conclusion, let me emphasize that which I seek is no declaration of war nor what, in my opinion, will lead to war. That is far from my purpose. I seek authority for a limited use for a limited time of the Armed Forces of the United States in order to create a position of strength and security in a vital area that is openly challenged. I believe that making our position clear offers the best hope of diminishing the challenge. Such a contribution by the United States is needed to prevent grave miscalculations by our enemies, and indeed by our friends. If that miscalculation occurred, it would encourage further aggression and might lead ultimately to the war which we are determined by every honorable means to avoid.

Our purpose is peace. We know that peace is not gained by ambiguous policies. Therefore, I intend, with your help, to clarify our purposes. In doing so we shall at all times remain faithful to our obligations as a member of the United Nations to be ready to settle our international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–2055. Top Secret. Sent to the President with a covering note of January 20 from Secretary Dulles, which reads as follows: “Here is a draft of possible message such as it was agreed I should try to make. I have put this together in the face of considerable interruptions, and no doubt it can be improved by me and others. Perhaps, it is adequate at the moment to illustrate the kind of thing we have in mind.” A postscript adds: “I am not sure about the June 30, 1956 date.” The source text, labeled copy 3, January 20, 1955, bears the notation “as sent to President”.
  2. As in the source text.