37. The Korean War

As the victorious North Korean soldiers pressed relentlessly southward, the United States threw in the closest troops on hand in Japan in a frantic effort to stop them. Meanwhile the military services commenced the major task of reconstituting what they now called "conventional forces." They recommenced military conscription, nationalized a number of National Guard units and called up thousands of reservists. Many of the officers and men ordered back had served in World War II. These "retreads" had to give up civilian careers while the government deferred large numbers of men who had never served. Recalling the retreads was extremely unfair. Many of these individuals died or were wounded. Nevertheless, their knowledge and skills permitted the armed services to regain quickly a large measure of the professional competence and capability that marked the U.S. services in 1945. Had the retreads not been recalled, it would have taken many months to have rebuilt the sadly depleted military services.

The ground forces particularly had been allowed to decline to only a shadow of their strength at war's end because the U.S. had relied after World War II almost wholly upon its nuclear weapons to deter aggression. President Truman annually added up all expected expenditures of the civilian government and anything left over went to the military. Given the choice of spending money on the ground forces or air power, the American people naturally opted for air power because it could deliver atomic bombs.1 The Soviet Union exploded the false security of the American nuclear monopoly in September, 1949, when it exploded its own atomic device. It was the realization that Russia also had the atomic bomb, as much as anything else, which increased the fear in Washington that the Soviet Union actually was embarked on overt aggression and Korea was the first arena of conflict.2

The American rearmament program was astonishingly swift and efficient, but it was impossible to deliver enough men and weapons quickly enough to halt the onrushing North Koreans immediately. The four American divisions in Japan were understrength and without adequate weapons. In the first days, the few American soldiers who got to Korea (almost all from the 24th Infantry Division which had been occupying Kyushu) had little to stop the T-34 tanks. However, the situation changed in coming weeks through urgent deliveries of antitank mines, antitank artillery shells, the new 3.5-inch rocket launcher (super bazooka), 5-inch aircraft rockets and, after some delay, American medium tanks.

Until these vital weapons arrived, American forces fell back before the swift and confident North Korean offensive. By August the American and South Korean forces (finally joined August 29 by a small two-battalion British brigade) had been pushed into the 50-by-100-mile "Pusan perimeter" around the southern Korean port of Pusan.

Throughout the long and agonizing retreat, however, General MacArthur had been devising a dramatic strategic counterstroke at Inchon, the port city of Seoul. He recognized (though the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not) that an invasion at Inchon offered a dazzling opportunity to destroy the North Korean army. Inchon was only about twenty miles from Seoul, through which ran the only north-south double-tracked railway line in Korea. This line, plus the road net fanning out from Seoul, offered the only means the North Koreans possessed of supplying their forces far to the south. MacArthur recognized that, if he captured Seoul, he severed North Korea's umbilical cord. A modern army without food or fuel, but especially ammunition, cannot survive for more than a few days. MacArthur nevertheless had to fight a dogged battle with the JCS to get approval for this master stroke. The chiefs opposed Inchon because of the extremely high tides there and the narrow approach channel. This, in the JCS view, made the landing difficult and possibly dangerous. The chiefs recommended instead a landing farther south at Kunsan, only about seventy miles west of the Pusan perimeter line. Such a landing would not have severed the North Korean lines of communication at all. The North Koreans would have been able to shift forces rapidly from the perimeter to form a new line across South Korea. Any American attack thereafter along this line would have been a direct assault on defended emplacements. It would have merely driven the North Koreans farther back on their reserves and supplies. It would not have severed the North Korean army from these reserves and supplies.

While the Joint Chiefs and MacArthur were fighting a long-range battle over the plans for Inchon, a series of flaps developed about Taiwan. First Robert C. Strong, American chargé on Taiwan, sent an alarmist report on July 14 that the Chinese Communists were likely preparing to attack Taiwan. American intelligence agencies investigated immediately and the Joint Chiefs concluded that 200,000 Red Chinese soldiers and 4,000 junks and sampans were available on the mainland opposite Taiwan. Since a number of Seventh Fleet warships had been pulled off the Taiwan watch to blockade North Korea, the chiefs feared that many of these vessels would be able to reach Taiwan. There they might cause a major defection of Nationalist armed forces and thus cause the loss of the island.

The Joint Chiefs directed MacArthur on July 25 to make a demonstration in the Taiwan strait even if this meant withdrawing ships from Korean waters. Two days later they recommended needed military supplies be sent to Chiang Kai-shek immediately and the U.S. survey team dispatched quickly to determine other defense needs. To protect against the expected invasion by Red Chinese junks and sampans, the JCS urged that the Nationalists be authorized to make air strikes at amphibious concentrations on the mainland and to mine waters off the mainland opposite Taiwan. Secretary Johnson endorsed the chiefs' recommendation.

The JCS and Johnson thus demonstrated they were perfectly willing to abandon the fiction that the United States was taking a neutral position in the Taiwan strait and in the Chinese civil war. This was in direct conflict with the president's Taiwan neutralization order of June 27 which prohibited offensive action by either side, Communist or Nationalist. It also was contrary to a message Truman sent to Congress on July 19 in which he said the U.S. had no territorial ambitions concerning Taiwan and the neutralization was "without prejudice to political questions affecting that island."3 For the U.S. to permit the Kuomintang to make offensive strikes for the express purpose of preventing the Reds from attacking would line the United States up on the KMT side without a shadow of a doubt. Acheson feared such a move would bring the Red Chinese into the Korean War and result in severe international repercussions, especially from the British. Air attacks by Nationalist planes he ruled out entirely. But he showed his inconsistency by approving mining waters off the Chinese mainland provided international shipping was warned. Acheson's opinion won out.4

While this dispute was going on in Washington, General MacArthur arrived for a two-day visit to Taipei, Taiwan, on July 31 "like a visiting head of state, and was entertained accordingly," according to Omar Bradley's autobiography. MacArthur, instead of sending a survey team to Taiwan, went himself, despite efforts by the Joint Chiefs to dissuade him. MacArthur bore with him the commander of the Seventh Fleet, Admiral Struble. The highly visible presence on the island of the supreme American commander in the Far East appeared to imply secret American agreements with the Nationalists. Generalissimo Chiang did everything to further this impression. He announced that the talks with MacArthur had "laid the foundations for a joint defense of Formosa and Sino-American cooperation." President Truman by no means had come to the conclusion to adopt Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists. He made his decision to quarantine Taiwan on the strength of domestic American political considerations, not to help Chiang reconquer the mainland. MacArthur's insistence upon going to Taiwan and embarrassing the United States was the beginning of the breach between MacArthur and Truman.5

While he was in Taipei MacArthur reportedly decided to station three U.S. Air Force jet fighter squadrons on Taiwan. Johnson and the Joint Chiefs said they knew nothing of it and were opposed. Nothing further developed on the subject, but the report further soured Truman's relations with MacArthur.6

President Truman was a hot-tempered man and MacArthur's assuming the role of maker of U.S. policy angered the president so much he considered relieving the General on the spot.7 MacArthur himself denied any political significance to his visit when he got back to Tokyo.8 In the midst of Truman's indignation, Secretary Johnson made the grave mistake of thinking MacArthur's near-insubordination would be forgotten quickly and Johnson's and MacArthur's plans to help the Nationalists could be carried forward. Johnson asked the JCS to draft a message giving MacArthur standing authority to authorize the Nationalists to attack the Chinese mainland whenever intelligence indicated a Red attack was imminent.9 Johnson's proposal focused some of Truman's anger on the secretary of defense. Instead of giving MacArthur such blanket authority, Truman ordered Johnson to send MacArthur an extremely sharp message on August 5. The message made clear that Truman's order of June 27 neutralizing Taiwan remained in effect and that "no one other than the president as commander-in-chief has the authority to authorize preventive action against concentrations on the [Chinese] mainland." MacArthur quickly came back in official line, responding the next day that he understood fully and that his headquarters was "operating meticulously in accordance therewith." The General's quick response cooled Truman's anger, and he sent his ambassador-at-large, W. Averell Harriman, to Tokyo August 6-8 to explain his views on Taiwan and hopefully to get MacArthur's acceptance. When Harriman returned to Washington, however, he reported to the president that MacArthur accepted Truman's position but was not convinced.10

The MacArthur-Harriman talks divulged more than the gulf between Truman's plan to keep Taiwan actually neutralized and MacArthur's desire to form an alliance with Chiang Kai-shek. They also demonstrated that MacArthur intended to conquer North Korea and destroy it as a state, thereby rolling American forces right to the frontier of China along the Yalu river and creating an all-Korean state under Syngman Rhee allied to the United States.11 Such a plan would go beyond the original resolutions of the United Nations, which implied merely the repulse of the North Korean army and restoration of the status quo ante bellum. MacArthur's plan was as aggressive at that of North Korea itself and carried the danger of Soviet or Red Chinese intervention. It implied upsetting the precarious political balance in the Far East, eliminating one of the Soviet Union's client states and the buffer which North Korea constituted for Communist China between it and the United States. Such an act by the United States, coupled with the neutralization of Taiwan by the Seventh Fleet, would imply strongly to Beijing that the U.S. intended an alliance with the Nationalists and contemplated an invasion of mainland China.12

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Events in Korea now moved rapidly toward a climax. In a series of teleconferences and meetings, the Joint Chiefs and Truman finally endorsed MacArthur's bold plan to strike at the North Korean rear at Inchon on September 15. The U.S. began assembling the assault forces (1st Marine Division), supporting troops (7th Infantry Division) and a massive naval armada to deliver the troops and protect them.

Meanwhile, American officials at last began a leisurely analysis of what the United States should do once UN forces reached the 38th parallel. MacArthur had already made known his plans. But Truman had only instructed the National Security Council on July 17 to recommend a policy for the U.S. "after the North Korean forces have been driven back to the 38th parallel."13 Nevertheless, MacArthur was not the only person beating the drums for a campaign to destroy North Korea. John M. Allison, director of northeast Asian affairs in the State Department, said "there will be no permanent peace and stability in Korea as long as the artificial division at the 38th parallel continues." Although he wasn't sure it would be possible, Allison said he personally felt "we should continue right on up to the Manchurian and Siberian border, and, having done so, call for a UN-supervised election for all of Korea."14 Syngman Rhee and the South Korean ambassador to the U.S., John M. Chang, predictably took the same tack, but without Allison's reservation. Unification of Korea was essential, they said, and the UN should not stop short of this objective.15

At the same time, Joseph Stalin announced a far-different plan to end the Korean conflict and the problem with Taiwan in a single move. He said the UN Security Council could secure a peaceful settlement provided Red China replaced the Nationalists on the council. Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister of India, thought Stalin's proposal offered excellent possibilities and he urged it upon the United States.16 Acheson quickly hunted for allies to deflect Stalin's démarche and found a reluctant friend in Ernest Bevin, British foreign minister. Bevin agreed with Washington's position that there could be no bargain to admit Red China to the UN as the price of peace in Korea. Each issue had to be dealt with on its merits, Bevin said. However, Bevin reminded Acheson that Britain and the U.S. differed on recognizing Red China. He feared the U.S. policy of spurning Beijing, if pursued, would alienate China irrevocably from the West and turn it even more to the Soviet Union.17 Bevin's advice was good, and the admission of Red China to the UN would almost assuredly have brought pressure by Russia and Red China to stop the North Korean attack. But Washington was incapable of such cooperation with the Communists. It chose force, not negotiation, to resolve the issue of Korea and it insisted on the fiction that Nationalist China represented the Chinese people. Out of these twin errors, a great deal of tragedy was to spring.

