29. Memorandum of a Conversation, The White House, Washington, January 21, 1955, 4 p.m.1
- Admiral Arthur Radford
- Admiral Robert Carney
- General Nathan Twining
- General Lemuel Shepherd
- General Charles L. Bolte
- The Honorable John Foster Dulles
- The Honorable Charles E. Wilson
- The Honorable Robert B. Anderson
- Mr. Robert R. Bowie
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Radford, said that he had asked to bring the Chiefs in because of comments they had made regarding proposed action to be taken in Tachen Islands. Admiral Carney was the spokesman for the group, pointing up the difficulties of evacuation. There are 30,000 individuals on the island, civilian and military forces, and apparently a considerable quantity of military equipment. A ship sunk at the entrance to the harbor necessitates lightering all equipment out beyond that spot. (Incidentally, the President during discussion said someone had made a grave error in allowing that situation to exist.) Admiral Carney, supported by Admiral Radford, said that the evacuation would be much more arduous than their defense or reinforcement.
Apparently the Joint Chiefs were afraid that the proposed message to the Congress advocated a course of action (evacuation) which they consider unwise and wanted to register with the President the difficulties they foresaw. The President discussed the intent of the message being prepared:
- for its logical purpose
- to tell the Chinese Communists of our intentions
- to dispel doubts in foreign capitals as to whether we were acting on Constitutional grounds
- to bolster morale of Chinese Nationals.
He said further the message had been rewritten in more general, not specific, terms.
During conversation, the following points were brought out:
- In opinion of Joint Chiefs, Chinese Nationalists cannot defend Tachen.
- On direct question of President, Admiral Carney estimated evacuation would take something on the order of a couple of weeks. Admiral Radford concurred.
- The CIA believes the Communists will not interfere with evacuation.
- Secretary Dulles said that the islands would surrender if left to own devices; the issue is clear, you must try to get them out or let them surrender.
- President is disturbed by reports of the Chinese Nationalist commander on island.
- Secretary Wilson asked if there was any way to propose now a cease fire. Secretary Dulles replied that was United Nations business; any proposal from us would be disaster.
Again Secretary Wilson suggested the long-range viewpoint, saying in his opinion one of three things must happen to stabilize the situation. Those things were:
- Chinese Reds take the islands
- Chiang give up effort to get back on mainland
- Chinese Communists give up idea they are going to take Formosa.
He questioned how we could bring about condition that these things could even be discussed. President said United Nations was place for that.
- Comments by President during course of conversation:
- Much easier to prevent landing than to carry on fight after landing takes place.
- No position is hopeless if you have a good commander.
- Supplying food for 30,000 people would be relatively easy, ammunition something else again.
- If President or Dulles or Wilson or anyone is asked what our intentions are, reply is to be that it is a military secret.
- Joint Chiefs will set up a task force for concerting plans.
After the Joint Chiefs and Wilson and Anderson left the meeting, the President read draft of proposed message. Dulles thought it was good, proposed getting point about United Nations in more towards beginning, and wanted Radford’s statement that no increase in military procurement or supplies would be necessary. Draft was then retyped and submitted to Dulles later in evening.2