Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
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|Second Taiwan Strait Crisis|
| Republic of China
|People's Republic of China|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Chiang Kai Shek
Dwight D. Eisenhower
| Mao Zedong
|Casualties and losses|
|2,500 ROC troops killed||200 PRC troops killed|
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, also called the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, was a conflict that took place between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) governments in which the PRC shelled the islands of Kinmen and the nearby Matsu Islands along the east coast of the PRC (in the Taiwan Strait) in an attempt to drive away the ROC Army. The United States used the nuclear threat to win the Crisis, as the PRC had yet to gain nuclear power. Eisenhower used the tactic of "brinkmanship" to ensure victory. U.S. policy then became to refuse to acknowledge the PRC and pin her back as much as possible. Also many missile bases were installed, and military bases built in a series of countries surrounding mainland China.
The crisis started with the 823 Artillery Bombardment (simplified Chinese: 八二三炮战; traditional Chinese: 八二三炮戰; pinyin: Bā'èrsān Pàozhàn) at 5:30 pm on August 23, 1958, when the PRC's People's Liberation Army (PLA) began an intense artillery bombardment against Kinmen. The ROC troops on Kinmen dug in and then returned fire. In the heavy exchange of fire, roughly 2,500 ROC soldiers and 200 PRC soldiers were killed.
This conflict was a continuation of the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, which had begun immediately after the Korean War was over. The Nationalist Chinese had begun to build on the island of Kinmen and the nearby Matsu archipelago. During 1954, the PLA began firing artillery at both Kinmen and some of the nearby Matsu islands.
The American Eisenhower Administration responded to the request for aid from the ROC according to its obligations in the mutual defense treaty that had been ratified in 1954. President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the reinforcement of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet in the area, and he ordered American naval vessels to help the Nationalist Chinese government to protect the supply lines to the islands.
Also, under a secret effort called "Operation Black Magic", the U.S. Navy modified some of the F-86 Sabre fighter planes of the ROC Air Force with its newly developed AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (early models). These missiles gave the Nationalist Chinese pilots a decisive edge over the Soviet-made MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighters (flown by the PRC) in the skies over the Matsu Islands and the Taiwan Strait. The ROC pilots used these Sidewinder missiles to gain air superiority over the PRC pilots.
The US Army's contribution was to reinforce the strategic air defense capability of the ROC. A provisional Nike battalion was organized at Fort Bliss, TX, and sent via USMTS USS General J. C. Breckinridge (AP-176) to Taiwan. The 2nd Missile Battalion was augmented with detachments of signal, ordnance and engineers, totaling some 704 personnel. Recent research from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration also indicates that the U.S. Air Force was prepared for nuclear warfare against the PRC.
Twelve long-range 203 mm (8-inch) M115 howitzer artillery pieces and numerous 155 mm howitzers were transferred from U.S. Marine Corps to the Army of the ROC. These were sent west to Kinmen Island to gain superiority in the artillery duel back and forth over the straits there. The impact of these powerful (but conventional) artillery pieces led some members of the PLA to believe that American artillerymen had begun to use nuclear weapons against them.
On September 22, 1958, the Sidewinder missile was used for the first time in air-to-air combat as 32 Nationalist Chinese F-86s clashed with 100 Red Chinese MiGs in a series of aerial engagements. Numerous MiGs were shot down by Sidewinders, the first "kills" to be scored by air-to-air missiles in combat.
Soon, the PRC was faced with a stalemate, the PLA's artillerymen had run out of artillery shells. The Red Chinese government announced a large decrease in bombardment levels on October 6.
Afterwards, both sides continued to bombard each other with shells containing propaganda leaflets on alternate days of the week. This strange informal arrangement continued until the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the PRC in 1979.
The question of "Matsu and Quemoy (Kinmen)" became an issue in the 1960 U.S. presidential election when Richard Nixon accused John F. Kennedy of being unwilling to commit to using nuclear weapons if the PRC invaded the Nationalist outposts.
The spent shell casings and fragments have become a recyclable resource for steel for the local economy. Since the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Kinmen has become famous for its production of meat cleavers made from bombshells.
- First Taiwan Strait Crisis
- Third Taiwan Strait Crisis
- List of battles over Kinmen
- Chinese Civil War
- Military of the Republic of China
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- Watry, David M. Diplomacy at the Brink: Eisenhower, Churchill, and Eden in the Cold War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014.
- Ministry of National Defense R.O.C 
- US Naval War College
- Mao Zedong's handling of the Taiwan Straits Crisis of 1958
- Khrushchev's Nuclear Promise to Beijing During the 1958 Crisis
- First and Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Quemoy and Matsu Islands of Taiwan from the Cold War Museum
- The Communist Threat in the Taiwan Area Contemparary US government reaction
- YouTube - Taiwan After WW2 | US Army & Republic of China Army Prepare for War with China | Documentary