The study of whether the United States was going to drive over the 38th parallel into North Korea revealed enormous misconceptions about the problem the U.S. faced. State Department policy-planning papers from the start focused on how the Soviet Union might react, but paid astonishingly little attention to Red China. The American planners took for granted the prevailing doctrine that Beijing would only act as an agent of the Kremlin, and did not acknowledge that the Chinese might have separate interests. The planners concluded on July 25 that it was unlikely the Kremlin would accept a regime in North Korea it couldn't control. They also acknowledged that public and congressional opinion in the U.S. would probably call for a "final" solution to the Korean problem and might want military action to continue north of the 38th parallel. The conflicting desires of the Kremlin and the United States pointed to the possibility of general war. Instead of attempting to resolve this conflict, the planners copped out: they recommended that a decision on whether to cross the 38th be deferred until the military and political situation was clearer.18

While analysts in the State and Defense Departments worked over their plans, a fierce aggressiveness seized a number of American leaders. They now began to talk openly of driving the Communists back, not merely restoring the status quo. On August 10 Warren R. Austin, U.S. ambassador in the UN Security Council, announced that American determination for a united Korea "had never wavered." On August 17 he said the United Nations should see to the elimination of a Korea "'half-slave' and 'half-free'."19 On August 25 in a speech in Boston, Francis P. Matthews, secretary of the navy, openly advocated a preventive war "to compel cooperation for peace," adding that the United States would thus "become the first aggressor for peace."20 Less than a week later, Major General Orvil A. Anderson, commander of the Air War College, asserted that the United States was already at war and boasted he could "break up Russia's five A-bomb nests in a week." The U.S. government promptly repudiated both Matthews's and Anderson's statements, and the Pentagon removed Anderson from his post. However, Matthews remained in his job, and no American official disowned Austin's UN statements.21

In the midst of these provocative statements, General MacArthur, without any prior warning to Washington, produced a shocking challenge not only to Red China but also to the chief executive of the United States, President Truman. On August 26 Far East Command headquarters in Tokyo released the text of an address which MacArthur was sending to be read at the annual encampment in Chicago of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) on August 28. The speech went out over the wire services and was being printed in the U.S. News and World Report, which went to press on August 25.

MacArthur's VFW speech was largely a repeat of his June 14 memorandum to General Bradley and Secretary Johnson stressing MacArthur's views about Taiwan's strategic importance and urging it not be allowed to fall into Communist hands. However, MacArthur added a brief comment which poured scorn on so-called "appeasement and defeatism" in the Pacific by those who held that "if we defend Formosa we alienate continental Asia."22 MacArthur's speech implied that the United States wanted Taiwan as a military base and repudiated President Truman's July 19 message to Congress emphasizing that the U.S. sought no "special position or privilege" on Taiwan and had neutralized the island without prejudice to the political questions affecting it. The speech outraged Secretary Acheson at its "effrontery and damaging effect at home and abroad," and Truman, also furious, concluded that "it could only serve to confuse the world as to just what our Formosa policy was."23

Truman called a meeting on August 26 of Secretaries Acheson and Johnson, Ambassador Harriman and the Joint Chiefs. After learning that none of them had been informed of the speech in advance, Truman directed Johnson to order MacArthur to withdraw it. It was obvious this couldn't be done, since it already was being disseminated over the world. Truman's purpose, of course, was to reprimand the General publicly and to show who in the United States was making foreign policy, MacArthur or the president. Johnson did not want the job of confronting MacArthur and spent most of the day trying to get out of it. Truman at last called in Johnson and himself dictated the order to MacArthur to withdraw the speech. The General, instead of learning from the experience, protested that his message had been prepared to support the president's June 27 order quarantining Taiwan. He also said his views were "purely my personal ones." He was thus either deliberately deceiving the president or was incredibly naive to think that the views, private or otherwise, of the officer charged with Far East defense could create anything but an international uproar when they directly opposed official U.S. policy.24

Secretary Johnson's behavior in the VFW speech controversy was the last straw for President Truman. He had learned that Johnson was conniving with Republican Senator Robert Taft for the ouster of Acheson. Truman called for Johnson's resignation and immediately asked General of the Army George C. Marshall to take the job. The wartime chief of staff, special envoy to China (1945-6) and former secretary of state (1947-49) now took on his final major responsibility for his country. The Senate quickly approved him, but in the hearings for his confirmation, Marshall had to undergo brutal attacks by members of the China Lobby and some Republican extremists.25

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The National Security Council finally produced a proposed policy on Korea (NSC 81) on September 1, only two weeks before the Inchon landings were to take place. Official Washington had labored an inexcusably long time to produce this report, and it still was mealy-mouthed and inadequate. Even at this late hour the NSC refused to define a definite course of action. It urged as U.S. policy the unification of Korea. However, the NSC said it was unlikely the Soviet Union would accept passively the loss of Korea provided it could take action that would not involve a substantial risk of war. It saw the possibility of independent action by Red China but thought it unlikely. The NSC saw legal authority for UN forces to undertake military operations to compel the North Koreans to withdraw behind the 38th parallel. However, these forces did not have clear authority to go into North Korea to unify the country under the Republic of Korea and would have to get UN approval to do so. Under any circumstances, the NSC felt the United States should recognize the Republic of Korea as the only lawful government in Korea. However, even assuming UN approval to move north, NSC still could not recommend what the United States should do. This would have to be determined in light of Russian or Red Chinese action, talks with American allies and after appraising the risk of general war.

To reduce chances of Soviet or Red Chinese entry, the NSC suggested that only South Korean troops be used north of the 38th and in no event should U.S. forces be used near the Soviet or Manchurian borders. If the Soviet Union or Red China occupied North Korea, UN forces should march only up to the 38th parallel. However, if the Soviet Union announced in advance its intention to reoccupy North Korea, the matter should be referred to the UN Security Council. It made no recommendation in the event Red China announced occupation of North Korea in advance, assuming thereby that any Red Chinese move would be in response to Soviet directives. Thus, to the last the NSC held to the view that any action in North Korea against U.S. forces would be ordered by Russia, not Red China.26

Knowing the aggressive tendencies of MacArthur, Secretary Acheson demanded and got two changes in NSC 81: that MacArthur had to obtain approval from the president before moving north of the 38th and "it should be the policy" to use only South Korean troops close to the northern borders. Truman approved these revisions (NSC 81/1) on September 11.27 The United States thereby committed itself to the reunification of Korea, thus abandoning its original purpose of merely restoring the status quo prior to June 25, 1950. At first, because of the uncertainty concerning the Soviet reaction (as well as how successful the Inchon landing would be), the new American policy was more an objective that did not necessarily imply an invasion of North Korea.28

On September 15, however, the invasion of Inchon began. It achieved astonishing success, quickly shattering the few dazed defenders at the port city and permitting marines and army soldiers to rush to capture Seoul. They secured the capital by September 29, and on that day MacArthur reinstalled Syngman Rhee in the South Korean capitol building. The North Korean army, cut off from its supplies, quickly disintegrated. Of the 70,000 North Korean soldiers along the Pusan perimeter line on the day of Inchon, only about 25,000 to 30,000 eventually got back to North Korea. Most of these walked back, sometimes for weeks, and after losing most of their weapons. The demoralized North Koreans who finally assembled north of the 38th had lost most of their military effectiveness.29

The spectacular American victory changed American thinking abruptly. As late as September 21 President Truman apparently had not committed the U.S. to invasion of the north. On that day he told a reporter the decision would be up to the United Nations. However, on September 27 the president approved a JCS directive specifically authorizing military action in North Korea.30 The United States, therefore, approved the invasion of North Korea before a resolution to this effect had been submitted to the United Nations. The U.S. had come to the conclusion that UN members would be unable to stomach a bald resolution frankly authorizing elimination of the North Korean state. Acheson and other top officials, therefore, decided to obscure the significance of the invasion of North Korea and hope to achieve destruction of North Korea as a byproduct of the effort to finish off the remains of the North Korean army.

There was a specific case that showed this intent. On September 29 Secretary of Defense Marshall sent MacArthur a special message "for his eyes only." It resulted from a news report that Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker, commander of the U.S. Eighth Army in Korea, would halt at the 38th for "regrouping" and presumably await permission from the United Nations to cross. Marshall told MacArthur: "We want you to feel unhampered tactically and strategically to proceed north of the 38th parallel. Announcement above referred to may precipatate embarrassment in the UN where evident desire is not to be confronted with necessity of a vote on passage of 38th parallel, rather to find you have found it militarily necessary to do so."31

The focus now shifted to the UN General Assembly, the only place where the U.S. could get a favorable vote because the Soviet Union had returned to the Security Council on August 1 and was certain to veto any measure on Korea. The resolution that Britain and seven other countries submitted on September 30 (though Acheson probably drafted it32) was deliberately misleading and ambivalent. It recommended that "all appropriate steps be taken to ensure conditions of stability throughout Korea" and that "all sections and representative bodies of the population of Korea, South and North, be invited to cooperate with the organs of the United Nations in the restoration of peace, in the holding of elections and the establishment of a unified government." Despite the delicacy of the language, the resolution was an authorization for conquest. It was quite evident that the Communists were not going to agree to give up their government and submit to a UN election except at the point of a bayonet. However, the illusion of sweet reason permeated the document and this stilled the sensitivities of the UN members. In the vote on October 7, forty-seven countries voted aye, five nay and seven abstained.33 The United States had it license to conquer North Korea.34

* * * * * * * * * *

It's amazing that American planners gave virtually no credence to the possibility that Red China might act alone to prevent the United States from occupying North Korea and placing powerful forces in a position to move into Manchuria. The quarantine of Taiwan, the extremely aggressive statements by American leaders and the attempt by MacArthur to get the U.S. to undertake permanent protection of Taiwan had created enormous suspicion in Beijing of American intentions. The United States had sided fully with the Nationalists during the Chinese civil war. The Korean conflict, in Red Chinese eyes, gave the U.S. a splendid opportunity to wipe out a pesky Communist state in northern Korea and set up conditions for either an American or a Nationalist invasion of China to reverse the decision of the civil war. For a thousand years Korea had served as a buffer against incursions from the east, primarily Japan. The Japanese drive to dominate Korea before and after the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5 led directly to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, Japanese control of Manchuria and the 1937 attack on China. Now the United States, successor to Japan as the great danger from the Pacific, was attempting to eliminate the historic Korean buffer recreated in 1945 by the Soviet occupation of northern Korea.

Despite such obvious parallels with previous Chinese experience with Japan, American analysts were blinded by their own assumptions: that the Red Chinese were satellites of the Soviet Union. Therefore, they reasoned, if the Soviet Union elected to abandon North Korea, then Red China would not act independently.35 American leaders were correct in their appraisal of Russia. Intelligence services could pick up little indication of any activity in Siberia by Soviet forces.

