By Cindy Sui
Taoyuan County, Taiwan
The documents have recently been put on display for the first time
Most people in China and Taiwan might think they know what happened after the long and bloody civil war between the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Communist Party ended in 1949.
But recently declassified government archives have revealed a previously unknown secretive plan by Taiwan's late President Chiang Kai-shek to take back mainland China.
Chiang and his troops had fled to Taiwan after losing the war to the Communists but, despite great obstacles, he was obsessed with the idea of taking back the land he had lost.
According to these newly-revealed government documents, by the 1960s Chiang thought the time was right to launch a counter-attack, given the devastating famine Mao Zedong's leadership had unleashed and the possibility China would soon have a nuclear weapon.
The US was fighting the Vietnam War then, and Chiang knew he needed US military assistance if he were to succeed so he offered to help the Americans fight the war in Vietnam in exchange for US support.
Washington objected to Chiang's suggestions, but Chiang went ahead with his preparations anyway.
The declassified information - photocopies of which went on public display in Taiwan for the first time in May - show that Chiang's planned offensive, called the Guo Guang [National Glory] Project, involved 26 operations including land invasions, special operations behind enemy lines and raids against the enemy.
Chiang Kai-shek was obsessed with the idea of taking back mainland China
Chiang also instructed his son Chiang Ching-kuo to come up with a plan to launch an airborne attack on southern China's Fujian and Guangdong provinces.
All of this was top secret at the time.
In 1965, the plans were ready. Soldiers and officers drew up their wills, while the top brass were trying to choose the most suitable "D-Day" to deploy their troops, according to the archives.
But Beijing had discovered the plan. On 6 August 1965, two Taiwanese naval vessels assigned to transport troops on a reconnaissance mission were sunk by Communist forces. About 200 soldiers were killed.
In November the same year, another vessel sent to drop off supplies for soldiers stationed on one of Taiwan's outlying islands was hit by Communist torpedoes, killing some 90 soldiers.
The heavy loss of life surprised Chiang Kai-shek. He then realised China had significantly improved its naval capability. Chiang was forced to scale back and eventually abandon his plan.
But according to Gen Huang Chih-chung, who was an army colonel at the time and was part of the planning process, Chiang never completely gave up the desire to take back China.
"Even when he died, he was still hoping the international situation would change and that the Communists would be wiped out one day."
Shift in focus
The failure of Chiang's plan changed the course of Chinese and Taiwanese history.
The Taiwanese "shifted the focus to modernising and defending Taiwan instead of preparing Taiwan to take back China," said Andrew Yang, a political scientist specialising in Taiwan-China relations at the Taipei-based Council of Advanced Policy Studies.
Chiang's son, who later succeeded him as president, focused on maintaining peace between the mainland and Taiwan.
Details of this chapter in history were kept secret for 44 years, and were only revealed when the tourism department in Taoyuan County managed to convince the ministry of national defence and the national library to give it access to the archives.
"There were 26 planned operations, but the department of defence only kept documents on 10 of them. The others were all destroyed," said Hsieh Shyang-ling, a spokeswoman for the Taoyuan tourism department.
"Chiang Kai-shek didn't want people to know. What we have access to are only some of the documents."
It remains unclear how many soldiers died in the preparations leading up to the plan that was never actually carried out.
"To this day, some of their families might not even know how they died," Andrew Yang said.
Chiang even built a secret bomb shelter in case of all-out war
The documents are now displayed in what was once a secret command centre in the scenic mountains of Taoyuan, which the tourism department opened to the public for the first time in May.
Hundreds of tourists visit the area each day, including some Chinese tourists.
"We feel that since this history existed, we should not hide it. We want to tell people there was this part of history," Ms Hsieh said.
The now elderly Gen Huang said he hoped lessons could be learned from history.
"Relations between Taiwan and China have totally changed now. I hope it will develop peacefully," he said. "There's no need for war."