The Taiwan affair of 1954-55 now entered its last phase, one during which fear of war reached its zenith, even though no further territory changed hands, and even though resolution of the affair was already underway. Peking reduced its Liberate Taiwan propaganda in late February 1955,1 but did not switch to a peaceful theme until late March.2 Uncertainty about Peking's intentions combined with nuclear threats by Washington to create a highly charged atmosphere. We will consider the high tension first and then return to its resolution.
Two questions aroused much apprehension and speculation after the evacuation of the Nanchis: first, would Peking try to capture any more islands; and second, since all observers agreed that the Nationalists alone could not hold the offshore islands against a determined assault,3 would Washington defend them?
The fear of war centered on the island groups of Quemoy and Matsu, especially the former. (The Nationalists also held the Wu-ch'ius,4 a pair of small islands about halfway between Quemoy and Matsu, but the Wu-ch'ius figured scarcely at all in this affair.) Quemoy was not only the largest island, but also symbolically and militarily by far the most important. It had been a stronghold of earlier refugees who had defied the dynasty on the mainland.5 In October 1949, the Nationalists, standing alone, had successfully defended Quemoy against a strong Communist assault.6 Quemoy lies in a harbor, not in the open ocean, and so was, and is, the Nationalists' most prominent piece of mainland terri