Red Chinese leaders had likewise paid little attention to the Korean War. They had only about 115,000 regular People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops in Manchuria and these not posted along the Yalu river frontier with Korea. Beijing remained preoccupied with the American quarantine of Taiwan and with eliminating the last small pockets of Nationalist resistance in the far south. In mid-August, 1950, the situation changed abruptly. The precipitating factor appeared to be Ambassador Austin's fire-breathing speeches in the United Nations on August 10 and 17 urging the reunification of North and South Korea.36 Approximately at the same time, the New York Times reported that Mao Zedong met with Soviet Vice Premier V.M. Molotov, who promised Soviet material help if the UN crossed the 38th parallel.37 On August 20, three days after Austin's "'half-slave' and 'half free'" speech, Zhou Enlai cabled the UN expressing great concern about the Korean situation.38

Chinese reinforcements began moving into Manchuria after mid-August and Beijing's anxiety became manifest after Inchon. Far East Command intelligence estimated that PLA regulars rose to 246,000 by August 31 and 450,000 by September 21. The intelligence summary from MaCarthur's headquarters on September 8 noted that PLA forces in Manchuria "will probably be committed" in the event North Korean forces were unable to defend the north.39

The reports of Chinese troop movements alarmed Washington sufficiently for James E. Webb, acting secretary of state, to radio the U.S. embassy in New Delhi on September 16, the day after Inchon, to ask the Indian government to deliver a U.S. message to Beijing. New Delhi agreed and, through the Indian ambassador to China, Kavalam Madhava Panikkar, the U.S. informed Zhou Enlai it "would view with grave concern" intervention in Korea by Red China.40 Panikkar reported back on September 20 that he was satisfied Red China would not intervene unilaterally "to pull others' chestnuts out of the fire."41

Panikkar's tone changed suddenly only five days later. Beijing had become extremely angry over American bombing and strafing raids in Manchuria that had occurred in the interim. The U.S., through the UN, apologized and offered to pay damages after an impartial investigation. General Nieh Jung-chen, acting chief of staff, told Ambassador Panikkar that "China would not take such provocations lying down" and not "sit back with folded hands and let the Americans come up to our borders." The counselor to the British embassy, Hubert Graves, who delivered Panikkar's message to the State Department, discounted its importance. Graves believed Panikkar to be a volatile and unreliable reporter. General Bradley also discounted Panikkar because of reports the Indian had shown Communist leanings and anti-American feelings in the past.42

On October 1, on instructions from the JCS, MacArthur broadcast messages demanding surrender of all North Korean forces "in whatever part of Korea situated." There was no response from the North Korean government, but the ultimatum clearly foreshadowed an invasion of the north.43 Events now began to move rapidly in Red China. On the same day as MacArthur's ultimatum Zhou Enlai denounced in a speech the "frenzied and violent acts of imperialist aggression of the United States." He declared the U.S. was "the most dangerous foe of the People's Republic of China." The Chinese people "absolutely will not tolerate foreign aggression, nor will they supinely tolerate seeing their neighbors being savagely invaded by the imperialists, Zhou insisted."44

Zhou's strongest and most unequivocal warning came shortly after midnight on October 3. He summoned Indian Ambassador Panikkar to his residence and informed Panikkar emphatically that Red China would intervene in Korea if American troops crossed the 38th parallel, but not if ROK troops did so alone. The U.S. received the message through British channels in the early morning of October 3. Most officials in the State Department discounted Zhou's threat as a bluff, but U. Alexis Johnson, State Far Eastern expert, asserted that the U.S. should not assume it was entirely bluff and recommended that ROK forces be used entirely in North Korea. However, President Truman discounted the bearer of the message and therefore largely ignored the message itself. He wrote later that Panikkar had "played the game of the Chinese Communists fairly regularly." Truman suspected Zhou's warning might be a ploy to keep the UN from approving the North Korean intervention resolution, then being debated. Acheson thought it was part of a Soviet-Chinese effort to bring about withdrawal of UN forces, which of course it was. But Acheson unreasonably concluded Zhou's warning was "not an authoritative statement of policy." What could have been more a statement of policy than the official warning of the premier and foreign minister of the People's Republic? Truman and Acheson surely were influenced by the Central Intelligence Agency, which as late as October 12 was suggesting that, despite Zhou's threat and troop movements in Manchuria, "there are no convincing indications of an actual Chinese Communist intention to resort to full-scale intervention in Korea."45

The only direct result on the U.S. of Zhou Enlai's warning was a notification to MacArthur, with Truman's approval, that, in the event of a Chinese Communist attack, he was to continue operations as long as there seemed a reasonable chance of success, but was not to attack any points in China without express approval from Washington.46

Despite American skepticism, the People's Republic was about to intervene, just as it had warned. On October 6 the Communist party's Politburo held an emergency session in Beijing and decided to send "volunteers" to Korea. The Politburo also adopted a new propaganda slogan: "Resist U.S. aggression, aid Korea."47 The Politburo was extremely astute in designating the Chinese troops going into Korea as "volunteers." Although they were regular PLA forces in Red Chinese uniforms, as volunteers they preserved the fiction that the war was limited to the Korean peninsula. The People's Republic thus did not challenge the U.S. directly. This forced Washington to decide whether it would accept the Chinese subterfuge and limit its operations to points south of the Yalu river or face world revulsion and possible general war by attacking Red China itself. In its own desire to keep its allies in line and to avoid extending the war to an unknowable extent, the United States found it had to accept the Red Chinese version of limited hostilities. This preserved a "sanctuary" in China and kept Chinese cities from destruction. It also gave the PLA a battle arena in largely mountainous Korea which exploited to the utmost Chinese strength in manpower, digging and tunneling and light weapons, while reducing the effect of American superiority in heavy weapons and air power.48

The Communist central committee and Mao Zedong issued orders on October 8 appointing General Peng Dehuai as commander of "Chinese people's volunteers." Peng flew to Shenyang (Mukden) the same day and told his generals to be prepared to move into Korea in ten days.49

General MacArthur opened his offensive against North Korea on October 9, broadcasting his second surrender order the same day and dropping leaflets over North Korea containing the text of the United Nations resolution of October 7. The attack prompted Zhou Enlai to issue a formal foreign-office statement on October 10 that "the Chinese people cannot stand idly by" while the United States and "its accomplice countries" invaded North Korea.50

While MacArthur's powerful forces sliced through the weak and disorganized North Korean remnants and drove rapidly toward the Manchurian border, Peng Dehuai assembled twelve PLA advance divisions of "volunteers" along the Yalu in preparation for rapid movement across. On October 11, Peng returned to Beijing to meet with North Korean representatives. During the talks, Peng, Mao and other Politburo members became alarmed at the speed of the American advance and decided to send PLA forces into North Korea immediately. On the night of October 18 the movement commenced. Orders were explicit: troops were to move only from dusk to 4 a.m. and were to be completely concealed by 5 a.m. every day. In this way, American air observers would see no movement and find it difficult to locate PLA concentrations inside Korea.51 In this way one of the most remarkable undetected troop movements in history took place. Within days all twelve of the PLA advance divisions (organized into four armies), followed by two reserve armies, were across the Yalu and hidden in high mountains some forty to fifty miles south of the Yalu.52

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President Truman had decided he needed a face-to-face meeting with General MacArthur. His reasons included concern about the Chinese Communist threat to intervene, his desire to convey personally his foreign-policy views to the General and the political boost the Democrats might get if he could produce a public show of solidarity with MacArthur just prior to the November elections. MacArthur had become bigger than life as a result of his spectacular success in the Inchon invasion, particularly since he had been proved right and the Joint Chiefs wrong. MacArthur therefore not only had become the darling of anti-Communist, pro-Nationalist elements in the U.S. advocating a hard line against the Communists, but he also was thought by many be a military genius incapable of error. This last assumption was extremely dangerous, because MacArthur was about to demonstrate his immense capacity for military recklessness.53

Since MacArthur was involved in the offensive into North Korea, Truman at first decided he would go to Korea to meet the General. Since security considerations made this impossible, he shifted the meeting to the tiny U.S.-owned atoll of Wake Island, 2,300 miles west of Hawaii and 2,000 miles southeast of Tokyo. Many people in Washington opposed the meeting, not least because it would give a huge boost to MacArthur's already dangerously inflated ego. Acheson, who refused to go, said that "while MacArthur had many of the attributes of a foreign sovereign....it did not seem wise to recognize him as one."54

The meeting at Wake on October 15, the first and last between these two notable Americans, was important historically because MacArthur convinced Truman and other American leaders there was no danger of Chinese Communist intervention in Korea and, even if it did occur, it would be on a small scale. If Red Chinese tried to get down to the just-captured North Korean capital of Pyongyang, MacArthur asserted, "there would be the greatest slaughter." MacArthur's military reputation was awesome and Truman and General Bradley, who attended the conference, bowed to his judgment. Thus one of the greatest tragedies in American military history was allowed to unfold despite immense evidence of the danger the Americans faced.

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At the start of the offensive into North Korea, MacArthur committed one severe military error: he divided in forces in the face of the enemy. Although MacArthur discounted the danger of a Chinese Communist intervention, elementary precautions should have caused MacArthur to guard against the PLA concentrations that had been spotted in Manchuria since August and Zhou Enlai's October 3 threat to act if the U.S. crossed the 38th. Instead, MacArthur sent three American and two ROK divisions into northeastern Korea east of the high mountainous, virtually roadless spine of North Korea, while committing Eighth Army west of the mountains with four American and four ROK divisions, an American airborne regiment and a British Commonwealth brigade. The capture of northeastern Korea could have been left to South Korean divisions advancing close to sea, where they could have been evacuated in case of Chinese attack. If the three American divisions sent to the northeast had instead been consolidated with the Eighth Army forces the disaster about to occur might have been prevented and certainly could have been mitigated.

The second military error that MacArthur authorized was to allow General Walker, Eighth Army commander, to split his advance into a number of disconnected motorized columns moving independently and without supporting each other up various roads toward the Yalu. The advance was like a series of rapier stabs into the north. Those tactics were appropriate only for mopping up scattered, demoralized and defeated enemy remnants, not advancing toward a possible confrontation with a major enemy force. Peng Dehuai saw a brilliant opportunity to take advantage of what he described as the "wildly arrogant, dispersed, rash advance of the enemy." He completely changed the cautious defensive strategy he had planned, rapidly concentrated three of his four armies (nine divisions of 10,000 men each) against Eighth Army and prepared to deliver the army a shattering warning blow.55

By October 23, leading elements of Eighth Army reached the Chongchon river, a large stream flowing southwestward about sixty miles south of the Yalu. The UN forces had encountered only token North Korean resistance. Despite all the threats by Red China, there was no evidence of Chinese troops in front of Eighth Army. However, this close to Manchuria, the Joint Chiefs' directive applied forbidding any but ROK troops to move up to the Manchurian frontier. MacArthur, having now thoroughly discounted the danger of a Red Chinese intervention, on October 24 threw caution to the winds, removed all restrictions on UN troops and ordered his commanders to press to the northern limits of Korea with all forces.56

Eighth Army forces crossed the Chongchon river at a number of places on October 25 and pressed all out for the Yalu. That day Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) descended from the mountains and, around Onjong and Unsan, a few miles north of the Chongchon, surrounded and shattered three ROK divisions and destroyed a ROK regiment. General Walker called up a regiment of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division (actually an infantry outfit) to defend Unsan, but in a series of severe engagements over the next several days completely defeated the American regiment, surrounded and destroyed one of its battalions and forced survivors into precipitate retreat. Walker hurriedly pulled the other UN forces back south of the Chongchon river to prevent their being surrounded and destroyed as well. The Chinese meanwhile abruptly withdrew from the battlefield on November 6 and marched back into the mountains to the north.

Now an absolutely unbelievable thing happened. The Chinese Communists had threatened they would intervene if the U.S. advanced into North Korea. They had delivered on their threat, shredding a three-division ROK corps into small, panic-striken fragments, wiping an additional ROK regiment from the order of battle and tearing apart an American regiment. MacArthur's headquarters and the Truman administration, however, instead of learning from this stunning warning blow, did precisely nothing. MacArthur continued to insist that the offensive to conquer all of North Korea be resumed. And no one in Washington had the courage to oppose him.57

The final capitulation to MacArthur's demands occurred on November 24, just prior to the launching of his supposedly final "home-by-Christmas" offensive to drive to the Yalu and end the war. On that day MacArthur informed the JCS that stopping anywhere short of the Yalu would be viewed by the Korean people as betrayal and the Chinese and other Asians would view a halt as weakness and appeasement of the Chinese Communists and Russians. He added that occupying all of Korea provided "the best—indeed only—hope that Soviet and Chinese aggressive designs may be checked before these countries are committed to a course from which for political reasons they cannot withdraw." In other words, MacArthur maintained that the only way to keep the Chinese from entering the war was to advance to the Yalu. Since the Chinese already were emplaced in force south of the river and already had attacked UN forces, MacArthur's statement demonstrated his complete divorce from reality.58

During the lull between November 6 and the new UN offensive on November 24, Peng Dehuai had gathered more than 300,000 Chinese troops, 180,000 in the west and 120,000 in the east facing X Corps. The UN command had assembled seven American divisions, six ROK divisions, two British Commonwealth brigades, a Turkish brigade, as well as smaller units, including separate American artillery and tank forces. Altogether UN forces totaled 247,000 men, not counting air combat personnel. These forces, especially American, had much higher firepower than the Chinese and, in addition, had complete command of the air. The Chinese possessed little artillery and relied almost entirely upon small arms, machine guns and mortars. They generally had to walk into battle, carrying their weapons, food and ammunition with them. The UN forces mostly rode into battle in trucks or other vehicles. However, the Chinese possessed remarkable, if not obvious, strength against the powerful UN forces. The Chinese did not have to rely on roads. They could march over mountains or wherever their feet would carry them and still be able to fight. In the broken, mountainous terrain of northern Korea the Chinese tactics of night infiltration, attack to the front, envelopment to the sides and roadblocks to the rear were stunningly effective.59

Everything went well at first in the UN offensive. In the west, advance Eighth Army forces moved rapidly forward at several points in the first two days. The first real blow fell on the extreme right, where Chinese forces descended on a ROK division in the high mountains about twenty-five miles east of the main U.S. positions along the Chongchon river. Strategically the Chinese attack was a flanking move against the entire UN position along the Chongchon. Using infiltration, envelopment and roadblocks in the rear, the Chinese were soon moving at will throughout the ROK sector on the east. By November 26 and 27, CCF troops had penetrated into the rear of the American position as far back as the supporting artillery units. They were threatening to unhinge the entire Eighth Army line.60

Shortly thereafter on the X Corps front in the east the Chinese performed the same encirclement, cutting off a large part of the 1st Marine Division and virtually destroying three battalions of the 7th Infantry Division around the southern end of the Changjin (Chosin) reservoir.

