6. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Cutler) to the Secretary of State1

In connection with the attack on January 10 by the Chinese Communists on the Chinese Nationalist held Tachen Islands, Admiral Carney, following a telephone conversation last night, sent to me a memorandum, copy of which is attached.

I had an opportunity after lunch today to discuss the substance of this memorandum with the President and Admiral Radford.

With the President’s approval, this question will be discussed as a part of Item 3 at the NSC Meeting on Thursday, January 13, “U.S. Policy Toward Formosa and the Government of the Republic of China”. Because of the sensitive nature of Admiral Carney’s memorandum, I am sending a copy before the Meeting only to you, so as to afford time for consideration before the Meeting. Secretary Wilson and Admiral Radford have received a copy of the memorandum direct from Admiral Carney.

In our informal discussion, the President was inclined to feel that it might in practice be difficult to apply the last clause of paragraph 5c of NSC 5429/5,2 and that perhaps CINCPAC should be [Page 10] authorized to permit Chinat retaliation in the case of any Chicom attack on a Chinat held off-shore island deemed by CINCPAC to be significant, and to meet criteria established by CINCPAC for feasibility and likelihood of success.

Robert Cutler


Memorandum From the Chief of Naval Operations (Carney) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Cutler)3


  • NSC 5429/5—Current Policy Toward the Far East as Relating to ChiNat Held Off-shore Islands
On 10 January 1955 (East Longitude date) the Chinese Communists attacked Ha Hsia Tachen with approximately fifty airplanes in four raids over a period of nine hours. The principal targets were ChiNat ships in the harbor which sustained slight to heavy damage. There is no evidence to indicate that the ChiComs are preparing an amphibious operation against the Tachen Islands in the immediate future.
On 3 November 1954 instructions were issued to Commander in Chief, Pacific4 which provided guidance for military action, both by the U.S. and ChiNat forces, in event of ChiCom attack. These instructions authorized CINCPAC to acquiesce in ChiNat air retaliation in event of ChiCom air attack against the Tachens provided that such retaliation could be initiated with sufficient promptness as would leave no doubt that the ChiNat reaction was in fact a retaliation for the specific ChiCom attack, and further that the targets attacked in retaliation met CINCPAC’s criteria as to feasibility and chance of success. The full text of these instructions is appended.
On 11 January 1955 CINCPAC was advised5 of the contents of paragraphs 5.c. and g. of NSC 5429/5 and further advised that the policy expressed therein was to be considered as modifying instructions issued to him in November. The most significant part of this new policy as it relates to the current situation in the Tachen Islands is contained in the following extracts from paragraph 5.c:

“However, refrain from assisting or encouraging offensive actions against Communist China and restrain the Chinese Nationalists from such actions except in response to Chinese Communist provocation judged adequate in each case by the President.” (Underlining supplied)6

The ChiCom bombing of the Tachen Islands on 10 January was the heaviest attack against any of the off-shore islands since the large scale artillery shelling of Quemoy in September 1954. The ChiNats have a limited capability for retaliatory action. Their capability to retaliate by means of air attack against ChiCom air fields is extremely limited and such attacks would be militarily ineffective. They also have the capability of attacking ChiCom radar installations on the coast and in addition have the capability to deliver air and surface attacks against ChiCom shipping in port and at sea.
As a practical matter the current National policy is difficult to apply. For example, our ability to “restrain” the Chinese Nationalists is limited to a large extent by their willingness to comply with our wishes. If the Chinese Nationalists are to retaliate in response to ChiCom attacks such as the attack on the Tachens on 10 January, retaliatory action should be prompt so as to be related closely in time to the incident which provoked it. The time required to obtain in each instance a Presidential judgment on the adequacy of Chinese Communist provocation might well prove to be a bar to timely ChiNat reaction. In addition a burdensome load would be placed on the highest officials of the U.S. Government each time an incident of ChiCom aggression, however minor, occurred. This would create at the least a difficult administrative problem.
In view of the above, guidance is requested as to how the current policy affecting ChiNat retaliatory action is to be applied.
Robt. B. Carney
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–1155. Top Secret. Notes attached to the source text indicate that the memorandum was circulated on January 12 to Under Secretary Hoover, Deputy Under Secretary Murphy, Policy Planning Staff Director Bowie, and Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs Robertson in preparation for a meeting in the Secretary’s office that afternoon.
  2. The last sentence of paragraph 5–c of NSC 5429/5, December 22, 1954, reads as follows: “However, refrain from assisting or encouraging offensive actions against Communist China, and restrain the Chinese Nationalists from such actions, except in response to Chinese Communist provocation judged adequate in each case by the President.” (See Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xii, Part 1, p. 1062)
  3. This memorandum is Top Secret.
  4. In telegram 031925Z from CNO to CINCPAC, November 3, 1954. The substance was quoted in telegram 278 to Taipei, November 3, 1954: for text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xiv, Part 1, p. 854. Admiral Felix B. Stump was Commander in Chief, Pacific.
  5. In telegram 110145Z from CNO to CINCPAC, January 10, not printed. (JCS Files, CCS 381 Formosa (11–8–48) Sec. 16)
  6. Printed here as italics.