123. Memorandum for the Record0
- Briefing of General Eisenhower in Gettysburg, Pa., at 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 21, 1962
Persons present were: General Eisenhower, Lt. Colonel John Eisenhower, Director McCone, and Mr. Forrestal.[Page 256]
Director McCone briefed General Eisenhower on recent intelligence indications of a substantial military buildup by the Chinese Communists in Fukien Province (see SNIE 13-5-62).1 General Eisenhower speculated whether this buildup could be a reaction to statements by the ChiNats that they intended operations against the Mainland. Director McCone said that this was a possibility. However the purpose of the buildup was not definitely known, but (according to the SNIE) could be (a) response to fear of landings from Taiwan; (b) resumption of a campaign of pressure on the Offshore Islands similar to that which occurred in 1958; and (c) a deliberate assault on the Offshore Islands in the immediate future. Director McCone said that the urgency and scale of the military preparations strongly supported the last possibility.
General Eisenhower gave his opinion that the disposition of ChiCom forces in Fukien Province would indicate whether their intentions were defensive or offensive. A defensive posture would probably involve a spreading out of military units up and down the coast with reserves fanned out in the rear echelons. An offensive posture would suggest a heavy concentration of troops in the immediate vicinity of the target.
General Eisenhower also emphasized that an invasion of Quemoy could hardly be carried out without an intensive artillery bombardment in advance. He said that he estimated that such a barrage would probably have to be continued for at least 72 hours, although possibly by an extremely heavy effort a “time-on-target” type barrage would shorten the time. General Eisenhower recollected the bombardment and the investing of the island of Pantelleria during the campaign in the Mediterranean. Despite intensive naval and air bombardment lasting for 3 or 4 days, relatively little actual damage was done to the gun emplacements on the island. Nevertheless the garrison on the island surrendered without resisting a landing, because their morale had been badly shaken and because communications and utilities had been destroyed.
General Eisenhower then turned to the diplomatic problems involved in the defense of the Offshore Islands. He recalled that in 1958 the ChiComs had made numerous propaganda statements to the effect that it was their intention to recapture Taiwan. In the light of these statements it was possible for his Administration to construe an attack upon Quemoy and Matsu as the first stage of an attack upon the Mainland. General Eisenhower recalled that his and Mr. Dulles’ statements indicated this intention, but he never made a categorical statement to this effect. General Eisenhower observed that today the President’s position was somewhat more difficult, because there has so far been less propaganda [Page 257]relating the current buildup to a conquest of Formosa. Under these circumstances the President might wish to go back to Congress for the authority to commit the United States to the defense of the Offshore Islands.2 Of course with Congress in session, time was not so much of a problem. Also, if the ChiComs attack Taiwan by air or if they came in too close on reconnaissance, the original resolution would suffice as basis for our intervention.
In response to a question from Mr. Forrestal, General Eisenhower said that the United States could probably aid in the defense of Quemoy by non-combative means, such as supply, as we had done in 1958, without resorting to Congress, although consultations with the leadership would be desirable.
General Eisenhower also observed that it would be hard to stay out of the defense of Quemoy if the action there was prolonged and bloody.
General Eisenhower said that he approved the idea of a warning to the ChiComs to the effect that in the event of an attempt by them to begin operations against Taiwan, “the U.S. would do its part.”
The former President recollected that he had asked Chiang to evacuate civilians from the Islands of Quemoy and Matsu and make them into strong island fortresses, using a minimum number of troops to do so. Director McCone observed that the Island of Quemoy had been historically a fortress for Chinese who had been driven off the Mainland and consequently was of considerable psychological importance to Chiang. General Eisenhower observed that such a fortress would be of value only for defensive purposes and not profitably used as staging areas for an attack upon the Mainland.
Director McCone asked whether General Eisenhower had supported Chiang’s return to the Mainland. General Eisenhower replied that the policy of his Administration was to avoid that question. His policy was composed of the following elements: (1) the preservation of the security of Taiwan and the Pescadores; (2) support of Chiang in order to support the morale of the overseas Chinese; (3) maintenance of Chiang’s ability to conduct operations on the Mainland but always under our complete control. Former President Eisenhower recalled that he had revised President Truman’s orders to the 7th Fleet (“unleashing Chiang”) as a warning to the ChiComs that aggressive acts on their part might be countered by activities on their own territory.
General Eisenhower summed up by saying that he was delighted to have been given this briefing. The general feeling he had was that we should be intensely watchful and alert—on the qui vive. There was time to decide the U.S. reaction.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Laos. Top Secret. Drafted by Forrestal on June 22 and revised on July 16 to incorporate suggestions by Lieutenant Colonel John Eisenhower. Forrestal’s original draft is filed with a copy of a June 22 memorandum, which he sent to John Eisenhower enclosing his draft and inviting the latter’s comments. (Ibid., China) A copy is also filed with John Eisenhower’s June 26 reply suggesting several revisions. (Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower Post-Presidential Papers, Augusta-Walter Reed Series, Memorandum of Conference)↩
- See footnote 1, Document 122.↩
- At this point, Forrestal’s original draft included the following sentence: “General Eisenhower did not feel that this was a necessity.”↩