Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Monday, September 20, 2010

History of U.S. Military Assistance to Taiwan -- 1950-1959, Part 1

I recently found a report titled "Selected Aspects of U.S. Military Assistance."  As the title suggests, it was an overview of U.S. military assistance to various nations.  It was prepared by the Historical Division, Joint Secretariat, Joint Chiefs of Staff and was dated 13 December 1961.  It was originally classified Top Secret, but was declassified in 1993.

Part of the document discusses the history of U.S. military assistance to "China (Taiwan)" from 1950-1959, which is the portion I'll be quoting from.  I have always had questions about the sequence of events that led to the formation of the Military Assistance Advisory Group and the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command, as well as the relationship between the two.  While some may find this topic dry and uninteresting, it clears up several of my questions and since this blog is really a historical account of USTDC, I think it's certainly appropriate to include the material here.

With the understanding that some may disagree with some of the account that follows, I am posting it almost entirely as it was written and any comments that I include will be clearly identified as such.  I am including all sources referenced in the report (shown in parentheses and italics).


Maj Gen Albert C. Wedemeyer
Major General Albert C. Wedemeyer, who in 1944 succeeded Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell as one of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's chiefs of staff, worked for the remainder of the war to train Chinese ground forces in the use of modern weapons.   In September 1945, Chinese Foreign Minister T.V. Soong discussed with President Harry S.Truman the possibility of postwar American military assistance.  Although President Truman agreed to provide such aid, no United States military mission was established until 20 February 1946.

On that date, the President directed the Secretaries of War and Navy to form a U.S. Military Advisory Group in China.  Composed of an Army and a Navy Advisory Group, this organization was to "...assist and advise the Chinese government in the development of modern armed forces for the fulfillment off those obligations which may devolve upon China under her international agreements, including the United Nations Organization, for the establishment of adequate control over liberated areas in China, including Manchuria and Formosa, and for the maintenance of internal peace and security." (US Department of State, U.S. Relations with China: with Special Reference to the Period 1944-1949 - Department of State, 1949, pp. 339-349, 939.)

In November 1947, the Secretary of State further empowered the head of the Army Advisory Group to advise Chiang Kai-shek on military matters on an "informal and confidential basis."  The United States, however, was unwilling to accept responsibility for the operations and strategic plans of the Chinese Nationalists, for the Military Advisory Group lacked the authority to direct operations or compel the execution of plans.  (Ibid., p. 324).

The Army and Navy Advisory Groups were succeeded on 1 November 1948 by the Joint United States Military Advisory Group -- China.  By the end of the year, however, the Joint Group was recalled.  Chinese Communist forces were mauling the Nationalists so severely that Major General David Barr, who had led the Army Advisory Group, now maintained that "only the active participation of United States troops could effect a remedy." (Ibid., p. 358)

Military Assistance Advisory Group, Taiwan

The inactivation of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory -- China and the retreat of Nationalist forces to the island of Taiwan temporarily ended the American program of military aid to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's government.  Instead, the Chinese hired a small group of retired American officers to assist them.  Official United States aid, however, was soon restored.

The outbreak on 25 June 1950 of the Korean War emphasized the danger to America's Pacific outpost line if Taiwan should fall to the Communists.  President Truman ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Taiwan, while simultaneously halting Nationalist air and sea operations against the Communist-held Chinese mainland.  Shortly afterward, both Vice Admiral Arthur D. Struble, commanding the 7th Fleet, and General Douglas MacArthur, Commander-in-Chief, Far East, visited Taiwan.  Between 5 and 26 August, a joint survey group headed by Army Major General Alonzo Fox studied the state of Chiang's military forces to arrive at a list of equipment and technical support that should be provided to Free China.  As a result of the Fox Report, a military assistance advisory group was dispatched to Taiwan.

The Military Assistance Advisory Group, Taiwan, commanded by Army Major General William C. Chase, was authorized 67 Army, 4 Navy and 63 Air Force personnel.  Under the group's joint headquarters were Army, Navy and Air Force sections.  General Chase arrived at Taipei, Taiwan, on 1 May 1951 to begin carrying out his duties as the military member of a team, which was charged with insuring that all assistance granted the Chinese Nationalists was in furtherance of United States foreign policy.

Senior member of the team was the American Ambassador, who coordinated the activities of the other members, provided them with political advice, and conducted negotiations with the Nationalist government.  The task of coordinating economic affairs fell to the chief of the Economic Cooperation administration mission.  The Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group was responsible for directing and coordinating the military aid program and for making appropriate recommendations.

In executing this rather broad directive, the group chief was called upon to perform many tasks, not all of them purely military.  Among these were such tasks as coordinating with the Economic Cooperation Administration mission to insure that the Nationalists did not demand materiel available locally, determining the military needs of the Taiwan government, and assisting it in requesting, storing, maintaining, distributing and using the military equipment provided by the United States.  The group chief's military duties included the standardization of equipment, training methods, and doctrine, cooperation in the development of training programs, the establishment of any necessary American training detachments, and the filing of reports on the Nationalist forces' progress, status of training, and ability to use American equipment.

After its arrival at Taiwan, the advisory group was reorganized and expanded.  The original three Service sections proved inadequate, so a joint technical service section was created as a counterpart to, and for advising, the Nationalist Army's Combined Service Force, which comprised the medical, signal, engineer, ordnance, transportation, chemical, and quartermaster services.  A Headquarters Commandant, on the same level as the four section chiefs, was made responsible for the routine tasks necessary to support the group. Military Assistance Advisory Group officers assisted their counterparts within the Nationalist Ministry of National Defense and the general headquarters.  Special teams were created as needed to provide aid at service schools and in tactical units.
My next blog entry will describe the additional steps that lead to the formation of the United States Taiwan Defense Command and also TDC's evolving relationship with the Military Assistance Advisory Group.

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