War in Korea: Civilian and Military Leadership and the Firing of a General

General War Topics, Campaigns and Battles Across the Entire Spectrum of War -- Air, Sea and Land
Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

30 Apr 2017, 01:05 #1


What follows are excerpts from The Korean War by General Matthew B. Ridgeway, US Army (ret):
The Korean conflict marked the end, in the United States, of the Fortress America era and the beginning of an age when it would no longer be possible for our nation to ensure peace merely by avoiding foreign entanglements.  When war broke out in Korea, we found ourselves for the first time in our history plunged headlong into war without even a week's warning and involved half a world away in a struggle our people neither understood nor felt a part of.
In every previous war, beginning with the one that gave our country birth, there had been time to gird our loins, recruit our spirits, and deliberate over where and how best to apply our force.  In other conflicts, our ocean moats and our distance from the battle enabled us to delay long enough to tool our industries for war, to train our armies, build our stockpiles, and take counsel with ourselves over the disposition of our forces.
Korea, however, burst into flame without apparent warning.  There was no time allowed in 1950 to arrive at our major decisions through conferences, debate, legislative action, and careful clearances.  The outbreak of hostilities found us at peace and awoke us to full-scale war.  It took young family men, hardly settled down after dreary months of warfare, and transported them at airplane speed straight to the fighting front.  It found a prosperous nations, with a new era of labor-management peace apparently dawning, with taxes diminishing, wartime restrictions vanishing, and a tranquil future unfolding -- and it offered it, once more, shortages and strife and sacrifices and doubt.
In the course of the conflict we met and decided several questions of major import, some of which have been only dimly understood by the masses of our people.  Facing the issue of whether to act in concert with other free nations, or go it alone, we decided that our national security lay in collective action.  Forced to choose between civilian authority and military, we emphasized once more the constitutional supremacy of the civilian authority.  Abruptly faced with the need to decide whether to stand up to aggression or abandon the Republic of Korea to her enemies, we chose the path of honor and met the aggressor head-on.  And for the first time in our history, we became acquainted with the concept of "limited" war.
Before Korea, all our military planning envisioned a war that would involve the world, and in which the defense of a distant and indefensible peninsula would be folly.  But Korea taught us that all warfare from this time forth must be limited.  It could no longer be a question of whether to fight a limited war, but of how to avoid fighting any other kind.  Unlimited war, now that many nations own thermonuclear weapons or the skill to build them, is no longer thinkable, for it would mean mutual annihilation.  Our dealings with friends and potential enemies, after Korea, would all be colored by this realization.
Perceptive people then foresaw that this change in our thinking would bring other changes in its train.  The realization began to dawn that military force alone could no longer solve problems such as faced us in Vietnam, Laos and the Congo but that mutually supporting political, economic, and military policies must be evolved that would be acceptable to all peoples concerned, and they would have to be implemented through strong leadership.  It became clear too that policy could no longer be formulated by the White House alone, or by the Department of State, or by the Defense Department; that neither civilian statesmen nor military professionals, working in separate compartments, could by themselves lay down the lines that would give direction to our intercourse with other sovereignties.  It is clear now, or should be clear, that best results flow from intimate day-to-day collaboration among military and civilian leaders, wherein the civilian leaders propose the ends that must be achieved and the military leaders supply their estimate of how much can be attained by military means and how those means may be best employed.
Such collaboration is possible only when civil and military authorities seek and earnestly consider each other's point of view.  Sound decisions will not be reached through automatic overruling of the preponderant recommendations of the nation's senior military advisers by their civilian superiors.  The civilian authority, under our Constitution, of course, remains supreme.  But a failure to seek, hear, and weigh the counsel of our experienced military advisers is to court disaster.
Many of our citizens, absorbed as they properly are by the struggle to maintain the security and health of their families and to educate their children, have not had the time to grasp the full significance of these changes in our situation and in our thinking.  Too often they are still beguiled by the thoughtless old slogans of "all-out war." and "unconditional surrender" and "complete victory," slogans that are frequently employed to serve partisan ends.  It is no wonder then that widely divergent views on foreign policy, heated debates, confused thinking, and feelings of frustrations still persist throughout the country.
