Second Taiwan Strait Crisis

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Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
Taiwan Strait.png
Taiwan Strait
Date 23 August 1958 – 22 September 1958
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Location Strait of Taiwan
Result Ceasefire, status quo ante bellum
Taiwan Republic of China
 United States
China People's Republic of China
Commanders and leaders
Taiwan Chiang Kai Shek
Taiwan Chiang Ching-kuo
Taiwan Hu Lien
Taiwan Ji Xingwen
Taiwan Zhao Jiaxiang
Taiwan Zhang Jie
United States Dwight D. Eisenhower
China Mao Zedong
China Peng Dehuai
China Xu Xiangqian

Taiwan 92,000

United States 704
China 215,000
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 Taiwan (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 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 U.S. carrier USS Lexington (CVA-16) with a supply ship and a destroyer off Taiwan during the crisis.

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.[1]

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.[2][3][4]

Soon, the Soviet Union dispatched its foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, to Beijing to discuss the actions of the PLA and the Red Chinese Air Force, with advice of caution to the Red Chinese.

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.[citation needed] 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.

See also

Further reading

  • Bush, R. & O'Hanlon, M. (2007). A War Like No Other: The Truth About China's Challenge to America. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-98677-1
  • Bush, R. (2006). Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0-8157-1290-1
  • Carpenter, T. (2006). America's Coming War with China: A Collision Course over Taiwan. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6841-1
  • Cole, B. (2006). Taiwan's Security: History and Prospects. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-36581-3
  • Copper, J. (2006). Playing with Fire: The Looming War with China over Taiwan. Praeger Security International General Interest. ISBN 0-275-98888-0
  • Federation of American Scientists et al. (2006). Chinese Nuclear Forces and U.S. Nuclear War Planning
  • Gill, B. (2007). Rising Star: China's New Security Diplomacy. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0-8157-3146-9
  • Shirk, S. (2007). China: Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-530609-0
  • Tsang, S. (2006). If China Attacks Taiwan: Military Strategy, Politics and Economics. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-40785-0
  • Tucker, N.B. (2005). Dangerous Strait: the U.S.-Taiwan-China Crisis. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-13564-5
  • Watry, David M. Diplomacy at the Brink: Eisenhower, Churchill, and Eden in the Cold War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014.



  1. citation needed
  2. Video on YouTube
  3. Video on YouTube
  4. Video on YouTube

External links