Operation Causeway: The Nimitz Plan to Seize Formosa
RUSSIA WAITED. In the name of "neutrality" Moscow denied her allies use of Siberian airfields which were needed for an airlift from Alaska to China. We were forced - at enormous cost - to go the long way around by way of India and over the Hump. Once there, our men, planes and supplies were swamped in the morass of Chinese factional policies and corruption. It is little less than a miracle that we were able to achieve what we did in that enormous Chinese hinterland, far from the sea.
General Douglas MacArthur insisted upon a return to the Philippines, a drive northward, island-by-island, to Luzon.
Admiral Chester Nimitz had a double responsibility. MacArthur's forces "Down Under" - in Australia and the southwest Pacific - depended upon Navy support, and while supplying this, Nimitz was concurrently driving the Japanese from the northern Pacific, clearing the way for direct attack upon the Japanese home islands. He proposed to strike directly westward, seizing Formosa and the adjacent Chinese coastal regions. The cost would be high, for Formosa was protected by extraordinary natural barriers and lay near the Japanese homeland, but this bold move would cut Tokyo's lines of supply to the over-extended Japanese warfront. A successful operation
"ISLAND X" 29
should paralyze the Japanese effort at every point from the borders of India and Burma through Indonesia, Malaya, and Borneo to New Guinea, and throughout the Philippines. In Allied hands, Formosa could then be used as a base from which to cover fleets moving directly to Japan proper, and for air strikes against Japan's industrial cities. We could paralyze all Japanese movement on the mainland.
In late 1943 the Navy began to prepare intensively for the attack upon Formosa, dubbed "Operation Causeway" for code purposes. Undoubtedly the Japanese would put up a fierce defense, and the Formosan people would be caught between hammer and anvil.
Much might depend upon the popular reaction to an Allied appeal for support - for sabotage of the Japanese defense effort and for riots and rebellion within.
The invaders, once ashore, could expect to find a shattered economy, and must be prepared to control and rehabilitate a population of more than five millions. If possible, Formosans should be won to friendly cooperation, to protect the bases which we would use in the final assault upon Japan proper. No one knew how long the Occupation might continue.
With these problems in view the Chief of Naval Operations established an elaborate training program for officers destined for Occupation duty in Formosa. We needed officers ready to assume control and direction of every aspect of the civil economy - a police force, public health and medical services, transportation, education, commerce, and industry affecting essential civilian supply.
The Schools for Military Government at Harvard, Chicago, and the University of Virginia noticed Formosa as part of the Japanese Empire study series, but this was not enough. A special research center was created at the Naval School of Military Government and Administration at Columbia University, and here in the so-called "Formosa Unit," a series of ten Civil Affairs Handbooks, operational field maps, and a large body of
30 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
unpublished training materials were prepared for Operation Causeway.*
From December, 1943, until November, 1944, the Formosa Research Unit supplied basic information to agencies concerned with the anticipated invasion.
We called our island "Island X," thanks to an admiral who shall remain unnamed. Having been "piped aboard" the house on 117th Street, he made a thorough inspection of the five floors, all devoted to research concerning Formosa. He saw a staff of twenty-one officers, eight enlisted personnel and twenty one civilians working under my general direction. But among the civilians were ten Japanese-Americans - "inscrutable Orientals." Before "going ashore" the admiral carefully closed the doors to my office and in hushed tones directed Captain Cleary and me to diversify the translation work so that the Japanese translators would not know what our prime interest might be, and to refer to Formosa only as "Island X."
Our detailed studies revealed how rich "ISLAND X" was, and how highly organized. The Navy's Occupied Areas Section in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations was well aware that the Chinese would demand a share in the administration as soon as American forces made it possible for Chiang's representatives to venture in. The Cairo promises were there to haunt us. If Chiang insisted on exclusive control of the civil administration, he would intrude just as attacks upon Japan were rising to a climax, and Formosa itself would be under heavy counterattach
* Captain Francis X. Cleary, USN, was in charge of the Officers Training Program. Dr. Schuyler Wallace (Public Administration) and Dr. Phillip Jessup (Law) were co-Directors of the curriculum. Fifty officers, enlisted personnel and civilians formed the Formosa Research Unit, with Lieutenant George H. Kerr, USNR, officer-in-charge and editor-in-chief of the Handbooks. Lieutenant Francis Cleaves, USNR, supervised translation of data upon which the series was based. The Department of Commerce prepared an Economic Supplement for the Handbook series, and the Department of Agriculture contributed a Handbook on Fisheries. The operational maps (on traffic control, public health, water supply, etc.) were based upon Japanese military and land survey maps, supplemented by aerial reconnaissance photos and translated information.
"ISLAND X" 31
from Japan proper. This would create intolerable confusion.
It was therefore proposed to reach an agreement with Chiang before the invasion began. If possible we should secure Chinese acquiescence to an exclusive American military administration pending Japan's surrender and a general postwar settlement. At most, no more than a token Chinese participation could be tolerated. This was to be a naval show, on an island from which the Chinese had been cut off for fifty years. True enough the Nationalists had many admirals on the payroll in the mountains, but they had no navy on the sea. No Chinese could reach Formosa unless we agreed to take him there.
A special Naval Mission prepared to go from Washington to Chungking to review the problem. Suddenly, in November, 1944, it became obvious that the high command was no longer focusing attention on Formosa. The Military Government training program dropped from high priority to a level of casual consideration. The Research Unit was disbanded, and the officers and men scattered to other schools and to the field. The Mission to Chungking was abandoned.
Behind this lay a prolonged and acrimonious inter-service debate preceding the decision to bypass Formosa. Admiral Nimitz wanted to cut Japan's supply lines to the South; General MacArthur insisted that the Philippines must first be liberated. President Roosevelt, the Commander-in-Chief, must approve the decision, and this was an election year. MacArthur's not inconsiderable personal following would count heavily at the polls.
