248. Report by the Commander, U.S. Taiwan Defense Command (Smoot) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt)0

COMUSTDC/MAAG TAIWAN REPORT OF TAIWAN–KINMEN OPERATIONS, AUG–DEC 1958

1. General Narrative.

a.
Tension in the Taiwan Straits developed in July and August as a result of increased ChiCom military capabilities opposite Taiwan, accompanied by overt threats of aggressive ChiCom intentions. US and GRC reactions prior to 23 August 1958 to counteract this threat included reinforcement of US forces, re-scheduling of a combined exercise (Land Ho), stockpiling on the offshore islands, and public announcements designed to indicate intent.
b.
Heavy ChiCom shelling of the Kinmen group on 23 August precipitated urgent GRC requests for US support and participation in offshore island defense, and also precipitated US decisions for a major show of force and for logistic assistance to GRC forces. On 24 August President Chiang estimated ChiCom intent to be interdiction of offshore island supply and not invasion. At the same time he declared that in his view the US commitment under the Mutual Defense Treaty included strategic domination of the Straits area.
c.
GRC reaction initially was indecisive, marked by overly centralized control of resupply operations, ineffective organization and coordination at operating levels, and continuous efforts to determine and influence the extent to which the US might participate in offshore island defense. Inasmuch as ChiCom actions had included surface interdiction, considerable emphasis was placed on the function of escort. Counter/battery actions by GRC were not aggressive, due at least in part to the reluctance of the Kinmen Defense Commander to expend stocks of ammunition before he was reassured of resupply.
d.
Some decentralization of convoy operations was achieved and the first coordinated convoy under US escort discharged its cargo at Kinmen on 7 September without incident. However, the convoy which followed on the next day met heavy and effective shelling on the beach and achieved only limited success. At this time US escort vessels, [Page 503]including a cruiser, were standing off in the Straits and there was some adverse GRC reaction against the failure of US forces to intervene at this point.
e.
During this period concurrent efforts were being made to determine minimum resupply requirements of the offshore islands, to establish logistical priorities by class of supply, and to initiate methods of resupply which did not involve beaching of major ships in the face of accurate ChiCom bombardment.
f.
During September it was determined that about 300 tons a day would sustain the garrison and permit a reasonable volume of counterbattery fire. Organization for resupply by air and surface means was gradually improved, and additional beaches were cleared of defensive obstacles in order to permit use of dispersed landing areas on Kinmen. During the month about one-third of the estimated garrison requirement was delivered.
g.
During this same period very heavy pressures developed on the part of the GRC for more direct US participation and particular anxiety was expressed with reference to the plight of the small garrisons on Ta Tan and Erh Tan Islands adjacent to Kinmen. Equally great pressure was being exerted from US authorities to achieve an early demonstration of successful and adequate resupply.
h.
On 18 September COMUSTDC/MAAG Taiwan requested from MND authority to take over the responsibility of air defense of Taiwan to permit the CAF to concentrate on combat operations and advanced training in new equipment. MND agreed to this plan on 24 September and the US took over this responsibility utilizing both US and GRC resources. Enclosure (4)1 explains in detail air defense operations. COMUSTDC/MAAG Taiwan, in recent exchange of letters with MND, is in the process of passing air defense responsibilities back to the GRC.
i.
By early October the improved beach and shore party organization on Kinmen, and direct coordination of convoy plans between US CTF72 and GRC CTF 65 had begun to show good results. Concurrent action to develop CAF air delivery capability, which was limited initially by loading and handling capacity, rather than air lift, resulted in approaching a capability of up to 600 tons daily by a combination of free drop and parachute delivery.
j.
In order to provide a demonstration of massive resupply of Kinmen, plans were perfected for a combined air and surface delivery of 2,000 tons or more within a 24-hour period. Originally scheduled for 4 October, this was delayed by weather until the night of 5–6 October. [Page 504]Despite continued adverse weather, this convoy and air delivery operation was successful in landing almost 1,000 tons. However, this success became anti-climactic as a result of the ChiCom ceasefire announcement on 6 October.
k.
The US tacitly accepted ChiCom conditions for ceasefire and stopped escort operations. In the next two weeks the GRC succeeded in delivering more than 40,000 tons of supplies to Kinmen and thereby reestablished a very strong tactical and logistical position for offshore island defense. Throughout this period concurrent deliveries were being made to the Matsu group and plans and preparations were made in the Matsu and White Dog groups for the possible initiation of combat supply operations for those garrisons. ChiCom cancellation of the ceasefire on 20 October was received by the GRC hierarchy with apparent enthusiasm, for they were obviously interested in prolonging hostilities to obtain their own political objectives. They reacted quickly and re-instituted mobile loading methods for a continuation of resupply action.
1.
During the ceasefire the GRC made no strong request for US escort assistance, but did make a request for employment of a US LSD for transport and recovery of LCMs and other small craft. This request was granted. The operations of this ship were used as one of the ChiCom excuses for ending the first “ceasefire”. On 25 October the ChiComs announced the day-on, day-off ceasefire. Initially there was some GRC reluctance to take notice of this ceasefire arrangement; however, convoy operations were soon re-established to provide for landing of supplies only on even days.
m.
In late October it was found militarily feasible to reduce the forces assigned to CTF 72 and one LSD and four DDs reverted to normal Seventh Fleet operational control. On 15 November COMUSTDC/MAAG Taiwan recommended initiation of a general reduction of US forces in the area and re-deployment schedules are now being carried out. On 2 December CINCPAC directed a reversion to normal readiness posture excepting the Taiwan area, which remains in alert condition X-Ray.