Along the Chongchon river in the west Chinese troops concentrated against the U.S. 25th and 2nd Infantry Divisions. The 25th was able to withdraw across the river and miss the heaviest Chinese blows. The 2nd Division, on the right, caught the full force of the Chinese assault. Only by committing the last reserves was the division able to hold its front. However, Chinese troops slipped behind the division and blocked the only reasonable route of retreat. When the division began to withdraw down this road it turned into a seven-mile avenue of death. On the 2nd Division's right, Chinese forces surrounded and nearly destroyed the 5,000-man Turkish brigade. Survivors of this brigade moved over into the 2nd Division sector and attempted to retreat with the Americans. When the 2nd and its attached units finally got through the Chinese gauntlet, the division had lost over five-thousand men and was combat ineffective.

General Walker thrust one of the British brigades into a blocking position in an attempt to hold. But UN morale collapsed in the face of the devastating success of the Chinese forces, using their infiltration tactics, night fighting, singling out of small UN units to destroy and establishing roadblocks. The entire Eighth Army began a precipitate retreat southward, giving up with scarcely a fight the entire gains of the fall offensive. By the middle of December, after having rushed back 120 air miles in the longest retreat in American history, Eighth Army was nervously in place below the 38th parallel. It had completely lost the initiative and its confidence, having fled southward largely on its own volition, not in response to enemy pressure.

In the northeastern sector all American and ROK troops except the 25,000 surrounded at Changjing reservoir rushed to the sea for evacuation by ship. The marines and soldiers at Changjin began a miserable, slow, dogged retreat down the only route they possessed, a narrow, dirt road running sixty-four miles to Hungnam and the sea. They had to fight Chinese blocking forces most of the way. The Americans and a few attached South Koreans and Britons suffered about 6,000 casualties before they reached Hungnam and the last of them got into ships on December 24 and sailed south. The great effort to conquer North Korea had ended in failure.

* * * * * * * * * *

The stunning defeat of American forces and their pell-mell retreat back into South Korea let loose a panic in Washington. Partly because of hysterical claims by MacArthur of impending disaster, which swiftly replaced his exaggerated confidence in a quick victory, the military leaders of the United States feared UN forces might be driven entirely off the Korean peninsula.61 MacArthur began a loud series of complaints in all the news media that orders from Washington preventing him from attacking targets in Manchuria had put UN forces "under enormous handicap, without precedent in military history."62 MacArthur announced that "we face an entirely new war" and asked Washington to permit Chinese Nationalist troops to be committed to Korea. As before, the JCS declined, pointing out such a move might result in extension of the war to Taiwan. This is most likely what MacArthur had in mind.63

President Truman greatly intensified the crisis atmosphere on November 30 when he allowed a reporter at a press conference to trick him into saying that the U.S. was considering using the atomic bomb to halt the Chinese attacks. Truman went even further and implied that not he, but the trigger-happy MacArthur, might make the decision whether to drop the bomb. MacArthur, in frantic and excessive statements after the Chinese offensive, had already made clear he advocated destruction of Red China's ability to make war. To leave the decision in the hands of this irresponsible warrior was frightening beyond words.

Secretary Acheson quickly formed a "damage-control party" to try to calm the incredible world-wide uproar that followed. In the growing world revulsion against the atomic bomb, nothing could be more chilling than for the president of the United States to indicate that the atomic bomb might be used to redress a military reverse which, though shattering to American pride, did not affect the American strategic position significantly. The reaction to Truman's thoughtless utterance in the British House of Commons was so fierce that Prime Minister Clement Attlee, after a quick telegraphic consultation with the U.S. government, assured members he would fly to Washington to confer with Truman.

The Attlee-Truman talks of December 4-8 were a great watershed for the United States. The most significant event to come out of them was the tacit (and never acknowledged) renunciation by the U.S. of its crusade to unify Korea by force. The United States not only indicated it would accept a cease-fire if offered but would be willing to settle for ending the war on the basis of the old border, the 38th parallel. Nevertheless, the talks also marked a severe hardening of the American position in the Far East. American leaders emphasized they didn't want to get into a war with Red China. They therefore rejected air attacks on Manchuria and other mainland points, despite pressure from MacArthur. But they adamantly refused to agree to Attlee's proposals to seek peace in Korea by granting Taiwan and the Nationalists's seat in the United Nations to the Chinese Communists. In regard to the immediate cause of Attlee's trip, the atomic bomb, Truman announced in the closing joint communiqué that he hoped world conditions would never call for the use of the bomb and it was "his desire" that Britain always be kept informed of any development which might change the situation.64

The talks demonstrated a fundamental difference of opinion between American and British leaders concerning the nature of the Chinese Communist government. Both Truman and Acheson, seconded in various ways by Marshall and General Bradley, insisted that Beijing was subservient to Moscow and that Red China was a satellite of the Soviet Union. Prime Minister Attlee gave an opposite view. The Red Chinese, he said, could be Marxists "and yet not bow to Stalin." Among the Chinese, Attlee remarked, "there is a strong mixture of Chinese nationalism in their Communist attitude." Attlee said it was easy to say that China was entirely in Russian hands. But such an attitude was fatalistic. "At least," he said, "you can hope that if you back nationalism you can get Chinese imperialism opposed to Russian imperialism. Therefore, the United Kingdom has tried to drive a wedge between China and Russia. We cannot lose by trying that."65

Attlee's sensible seeds fell on barren ground. Neither Truman nor Acheson would accept any attitude except hostility toward Red China nor any concept except Beijing as a tool of the Kremlin.66 This attitude now froze into doctrine in Washington and destroyed any possibility that the U.S. would follow Britain's proposed policy of trying to split China from Russia.67

In the United Nations Sir Benegal N. Rau, the Indian delegate, lined up thirteen Asian and Arab states asking the Chinese and North Koreans not to cross the 38th parallel. Neither Beijing nor Pyongyang responded directly, but the initiative led to intense discussions with a Chinese Communist delegation that had arrived at the UN on November 27. The Red Chinese had come in response to a Security Council invitation to debate two Soviet resolutions seeking to condemn the U.S. for interfering in Korea and Taiwan. The Security Council defeated these resolutions, but the presence of the Chinese Reds, led by General Wu Xiu-zhuan (Wu P'u-shan), permitted Rau and others to explore the possibility of a cease-fire. The cease-fire resolution, endorsed by the U.S., passed the cease-fire resolution on December 14.68

With a cease-fire along the 38th parallel, the Beijing government would attain its primary aim in Korea: the reestablishment of a buffer state between the Americans and the Yalu. Also, a large group of Asian and Arab nations was lining up to press for admission of Red China into the United Nations. Red China was on the verge of gaining world-wide acceptance. In such a situation it would have been extremely difficult for the United States much longer to isolate the Beijing regime. But at this moment the Chinese Communists made a major and costly error. On December 22 they rejected the cease-fire offer. In a message to the UN also broadcast over Beijing radio, Zhou Enlai declared the UN resolution illegal because Communist China was excluded as a member. He assailed U.S. actions and declared the 38th parallel obliterated forever by the UN invasion of North Korea. Zhou asserted Red China would not consider a cease-fire unless there also was an agreement on withdrawal of foreign troops from Korea, withdrawal of the Seventh Fleet from the waters off Taiwan and seating of Red China in the United Nations.69

* * * * * * * * * *

The Red Chinese rejection of the cease-fire proposal was a major turning point in the Korean War and in U.S.-Chinese relations. On December 15 President Truman, responding to the terrible defeats in Korea, declared a national emergency in the United States and announced over nation-wide radio and television that the U.S. was willing to negotiate but would not yield to aggression or engage in appeasement in the face "of the great danger created by the rulers of the Soviet Union." Truman announced plans to increase military production, expand the armed forces and establish wage-and-price controls.70 Zhou Enlai's intransigent rejection of the cease-fire met an equally intransigent response in Washington.

On December 23 Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker died in a jeep accident north of Seoul. His replacement as Eighth Army commander was Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway, army deputy chief of staff for administration and an officer who created an impressive record in World War II as a fighter, commanding an airborne division and a corps. Although the Chinese Communist New Year's Eve offensive commenced only days after Ridgway arrived in Korea, the new commander quickly rekindled a fighting spirit in Eighth Army (now including X Corps as well). The Chinese offensive drove the Americans out of their positions along the 38th parallel, forced them to evacuate Seoul and sent them reeling back to about the 37th parallel. Here, however, Chinese offensive weaknesses began to show. The Reds' need to move mostly on foot and their primitive supply arrangements slowed and finally stopped the advance.71

Despite evidence that the Chinese offensive was petering out, MacArthur manifested a severe defeatist attitude, indicating that troop morale was deteriorating and UN forces were inadequate to hold any point in the peninsula. The army and air force chiefs of staff, Lawton Collins and Hoyt S. Vandenberg, went back to the Far East on January 12, 1951, for a new look in response to MacArthur's pessimistic estimate. They saw much less to fear than MacArthur. While not directly contradicting him, Collins told the Joint Chiefs that morale in Eighth Army was good and improving daily under Ridgway's vigorous, offensive-minded leadership. Collins didn't believe the UN was going to be driven out of Korea. The report reassured the Joint Chiefs greatly and further damaged the already tarnished image and credibility of MacArthur. Meanwhile General Ridgway was demonstrating the error of MacArthur's view. He personified the hard-nosed, confident attitude that had emerged in Washington. As a born fighter, he also rapidly instilled in Eighth Army a new professionalism and pride. Within weeks, due as much to Ridgway's pugnacity as to Chinese weakness, Eighth Army began the march back northward.72

Back in the United Nations Acheson was trying to get Red China declared an aggressor. However, the commission set up in response to the General Assembly's December 14 cease-fire resolution had not accepted China's rejection as final and drew up a new peace plan intended to meet some of Beijing's demands. The commission presented its plan on January 11 only hours after U.S. officials learned of it. It proposed a cease-fire, withdrawal of armed forces from Korea and an "appropriate body" composed of the U.S., Britain, Russia and Communist China to settle Far Eastern problems, including Taiwan's status and China's representation in the UN. The proposal stacked the deck against the United States. Britain would be reluctant to side wholeheartedly with the U.S. Even if the U.S. could stop any formal action by the appropriate body, it would inevitably lose in world opinion.73

Acheson instantly recognized the move as "murderous." For Red China it offered an open invitation to world acceptance and ultimate achievement of all their major aims. For the United states to accept the plan would open the administration to violent criticism at home by Republicans and the China Lobby. To oppose it would brand the U.S. as an opponent of peace. Acheson decided to take a calculated risk. He believed the Chinese would repeat their foolish error in December and reject the proposal. He advised Truman that the U.S. should agree to the proposal. When China rejected it other nations would be exasperated enough to join the U.S. in branding China an aggressor. Truman took the gamble. Although, as Acheson expressed it, "the political roof fell in," particularly in the Senate, the UN First Committee approved the plan and Ambassador Austin said the U.S. would vote for it.74

Just as Acheson had predicted the Chinese Communist response on January 17 was another politically stupid rejection. Zhou Enlai stated that a cease-fire without political negotiations was wholly unacceptable. Beijing's counterproposals were essentially what it had called for in December: admission to the UN and removal of U.S. forces protecting Taiwan.75 It was all the opening the U.S. needed. On January 20, 1951, Austin submitted a resolution to the First Committee which called the Red Chinese aggressors. Despite some objections, the committee approved the resolution on January 30 and the General Assembly on February 1. The resolution called for UN committees to consider "additional measures" to meet Chinese aggression and try to end the war.76 It had been a neat move by Acheson. Some UN members complained that the United States got the best of two worlds. Red China was thrust into pariah status and the Truman administration suffered no political repercussions at home.