A series of meetings of the joint Chiefs of Staff brought a compromise proposal on March 11, 1944. The Navy would undertake a triple thrust; one would carry MacArthur into Mindanao, one would strike at the Japanese in northern Luzon, and the third would become the main assault upon Formosa. The occupation of Formosa would be followed quickly by a push to the China coast. The invasion of Okinawa, dubbed "Operation
32 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
Iceberg," would begin as soon as we were well established on the neighboring island.
President Roosevelt decided to visit the Pacific theatre of war to demonstrate that Asia was not "forgotten" as the Chinese charged. Chiang was clamoring for more supplies and more money, but it was clearly evident that he was not using to our advantage what he received by the long, hard route over the Hump. We flattered him with titles - he was "Supreme Commander" of Allied Forces in China - and we put him forward as the leader of a World Power, but there was accumulating evidence of his reluctance to push the land war against the Japanese. His policy was to "trade space for time" while waiting for the United States to defeat Japan by an assault from the sea. Nevertheless, his demands for ever more arms and economic help began to look like an ill-disguised form of blackmail. We needed secure forward bases near the Fukien coast and in north China, but there were hints that "exhausted China" might separately come to terms with Japan.
At Honolulu, July 26, Roosevelt beard Nimitz and MacArthur present the "Luzon versus Formosa" arguments. Navy partisans hold that the President appeared to incline toward the Nimitz plan which emphasized Formosa, but at the conclusion of the conference the General asked for a private word with the President. What passed between them is not a matter of public record; if they talked about the autumn season, Roosevelt may have remembered how cold the wind can be about election time. At the termination of the meeting, Roosevelt declared in favor of MacArthur's return to the Philippines.
Detailed logistic plans were ready on August 23, but by this time the Navy's successes in the North Pacific made it possible for the joint Chiefs to accelerate the program. On September 15, MacArthur was directed to bypass Mindanao and to seize Leyte by October 20, Nimitz reviewed "Causeway" plans and called for reports from his Army and Air Force colleagues. Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, commander-designate
"ISLAND X" 33
for ground troops in the Formosa operation, reported that he faced critical shortages, and that he believed the occupation of Luzon after Leyte would diminish the need for the costly assault upon Formosa.
Nimitz then reviewed his plans with Admiral Ernest King, who proposed to the joint Chiefs of Staff (on October 2) that the occupation of Luzon, Iwo Jima, and the Ryukyu Islands should be given priority, deferring "Causeway" for a later action. On the next day Admiral Nimitz was directed to bypass Formosa and to seize positions in the Ryukyus by March 1, 1945. 
This, in brief, is the story of military decision concerning "Island X," where Japanese and Formosans alike awaited in dread expectation an assault which never came.
American reconnaissance Planes flew over Formosa in the autumn of 1943. The first major bombing strike (on the Hsinchu airdrome) took place Thanksgiving Day. Tokyo could no longer conceal the direct threat of invasion.
The Japanese High Command ordered its forces in China to sever all rail connections leading to the Fukien coast and to destroy all forward bases from which American planes could attack the island. In 1944 a powerful Japanese drive threatened the major American base at Kunming, vital point on the Burma-China airlift route. Chiang's intelligence organization failed to alert the Americans, important forward airstrips were lost and great stockpiles of fuel, equipment and arms had to be destroyed at Kweilin on November 10 as the Japanese actually moved onto the airfield.
Our relations with Chiang went from bad to worse, the Generalissimo's excuses - his doctrine of "defense-in-depth" - were wearing very thin. Even his ardent supporters found it
34 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
difficult to justify his manifest shortcomings as a warrior. Said one, "defense-in-depth meant simply running away until the enemy is tired out chasing you . . ." This was not the American style of warfare, and since we were paying for the show in China, we wanted positive action. President Roosevelt, tired of Chiang's prima donna behavior, in thinly veiled terms demanded active Chinese cooperation or a termination of American aid and supply. But we were preparing for the great push directly against Japan proper and we could not leave our seaborne forces exposed to attack from Japanese bases on mainland China.
At this juncture Washington began to explore means to bring the Chinese Communists into the war on our side. The Red Russians were our unavoidable allies in Europe, and there was no sound ideological reason why the Red Chinese should not be used in the war against Japan. Washington was warned repeatedly of the risks we were then taking in giving all of our military support to one side in China's civil war, under the guise of "aid to China" in the war against Japan. If the Chinese Communists did not become dependent upon us for the supply of arms, they would surely turn to Russia.
An effort was made to involve them in the war with Japan, and to this end Major General Patrick Hurley began a long series of negotiations at Moscow, in Yenan, and at Chungking which finally brought Mao Tse-tung to Chungking-but too late.
Meanwhile Tokyo was well aware of the crisis in Sino-American relations. Shigemitsu Mamoru, Japan's Foreign Minister, proposed that Tokyo should find a formula for truce With Chiang. If Chiang were a neutral, he would have to deny bases to the Americans, Moreover, Tokyo was much more concerned with the Chinese Communists than with the Nationalists, who were "paper tigers." A China divided was to Japan's ultimate advantage.
Japan's High Command knew that spectacular successes in
"ISLAND X" 35
South China in late 1944 brought only temporary relief. Formosa would soon be the Empire's first line of defense. In a dramatic move to woo Formosan allegiance at this late hour Tokyo announced that, by Imperial Grace, the island would become a prefecture of Japan proper and that prominent Formosans were nominated to the House of Peers at Tokyo. Elections in 1945 would give Formosans full representation in the National Diet.
The Formosan Home Rule leaders had at last won the battle for political recognition within the empire structure, but Japan had lost the war.