Fortunately there seems to be a growing body of citizenry who, while perhaps themselves not fully understanding the depth and force of the changes that have engulfed us since Korea, still perceive that we live in a wholly new world that calls for new ways of thinking and planning.  And in between the unthinking and the more perceptive, there remains the group of people who, confused by the vehement utterances of the opposing schools of thought, find it more and more difficult to decide which group to support.
More to come. . . .
Last edited by Flattop on 21 May 2017, 21:47, edited 1 time in total.
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

30 Apr 2017, 02:06 #2

In 1948, the National Security Council of the United States had given serious thought to helping create a field army in South Korea but the plan was abandoned on [General Douglas] MacArthur's recommendation, largely because of the "diminished capabilities of U.S. occupation forces."  By 1949, we were completely committed to the theory that the next war involving the United States would be a global war, in which Korea would be of relatively minor importance and, in any event, indefensible.  All our planning, all our official statements, all our military decisions derived essentially from this belief.  The concept of "limited warfare" never entered our councils.  We had faith in the United Nations.  And the atomic bomb created for us a kind of psychological Maginot line that helped us rationalize our national urge to get the boys home, the armies demobilized, the swords sheathed, and the soldiers, sailors, and airmen out of uniform.  In the light of later events it was easy for all to criticize this wholesale urge to dismantle and disperse the greatest military establishment our nation had ever owned.  But would any political candidate in that era have been able to survive had he urged keeping the nation still under arms and large forces still posted 8000 miles from home?
It is true that in our assessment of the Korean situation we gave too much weight to our own interpretation of the enemy's intentions and too little to the facts we knew about his capability.  The existence of the powerful striking force in North Korea and the massing of troops near the border were no secret from our intelligence.  It was our evaluation that was at fault and in this I think we were largely guided by our conviction that the Communist forces in the world were not ready to risk atomic war by resorting to armed aggression.  Limited war, as I noted earlier, was a concept still foreign to us, except in the sense that all wars are limited by the willingness of the participants to pay the price required.
Under these circumstances, one may certainly find fault with the timing of Dean Acheson's speech (January 1950) in which he excluded Korea from our defense perimeter.  While the weakness of the ROK forces and the strong popular pressure on the administration to bring all United States forces home certainly were well known to the Soviets, this clear indication that we had no intention of defending Korea did nothing to give the enemy even momentary pause.  It is true of course that the drawing of a defense perimeter that excluded Korea was not the work of Dean Acheson, or of the Truman administration alone.  As early as September 1947, studies by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Leahy, Eisenhower, Nimitz, and Spaatz), made at the direction of President Truman, resulted in a memorandum to the Secretary of State that included this statement: ". . . from the standpoint of military security, the U.S. has little strategic interest in maintaining the present troops and bases in Korea. . . ."   It is certainly not surprising that the considered view of these four great military authorities should have met with presidential approval.
In 1949, in separate interviews . . . General Douglas MacArthur was reported to have outlined a defense perimeter that clearly excluded Formosa.  This caused no particular stir because it had been almost taken for granted that Formosa would soon fall to the Chinese Communists.  And the United States Emergency Plans for the Far East did not provide for the defense of either Korea or Formosa.
The attack began at dawn on a rainy summer morning, June 25, 1950, with heavy artillery fire in the various attack zones. . . .  Early on the morning of June 28, the NKPA moved into Seoul, where fires were already burning and Communist flats were showing.  With the loss of Seoul . . . all effective resistance collapsed and the ROK troops . . . swarmed back across the Han, a river that for a time GHQ in Tokyo had believe might provide a suitable barrier beyond which to make a stand.
