By Hsiao-ting Lin
Over half a century ago, the Taiwan Strait area was a hot spot for Cold War military confrontations. Beginning on August 23 and lasting until October 5, 1958, the Chinese Communists launched a massive artillery bombardment at Quemoy, the fifty-one-square-mile island off the southeast Chinese province of Fujian that was then under the governance of the Taipei-based Republic of China. More than 57,000 bombshells were dropped onto the tiny island in the first two hours of the bombing, causing many casualties. In the following weeks, the Communist patrol boats blockaded Quemoy to prevent Chiang Kai-shek’s resupply efforts. The blockade was accompanied by an aggressive propaganda assault against the United States, Taiwan’s ally; threats against American naval ships; and a declaration of intent to "liberate" Taiwan. Quemoy, which lies only a few miles from the mainland, had been used since 1949 by Chiang Kai-shek to mount raids on the Chinese Communists. Following the 1958 crisis, the island became a symbol of the Cold War; its strategic position reflects the significant change of cross-strait relations, from a battlefront to a trading point between China and Taiwan in the twenty-first century.
On September 26, 2016 one of the numerous artillery shells that the Chinese Communists had dropped half a century before arrived at Hoover as a gift from the Taiwanese government. Joseph Ma, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, presented the artillery shell at a ceremony at Hoover to Eric Wakin, the Robert H. Malott Director of the Library & Archives. The artillery shell, which will join the pieces of the Berlin Wall as part of Hoover’s unique holdings on the Cold War, will be displayed at the new exhibition entitled Unpacking History: New Collections at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives. The exhibition opens on September 27, 2016 and runs until February 25, 2017. Quemoy Island has also recently been featured in an "The Battle for Quemoy" by Military HIstory/Contemporary Conflict Working Group member Maochun Miles Yu, which appeared recently in Naval War College Review.
Hsiao-ting Lin is co-curator for East Asian collections at Hoover Institution Library & Archives.