With most unusual candor Tokyo announced one day that more than one thousand American planes had attacked the principal Formosan cities on November 14, 1944. The Emperor is said to have exclaimed "So they have come at last!"
This first massive strike was made from carriers ranging far at sea, with some support from aircraft based deep in southwest China. Allied submarines prowling about in Formosan waters rapidly reduced the strength of Japan's merchant fleet. Keelung and Takao (Kaohsiung) were clogged with cargo waiting for ships that never came.
Formosa's skies were seldom free of hostile planes after the great November raid. In late May, 1945, the administrative center of the capital (the jonai district) was laid waste by a spectacular "fire-carpet" laid down upon Taipei. The harbors were choked with burned and capsized ships. Keelung and Takao were virtually wiped out. Rail centers were heavily damaged. Hangars, runways and airfield maintenance areas were mauled.
Industrial targets, on the other hand, were only lightly touched. One power plant on the East Coast had been destroyed by storms and floods in 1944, but the major generating plants on the western coast remained in operation. The majority of mills producing sugar, pulp, and industrial chemicals
36 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
were intact, and so too were the extensive surface installations at the principal mines in the mountains near Keelung.
Hundreds of thousands of leaflets were scattered over the island. These the Japanese feared more than the rain of steel and fire, for they carried messages in Japanese and Chinese urging the Formosans to withdraw support from the Japanese war effort, and promised "liberation." The preamble of the United Nations Charter was reproduced, and added to all the other declarations of human rights.
One leaflet, for example, showed the island of Formosa grasped by a huge octopus, dressed out as a toothy Japanese army officer. Flanking it were idealized portraits of Chiang Kai-shek and Franklin D. Roosevelt. On the reverse, in both Chinese and Japanese, was this message: "The Two Allied Powers in the Pacific Area [the United States of America and the Republic of China] jointly give a firm promise to all Formosan people that their freedom shall be restored by driving out the Japanese Armed Forces."
The Japanese police made frantic efforts to confiscate these subversive materials, but sheer numbers and the wide area of distribution made this impossible. It was entirely unsafe to discuss the crisis, but Formosan eyes were bright with anticipation.
Russia had remained neutral until this time, and so the Japanese sought Moscow's help in exploring the possibilities for a cease-fire, a truce, or a surrender. Thus Moscow knew that Japan could carry on the war no longer.
On July 26, 1945, came the Potsdam Ultimatum, and on August 6 the blow at Hiroshima.
Stalin now thought it safe and profitable to declare war, and on August 9 Russian armies crossed the border into Manchuria. This cynical "declaration of war" five days before Japan accepted unconditional surrender gave the Japanese new cause to hate, fear, and distrust Russia as never before, but it gave the Russians a legal claim upon territories which Roosevelt had
"ISLAND X" 37
promised them, and it gave Moscow a place in the councils, commissions and conferences which would determine the fate of the Japanese Empire.
All Japanese territories were surrendered to the Allies on August 14.
Who Will Get the Prize?
There were prizes to be distributed, but no one knew then how many months or years would elapse between capitulation, a peace conference, and an accomplished treaty settlement. The Cairo Declaration had created a series of commitments but had set no time-limit within which they must be fulfilled. At Yalta President Roosevelt had promised the foggy Kurile Islands to Stalin as bait to draw Russia into the Far Eastern war, and Russia was to recover the southern half of oil-producing Saghalin Island as well. Without a by-your-leave from Washington the Russians proposed to strip Manchuria of an immense booty--industrial equipment including factories, mills, mining equipment, laboratories and raw material stockpiles. Theoretically Korea was to have independence "in due course," but in fact it would soon revert to its old unhappy role as a stage for the quarrels of Russia and China, both pushing toward Japan.
The United States piously disclaimed territorial ambitions (were we not giving up the Philippines?) but we decided to take over all the islands in the northern Pacific as an exclusive "trust" and to these we considered adding the Bonin and the Ryukyu Islands.
China recovered Manchuria (stripped of assets worth two billion dollars), and all the highly developed Foreign Concessions were returned to Chinese control. But Formosa was the great prize.
Technical installations and port facilities on Formosa had been badly hit, but the wealth of forests, fields and mines lay
38 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
undisturbed. There was no threat of famine, for huge stockpiles of unshipped rice and sugar had accumulated during the last twelve months of war. The island was not over-crowded. The normal economy was temporarily disrupted, but the people were well disciplined, well organized, and well trained. By all Asian standards these were a modern people, eager to resume work within a modern technological framework. There would be enormous demand in nearby countries for foodstuffs, chemicals, metals, timber, ceramics, pulp and fiber during a long period of postwar rehabilitation.
All of these Formosa could produce in abundant surplus.
Best of all, for a half century the island had been cut off from the confusion of civil war on the Chinese mainland. There were no local warlords, and no Communist organizations. The few avowed Communists on Formosa had long been in jail, at hard labor, or on probation under surveillance. After many years of intensive anti- Communist indoctrination, a fundamental distrust of Communist promises and ideology had taken root. There were no "hungry masses" to which the Communists might appeal.
When surrender took place there was an upsurging good will in Formosa, an emotional anticipation of return to China, but it was expected to be the "New China" of our propaganda sheets, a China delivered from the past by American power, and guided now by an American alliance. At that moment - brief enough - Americans could do no wrong. In Formosan eyes the defeat of Japan and liberation of Formosa were American accomplishments.
Formosans expected that henceforth the island would elect its own government, and that elected representatives would represent the island in the National Central Government at Nanking.
In 1934 the Japanese had granted a mild form of local elective representation in government at about the time the United States promised independence to the Philippines. The Formosans had not been allowed to develop well-organized political
"ISLAND X" 39
parties. There was a minimum of faction at the time of surrender. The elderly and revered Lim Hsien-tang (Rin Kendo) was the recognized spokesman for the Home Rule Movement whose leaders were prepared to assume any tasks the Allies might require of its members during an Occupation.