2. General Observations.

a.
Containment of the Taiwan emergency is largely attributed to immediate reaction by the US in positioning of forces. The US reaction very likely deterred the ChiComs from invading one or more of the offshore islands and convinced the GRC of US firmness and power to act. It is apparent that political limitations are necessarily controlling considerations in the implementation of any contingency military plans. These limitations are manifested as the overall framework of any US reaction to an emergency such as just experienced in the Taiwan Straits. There were many benefits gained from the emergency but perhaps the most gratifying experience was the cooperative manner in which all of the services [Page 505]pooled their resources and worked together. This was particularly true before command channels were clearly established and as a result no major problems pertaining to coordination and control of operating forces were encountered. In reflecting back on the emergency there were two major errors or lessons learned in dealing with the GRC that immediately come to mind. The most important was not appreciating that the situation on Kinmen was never as serious as reported by the GRC The other GRC trap was the constant panic expressed by certain GRC officials during the peak of the emergency, resulting in reports going to higher headquarters describing situations, in some instances, as more critical than they proved to be.
b.
The appearance on the night of 24 August of high performance aircraft of the Seventh Fleet on ChiCom EW radar screens is believed to have been highly effective as a demonstration against the ChiComs. This demonstration, supported by other USN and USAF deployments immediately following, probably had a major influence in restraining ChiCom action, and greatly strengthened COMUSTDC/MAAG Taiwan’s hand in restraining the GRC from undertaking precipitate unilateral action against mainland targets.
c.
US action in designating an on-scene US commander was an effective example to the GRC of the importance of delegating authority, and permitted effective military/political coordination in the Taiwan area, which was most essential in the conduct of escort and other operations.
d.
Experience during this period demonstrated that the offshore islands can be effectively resupplied under the ground rules which obtained during the period, although at relatively high cost. Air delivery was never fully exploited, but it is estimated that air supply of most daily consumables would be feasible in the absence of effective air or antiaircraft counteraction. Surface resupply should be regarded as resupply by infiltration, rather than “amphibious” resupply. This is true because amphibious resupply anticipates concurrent action to deepen a beachhead and neutralize opposing fire on the beaches.
e.
Notwithstanding continuous GRC efforts to test US intentions, it is considered that GRC officials generally deferred most carefully to US desires for restraint, and generally appreciated the considerations which motivated the US to adopt a restraining unprovocative posture.
f.
It is recognized that throughout the period higher US authority has been provided inadequate information on stock status and logistic operations in general. Reports from Kinmen had an inevitable time lag due to the process of collecting, sorting and recording supplies received over the beaches and drop zones. But the biggest problem was the GRC, who found it in their interest to confuse resupply status.
g.
US operations during this period demonstrated again the ability of US forces in the field to cooperate and make quick mutual adjustments and concessions in procedures and in support, in order to get the job done.
h.
Early in the period there was an unfortunate tendency by high US visiting officials to provide background briefings exclusively to US press representatives. This practice has now been largely eliminated but it is considered that a major lesson to be drawn is the importance of equitable treatment to GRC and other non-US reporters whenever we enter a combined operational situation.
i.
One of the most significant US actions taken was the rapid introduction of Sidewinder capability in the Chinese Air Force. The ChiCom effort to use the Sidewinder for horror propaganda appeared to backfire. It is concluded that the US must continue vigorous efforts to maintain qualitative superiority of the CAF and should make concurrent effort to have available for future contingencies “surprise” non-atomic weapons and tactics.
j.