Pinning an aggressor's label on Red China gave the Joint Chiefs an excuse to provide some positive assistance to Chiang Kai-shek, something they had been wanting to do ever since the Korean War started. They got the president's permission to establish a military assistance advisory group (MAAG) on Taiwan and soon sent over the first contingent of Americans (a hundred officers and men) to help rebuild Nationalist armed forces.77 Direct assistance to Chiang now began. Though Truman still maintained the pretense that the United States was playing no favorites in the China civil war, the dispatch of the MAAG marked a formal step in establishing Taiwan as an American protectorate.

* * * * * * * * * *

By mid-March, 1951, UN forces were once more approaching the 38th parallel, with Chinese forces having evacuated Seoul on March 14 and moved north. South Korea now had been largely recovered. There were strong indications the Chinese Communists, who had retired so far without making major stands, were now going to resist fiercely any further UN advance. Advancing forces discovered more and more antitank mines in the roads and growing numbers of bunkers and trenches with overhead covers along the ridgelines. The UN forces were coming up against the outriders of a massive, deeply dug-in defensive line the Communists were building which foreshadowed positional warfare.78

Truman and Acheson saw the opportunity for an American cease-fire initiative. The status quo ante had effectively been restored. Truman decided to issue a public declaration that the UN command was willing to consider a cease-fire. On March 19 the Joint Chiefs and Secretaries Acheson and Marshall discussed a draft declaration and the State Department circulated it among some friendly governments for their reaction. On March 20 the JCS alerted General MacArthur to the planned presidential announcement and explained the diplomatic moves.79

Four days later MacArthur, without notice to anyone in the United States, issued a harshly worded, arrogant, belittling ultimatum threatening extension of the war to mainland China unless Beijing sued for peace. It was one of the most flagrant acts in history of a field commander defying the instructions of superior authority and of the established policy of the country he serves.80 Although MacArthur disclaimed any such intention, the evidence is preponderant that he deliberately decided to attempt to make national policy on his own and destroy Truman's peace initiative. MacArthur had argued in favor of expanding the war against China. He knew the Truman administration opposed this course. He saw the new Truman initiative would close any chance of attacking Red China directly. MacArthur had maintained for a long time that the fate of the Western world would be decided in Asia. He therefore sought, through his statement, to direct American policy toward a harder line with Red China.

MacArthur indeed did spoil Truman's attempt at an accommodation with Beijing. But he did not get control of American foreign policy.81 Instead, after a series of tense meetings with his top leaders and with members of the congressional leadership, from whom he got full backing, Truman relieved MacArthur of his command on April 11 and ordered him home.82

The American public, unaware of MacArthur's perfidy, was genuinely shocked at the General's relief and gave him a hero's welcome when he arrived in the U.S. He also spoke by invitation to a joint meeting of Congress. The dismissal led inevitably to severe criticism of the Truman administration and also led to joint hearings by the Senate armed services and foreign relations committees. These hearings, beginning on May 3 and running through June 27, were a major turning point in American attitudes about the war. With MacArthur gone there was no major advocate of extending the war in Asia. The Republicans hoped to embarrass the Truman administration, especially concerning what they considered inadequate aid to Chiang Kai-shek. But none of them was interested in taking up a crusade to drive the Communists out of China and the Far East. The result of the hearings was to damage MacArthur's reputation, not the administration's. MacArthur gave every indication that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorsed his views on extending the war. The chiefs, however, uniformly backed the administration and asserted that MacArthur's proposals for assaulting China would involve great danger to the U.S. General Bradley finally summed up the entire concept in a single short statement: "The course of action often described as a 'limited' war with Red China would increase the risk we are running in engaging too much of our power in an area that is not the critical strategic prize....Frankly, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy."83

* * * * * * * * * *

In the spring of 1951 the Chinese Communists launched another major offensive against the UN forces. The Chinese used their familiar tactics of infiltration, envelopment of flanks, closing in on small UN units and blocking roads in the rear. Although preceded by a lot of bombast about Chinese intentions to drive the invaders into the sea, Peng Dehuai's command used only about half of the 700,000 troops he now had in Korea, plus a much smaller number of North Koreans. Although Chinese jet aircraft (bought from the Soviet Union84) had appeared over the Yalu in December, 1950, and the Chinese were developing an experienced modern jet air force by contesting the sky over the Yalu with the U.S. Air Force, they made no attempt to challenge mastery of the skies over the battlefield. They also used very little artillery, continuing to rely on mortars, small arms and machine guns. In such a situation, the Communist offensive, though extremely costly and damaging and though forcing massive retreats by defending troops, never threatened to drive the UN forces out.85

The Chinese supply system was inadequate to sustain an offensive for long and the Communist forces moved back to replenish arms, ammunition and food and to get reinforcements. Eighth Army advanced after them. By June, 1951, the UN forces once more were in the vicinity of the 38th parallel. Now, however, they discovered a massive defensive line, echeloned in great depth, running in an irregular path across the largely mountainous waist of Korea generally just north of the 38th. This defensive system was composed of deep tunnels, protected trenches, hidden machine-gun emplacements and bunkers virtually impervious to anything but direct hits by huge 155-millimeter "Long Tom" guns. Every bunker was a strongpoint and every hill a fortress. The United Nations troops looked up at these immense fortifications and realized somberly that positional warfare had come to Korea. This enormous line, garrisoned to the teeth with Chinese and North Korean troops, was invulnerable to all but the most determined and relentless attack by infantrymen supported by close-in artillery fire. Only by direct assault up steep mountains and ridgelines could these enemy positions be captured and then only one by one. To carry on the war now would entail slaughter on both sides on an enormous scale.

The time had come for peace in Korea.

Secretary Acheson decided to approach the Soviet Union. He selected George Kennan, a highly regarded foreign-service office and authority on Soviet history and government, then on leave at Princeton University. Kennan talked with Jacob Malik, Soviet delegate to the UN. On June 5, at their second meeting, Malik told Kennan his government wanted a peaceful solution in Korea as soon as possible. But he said the Soviet Union itself could not take part in negotiations and advised Kennan to approach the North Koreans and Chinese. On June 23, Malik appeared on a UN-sponsored radio broadcast and recommended that the belligerents should sign an armistice providing for mutual withdrawal of forces from the 38th parallel. Andrey Gromyko, Soviet deputy foreign minister, further advised Alan G. Kirk, U.S. ambassador to Moscow, that a military armistice should be concluded between military representatives, that the settlement should be limited to military matters and no political or territorial matters should be discussed. Although the Russians disclaimed any knowledge of Beijing's attitude, it was clear the Kremlin never would have committed itself without clearance it with the Chinese.86

The result was a broadcast on June 30 by General Ridgway, who had taken MacArthur's place as Far East commander, inviting the enemy to meet with UN representatives. The Chinese accepted the proposal on July 1. The Chinese also agreed to suspend military activities while peace negotiations went on at their proposed site, Kaesong, on the 38th north of Seoul. The Communist offer to halt all fighting while talks went on was of immense importance. Unfortunately, the top American military leaders were so suspicious of Chinese intentions that they refused to allow hostilities to stop. Because of this decision, a war nobody wanted went on to claim many hundreds of thousands of additional victims.

Ridgway quickly radioed the Joint Chiefs that the Chinese "intent is clear that military action shall be suspended from the beginning of armistice negotiations." Ridgway greatly opposed a cease-fire, citing a long list of suppositions and unverified reports that he feared indicated the Chinese might be building up for an offensive. The Joint Chiefs backed Ridgway. Therefore, the war continued unabated while the talks went on. The negotiations began at Kaesong on July 10 (later transferred to the village of Panmunjom midway between the two front lines).87

It was extremely unfortunate that the American leadership was so suspicious of the Reds that it missed this opportunity to halt the fighting. That it was a good-faith gesture and not an attempt at duplicity on the Communists' part is shown by the fact that thereafter the Chinese never attempted another offensive in Korea. From the moment they announced a willingness to cease military operations, their military posture was that of defense of the existing line. Although Ridgway could not know what the Chinese response would be in the future, it is manifest that all armistices depend upon the good will and sincerity of both sides. Therefore any armistice implies some uncertainty. The Chinese were willing to take the chance. The Americans were not. This refusal of the Americans soured the peace-talk atmosphere from the outset and contributed to the intransigence of the Communist side.

The American decision insured that the fighting would go on until such time as both sides could agree upon a political settlement. Therefore the talks from the beginning became precisely what Gromyko suggested they not be: political negotiations. If Gromyko's suggestion for a strictly military settlement had been followed, the war would have ended on July 10, 1951. If the United States had agreed to a cease-fire on that date, the two sides could have argued and negotiated to their heart's content. In fact, when the war actually did end two years later, the result of all the exhausting negotiations and all the bitter fighting was to achieve a military armistice along a battle line that differed only in minor ways from the line that existed on July 10, 1951. What had happened in the interim, however, was that thousasnds of young men on both sides had been killed or maimed.

* * * * * * * * * *

The two sides started the peace talks at odds and the disagreements mounted steadily as the months went on with little progress and much vituperation on both sides. The American demand was for a demilitarized zone along the existing battle line and an armistice commission with unrestricted right of inspection within Korea by teams responsible for monitoring any troop or weapons buildup. The Communist demand was withdrawal of all foreign troops from Korea, both Chinese and United Nations, and the demarcation line along the 38th parallel.

The Chinese were baffled by the American attitude because their terms followed almost precisely the proposal that the United States had endorsed in the United Nations in January, 1951. The Communists were unaware that the U.S. had accepted this UN plan as a calculated risk, believing (correctly) that Beijing would turn it down. They assumed it would be acceptable to the Americans and were perplexed and scandalized to find it wasn't. The reason was that Ridgway and the Joint Chiefs feared, if U.S. forces pulled out of Korea, the Chinese could send massive reinforcements at a moment's notice into Korea.

The Communists adhered stubbornly to their terms and the Americans to theirs. If the Americans were afraid the Chinese would take advantage of a foreign troop pullout to threaten South Korea, the Chinese equally were afraid American forces remaining in South Korea could threaten North Korea again. The Chinese position regarding a cease-fire on the 38th parallel was probably only a bargaining position and propaganda tool. The U.S. had accepted the idea of restoring the 38th parallel in January and, during the MacArthur hearings, Acheson had expressed willingness to settle on the 38th. But a battle-line cease-fire in truth was as attractive to the Chinese as to the Americans because they had built a strong main line of resistance (MLR) along it and did not have any defenses along the 38th.