They were soon to be disillusioned.
The Washington View in 1944 and 1945
The immense sweep of global events in mid-summer 1945 obscured one technical point of importance. Japan was surrendering her empire to the Allies and not to China alone. Formosa was Japan's sovereign territory, and sovereignty could not be transferred until a peace treaty could be worked out, agreed upon, and signed.
President Roosevelt's sudden death had shifted to President Truman's shoulders an inhuman burden of worldwide responsibility, and Roosevelt had done virtually nothing to prepare him for it. The new President turned perforce to his supreme military commanders for advice and briefing. Many fundamental decisions of long-range political consequence were made within a military rather than a political frame of reference.
In the West General Eisenhower's decisions to permit Russia to occupy Prague and Berlin were examples leading on to grave political consequences remaining with us even now. In the Far East General MacArthur's decision to allow the Chinese to occupy Formosa offers a close parallel.
For this the Department of State must be held to account. President Truman knew nothing of Formosa, nor did his Secretaries of State. Younger men in the Department - the "China Firsters" - appear to have made no effort to raise the Formosa question to levels of serious policy discussion for they were determined that there should be no such thing as a Formosa Question.
The Formosa Problem was just as real in 1944 as it is today
40 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
-and its development was quite predictable. As an island, settled long ago by Chinese who had left China proper to get away from it and with a centuries-long tradition of separation and pioneer independence, Formosa had been easily ceded by China to Japan in 1895. Fifty years of intensive social and economic development under Japanese direction had made it wealthy and had given the Formosan people a standard of living far beyond that of any province in China. Formosan leaders had turned toward the Western world. The separatist tradition had been given form and direction by Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and the doctrine of self-determination for minorities. Well-educated young Formosans who could not be reconciled to Japan's harsh colonial police administration left the island in great numbers, but the conservative and moderate leaders - members of an emergent landholding middle class formed a Home Rule Movement through which they had steadily pressed Tokyo for local self-government within the Japanese Empire frame of reference. They were making progress along these lines - painful and too slow - when Japan approached defeat.
All this was known in the Department of State, but by 1944 it had already taken the decision that China itself must be unified -under whatever government - before outstanding Sino-American problems can be solved. The problem was, of course, "What Government?"
For a century or more the American people had been enamored with China; China's woes had become the White Man's Burden-at least America's burden-in a very special way. Again and again when China's interests were weighed against America's interests, China came out the winner. Our national relations with China had become so intermixed with missionary enterprise and emotional interest that we were no longer capable of an objective valuation. Whenever one suggested that the least we could do would be quietly to reserve American and Allied interests in Formosa until the treaty was drawn up, or
"ISLAND X" 41
until a general settlement had been reached on the Chinese mainland, the suggestion was heard and rejected with a peculiar attitude of moral indignation.
By midyear 1944 competent observers at our embassy in China had concluded that short of a miracle, Chiang Kai-shek was doomed as a "national leader." We might keep him afloat with loans and military supply, but the common people throughout China were tired and disillusioned, and eager to be rid of him. Some other leadership and a viable program had to be found to replace the Generalissimo and the Nationalist Party organization. The Communist leaders who had maintained themselves and their organization in defiance of Chiang since 1927 were still there in the Northwest and were growing stronger, offering the only apparent alternative to Chiang, and promising "reform." Chiang saw to it that no Third Party, non-Communist leadership could emerge within the territory under his control.
But our military leaders in China were intent upon fighting the war with Japan; they wanted no disruptive political upheavals within "Free China," no fuzzy uncertainties in the established Table of Organization or the Chain of Command. Although the Generalissimo was not a very distinguished military figure, by any standard, he controlled the Nationalist Army and maintained at least the outline of an organization. Military men wanted to keep the lid on the Chinese civil war until Japan's defeat.
In 1944 our Ambassador to China was Clarence E. Gauss, a career diplomat intimately acquainted with Chinese affairs and Chinese intrigue. He was surrounded by very able younger officers, conversant in the Chinese language and familiar with the sprawling provinces and their many problems. Although they were not all in accord on proposals to bring about change, they were in general agreement that Chiang Kai-shek was a very weak reed upon which to rest the whole of American policy and interests.
42 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
Into this confusion President Roosevelt projected Major General Patrick J. Hurley as "Personal Representative to the President of China." Hurley paused, en route, in Moscow. Foreign Minister Molotov persuaded him that Russia was friendly to Nationalist China and would not support the Chinese Communists in a civil war. Hurley - a singularly vain man who "knew all the answers" -then paused to talk with Communist leaders hiding out in northwest China, at Yenan. Finally at Chungking he conferred with the Nationalists. Out of all this he reported his conclusions:
(1) the Communists are not in fact Communists, they are striving for democratic principles; and (2) the one party, one man personal Government of the Kuomintang Nationalist Party is not in fact fascist, it is striving for democratic principles ... 
Hurley reached Chungking on September 6; on November 1, 1944, Ambassador Gauss resigned. Hurley, who took his place, learned that be did not enjoy the confidence of career officers at the Embassy. They were prepared to let Washington know that they disagreed with his interpretation of events and policies. Conditions within the Embassy became tense and at last intolerable. It was a situation designed to delight the Nationalists, past masters at fishing in murky waters. Soon the Ambassador was expounding a vigorous pro-Chiang policy. For a year confusion reigned in the Embassy at distant Chungking, and at last, on November 26, 1945, Hurley resigned.
In an extraordinary letter to President Truman the Major General presented a savage indictment of Foreign Service officers who had dared to disagree with him on China policy. This opened a fantastic era in American relations with China, the era of witch-hunts led by Congressmen of the Opposition Party, too long out of power, and in desperate need of issues with which to embarrass the Administration. In his outburst Mr. Hurley excepted a few career men whose views he approved, but others he proposed to drive from government service.
