Chapter I describes the early planning by military commanders preparing for the U.S. recognition of the PRC and the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Taiwan. Needless to say, this was a very delicate issue at the time. This document reveals that very few military commanders on Taiwan, outside of COMUSTDC, were even aware of the plan’s existence until it was well along.
15 December 1978 – 30 April 1979
Chapter I -- PLANNING
Subsequent to the issuance of the Shanghi Communique of 1972, which announced on-going efforts toward normalization of relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a gradual reduction of military units and personnel began on Taiwan. Early in October 1978, the Commander, U.S. Taiwan Defense Command (COMUSTDC), RADM James B. Linder, USN, directed his staff to prepare a plan for the administrative withdrawal of all U.S. Forces from Taiwan under peacetime conditions. Because of political sensitivity, the development of such a plan was held very closely by the USTDC staff; other U.S. military commands were not advised of the undertaking. After approval of the draft by Admiral Linder, the plan was to have been distributed to other U.S. commanders on Taiwan for review and supporting plan development. The short title of the plan was USTDC OPLAN 506X, later assigned the nickname BATTERY PLATE. Although identified as an OPLAN, it was in actuality an administrative plan to provide for the withdrawal of the U.S. personnel and materiel resources. COMUSTDC set a target date of December 1978 for his approval of the draft plan; the eventual goal was approval by CINCPAC and the JCS by 15 March 1979.
The plan was drafted on the basis of two primary assumptions: that a general peacetime environment would prevail during the execution, and that the Taiwan government would impose no hindrances or undue restrictions. Thus, when President Carter announced, on 15 December 1978, that diplomatic relations with China would be established, and that formal relations with Taiwan would be severed on 1 January 1979, a withdrawal plan was already in being. The President had declared that all U.S. Forces would be withdrawn by 30 April 1979; as drafted, OPLAN 506X had provided for a “hasty withdrawal” option of 90 days or less and an “orderly withdrawal” option of up to 180 days.
When the Presidential announcement was made the plan was in draft, ready for presentation to Admiral Linder and distribution to other U.S. commanders on Taiwan. By that time, key personnel of these commands had been informed of the plan’s existence. By 17 December 1978, the original plan had been coordinated with all U.S. commanders on the island.
Because the Presidential announcement established a 120-day period to accomplish the withdrawal, specific milestones were developed for that period, but the original plan options were retained pending further guidance. The modified plan was approved by COMUSTDC and submitted to CINCPAC for review, modification and forwarding to the JCS for final approval. CINCPAC’s modifications included the retitling of the withdrawal options to “orderly”, for the new 120-day period, “expanded” for a period of 121-180 days, and retained “hasty” for 90 days or less. As discussed elsewhere in this history, CINCPAC also deleted from the plan the designation of COMUSTDC as the “on-island commander with operational control/administrative control of all U.S. Forces on Taiwan.” In lieu thereof, CINCPAC designated COMUSTDC as the “single on-island commander for coordination and control of withdrawal actions” in a separate directive on 20 December 1978. The plan was forwarded to the JCS by CINCPAC on 27 December; the JCS approved the plan for execution on 30 December 1978.
As a result of the decision to sever relations with Taiwan and terminate the MDT[Mutual Defense Treaty], the need for OPLANs associated with Taiwan would cease on 31 December 1979. For 1979 the OPLANs needed to be reviewed to determine their feasibility in view of withdrawing DOD personnel and equipment from Taiwan.
Chapter II goes into more detail regarding the departure of military members, their dependents, and DOD civilians. I'll post that chapter as soon as time permits.