It is to be noted that most actions taken for modernization of GRC forces during the period required MAAG augmentation in terms of special training teams. This experience tends to support the general objective of reducing the size and functions of the permanent MAAG, relying on mobile training teams for various aspects of new programs.
k.
Logistic support operations were hampered by continuation of “peacetime” methods and posed many problems in obtaining the accurate allocation of funds for MAP, for support of US forces, and for other categories. Absence of firm planning assumptions on duration of US support under the ground rules in effect, and lack of applicable experience factors, made it most difficult to predict continuing requirements for combat losses of landing craft and other equipment. It is apparent that during August and much of September, GRC officials were strongly motivated by their desire to involve the United States, and for this reason they uniformly exaggerated the urgency of support of the offshore island garrisons. During the latter part of September the GRC seemed to recognize that they might be going too far, and might even goad the US into a reduction of the support already being given.
l.
As an overall evaluation subject to many specific reservations, operations during the period demonstrated that the GRC must be respected as an ally, and the GRC military forces must be respected for their discipline, spirit, acceptance of advice, and military effectiveness. Deficiencies in organization, leadership, and training are dealt with in other accompanying reports.
m.
Effectiveness of GRC counterbattery fire is a continuing problem for which there is no ultimate military solution on Kinmen. It can be anticipated that qualitative improvements will continue to be made in target [Page 507]acquisition, survey, and planning and control of fire. Addition of 240mm howitzers will provide a heavier projectile for destruction fire. However, it must not be concluded that Kinmen counterbattery capabilities can ever be built up to dominate or even neutralize the open-ended artillery capabilities of the ChiComs surrounding Kinmen from multiple positions.
n.
GRC as an Ally. The GRC proved to be a loyal and steadfast ally. They lived up to every agreement and were careful not to take action that could invalidate the Mutual Defense Treaty.
(1)
One possible major criticism concerned actions by the Minister of National Defense during initial stages, when he overplayed the seriousness of the situation. He expressed almost irrational panic that the ChiComs intended to invade Kinmen and eventually Taiwan and that active US participation was essential or GRC military officials would not be able to contain the CAF from attacking coastal bases or taking other offensive actions. He played up the critical status of supplies on Kinmen, and particularly the desperate plight of Little Kinmen, Erh Tan and Ta Tan, out of all proportion. The Minister realized that the important issues were not military, and made constant requests on the US military to intervene in an effort to bring about favorable political decisions.
(2)
During the last part of September the GRC recognized that they were obviously going too far in attempting to involve the US. They finally realized that their cause internationally was not a popular one and that due to their strong stand they were in danger of losing the political war. During the remainder of the emergency and to the present date the GRC attitude toward the US has been one of mutual cooperation and appreciation.
(3)
The many private conferences with the President during the critical periods revealed him to be a rational individual who was eager to get all the facts before making a decision. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was making all the major decisions. This was unfortunate, however, for he did not always have the true picture and in many instances unfavorable news was kept from him by subordinates in fear of reprimands.
(4)
As to their top military leader, the Chief of General Staff, MND, General Wang conducted himself at all times as a great soldier. He never made an unreasonable request and was at all times fully informed and on top of the situation.

[Here follow comments on GRC forces, U.S. organization and command structure, communications, planning deficiencies and future planning requirements, and an intelligence summary and estimate of future Chinese Communist courses of action.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/12–3158. Secret; Noforn. The report and a covering memorandum of December 15 from Smoot to Felt were transmitted to the Department as enclosures to despatch 337 from Taipei, December 31. All are in the Supplement.
  2. The enclosures are not filed with the source text. Enclosure (4) was listed in Smoot’s memorandum as COMDR ATF 13(P) Summary Report.