"ISLAND X" 43
Within a fortnight of his resignation some were summoned to appear before an unfriendly Congressional Committee. The persecution had begun.
It was soon recognized that only colorless reporting and subservient conformity to a pro-Chiang policy would do. Otherwise a Foreign Service officer risked public humiliation, the taint of "loyalty investigations" and possible dismissal from the Service.
With utmost unreality Hurley had advocated a "Nationalist- Communist coalition policy" to bring an end to the civil war in China. General George Marshall was sent to China to try to bring it into effect, but neither side had any desire to honor commitments made at the conference table under General Marshall's patient mediation. When the coalition policy at last proved hopeless and General Marshall condemned both Nationalists and Communists for duplicity, Hurley heaped blame on the Foreign Service officers who had foreseen the failure. Soon all critics of Chiang were cried down as traitors to American interest and probable fellow travelers.
Against this background of impending civil war across the face of China the Formosa problem was scarcely visible from Washington. The Chinese had demanded immediate and exclusive control of the island, insisting that the Cairo Declaration automatically restored sovereignty to China. When surrender came on August 14, 1945, no significant voice was raised in the State Department to dispute the Chinese claim. Well-informed senior naval officers were reluctant to see the United States abandon, without reservation, all Allied rights and interests in Formosa pending a general settlement, but the War Department and the White House were under irresistible pressure to "bring the boys home." Fathers and mothers believed the war was over, Congress agreed with them, and it would have been impossible to win support on Capitol Hill for the development of a new "unnecessary" occupation force in Formosa. Overseas commitments were to be reduced, not expanded. Faced with
44 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
the immense problems of the occupation in Japan, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers at Tokyo, MacArthur, was glad enough to assign to one of these powers the task of taking over. The island was promised to China anyway, so the sooner we rid ourselves of the problem the better. China's cities were seething with vicious anti-American propaganda; any delay in reversion would inflame China's anti-foreign feeling to a dangerous degree.
So at least ran the arguments, correct enough insofar as they went. But it was a dangerous course of reasoning; we were obviously treating the island as a piece of real estate, recently overrun by Japanese forces, and we were treating five million Formosans as chattel property, to be transferred from one sovereignty to another without reference to their wishes.*
The "China first" or "missionary policy" prevailed.
A Struggle for Place in the New Island Government
Meanwhile some arrangements had to be made immediately to ensure order within the island, to arrange for the demobilization of Japan's military forces, and to begin repatriation of the Japanese civil population. These were essentially military matters, and the military establishment in China was not concerned with the political and humanitarian problems involved; the "Japs" were the enemy, and what happened to the Formosan people was their own concern and the concern of the Chinese government.
Major General Albert C. Wedemeyer had replaced General Stilwell as Commander-in-Chief of American Forces in China, and fractious Patrick J. Hurley had replaced Clarence E. Gauss as American Ambassador at Chungking. Gauss and Stilwell were "old China hands"; the Generalissimo and Madame
* The Japanese in 1895 had allowed Formosans two full years in which to make the choice of nationality.
"ISLAND X" 45
Chiang found it less embarrassing to work with newcomers.
General Wedemeyer was directed to arrange with Chiang the immediate post-surrender transfer of Formosa to Chinese control. A new government at Taipei was to be entirely of Chiang's own choosing. There were no strings attached, no reservations made, pending the legal transfer of title. From Wedemeyer's point of view Formosa was merely another Chinese province from which the Japanese had to be evicted, and on this point the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang were not ready to confuse him with the petty details of history.
Formosa's future was a dead issue at the State Department in Washington. At Chungking the Chiang-Wedemeyer Agreement brought to focus a Chinese struggle for power in the proposed new island administration.
Although Formosan expatriates played no significant part in the war, we must look back briefly to understand their position at Chungking in 1945, clamoring for attention as the island's "true representatives."
A majority of Formosan exiles had grown to manhood under Japanese rule in its harshest years. They had supported Lim Hsien-tang's Home Rule Movement, seeking a measure of local self-government within the framework of the Japanese Empire until Japanese police oppression and harassment had proved too much for them. Many left the island in the mid-1920's. In China again a serious division took place; when they could reach no agreement among themselves on "expatriate" policy or programs some simply settled down to earn a colorless living in the larger cities, some, more ambitious, joined with the Nationalist Party, others threw in their lot with the Communists. Now after a score of years in exile, Japan's defeat brought the prospect of an early return to Formosa.
There were dozens of expatriate leagues, parties and societies The Formosa Comrades Society (formed in 1925) was perhaps the oldest of these. There had been a great proliferation of associations in 1942, on the eve of the Third Peoples'
46 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
Political Council Convocation at Chungking Here the exiles had hoped to win political recognition.
To their chagrin, it was found that laws regulating the Convocation did not provide for representation on behalf of Formosa. It was not considered a Chinese province by the Chinese. Disappointment was sharpened by the fact that all mainland provinces then occupied by Japanese troops were well represented at the so-called PPC meetings.
Here is an early hint of the discrimination shown toward Formosans by their cousins on the mainland, a legacy from centuries of official and scholarly discrimination before the island was ceded to Japan,
In 1943 six principal expatriate groups formed a loose association known as the Formosan Revolutionists League. No prominent Nationalist Chinese gave it the patronage it required. League leaders represented all colors on the political spectrum. On the extreme right stood General Chang Pang-chieh of the Formosa Revolutionary Party, a graduate of Japan's Waseda University, (Tokyo, 1921), and a strong supporter of Chiang Kai-shek in Fukien in the 1930's. Working with Chang was Wang Chen-ming, who had been styled "Director of the Kuomintang's Formosa Party Headquarters" in recognition of Party work among expatriates. General Chang hoped to be made first Governor of postwar Taiwan Province.