On June 29, however, the Commander in Chief, General MacArthur, acting as he so often did without though of personal danger, made a personal reconnaissance that persuaded him the tide could not be stemmed without massive reinforcement. . . .  He then reported in a radio message to the JCS: "The South Korean forces are in confusion, have not seriously fought, and lack leadership. . . .  They are incapable of gaining the initiative. . . ."
The plans of the United States to stave off the looming disaster were subject now to hour-by-hour reappraisal, with almost geometric expansion for the estimate of the forces that would be needed. . . .  The Commander's immediate concern now was scratching together men and munitions enough to fight a battle five times as big as we were ready for.  It was a time for instant decisions and swift action.  To the credit of our President, and our military leaders, there was neither hesitation nor doubt in the response. . . .  It was not a forgone conclusion by any means that the United States, after its long history of leaving Korea to its fate, would this time respond any differently.
We were not prepared for war, and most of us who first heard this ominous message from the other side of the world told ourselves that World War III had begun.  No one would have criticized the President had he stopped to take solemn counsel with all his advisers before he decided what move he should make first.  But it was not in President Truman's nature to waver or step backward in the face of a challenge like this.  Within hours he had ordered the use of "U.S. air and sea forces to give the ROK government troops cover and support."  On June 30 he approved MacArthur's request to use one regimental combat team and shortly thereafter gave MacArthur "full authority to use the ground forces under his command."
General MacArthur's plans were far-ranging and all-inclusive, right from the start: He would make contact as far forward as possible, throw whatever troops he could quickly transport there into the path of the enemy, and take immediate advantage of the natural barrier offered by the wide Han River.  He would rapidly build up a force of two United States divisions which, when combined with the ROK forces, would be sufficient to delay the enemy and assure retention of and adequate lodgement on the peninsula.  Then, when sufficient forces were at hand, he would pass to the offensive with an amphibious assault by a two-division corps, seize the Inchon-Seoul area, and then destroy the hostile army.  But this plan had been completed before GHQ knew the caliber of the enemy.  Once fighting had begun, General MacArthur's estimates skyrocketed.  The Han River hardly slowed the enemy down.
Forward elements of the 24th Division retired along the general axis of the main highway and double-track railroad running from Seoul to Pusan.  Our Air Force knocked out much of the enemy armor, inflicted casualties on his foot soldiers, and kept close check on his movement.  But only the remnants of one understrength, badly battered, and outgunned division was there to dispute the ground.  In seventeen days of bitter fighting, these bone-weary soldiers fought five major delaying actions while falling back seventy miles.
On July 20, Taejon was abandoned.  A very few days after this, the 25th and the 1st Cavalry Divisions, raised to a minimum combat level through cannibalizing the 7th Infantry Division, were in action at various points a long a hundred mile front extending from west of the Taejon-Taegu highway and rail line to the Sea of Japan, north of Pohang-dong.  The 24th Division, riddled with casualties, sore, weary and dirty, looked around for respite -- and found none.  They were promptly shifted west and south to the Naktong River where they were to block enemy attempts to turn our south flank.
Observers in the Pentagon had long been aware of the disaster that threatened on the south.  But  Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker, in command of the Eighth Army, had already announced there would be no Bataan.  While the Army's situation was still deteriorating rapidly after the fall of Chinju on July 29, he announced: "There will be no more retreating! . . .  We must fight to the end! . . .  We are going to hold this line!  We are going to win!"
Win they did, through desperate fighting and brilliant maneuver.
[On September 15, UN forces made an amphibious landing at the least likely place, Inchon, and the situation on the ground changed radically.]
Still more to follow. . . .
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

30 Apr 2017, 16:48 #3

The Inchon landing, Operation Chromite, the daring 5000-to-1 shot that restored the initiative to our forces in Korea and kept them from being pushed into the sea, was a typical MacArthur operation, from inception to execution.  Almost before the rest of us fully comprehended that our nation was at war, MacArthur had begun to plan the amphibious enveloping movement, so characteristic of all his Pacific strategy, that would hit the enemy where he least looked for a blow, would sever his supply lines, and trap him between anvil and hammer.  While others thought of a way to to withdraw our forces safely, MacArthur planned for victory.
