President Eisenhower sent a special message to Congress January 24 asking emergency authorization to use U.S. armed forces to protect Formosa and the Pescadores Islands.
Proclaiming his hope for peace, the President expressed the belief that a clarified U.S. defense policy would reduce rather than increase the possibilities of armed conflict in the Far East. He stressed these points:
The U.S. and all free nations had a common interest that Formosa and the Pescadores "should remain in friendly hands." Under these circumstances, the U.S. 7th Fleet had defended Formosa and the Pescadores from Communist attack since 1950, would continue to do so.
Recent Communist air, artillery and amphibious attacks on Quemoy and the Tachens (culminating in invasion of Yichiang* ), in addition to Communist China's avowed intention to "liberate" Formosa, made it necessary for the U.S. to be ready to (1) assist in the redeployment and consolidation of Nationalist forces (an indirect reference to a possible evacuation of the Tachens) and (2) "take appropriate military action" against Communist forces massed on near-by islands or on the mainland for an invasion of Formosa.
(* Spelling generally used by press and recognized by National Geographic Society January 24 as "popular" spelling. "Authentic" spelling listed by NGS: Ichiang. [See 1955 Far East: Hammarskjold Optimistic; Other Developments])
The Admin. believed that the situation was appropriate for Formosa Strait cease-fire efforts by the UN. However, the current critical situation required the U.S. to take steps for peace without awaiting UN action.
The emergency powers sought by the President were no substitute for the recently-signed mutual defense treaty with National China. It was now more important than ever that this pact be approved and put into force.
After the reading of the President's message January 24, identical resolutions embodying his requests were introduced by House Foreign Affairs Com. Chairman James P. Richards (D., South Carolina) and Senate Foreign Relations Com. Chairman Walter F. George (D., Georgia). The resolutions gave President Eisenhower unlimited authority to use U.S. armed forces for the security of Formosa and the Pescadores. They said the authority would expire "when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured." (It was commonly understood that the term "armed forces" in the resolutions referred only to naval and air power, since the Admin. believed National Chinese ground forces were sufficient.)
House Acts, Senate Waits
The House of Representatives adopted the joint resolution without change January 25 after only 3 hours of debate. The vote: 409-3. Opposed: Graham Barden (D., South Carolina); Eugene D. Siler (R., Kentucky); Timothy P. Sheehan (R., Illinois). President Eisenhower responded with a declaration that this "remarkable unity" would serve U.S. security.
(Some Democrats, among them House Speaker Sam T. Rayburn [D., Texas], expressed fear January 25 that the President was creating a "dangerous" precedent by asking Congress for authority they believed he already had under the Constitution.)
The Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Coms. jointly approved the Presidential resolution January 26 by 27-2. Opposed: Wayne Morse (ind., Oregon) and William Langer (R., North Dakota). The vote followed 2 days of private hearings during which the Joint Chiefs of Staff were questioned. The committees turned down, 20-8, amendments offered by Senators Hubert H. Humphrey (D., Minnesota) and Estes Kefauver (D., Tennessee) to exclude U.S. military commitments from the lesser islands off the Chinese mainland.
Morse told the Senate January 26 that a threat of U.S. "aggression" and preventive war was implicit in the resolution. Minority leader William F. Knowland (R., California) denounced Morse for leading the Communist world to believe the U.S. was ready to provoke an Asian war. Senator Ralph E. Flanders (R., Vermont), announcing his opposition to the resolution January 26 (he had approved it in committee), said "this is preventive war." Indications were that Senate debate on the resolution would continue several days.
Wilson onFormosa 'Ripple'
Defense Secretary Charles E. Wilson, while giving the House Armed Services Com. an annual briefing on defense policy January 26, said the Formosa situation need not delay military manpower cutbacks. Wilson told the committee: "This Formosa business is just a little ripple..." Later Wilson said his language was "inept" and he did not minimize the Formosa crisis.
Chou Vows Formosa Attack
Communist Chinese Premier-Foreign Minister Chou En-lai reasserted January 24 the Communists' intention to conquer Formosa. He rejected any idea of a ceasefire in the Formosa area and accused the U.S. of "using war threats and brandishing atomic weapons to force the Chinese people into tolerating" the "occupation" of Formosa.
Chou's statement, broadcast by the Peiping radio just before President Eisenhower's special message to Congress, said American forces must leave Formosa and stop "interfering in Chinese internal affairs." Chou accused the U.S. of using the Communist conquest of Yichiang Island as an excuse for increasing "its military operations to make war provocations." He cited part of Art. 2, Para. 7 in the UN Charter, which disqualifies UN intervention in the domestic affairs of any state, in his argument that the UN had no right to intervene in the threatened conquest of Formosa.
