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Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
Taiwan Strait.png
Taiwan Strait
Date23 August 1958 – 22 September 1958
(4 weeks and 2 days)
LocationStrait of Taiwan
Result Ceasefire, status quo ante bellum
Taiwan Republic of China Armed Forces
United States United States Navy
China Chinese People's Liberation Army
Commanders and leaders
Taiwan Chiang Kai Shek
Taiwan Chiang Ching-kuo
Taiwan Hu Lian
Taiwan Ji Xingwen
Taiwan Zhao Jiaxiang
Taiwan Zhang Jie
China Mao Zedong
China Peng Dehuai
China Xu Xiangqian
Units involved
Taiwan 155 mm Long Tom, M115 howitzer, North American F-86 Sabre, North American B-25 Mitchell, etc. China Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-9, Mikoyan MiG-15, etc.
Taiwan 92,000 China 215,000

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 (P.R.C.) and the Republic of China (R.O.C.) governments in which the PRC shelled the islands of Quemoy and the nearby Matsu Islands along the east coast of the P.R.C. (in the Taiwan Strait) in an attempt to drive away the Army of the Republic of 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 People's Liberation Army (P.L.A.) began an intense artillery bombardment against Quemoy. The R.O.C. troops on Quemoy dug in and then returned fire. In the heavy exchange of fire, roughly 2,500 R.O.C. soldiers and 200 P.R.C. soldiers were killed.

This conflict was a continuation of the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, which had begun immediately after the Korean War. The Nationalist Chinese had begun to build on the island of Quemoy and the nearby Matsu archipelago. During 1954, the P.L.A. began firing artillery at both Quemoy 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 R.O.C. according to its obligations in the mutual defense treaty that had been ratified in 1954. President 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 R.O.C. 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 P.R.C.) in the skies over the Matsu Islands and the Taiwan Strait. The R.O.C. pilots used these Sidewinder missiles to win air superiority over the P.R.C. pilots.

Recent research from the National Archives also indicates that the U.S. Air Force was prepared for nuclear warfare against the P.R.C.

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 R.O.C. These were sent west to Quemoy and 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 P.L.A. to believe that American artillerymen had begun to use nuclear weapons against them.[1][2][3]

Soon, the U.S.S.R. dispatched its foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, to the Chinese capital (Peking) to discuss the actions of the P.L.A. 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. 32 Nationalist Chinese F-86s engaged with 100 Red Chinese MiGs, with numerous MiGs being shot down by the Sidewinders: first missile "kills" in air-to-air combat.

Soon, the P.R.C. was faced with a stalemate, the P.L.A.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 P.R.C. in 1979.

The question of "Matsu and Quemoy" became an issue in the 1960 American Presidential election when Richard Nixon accused John F. Kennedy of being unwilling to commit to using nuclear weapons if the People's Republic of China invaded the Nationalist outposts.

The spent shell casings have become a recyclable resource for steel for the local economy. Since the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Quemoy has become famous for its production of meat cleavers made from bomb shells.

See also

Further reading

Museum of the 823 (August 23) Artillery Bombardment in Kinmen

  • 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



External links

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