He did not, at first, have many on his side.  I know that I was not alone in doubting the feasibility of his plan as it was outlined to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  There were some who were not reconciled until the success of the move was beyond denying.  But General MacArthur was not merely a military genius.  He was a brilliant advocate who could argue his point with so much persuasiveness that men determined to stand up against him were won to enthusiastic support.
Even while our bloodied and outnumbered forces were withdrawing into the Pusan Perimeter, and while MacArthur was urging that more and more manpower and supplies be given him, there were sober and reasoned voices at home that warned against committing too much of our diminished military strength to an action that might prove only the opening skirmish in a war that would soon extend to Europe and quickly engage the whole world.  We had other positions far more vital and more defensible that Korea to protect in other theaters and we had almost no force to spare as it was.
Despite MacArthur's warning that the danger in the Far East was real he had seen his command steadily whittled down.  Every one of the Eighth Army's four infantry divisions was below its authorized makeshift strength of 12,500, a figure itself dangerously below the full wartime complement of 18,900.  Every division was short 1500 rifles and all its 90mm antitank guns, missing three infantry battalions out of nine, lacking one firing battery out of every three in the divisional artillery, and all regimental tank companies.
The naval and air forces had been shortchanged too, the naval forces being below strength in combat ships, in amphibious craft of every type and in minesweepers and mine-sweeping equipment.  The Air Force at the start had no jet fighters at all and too few combat and troop carrying planes while its visual and photographic reconnaissance was severely handicapped by lack of trained personnel.
But it was not just in the Far East that our military might was threadbare.  At home we had the skeletonized 3rd Division, sliced to its bare bones by the economizers, plus the 82nd Airborne Division, making up our entire General Reserve.
This was the state in which demobilization had left us.  More than that, it has put us into a position where we had nowhere to reach for trained manpower but into the reserve, the just-discharged veterans of World War II, most of them newly settled into the good jobs and homes they has dreamed of through years of combat, and all of them understandably dismayed at having to go back, after having once made their contribution of toil, blood, and sweat, and make it all over again under the worst possible circumstances.  The administration was reluctant to reactivate these men too.  Yet where else was it to find what it needed?  To draft many thousands of youngsters and make them combat-ready would take a year.  And the battle was so urgent now that troops had to be dispatched by air.  Nothing would do but to put the ex-soldiers back into boots.
It was into this atmosphere that MacArthur's hurried requests for larger and larger commitments were flung.  He had first asked for a Regimental Combat Team, then had estimated two full-strength divisions were needed.  On July 7, he asked for four to four and a half full strength divisions supported by an Airborne Regimental Combat Team and an armored group of four medium tanks battalions.  Two days later he radioed the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he needed without delay an additional "field army of at least four divisions with all component services."  He was, understandably impatient with his superiors in the Pentagon and they, also understandably, were hesitant to commit all our current military muscle, and more that we had not yet developed to a theater we had not selected, and perhaps a very secondary one at that.
It was not entirely clear, either, that Mr. Truman's policies -- his urgent desire to do everything possible to avoid provoking a third world war in our lamentable state of unreadiness -- were completely understood in Tokyo.  It was decided therefore that the President's special representative, Averell Harriman, should travel to Tokyo to consult with General MacArthur.  General Larry Norstad and I were ordered to go with him.
When we left Washington, there was a strong feeling in the Pentagon -- a feeling that I shared -- against granting MacArthur's request for the 3rd Division.  It was tragically understrength, completely unready for combat, and its removal would reduce the General Reserve to a single major unit, the 82nd Airborne Division.  As for dispatching the 82nd, or defusing it for the sake of supplying MacArthur with the airborne Regimental Combat Team he was requesting, I was prepared to dig my heels in against that.  But I reckoned, as all of us did, without MacArthur's persuasiveness, his self-confidence, his eloquence, or his consummate skill in presenting a daring military plan.