Toward the other end of the political spectrum stood General Li Yu-pang, a Formosan graduate in the second class of Chiang's Whampoa Military Academy. Li had opposed Chiang during the Great Schism of the Nationalist Party in 1927, and had been detained under a mild arrest until 1935 when he was restored to some favor and given duties in the Political Section of the Nationalist Army organization.
Far to the left within the League stood Hsieh Nan-kuang, vocal and mercurial Chairman of the Formosan People's Revolutionary Federation. He too had left Formosa in the 1920's and later for a time served the renegade Wang Ching-wei, who
"ISLAND X" 47
became Japan's puppet at Nanking. But Hsieh had deserted Wang early enough, and soon showed himself an ardent supporter of Chiang. We have already noticed him in his role as an informant serving American intelligence officers at Chungking and his forehanded effort to belittle potential rivals for high office in post-surrender Formosa.
There were many other less important factions within the League which claimed a membership of 140,000. But when Hsieh and his friends pressed for a share of American aid at Chungking (money, arms and political support) they admitted that only 1000 League members could be found in unoccupied China.
The majority, they said, were scattered about behind the enemy's lines, ready to do the Japanese great hurt if only the League's Chungking members were granted substantial aid on their behalf.
No Formosan carried weight with the Generalissimo. He had other plans and other candidates in mind who had much larger claims upon his patronage.
Chiang's personal power within China derived from his consummate skill in playing off one powerful Party or Army faction against another and his family alliance with the leading industrialists and financiers. In mid-year 1945, the so-called Political Science Group was the faction momentarily in the ascendant at Chungking. When a temporary committee was established to plan for the "Provisional Government of Taiwan Province," a member of this group became the Chairman.
This was Chiang's friend General Chen Yi.
The Chen Yi Appointment: Chiang Shows his True Colors
The appointment had a certain superficial logic to it, for Chen alone among higher Party officers and generals had had a firsthand look at Formosa. From 1934 until 1942 he had been
48 THE: VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
Governor of Fukien Province. In 1935 he had been a guest of the Japanese Government at Taipei, summoned there to attend the ceremonies and Exposition celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Japanese rule in Formosa. On this occasion he had publicly congratulated the Formosans on their "fortunate" position.
On September 20, 1945, organic regulations governing a new administration for the island of Formosa and the Pescadores (Penghu) were promulgated at Chungking. These appeared to give the new Governor-General more sweeping powers than the Japanese governors had ever enjoyed, but soon other branches of government and other Party factions secured special privileges beyond the Governor's direct control. In theory all lines of authority were to be concentrated in his hands, with a few minor exceptions -exceptions that could be cited conveniently if it became necessary to rebut criticism. The Governor would be appointed by the Generalissimo "on the recommendation of the President of the Executive Yuan." The President of the Executive Yuan was then T. V. Soong, Madame Chiang's brother. Obviously Soong Family interests were not to suffer.
Soong recommended, and Chiang appointed, General Chen Yi.
We may point to this as one of the revealing and fateful decisions in Chiang's career. In mid-year 1945, Formosa was a clean slate, as far as the Nationalist Party was concerned. Here was a unique opportunity to show that the "Three Peoples Principles" and the "New Life Movement" were something more than empty slogans used ad nauseam to mask incompetence, corruption, and the brutality of totalitarian Party rule. Formosa was rich, orderly, and modernized. There was no Communism and there were no rival political parties. Here during fifty years of hard work, Japan had demonstrated that any province of China, given orderly and relatively honest government, could be brought forward successfully into the 20th century. True, it had been done without Christian missionary guidance, and with no thought for the individual, but this material and
"ISLAND X" 49
social progress was what the missionaries and their friends in the United States for a century had dreamed of achieving for China proper. The keys to the future of Formosa lay in the choice of personnel to fill the top ranks of the new administration.
In making the Chen Yi appointment, the Generalissimo coolly demonstrated that he could not possibly care less for either Chinese or American public opinion. Ultimately, of course, he was obliged to shoot Chen Yi in an attempt to appease the Formosans and thus make the island a little more safe for himself, but these two events (in 1945 and 1950) bracketed a fateful period in which Formosa was abused and squeezed in typical Party fashion. Washington was disturbed by Chen's record, which we must here briefly review.
Chen and Chiang were natives of the same district in Chekiang. Both had attended military school in Japan, both had had Japanese mistresses, and both had been long associated with the Shanghai underworld.
In 1927 Chen Yi was serving with the warlord Sung Chuan-fang in his native province, Chekiang, lying southeast of Shanghai. Chiang, then known as "The Young Red General," was in rebellion against the recognized Government of China at Peking. He drove northward from Canton to the Yangtze River, and from there proposed to move on to the national capital far north. Shanghai lay along the way, one of the world's largest cities and the very heart of China's international commercial life. Here lived the bankers and industrialists, in (or conveniently near) the safety of the International Concessions.
Chiang needed money, a great deal of money, to retain the support of his generals, to pay his troops, and to support his faction of the Nationalist Party. The bankers of Shanghai were fair game, and they knew it. But to be useful he must squeeze them, not kill them; he must take Shanghai with minimum violence.
50 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
Every city in China in those days knew what to expect if an ill- disciplined, unpaid army came within its walls, and Shanghai was the greatest prize of all.
Chen Yi served Chiang Kai-shek well at this moment. On the one hand he betrayed his colleague, General Sung Chuan-fang, and on the other he is said to have worked out a satisfactory settlement with powerful gang leaders in the Shanghai underworld, ensuring a quiet entry into the great city. Chiang's forces moved through Chekiang Province, unopposed, to enter Shanghai's "back door."