As a consequence, a stalemate developed almost immediately in the talks at Kaesong (and later at Panmunjom). A stalemate likewise developed along the battle line. This stalemate resembled sadly the horrible years of trench warfare on the western front in World War I. It was a stalemate broken by continual shelling and individual patrols, engagements and pitched battles which, like in the Great War, advanced the front line only by tiny distances but demanded an incredible expenditure of blood. Battles could cost thousands of casualties and not materially affect the strategic situation an iota.

Two battles, Bloody Ridge and Heartbreak Ridge, became the symbols for this stalemate war. The unbelievable cost of these battles and their virtual uselessness from a strategic and even tactical standpoint emphasized the futility of the last two years of the war. They also were symbolic in the sense that they were simply large-scale versions of thousands of smaller and less publicized engagements and fire fights which involved the same agonizing set of conditions: climbing steep ridgelines; having to face shattering mortar fire, hails of machine-gun fire and clouds of grenades tossed or rolled down on the climbing men, and still having to close in upon tightly defended bunkers or shielded trenches and drive out the defenders in frequently hand-to-hand fights. It was a gruesome kind of war, debilitating to men's morale, exhausting and essentially pointless, for behind each ridgeline that the Americans, Koreans or other UN troops captured there reared another ridgeline bristling with the same bunkers, trenches and hidden Communist soldiers. For the United States to have broken through the Communist main line of resistance would have cost a million casualties, perhaps more.

Bloody and Heartbreak Ridges were adjacent, Bloody to the south and Heartbreak immediately to the north. They were located along the MLR in the X Corps sector in the Taebaek mountains in eastern part of the country. The commander in Korea, Lieutenant General James A. Van Fleet, who took over command of Eighth Army when Ridgway moved to MacArthur's old job, authorized the attack in August on the southernmost ridge, two miles wide and three miles deep, then known only as Hill 983, to eliminate a sag in the line. American artillery lined up in the valley to the south of 983 began a days-long bombardment of the mountain, soon destroyed every trace of vegetation on it. The South Korean infantry who climbed up the fingers leading to the peak quickly discovered that the shelling had not destroyed the North Korean defenders. They survived inside their bunkers, constructed of heavy timbers and covered with deep layers of rock and earth. After five days of repeated frontal assaults, the ROKs finally captured the peak but then had to withdraw in the face of heavy North Korean counterattacks. Eighth Army now committed the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division. When the division finally killed or drove off the last North Korean defender on September 5, the battle had cost 2,700 ROK and American and an estimated 15,000 Communist casualties. Hill 983 had earned its name change to Bloody Ridge. Three days later Van Fleet ordered the capture of the next ridge of about the same size to the north, quickly named Heartbreak. The same sort of battle developed as on Bloody. It took the 2nd Division with its attached French Battalion until October 13 to seize Heartbreak. The cost of this battle was even more staggering than Bloody: 3,700 American and French casualties, while estimates of North Korean and Chinese losses went as high as 25,000.

What was gained? A small sag in the line had been eliminated. Behind Heartbreak there loomed another mountain, and this mountain bristled with the same kind of bunkers and firepower that had cost so much on Bloody and Heartbreak.

There were many other engagements along the MLR during the fall of 1951. Though none was as long or sustained as Bloody and Heartbreak, cumulatively they were extremely expensive. From July until November, 1951, but especially in September and October, UN forces suffered 60,000 casualties, more than 22,000 of them American. By comparison, from the start of the war until the Chinese launched their great offensive on November 25, 1950, counting all of battles of the July and August retreat, the Pusan perimeter, the Inchon landing, the breakout from the perimeter and the advance almost to the Yalu, total American casualties were fewer than 28,000. Estimated Chinese and North Korean losses during the July-November, 1951, period were over 230,000. There could scarcely be more dramatic proof of the price that had to be paid fighting on the ridgelines.

By the end of October, 1951, it had become clear that the UN command could not stand further major advances against the Communist MLR. The cost was simply too high. The front settled into a stalemate, but blood continued to flow, not in rivers as in September and October, but still strong enough to cause steady losses. At Panmunjom, where the peace talks had been moved on October 7, arguments were fierce but progress was slow. To the men on the line, the Korean War looked like it might go on forever.

Chapter 38: Transition to Communism in China >>

1. David S. McLellan, Dean Acheson: The State Department Years, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1976, pp. 168-9, 175-9.

2. For detailed events and developments in the Korean War, see Alexander; Max Hastings, The Korean War, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987; Clay Blair, The Forgotten War, New York: Times Books, 1978; James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of the Korean War, New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1988. The Central Intelligence Agency reported on October 12, 1950, that the Soviet Union might provoke global war between 1950 and 1954. Its theory was that by 1954 North American Treaty Organizaton (NATO) forces would be built up to the level to withstand a surprise attack. The CIA felt the optimum time for a general Soviet assault would be 1952, by which time the Russians would have accumulated an adequate atomic-bomb stockpile. The CIA admitted it lacked intelligence indicating whether the Soviet Union would actually exercise its capability, but insisted that the U.S. must recognize that the risk of general war existed. See FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 936-8.

3. FRUS, Korea, 1950, p. 430. Truman's comment: "In order that there may be no doubt in any quarter about our intentions regarding Formosa, I wish to state that the United States has no territorial ambitions whatever concerning that island, nor do we seek for ourselves any special position or privilege on Formosa. The present military neutralizaiton of Formosa is without prejudice to political questions affecting that island. Our desire is that Formosa not become embroiled in hostilities disturbing to the peace of the Pacific and that all questions affecting Formosa be settled by peaceful means as envisaged in the charter of the United Nations."

4. FRUS, East Asia, 1950, pp. 375, 401-5; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 508-09.

5. FRUS, East Asia, 1950, p. 405; Omar N. Bradley and Clay Blair, A General's Life, an Autobiography, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983, p. 549; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 368, 508, 510.

6. FRUS, East Asia, 1950, pp. 410-1.

7. Truman, Trial, pp. 355-6.

8. FRUS, East Asia, 1950, p. 415; Schnabel and Watson, p. 510; Truman, Trial, p. 354; New York Times, August 10, 1950, p. 1.

9. Schnabel and Watson, p. 511.

10. FRUS, East Asia, 1950, pp. 423-4; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 511-2; Truman, Trial, pp. 349-53.

11. Harriman reported to Truman that MacArthur was planning all-Korea elections after the war. MacArthur indicated that the South Korean government should be extended into North Korea. He said there was no need to change the South Korean constitution because it already provided for a hundred seats for the north. See Truman, Trial, pp. 349-53, which contains Harriman's report verbatim, as do FRUS, Korea, 1950, 542-4, and FRUS, East Asia, 1950, 427-30. In talks with Generals J. Lawton Collins and Hoyt S. Vandenberg on July 13, MacArthur indicated his intention not merely to retore the 38th-parallel border between North and South Korea but to destroy the North Korean army. This could not possibly be done without invading the north. See Schnabel and Watson, p. 191; J. Lawton Collins, War in Peacetime: The History and Lessons of Korea, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1969, pp. 81, 83.

12. According to Acheson, the original U.S. policy in going into Korea was to restore the status prior to the invasion and to reestablish the peace broken by the invasion. See Acheson, p. 450.

13. FRUS, China, 1950, p. 410.

14. Ibid., p. 272. On July 14, Herbert Feis, a member of the State Department's policy-planning staff, recommended that the U.S. forbid U.S. or South Korean troops to move north of the 38th parallel. If they did, Feis wrote, the Chinese Communists and Russians might send their troops into Korea. Allison emphatically disagreed with Feis's view, saying it was unrealistic to expect to return to the status quo ante. At the very least, he wrote, the U.S. should destroy the North Korean army and hold all-Korea elections under UN auspices. John Foster Dulles, Republican consultant to Acheson, agreed that the 38th parallel should not be a political boundary and he thought "it would be folly to allow the North Korean army to retire in good order" behind the 38th, whence it could attack South Korea in the future. See ibid., pp. 386-7, 393-5.

15. Ibid., pp. 354-5, 373, 428-30.

16. Ibid., pp. 407-10.

17. Ibid., pp. 395-9, 437-8.

18. Ibid., pp. 469-73, 480-1, 514-6, 567-9, 582-5, 617-23, 635-9, 641-3, 646-52, 660-6. For earlier approaches to the problem, see ibid., pp. 449-54, 458-61. From Moscow, U.S. Ambassador Alan G. Kirk wrote on July 27 that he didn't believe the Soviets would risk war to preserve North Korea, but felt it was premature at the moment to commit the U.S. to crossing the 38th parallel. Paul Nitze of the State policy-planning staff said on July 28 the U.S. should wait until its troops approached the 38th before deciding whether to cross. John Foster Dulles concurred. See ibid., pp. 483-7. Defense Department drafts of July 31 and August 7 took a more aggressive line. The drafts assumed that the chief limitation to unifying Korea would be Soviet military countermeasures, including the use of Chinese Communist troops, but assumed that neither Beijing nor Moscow would overtly enter Korean hostilities and risk general war in the Far East. It raised no possibility that Red China might pursue its own course of action, implying any decision would be by the Soviet Union. The Defense paper said the U.S. should take measures to establish a united Korea "oriented toward the U.S." It recommended that the UN command should occupy all Korea and the UN hold all-Korea elections. See ibid., pp. 502-10, 528-35. The State Department draft of August 31 held that it was possible but unlikely that Chinese Communist forces would be used in Korea in the event the U.S. moved north of the 38th, since the Soviet Union probably regarded Korea in its own sphere of interest. The draft again repeated that a final determination for U.S. action could not be made "at this time." The final determination "must be determined in light of the action or inaction of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists" and after consulting with U.S. allies. See ibid., pp. 671-9. Thus, only two weeks before the landings at Inchon, which were going to force a decision on U.S. movement over the 38th parallel, the State Department was still recommending that the U.S. wait to see what Communist reaction would be before deciding on a course of action. This indicated an entirely opportunist approach to the problem. The implication was that, if the Kremlin decided not to intervene, the U.S. might go on to conquer North Korea. If it did, the U.S. would have to reconsider its decision. There was still no indication in Washington that Communist China might pursue a course independent of the Kremlin.

19. Ibid., p. 596; Allen S. Whiting, China Crosses the Yalu: The Decision to Enter the Korean War, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1960, pp. 78-79; E. Lloyd Murphy, The U.S./U.N. Decision to Cross the 38th Parallel, October 1950; A Case Study of Changing Objectives in Limited War, Air War College Research Report No. 3660, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.: Air War College, 1968, p. 28.

20. FRUS, Korea, 1950, p. 858.

21. Murphy, The U.S./U.N. Decision, pp. 29-31; Schnabel and Watson, p. 260; Whiting, China Crosses, p. 96; FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 1892-3.

22. The controversial MacArthur statement in the VFW speech was as follows: "Nothing could be more fallacious than the threadbare argument by those who advocate appeasement and defeatism in the Pacific that if we defend Formosa we alienate continental Asia. Those who speak thus do not understand the Orient. They do not grant that it is in the pattern of Oriental psychology to respect and follow aggressive, resolute and dynamic leadership—to quickly turn on a leadership characterized by timidity or vacillation—and they underestimate the Oriental mentality. Nothing in the last five years has so inspired the Far East as the American determination to preserve the bulwarks of our Pacific ocean strategic position from future encroachment, for few of its people fail accurately to appriase the safeguard which determination brings to their free institutions." See Schnabel and Watson, p. 515. The text of the MacArthur message is printed in U.S. 82nd Congress, Senate, Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Relations, Hearings, Military Situation in the Far East, 1951, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951, pt. 5, pp. 3477-80. A microfilm version of these hearings, which includes all formerly classifed testimony, is available through the legislative branch of the National Archives, Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. The formerly classified material also is given in John Edward Wiltz, "The MacArthur Hearings of 1951: The Secret Testimony," Military Affairs journal, December, 1975, pp. 167-73.

23. Schnabel and Watson, p. 516; Military Situation in the Far East, pt. 2, p. 1217; Acheson, p. 423; Truman, Trial, pp. 354-5; Alexander, pp. 176-8.

24. Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964, pp. 385-6, 389; James F. Schnabel, Policy and Direction: the First Year, United States Army in the Korean War, Office of the Chief of Military History, Washington: U.S. Government Printint Office, 1972 (reprinted 1978), p. 371.

25. Schnabel and Watson, p. 218; Bradley, A General's Life, p. 552; McLellan, Dean Acheson, p. 285.

26. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 685-93.

27. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 713-21.

28. Schnabel and Watson, p. 227.

29. Alexander, p. 228.

30. Ibid., pp. 228, 230; FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 747-8, 781-2; 785-6. The directive stated that MacArthur's objective was destruction of the North Korean armed forces. It authorized him to conduct operations north of the 38th parallel "provided that at the time of such operation there has been no entry into North Korea by major Soviet or Chinese Communist forces, no announcement of intended entry,, nor a threat to counter our operations militarily in North Korea." The directive prohibited the sending of forces or aircraft across the Manchurian or Soviet borders, and "as a matter of policy, no non-Korea ground forces will be used in the northeast provinces bordering the Soviet Union or in the area along the Manchurian border."

31. FRUS, Korea, 1950, p. 826; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 242-3. Marshall had phrased his message neatly: if MacArthur simply would cross the parallel without making a big thing of it, the UN would find itself presented with the fact and would not have to act formally one way or the other. MacArthur, whose understanding of political subleties was practically nonexistent, replied to Marshall: "Parallel 38 is not a factor in the military employment of our forces. I regard all of Korea open for our military operations." He planned to announce these views publicly. This was not what Marshall was getting at. The more politically savvy Joint Chiefs radioed MacArthur back immediately to spell out for him what Washington wanted him to do. It would be "unwise," the chiefs said, to issue any statement at all about the 38th parallel. Instead, he should proceed "without any further explanation or announcement and let action determine the matter. Our government desires to avoid having to make an issue of the 38th parallel until we have accomplished our mission of defeating the North Korean forces." On the same day (September 29, 1950) the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after clearance with the president, approved General MacArthur's plan of September 28 for military operations to conquer North Korea. These called for an attack up the western corridor of North Korea by Eighth Army and landings on the east coast by the U.S. X Corps.

32. Murphy, The U.S./U.N. Decision, p. 44, cites New York Times, September 26, 1950, pp. 1, 14.

33. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 799-808, 826-8, 834-5, 873-4, 903-06.

34. For a discussion of how Acheson used the UN resolution to obscure American plans to conquer North Korea, see Alexander, pp. 237-8.

35. JCS Chairman Omar Bradley summed up American feeling at the time. Red China was under tight control of Russia. "The Russians were not ready to risk global war over Korea." No unilateral move by Red China was likely because it lacked the military power. "Therefore, there would be no Soviet or Chinese Communist intervention in Korea." Bradley felt, if Red China was going to make any move, Taiwan was the more likely target. "We did not believe the Chinese Communists were likely to rush in to hlep solve Russia's problem in North Korea." See Bradley, A General's Life, pp. 564, 570.

36. Schnabel and Watson, pp. 257-8.

37. New York Times, August 17, 1950, p. 4.

38. People's China (Beijing) 2, no. 5, September 1, 1950; Whiting, China Crosses, p. 79; Murphy, U.S./U.N. Decision, p. 34.

39. Alexander, p. 242.

40. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 733-4.

41. Ibid., pp. 742-3.

42. Ibid., pp. 793-4; K.M. Panikkar, In Two Chinas: Memoirs of a Diplomat, London: Allen and Unwin, 1955, pp. 107-08; Bradley, A General's Life, p. 569. Pannikar also reported that General Nieh did not believe the U.S. could spare combat troops to fight China and said no war could be won by air power alone. Pannikar said the Polish ambassador had told him China would not endure further provocation.

43. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 796-7, 832.

44. Murphy, U.S./U.N. Decision, p. 52; Whiting, China Crosses, pp. 107-08; New York Times, October 2, 1950, p. 3.

45. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 839, 848, 849-51, 858-9, 864-6, 869-74, 876-7, 886, 889-90, 901-02, 921, 933-8; Panikkar, In Two Chinas, pp. 109-11; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 260-1; Truman, Trial, p. 362; Acheson, p. 452. In a subsequent message on October 4, Panikkar reported that Zhou Enlai said: "It was hypocrisy for the U.S. to claim that entry of North Koreans into South Korea was aggression whereas entry of UN forces into North Korea was not aggression." The U.S. attempted to deliver through Indian auspices in New Delhi a message to the Red Chinese ambassador to India. The message was to the effect that the U.S. didn't want hostilities with Red China and had no desire to establish bases in Korea. The message was wholly silent, however, about U.S. intentions to eliminate the North Korean state and reunite the peninsula in a single country under the Republic of Korea. The Chinese ambassador refused to see any ambassadors in India whose countries did not have ambassadors in Beijing. Therefore, the U.S. never delivered the message. The CIA report of October 12 discounting the likelihood of Red Chinese intervention, repeated a bizarre argument that had been accepted in U.S. military circles that the most favorable time for intervention in Korea had passed. If Red China was going to intervene, the argument ran, it would have happened while American and ROK forces were pinned inside the Pusan perimeter in summer, 1950. Then a strong push by Chinese troops might have driven the U.S. off the peninsula. See Bradley, A General's Life, p. 570. The military and the CIA apparently never considered that Red China had no interest in assisting North Korea in conquering South Korea, but rather was concerned wholly with maintaining the strategic buffer of North Korea in front of Manchuria, Red China's only industrialized region and the avenue for an American or Nationalist Chinese attack into north China. This thought never came up in the CIA report, despite being the obvious reason for major Red Chinese troop movements in late August and September and for Zhou Enlai's ultimatum.

46. Schnabel and Watson, p. 261. A contributing factor to the refusal of the Truman administration to seek an accommodation with Beijing was the imminence of congressional elections in November. Republican leaders, incensed over the defeat of the GOP presidential candidate, Thomas E. Dewey, in 1948, were loudly urging a continuation of the U.S. attack in Korea. Some in addition were describing any plans to halt as appeasement of Communists. McCarthyism was emerging as a powerful political force and the Truman administration already was the target of ultraconservative charges of a "Communist conspiracy" in the State Department. Truman, therefore, was not willing to appear to be coddling Communists.

47. Wu Xuguang, Wang Yan, He Ding, Jiang Baohua, Zhang Xi, A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire editorial department, Biographies of PLA Generals, vol. 3, Peng Dehuai, Beijing: Liberation Army Publising House, 1986, chapter 6, translated from the Chinese by Ellis L. Melvin, Tamaroa, Illinois 62888.

48. General MacArthur complained bitterly that the Chinese Communists possessed a "privileged sanctuary" in China, especially Manchuria, where they could mass troops and where their aircraft could flee when pursued by American jet fighters. His attitude gained a lot of support among the military, on Capitol Hill and among the public at large. It was, however, a spurious argument because the very nature of limiting the war by tacit agreement to Korea gave both sides "privileged sanctuaries." The Chinese made no attempt to contest UN use of Japan and Okinawa for troop supply, reinforcements and for air combat sorties against the Communists. The Chinese Communists also never challenged UN air supremacy behind UN lines in Korea, although UN aircraft dominated the skies over North Korea and methodically bombed and strafed everything in the north with any conceivable military value. Skies over the front lines and behind them were almost always clear of Communist aircraft. General Omar Bradley in the 1951 Senate committee hearings on the Far East said the Communists "are not bombing our ports and uspply installations and are not bombing our troops." See Alexander, p. 291 and footnote 13.

49. Ibid., chapter 6.

50. FRUS, Korea, 1950, p. 914. The bulk of the statement was as follows: "The American war of invasion in Korea has been a serious menace to the security of China from its very start....The Chinese people cannot stand idly by with regard to such a serious situation created by the invasion of Korea by the United States and its accomplice countries and to the dangerous trend toward extending the war....The Chinese people firmly advocate a peaceful solution to the Korean problem and are firmly opposed to the extension of the Korean war by America and its accomplice countries. And they are even more firm in holding that aggressors must be answerable for all consequences resulting from their frantic acts in extending aggression." The refusal of official Washington to take the Chinese Communist threat seriously is all the more remarkable because, on October 11, Ernest Bevin, British foreign minister, informed President Truman Britain had picked up a radio message from Kim Il Sung, North Korean premier, that the Korean people had the backing of Red China and the Soviet Union. Bevin also reminded Truman of Zhou's October 10 statement. Bevin said Britain believed serious consequences would flow from Chinese intervention. Although he thought the U.S. couldn't take the Chinese statements at face value, it was equally impossible to ignore them entirely. If Red China did intervene, Bevin implored Truman not to allow MacArthur to attack Chinese targets outside Korean territory without Truman's express sanction and hopefully only after consultation with London. See ibid., pp. 930-2.

51. Peng Dehuai, chapter 6.

52. Alexander, pp. 304-05. Three of the PLA armies (the 39th, 40th and 38th) were deployed from west to east north of the Chongchon river in western Korea facing the U.S. Eighth Army. The fourth army (42nd) was deployed south of the Changjin (Chosin) reservoir in eastern Korea against the U.S. X Corps. The reserve armies (50th and 66th) lay hidden in reserve in the mountains and were not committed during the first-phase Chinese offensive. The Chinese committed all three of their armies in the west, but only one division and a regiment in the east. Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) in North Korea during the first phase totaled 180,000 men, but Peng Dehuai committed only about 100,000 to action.

53. For details of the the Wake Island conference see FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 948-62; Truman, Trial, pp. 362-3; Bradley, A General's Life, pp. 572-77; Schnabel & Watson, pp. 263-70; Schnabel, Policy and Direction, pp. 210-4.

54. Acheson, p. 456.

55. Peng Dehuai, chapter 6.

56. For a record of the first confrontation of UN forces with the Chinese Communists, see Alexander, pp. 254-86. MacArthur's unilateral cancellation of the JCS order not to send American troops to the Yalu drew a query from the Joint Chiefs, but no complaint. See ibid., p. 256.

57. For an analysis of the American response to the Chinese first-phase offensive, see Alexander, pp. 291-8.

58. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 1231-3. Secretary of State Acheson has a passage in his memoirs about the way leaders in Washington allowed matters to drift in November. Although it was basically an attempt to absolve himself from blame for the disaster in Korea, it inadvertently emphasizes the failure of leadership exhibited during this period. Acheson wrote: "All the dangers from dispersal of our own forces and intervention by the Chinese were manifest. We were all deeply apprehensive. We were frank with one another, but not quite frank enough. I was unwilling to urge on the President a military course that his military advisros would not propose. They would not propose it because it ran counter to American military tradition of the proper powers of the theater commander....If General Marshall and the chiefs had proposed withdrawal to the Pyongyang-Wonsan line and a continuous defensive position under united command across it—and if the president had backed them, as he undoubtedly would have—disaster would probably have been averted. But it would have meant a fight with MacArthur, charges by him that they had denied him victory—and his relief under arguable circumstances. So they hesitated, wavered, and the chance was lost. While everyone acted correctly, no one, I suspect, was ever quite satisfied with himself afterward." See Acheson, p. 468.

59. Ibid., pp. 309-11. The Chinese refused to fight on American terms. Americans were virtually invincible if they could establish a line that could not be flanked and where their supplies were assured by truck from the rear. With such a line, American strength in artillery, air strikes and infantry firepower was awesome. Chinese doctrine did not call for fighting slugging matches with Americans because they would invariably lose with their limited ammunition and inferior weapons. Chinese methods were primarily deception, surprise and stealthy infiltration at night to engage and surround a small enemy unit, destroying it or forcing it to surrender, then moving on to repeat the tactic against another small segment of the enemy. Another effective Chinese offensive tactic was to infiltrate at night behind enemy lines and to block roads so that supply vehicles could not get through. If such roadblocks could be maintained, UN forces ultimately would have to surrender. UN doctrine, therefore, quickly came to be to keep open the main-supply routes. If they could not be kept open, UN forces were forced to retreat or surrender. Generally, American forces, because of their enormous firepower, were able to break through Chinese roadblocks and retreat. They were unable, however, always to keep open supply routes in the face of numerous roadblocks which could be set up virtually anywhere behind the front and which usually required bringing up tanks or artillery to break.