When he had finished he had won us all over to his views.  I know that after his brilliant exposition, and after I had studied the plans for Operation Chromite, the Inchon landing, my own doubts were largely dissolved.  On the return flight, Mr. Harriman, General Norstad, and I agreed that we were prepared to support MacArthur's requests when we got home, for the alternatives seemed dangerous and extreme.
MacArthur had argued the need primarily for speedy victory in South Korea before winter set in and scored a victory of its own.  By mid-November, he warned us, the snow and bitters winds would be upon us.  Meanwhile, he was losing a thousand men a day and replacements were not even holding his forces even.  Delay in achieving victory would also increase the danger of open intervention by Chinese and Soviet forces, he argued.  But to achieve destruction of enemy forces in South Korea, the offensive would have to be launched September 25 -- with adequate forces so that the operation would have every chance of success.  Otherwise, with the enemy dug into his positions, and his armies reinforced, we faced the prospect of a far more difficult and costly operation at a time less favorable to us.
We all went home ready to argue for the prompt fulfillment of MacArthur's request, for the immediate release to him of the 3rd Division.
I was particularly impressed with MacArthur's recognition of authority superior to his own.  His presentation did not reveal the slightest lack of loyalty to authority.  Not a single portent then appeared of that clash of wills, bordering closely on insubordination, that would lead to this gallant old soldier's abrupt dismissal.  He was confident, optimistic, proud, eloquent, and utterly without fear -- yet he was completely a soldier, seeming to implement, without cavil or complaint, whatever decisions his superiors communicated to him.
As for Inchon, the brilliance of his plan, the logic of his conception, and the extreme care with which the finest detail had been dealt with persuaded me quickly to support it.  But this was not my decision to make; and before the operation could be approved there were doubting Thomases on the JCS who had to be won over.
The doubts of the plan's success were well-founded, for a combination of perfect timing, perfect luck, precise coordination, complete surprise, and extreme gallantry were all needed to spell victory here.  It would have been difficult to find, on the entire tortuous Korean coastline, a spot more difficult to assault.  Inchon's natural defenses rendered it nearly immune to hostile approach by sea.  The thirty-foot tides, receding, left a tight and twisting channel through mile-wide mudflats that seemed ideally fashioned to ground our LSTs and turn them into artillery targets.
It was no wonder then that Thomases continued to doubt.  Veterans like Rear Admiral James H. Doyle, and Major General Oliver P. Smith, both experienced in the amphibious operations of World War II, failed to warm up to the idea.  A number of alternate plans were put forward, but MacArthur would have none of these, only Inchon offered the opportunity for the climactic stroke needed if the enemy was to be destroyed before winter -- a slashing of the enemy's main artery of supply and communications and an opportunity for a junction with the forces breaking out of the Pusan perimeter, to crush the enemy's forces in between.
To examine the feasibility of this plan . . . the JCS, in the middle of August, sent Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations, and General J. Lawton Collins, Army Chief of Staff, to meet with MacArthur and his staff in Tokyo.  All key officers were present at the meeting, including Admiral Doyle and General Smith.  General MacArthur outdid himself, not only presenting the arguments in favor of Operation Chromite but especially in conveying his own supreme confidence in early victory.  Admiral Doyle, near the end of the conference, volunteered the remark that the operation was at least "not impossible."  But Admiral C. Turner Joy found his own misgivings erased.  Even Admiral Sherman, the most skeptical of all, was, according to Joy, "almost persuaded."  It took the Commander in Chief another day, and a long private discussion with Sherman, to complete the persuasion.  "I wish," said Sherman after his private session with MacArthur, "I had that man's confidence."
Confidence, of course, was not quite enough.  Now the concurrence of the administration, the permission to strip our General Reserve bare and risk all on one daring throw of the dice, had to be won.  All the pros and cons were solemnly weighed.  Louis Johnson, Secretary of Defense, quickly approved the MacArthur plan.  Operation Chromite, the 5000-to-1 gamble, was cleared for execution.