The bankers and industrialists of Shanghai, led by the brilliant Soong-Kung Family group, had now to come to terms with Chiang. His rivals in the Nationalist Party were forming a Leftist government at Wuhan, upriver. Apparently Chiang made a bargain. In return for financial support on a large scale he agreed to exclude left-wing elements and Communists from the new "National Revolutionary Government."
The bargain was cemented by a marriage between Chiang and an "unclaimed jewel" of the Soong Family, the beautiful Soong Mei-ling, aged twenty-six, the youngest sister of T.V. Soong.
Since this extraordinary marriage-alliance lies at the heart of contemporary Chinese history, and has had such a profound though indirect effect upon the fate of postwar Formosa, we must take some note of it here.
The very wealthy Soong family specialized in brilliant and advantageous marriages. Soong E-ling's marriage with Dr. H. H. Kung, a wealthy banker, established a useful link with the oldest and most conservative tradition in China, for Kung is recognized as the "seventy-fifth lineal descendant of Confucius." Soong Ching-ling's marriage to Sun Yat-sen, on the other hand, had established a link with the most dynamic revolutionary political movement in modern China. In effect, Ching-ling married China's "George Washington," worshiped on every Monday morning throughout the country as "The National Father." Now - in 1927 the youngest daughter, Mei-ling,
"ISLAND X" 51
through marriage associated the Soong Family with the most prominent young Nationalist Party general. Henceforth the Generalissimo's Party and Army organizations looked after Soong- Kung Family interests within China, and the brilliant leaders of the Soong-Kung Family cultivated and advanced Chiang Kai-shek's interests abroad - especially in the United States - with astonishing success. H. H. Kung, T. V. Soong, and the three Soong sisters were all graduates of colleges and universities in the United States, and as representatives of "China's leading Christian Family" they became the symbols, in American eyes, of all that might be done and must be done to evangelize and transform China.
Promptly following the fateful marriage at Shanghai - a marriage of military ambition with the keenest financial brains in China -members of Madame Chiang's family assumed control of China's economic life. While the Generalissimo marched up and down the country with only modest success as a military leader, he dominated the Nationalist Party Government as Tsungtsai or "Leader," the Duce or Fuhrer of China.
A bald record, in outline form, may suggest the manner in which this small family group concentrated authority within its grasp. The key offices were Transport (Communications), Finance, and Industry, with Foreign Affairs becoming important when opportunities came to manipulate the massive foreign aid programs upon which the regime became dependent in its later years. The Legislative Yuan made the laws, and the Executive Yuan - the Civil Administration - applied them.
Madame Chiang's Family and the Chinese Economy 1927-1948
(T. V. Soong) (H. H. Kung)
Finance Minister & Vice President Minister for Labor,
Executive Yuan 1928-31 Commerce &
Acting President Minister for Industry 1930-32
Executive Yuan 1932-33
52 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
(T. V. Soong) (H. H. Kung)
Bank of China 1930-33 Bank of China 1933
Board Chairman Vice President
Bank of China 1935-43 Executive Yuan 1933
Minister Finance Minister 1933-44
Foreign Affairs 1942745
Executive Yuan 1945-47 Executive Yuan 1938
Governor Vice President
Kwangtung Province 1947-49 Executive Yuan 1939-45
President Chiang 1948-
Another member of the family - Sun Fo - served as Finance Minister in 1927-28, as Minister of Railways from 1928 until 1931, and then for sixteen years (1932 to 1948) held the Presidency of the Legislative Yuan, China's law-making body. In 1948 he became President of the Executive Yuan, succeeding T. V. Soong. Minor posts elsewhere in the Government were held by less prominent members of the Family.
Soong, Kung and Sun Fo held concurrently seats in the highest councils of the Nationalist Party and were in strong positions to influence appointments throughout the Administration.
Chen Yi was not often spoken of as a direct agent for the Soong Family, but the record suggests that an association did exist through which, for suitable rewards, Chen advanced and protected the Family interests.
The ease with which Chiang took Shanghai in 1927 placed him in great debt to Chen. Once he had the city well under control, be made Chen Yi Director of the Shanghai Arsenal, a lucrative post, and soon thereafter made him Vice Minister of War.
"ISLAND X" 53
In 1932 the Japanese attacked Shanghai, anticipating no great difficulties. To their astonishment, however, they met formidable resistance offered by the Chinese 19th Route Army. The Japanese broke off the attack and came to terms with Chiang. Foreign observers reported that the 19th Route Army was the best disciplined and most effective fighting force in China, but it was not one of Chiang's personal organizations, and its commanders were not his men. Instead of rewarding them and using the 19th Route Army in his further campaigns, he ordered it to disband. The commanders refused, and retreated into the rugged Fukien coastal regions. At this Chiang sent Chen Yi to Fukien Province as Governor (or "Chairman") with orders to destroy the rebels. Since they were now cut off from an adequate military supply, Chen found it rather easy to break up the units, and in time exterminated the leaders.
Chen Yi remained in Fukien for eight years (from 1934 until 1942) which was a very long time indeed for an appointment of this sort in China. He had powerful patrons and acted for them as "front man" covering clandestine trade between China and Japan, long after the second Japanese invasion of China had been launched in 1937. Powerful interests in Shanghai were dealing with powerful interests in Japan. They were under the protection of the Japanese Imperial Navy which patrolled the China coast from Shanghai southward toward Hong Kong and Canton. (There was an old Sino-Japanese agreement guaranteeing Japan's "special interests" here.) British firms along the coast were aware of a continuing, extensive trade with Japan through Fukien ports. The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 was an "incident" and not a declared war.*
* After 1937 China kept appealing to the United States to "do something" to force Japan to leave China, and cried for economic support and arms. But there was no Chinese declaration of war upon Japan until after Pearl Harbor and after the United States had declared war. A formal declaration would have embarrassed the great Chinese commercial interests, trading secretly with the enemy. I remember- with what anger a young Japanese friend at Osaka (in 1939) told me he had just discovered correspondence within his firm disclosing an important private arrangement whereby certain Chinese firms exported pig-bristles to Japan by way of Foochow in exchange for shipment of small arms and ammunition to the Chinese. My friend's brother had just been killed on the China front.
