Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
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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). In this conflict, the PRC shelled the islands of Kinmen and the Matsu Islands along the east coast of mainland China (in the Taiwan Strait) to "liberate" Taiwan from the Chinese Nationalist Party, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT); and to probe the extent of the United States defense of Taiwan's territory.
|Second Taiwan Strait Crisis|
|Part of the Cold War and Chinese Civil War|
Republic of China|
|People's Republic of China|
|Commanders and leaders|
Ji Xingwen †
Zhao Jiaxiang †
Zhang Jie †
Dwight D. Eisenhower
|Casualties and losses|
|440 ROC troops killed and missing||460 PRC troops killed and wounded|
The conflict was a continuation of the Chinese Civil War and First Taiwan Strait Crisis. The ROC had begun to build military installations on the island of Kinmen and the nearby Matsu archipelago. The PLA began firing artillery at both Kinmen and some and the nearby Matsu islands.
The American Eisenhower Administration responded to the request for aid from the ROC according to its obligations in the ROC-United States 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. In addition, the U.S. Air Force deployed F-100D Super Sabres, F-101C Voodoos, F-104A Starfighters, and B-57B Canberras to Taiwan to demonstrate support for the republic. The F-104s were disassembled and airlifted to Taiwan in C-124 Globemaster II transport aircraft, marking the first time such a method was used to move fighter aircraft over a long distance.
Also, under a secret effort called "Operation Black Magic", the U.S. Navy modified some of the F-86 Sabre fighters of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force with its newly developed early AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. These missiles gave the Nationalist Chinese pilots a decisive edge over the Chinese Communists' Soviet-made MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighters in the skies over the Matsu Islands and the Taiwan Strait. The Nationalist Chinese pilots used the Sidewinder missiles to score numerous kills on PLAAF MiG aircraft.
The US Army's contribution reinforced the strategic air defense capability of the Republic of China. A provisional Nike missile battalion was organized at Fort Bliss, TX, and sent via USMTS USS General J. C. Breckinridge (AP-176) to Nationalist China. The 2nd Missile Battalion was augmented with detachments of signal, ordnance and engineers, totaling some 704 personnel.
Twelve long-range 203 mm (8-inch) M115 howitzer artillery pieces and numerous[quantify] 155 mm howitzers were transferred from the U.S. Marine Corps to the Army of the Nationalist China. 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.
Soon, the Soviet Union dispatched its foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, to Beijing to discuss the actions of the PLA and the Communist Chinese Air Force (PLAAF), with advice of caution to the Communist Chinese.
On September 22, 1958, the Sidewinder missile was used for the first time in air-to-air combat as 32 Republic of China F-86s clashed with 100 PRC (PLAAF) MiGs in a series of aerial engagements. Numerous[quantify] MiGs were shot down by Sidewinders, the first "kills" to be scored by air-to-air missiles in combat.
Soon, the People's Republic of China was faced with a stalemate, as the PLA's artillerymen had run out of artillery shells. The Communist Chinese government announced a large decrease in bombardment levels on October 6, 1958.
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 Communist People's Republic of China in 1979. The timed shelling created little damage and casualties; it was mainly aimed at military compounds and artillery pieces.
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