60. The narrative on the Chinese Communist counteroffensive in November and December, 1950, is drawn from Alexander, pp. 313-67.

61. The Washington reaction to the Chinese offensive is drawn from Alexander, pp. 368-73.

62. Acheson, pp. 471-2; Schnabel and Watson, p. 364. President Truman, his patience exhausted, ordered a moratorium on December 5 on all governmental speeches concerning foreign or military affairs. Although expressed in general terms, it was clearly aimed at MacArthur. "I should have relieved him then and there," Truman wrote later. See Truman, Trial, p. 384.

63. Schnabel and Watson, pp. 366, 344,

64. The record of the U.S.-British talks is given in FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 1361-77, 1382-6, 1390-1408, 1426, 1435-42, 1449-65, 1468-79.

65. Ibid., pp. 1397-8.

66. Truman said he was not in any mood "to give in to China which is actually the Russian government." See ibid., p. 1456. Acheson took the strange position that the Chinese unreasonably had turned on the United States. "For fifty years we have tried to be friends with the Chinese," he said. "They have now attacked us with their armies and have denounced us violently. They have done great harm to the work of fifty years." Acheson gave no recognition that the United States had been a friend primarily of the Nationalists since before World War II and thereafter, not to the Chinese people as a whole. The U.S. had supported the Nationalists against the Communists in a huge and destructive civil war. Since the U.S. had pursued such a partisan policy, it was inevitable that the Communists, after defeating the Nationalists, would consider the United States anything but a "friend." It was therefore absurd for Acheson to maintain that "the Chinese" had turned on the U.S. See ibid., p. 1402.

67. On December 12, 1950, Secretary Acheson sent a message to a number of U.S. diplomatic stations disputing the hypothesis that Red China's action in Korea was motivated by genuine misunderstanding of American purposes, which the Chinese Communists saw "as comprising military operations against the mainland." After accusing the Chinese Reds of aggression and denying that American actions in quarantining Taiwan or in attacking North Korea constituted any threat to Red China, Acheson concluded: "It is now ummistakable to anyone that while strains emitted from Peiping [Beijing] are Chinese, organist is Russian and [State] Department is impelled to conclude that consistent singling out of U.S. as enemy of China by Peiping propaganda was essential element in the Soviet effort to refrain from hardening attitude of other countries toward Peiping and lead to cleavage of the free world at time of its greatest peril." See ibid., pp. 1533-4.

68. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 1482-5. See also ibid., pp. 1219, 1303-05, 1316-7, 1334-5, 1342-3, 1353-8, 1367, 1379-81, 1408-10, 1434, 1518-20, 1522-5, 1536-8, 1540-2; New York Times, December 6, 1950, p. 1; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 380, 383-4. The Truman administration decided that any actual cease-fire terms agreed to by the U.S. and China had to follow the proposal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 1528-31, 1549-50). These provided that the cease-fire would be limited entirely to Korea, establish a twenty-mile-wide demilitarized zone with its southern boundary following the 38th parallel, ban new troops by either side and provide for exchange of prisoners of war on a one-for-one basis.

69. FRUS, Korea, 1950, pp. 1557-8, 1594-8.

70. Ibid., p. 1548.

71. Alexander, pp. 379-84. Peng Dehuai stopped the Chinese Communist pursuit on January 7, 1951, only a few days after commencement of the offensive. A number of Chinese leaders in Korea opposed Peng's decision, wanting to take advantage of the victory to drive the UN forces into the sea. Peng was certain, however, that American forces remained extremely strong, while he was having serious difficulties with supply and with replacements of losses. See Peng Dehaui, chapter 6. There is no evidence, moreover, that the Chinese ever intended to drive the Americans out of Korea entirely. To have done so would have required them to commit an overwhelming mass of men against the guns and planes of the UN command time after time. The Chinese never did this. Despite a lot of bluff, the Chinese never attempted more than to drive UN forces back into South Korea and thereby reestablish the North Korean buffer that existed before the war started.

72. FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 102-05; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 438-40; Alexander, pp. 389-96.

73. Schnabel and Watson, pp. 428-9; FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 7-9, 51-53, 65-66, 72-76, 82-85.

74. Acheson, p. 513; New York Times, January 12, 1951, p. 1; January 13, 1951, p. 9; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 429-30.

75. The Chinese Communist response appears in FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 91-93.

76. Ibid., pp. 98-101, 107-16, 148-9, 150-1.

77. FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 1592-6, 1614-5, 1626-7, 1636, 1648-51.

78. Alexander, pp. 399-402.

79. FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 232-4, 241-3, 246-7, 251, 252-4, 255-6; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 468-9, 525-6; Alexander, pp. 405-06.

80. The text is given in FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 264-6. Pertinent parts follow: "Even under inhibitions which now restrict activity of the United Nations forces [meaning Washington refusal to allow MacArthur to attack targets in Manchuria and China proper] and the corresponding military advantages which accrue to Red China, it has been shown its complete inability to accomplish by force of arms the conquest of Korea. The enemy therefore must by now be painfully aware that a decision of the United Nations to depart from its tolerant effort to contain the war to the area of Korea through expansion of our military operations to his coastal areas and interior bases would doom Red China to the risk of imminent military collapse. These basic facts being established, there should be no insuperable difficulty arriving at decisions on the Korean problem if the issues are resolved on their own merits without being burdened by extraneous matters not directly related to Korea, such as Formosa and China's seat in the United Nations. The Korean nation and people which have been so cruelly ravaged must not be sacrificed. That is the paramount concern. Apart from the military area of the problem where the issues are resolved in the course of combat, the fundamental questions continue to be political in nature and must find their answer in the diplomatic sphere. Within the area of my authority as military commander, however, it should be needless to say I stand ready at any time to confer in the field with the commander-in-chief of the enemy forces in an earnest effort to find any military means whereby the realization of the political objectives of the United Nations in Korea, to which no nation may justly take exceptions, might be accomplished without further bloodshed."

81. MacArthur's unauthorized ultimatum to the Chinese on March 24 was only his most arrant attempt to direct U.S. foreign policy at this time. On March 20, MacArthur answered a March 8 letter from the minority (Republican) leader of the House of Representatives, Joseph W. Martin, Jr. Martin read MacArthur's response on the floor of the House on April 5. In his letter, Martin sought MacArthur's endorsement of the congressman's views that Chinese Nationalist troops should be used in the Korean War. The Joint Chiefs had specifically rejected a proposal by MacArthur in early December, 1950, on this very point, citing the possibility of extending the war to China as one of the principal reasons for refusing. See Schabel and Watson, p. 344. Yet in his letter to Martin, MacArthur indicated his endorsement of using Nationalist troops in Korea and also repeated a contention he had made in other contexts that the Truman administration favored Europe at the expense of Asia, where, MacArthur said, "the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest." After criticizing the strategy of limited war, MacArthur ended his letter with the statement: "There is no substitute for victory." This phrase became justifiably identified in the public mind with MacArthur. As late as 1962 MacArthur told the graduating class at West Point: "Your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win our wars....the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory." Thus MacArthur personified the idea that wars are to be fought to the finish, to total victory, to unconditional surrender. The path upon which the United States was embarked, to limit its commitments in the Far East and to avoid a war to total destruction with Red China, was not for General MacArthur. Politically, for the Far Eastern commander to write such a letter as he did to the leader of the opposition in the House indicated a definite slap at the Truman administration and a virtual declaration of an open breach with it. MacArthur thus was being used by Republicans in order to get at Truman and Acheson. The questions that MacArthur's letter raised contributed to the administration's decision to lay out the whole issue of the war's purpose in Senate committee hearings that followed. For contents of Martin's and MacArthur's letters, see FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 298-9. See also Truman, Trial, pp. 445-6; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 529-30; Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1967, p. 144.

82. Sources for the decision on MacArthur's relief are Truman, Trial, pp. 445-8; Collins, War in Peacetime, pp. 271-87; Acheson, pp. 521-4; Schnabel, Policy and Direction, pp. 364-77; Schnabel and Watson, pp. 536; FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 266-9, 275-7, 300-1, 330-3, 337. For a summary see Alexander, pp. 405-13.

83. The Bradley quote comes from Military Situation in the Far East, pt. 2, pp. 731-2. This document records all testimony of the hearings. See also Acheson, pp. 524-8; Collins, War in Peacetime, pp. 287-93; John W. Spanier, The Truman-MacArthur Controversy and the Korean War, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959, pp. 211-56; Trumbull Higgins, Korea and the Fall of MacArthur, New York: Oxford University Press, 1960, pp. 133-76. MacArthur's basic proposals before the Senate committees was identical to the plan he advanced when he spoke before Congress: intensification of the economic blockade of Red China, blockading the China coast, permitting air reconnaissance of Manchuria and the China coast and removal of restrictions on operations by the Chinese Nationalists. MacArthur also implied that General Marshall had overruled a Joint Chiefs recommendation that any cease-fire in Korea had to exclude acceptance of Red China in the UN or abandonment of Taiwan to Beijing. Marshall denied he had overruled the chiefs and emphasized that U.S. policy was to deny Taiwan and a seat in the UN to the Reds. Indeed, Marshall and other administration leaders had made this plain to Prime Minister Attlee in December, 1950, in the Truman-Attlee talks. Both Marshall and the chiefs also denied that Marshall had overruled the JCS on widening the war. The chiefs were in complete agreement with the administration on not widening the war.

84. The Chinese complained that the Russians never gave them anything to fight in Korea. In a letter published on March 1, 1964, the Chinese Communist party said that during the war "we made a tremendous sacrifice and spent enormous sums of money for military purposes....We have paid all principal and interest on loans from the Soviet Union at that time....In aiding the Korean War and fighting against the United States, no free aid was ever offered by the Soviet Union." See Yonosuke Nagai and Akira Iriye, eds., The Origins of the Cold War in Asia, New York: Columbia University Press, University of Tokyo Press, 1977, "The Sino-Soviet Confrontation in Historical Perspective," by Nakajima Mineo, p. 217.

85. For a summary of the spring offensive, see Alexander, pp. 418-25.

86. For a narrative and sources on the peace talks and developments in Korea in the last half of 1951, see Alexander, pp. 426-48.

87. The record of the messages received from Beijing and U.S. responses regarding the Chinese cease-fire proposal appears in FRUS, Korea and China, 1951, pp. 609-13. Washington chose to translate the Beijing message as not as offering to cease fighting during the negotiations. The version that Washington adopted was as follows: "Your statement of June 30 this year concerning peace talks has been received. We are authorized to inform you that we agree to meet your representative for conducting talks concerning cessation of military action and establishment of peace." See ibid., p. 612. The version translated by Far East Command in Tokyo read as follows (ibid., p. 609): "Your broadcast message of June 30, regarding peace talks, has been received. We are authorized to tell you that we agree to suspend military activities and to hold peace negotiations, and that our delegates will meet with yours." The version Washington decided to accept was completely contrary to the version accepted as accurate in Tokyo, although Ridgway's message said "several versions of my message to the commander-in-chief, Communist forces in Korea, have been received," and the one (p. 609) is that which Ridgway felt reflected accurately the Beijing response. It is likely that, since Washington had decided to ignore the Chinese proposal, it elected to conclude that the Chinese had not actually offered to stop fighting, despite Ridgway's assertion (ibid., p. 610) that the Communist "intent is clear that military action shall be suspended from the beginning of armistice negotiations." If the Washington and Tokyo versions indeed had been at variance, there was an easy way to find out what the Chinese really meant: Ridgway could have sent an immediate query back to Beijing. The fact is, this was not done.