54 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
Governor Chen's principal aide in financial administration was Yen Chia-kan, a soft-spoken, charming personality who is today (1965) Premier of Nationalist China.
Yen Chia-kan, who used to be known as K. K. Nyien, followed Chen Yi into Fukien-or was sent there-in 1938. The 19th Route Army by then had been wiped out, and the province was under a harsh administration. This was a "side door" into China, conveniently kept open until 1942. Trade with Japan was brisk and immensely profitable, but for the average shopkeeper and peasant of Fukien Chen Yi's "Necessary State Socialism" meant harsh exploitation.
Yen served as Chen Yi's principal economic advisor, holding in turn posts as Reconstruction Commissioner, Tax Bureau Director, Finance Commissioner, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fukien Provincial Bank.*
Chen Yi and his Japanese mistress (the "First Lady of Fukien") enjoyed cordial relations with the Japanese naval representatives along the Fukien coast. When at last the Generalissimo ordered General Chen to withdraw (in 1942) it was arranged for them to leave the province with their personal property intact and without interference before the Japanese forces took over the administration at Foochow. At Chungking General Chen was made Secretary-General of the Executive Yuan, under its Vice President, H. H. Kung. After a time Yen Chia-kan became Director of Procurement for China's War Production Board.
* His subsequent career, in brief: Director of Procurement, War Production Board (1945); Communications Commissioner, Taiwan Provincial Government (1945-46); Finance Commissioner, Taiwan Provincial Government ( 1946-49); Chairman, Board of Directors, Bank of Taiwan (1946-49); Member, Council for United States Aid, Executive Yuan (1948); Minister of Economic Affairs ( 1950); Deputy Chairman, CUSA, (1950-57); Finance Minister (1950-54); Governor of Taiwan (1954-57); Chairman, CUSA (1957); Premier of China, (1963-_).
"ISLAND X" 55
Governor Chen's questionable relations with the enemy might have been tolerated in Fukien if he had not developed "Necessary State Socialism." This was a complex system of state monopolies designed cleverly to drain off local wealth into the pockets of the administrators, with just enough passed to the National Treasury to satisfy officials along the way. Here was perfected the system which Chen Yi later introduced to Formosa provoking the Formosans to rebellion.
In the period of Chen Yi's governorship the Province of Fukien was systematically looted. Hot-headed students demonstrated, rioting broke out again and again, and Chen Yi reacted without mercy. The brutality with which students were tortured and killed in Fukien set something of a record even for China.
I observed in Washington that some of the most ardent "China First" men in the Department of State were shaken by Chen's appointment to Formosa, for his Fukien record was well known. But by then it was too late; the Chiang-Wedemeyer Agreement had been made. We could only wait and see.
Meanwhile in China the announcement provoked an extraordinary outburst of criticism. The press at Shanghai was filled with outraged comment. Important Fukien guilds joined with expatriate Formosan organizations at Chungking, Kunming, Kweilin, and Liuchow in begging the Generalissimo to cancel the appointment. Open letters of exceptional bitterness were addressed to Chen in the press, demanding that be withdraw, and forecasting disaster if he took the post. There was an undercurrent of disbelief; now at last the Japanese were defeated, and the Government was allied with the most powerful country in the world - the United States of America. There had been so much talk of the future and reform. And now this.
It was charged that Chen would "create a hotbed of fascism in Taiwan, leading to future war." His crimes in office as Fukien's governor were reviewed in great detail - they were horrifying and, alas, they were for the most part true. Chen's traitorous
56 THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, 1941-1945
relations with the Japanese were reviewed; he had openly traded with the enemy, inviting Mitsui capital to enter his province, and permitting the (Japanese) South Manchurian Railway Company to exploit the mines and operate the harbors of Fukien. The commercial monopolies (Necessary State Socialism) had bankrupted thousands of small traders. In 1935 Chen had congratulated the Japanese in Formosa, and when war came in 1937, it was alleged, he openly expressed an opinion that China could resist no longer than three months. He had arrested protesting members of the Fukien People's Political Councils, and he had put to death scores of patriotic anti-Japanese students who demanded an end to trading with the enemy and greater resistance in Fukien Province. When at last the Japanese advanced on Foochow city, Chen had surrendered it without a shot, in exchange for an opportunity to withdraw, unhindered, with his ill-gained wealth and his Japanese mistress.
These were the public charges, and Formosa's prospects were grim.
Chen Yi and the Generalissimo ignored the protests. Nevertheless, in his usual method of operations, Chiang took great care to create checks and balances within the new administration. Here and there Chen had to accept subordinates who were not of the "Political Science" clique, and key military command posts went to generals who were not Chen's men. In theory the Governor-General's authority was supreme, but in practice he knew that unfriendly eyes were watching him, and that he had to share out the loot. Chen was above all a political general; with his superior knowledge of Formosa's wealth he was in a position to offer splendid bribes wherever they were necessary to buy support at Chungking, and on the island he could be expected to soothe rivals and silence important critics by "filling their mouths with gold." Small fry could be shot.
The fighting war ended in mid-August, but the formal surrender had not yet taken place. Formosa lay in a strangely unreal
"ISLAND X" 57
state of suspension between two worlds. The island people saw that the United States had defeated Japan, and therefore looked to the Allied High Command.
What lay in the future?