(Charter Chapt. VII empowers the Security Council to call for the use of force if necessary to combat "any threat to the peace...or act of aggression.")
UN Truce Move Delayed
Washington press reports January 26 said the U.S. State Department favored a delay in UN action on a cease-fire in Formosa Strait until the U.S.- National Chinese mutual defense treaty had been ratified and Congress had granted President Eisenhower the emergency defense authorization he requested. UN delegations in New York were reported generally disposed to wait and see whether the U.S. planned defense of the Quemoy and Matsu Islands. Prime Minister Sidney G. Holland of New Zealand, who talked with President Eisenhower and State Secretary Dulles in Washington January 21, said January 24 that New Zealand, a UN Security Council member, would take any possible action toward a solution of the Formosa Strait situation.
Eden Defends Eisenhower
British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, defending U.S. policy toward Formosa against Laborite critics in a House of Commons debate January 26, said the Eisenhower message to Congress "emphasized the purely defensive nature of the (U.S.) arrangement with the Chinese Nationalists." Ex-Prime Minister Clement R. Attlee called the U.S. position "an intervention in a (Chinese) Civil War."
U.S. Reinforcements Arrive
Vice Admiral Alfred M. Pride, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, arrived in Taipeh from Hong Kong January 23 and went into immediate conference with American and National Chinese officials, including Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Pride reportedly went to Formosa to make plans for 7th Fleet participation in an evacuation of National forces from the Tachens, where the Communists already had achieved air and naval superiority. The National Government reportedly agreed "in principle" to such an evacuation January 26, but a National official said final consent would depend on whether or not the evacuation was related to a UN cease-fire move, which the Chiang Kai-shek Government strongly opposed. A small group of civilian evacuees from the Tachens arrived on Formosa January 25 by ship without a U.S. escort.
Admiral Pride said in Taipeh January 24, after President Eisenhower's message to Congress, that the 7th Fleet was strong enough to cope with any situation and deployed in the best way possible for its mission. He revealed that the fleet had been augmented by 3 aircraft carriers (Essex, Yorktown and Kearsarge) rushed from Manila, making 5 carriers in all available. Both the Peiping radio and a Formosa newspaper reported that a large number of U.S. naval planes maneuvered north of Formosa January 26.
Warfare in Formosa Area
The National Chinese Defense Ministry announced January 21 that the last of 720 guerrilla defenders on Yichiang Island, near the Tachens, had succumbed to Communist Chinese invaders the night before after killing 1,500 of the attackers. The ministry reported heavy Nationalist air attacks January 20 in the Foochow area. It said at least 44 Communist craft, including 9 gunboats, had been sunk.
(The 1,717-ton British coastal freighter Edendale was sunk by National planes in Swatow harbor January 19. A Nationalist spokesman said the ship was not flying the British flag. Britain delivered a protest over the sinking to the Formosa Government January 22.)
An announcement in Taipeh January 22 said the 10 members of the American military mission on the Tachens had been safely evacuated to Formosa January 20. The National AF reported it had destroyed 22 more Communist vessels, including 2 gunboats, in raids along the mainland coast January 21. Communist planes showered surrender leaflets on the Tachens January 21.
10 armored Communist junks attacked the small National island of Kaotang, near the island bastion of Matsu, January 23. The Nationalists reported that an artillery barrage had routed the fleet, crippling 5 of the junks.
National planes continued to bomb Communist invasion forces reportedly massed near the Tachens. National intelligence reports said the Communists were continuing to move up air, naval and land forces for a Tachen invasion. Yichiang was attacked by National planes January 21, 22, 26 and 27. [See 1955 Big 4 Conference: Russians Score Eisenhower, Dulles; Other Developments]
Communists Invite PWs' Families
An invitation by Communist China for families of 17 American imprisoned as spies to visit the men in China was announced January 21 in Peiping and at UN Headquarters in New York. The U.S. State Department said it would not "encourage" such visits because it could not offer the families "normal protection" enjoyed under a U.S. passport. Henry Suydam, State Department press officer, challenged the Communists to demonstrate sincere "concern for human suffering" by releasing the 17 Americans from their unjust imprisonment. UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold said he had "no doubt" that families accepting the Communist invitation would be safe in China. The American Red Cross offered to help pay for the trips. None of the families concerned had made definite plans to accept the invitation by January 26. [See 1955 Far East: Hammarskjold Optimistic; Other Developments]