More to come. . . .
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

30 Apr 2017, 17:44 #4

For boldness in concept, for competence in professional planning, and for courage, dash, and skill in execution, [Operation Chromite] ranks high in military annals.  Like every great military victory, the Inchon triumph brought sudden new problems -- problems that had not been sufficiently reckoned with ahead of time.  Before a major operation of this sort, it is customary to assemble all key commanders and staff officers and "war-game" the action on a map.  Each commander is then called upon to outline his plan for meeting every possible situation, from complete failure to stunning victory.  This time, there had been insufficient planning for the stunning victory, if indeed there had been any planning at all.  The United Nations Command paid dearly for this failure.  Because of it, large numbers of the North Korean Peoples Army escaped to fight again -- either as organized units in the north or in large-scale guerrilla actions behind our lines in the south.
Washington too had been hesitant in laying out a detailed course of action for exploitation of a victory, deferring decisions pending the resolution of some of the major mysteries -- what would the Chinese reaction to the victory be?  How would Russia respond?
A more subtle result of the Inchon triumph was the development of an almost superstitious regard for General MacArthur's infallibility.  Even his superiors, it seemed, began to doubt if they should question any of MacArthur's decisions and as a result he was deprived of the advantage of forthright and informed criticism, such as every commander should have -- particularly when he is trying to "run a war" from 700 miles away.  A good many military leaders have recognized that it takes a special kind of moral courage to stand up to your military superior and tell him you think his plan is wrong.  That is the time, as General George C. Marshall used to say, when you "lay you commission on the line."  But every military leader, from the lowest to the highest, owes it to the men whose lives are at his disposal to speak out clearly when he feels that a serious mistake is about to be made.
MacArthur's original plan for exploiting the Inchon victory with a two-pronged drive across the 38th parallel was sound and simple enough.  But its effectiveness depended upon three unknown factors -- the weather, the terrain, and the reaction of the Chinese.  And, as it turned out, there were other developments that prompted the Commander in Chief to alter his basic plan beyond all recognition, until he had units of the X Corps scattered all over the rugged Korean landscape, unable to support or even communicate directly with each other, and highly vulnerable to harassment by guerrilla forces or encirclement by an enemy that far outnumbered them.
As for the intervention of the Chinese, MacArthur simply closed his ears to their threats and apparently ignored or belittled the first strong evidence that they had crossed the Yalu in force.  The weather, he planned to outrace -- he would close on the Yalu and bring hostilities to an end before the deep snows came.  But the terrain, which he had not seen, proved to be an enemy whose strength he had never properly assessed.  It made impossible even a tenuous liaison between forces on the left (west) and the right (east).
The plan as first presented called for the Eighth Army, on A-day (October 17, three days before D-Day), to attack in the general direction of Pyongyang, to the northwest, and along the Kaesong-Sariwon-Pyongyang axis.  On D-Day the 1st Marine Division of the X Corps was to seize Wonsan in an amphibious assault and with that city invested the two forces were to attack toward each other along the east-west axis.  Once they had joined hands the peninsula would be sealed off against the retreating NKPA.  The two commands were then to make a coordinated advance to the Chongju-Yongwon-Hungnam line.
There were two obvious hitches to this plan.  The first was the withdrawal of the X Corps from the Seoul-Inchon area and the consequent denial of port and transportation facilities to the Eight Army, which suffered for weeks from the consequent choking off of supplies.  The second hitch, equally obvious from a terrain study, was the impracticability of the two forces attacking along an east-west line until they joined.
Ad matters turned out, there was one major happy surprise that prompted further adjustments in the plan.  The ROK I Coprs, practically forgotted by the GHQ planner, sent its ROK 3rd Division streaking up the coastal road to seize Wonsan before the Navy had even opened a channel through the minefield for the 1st Marines.  Had an immediate junction with an overland drive from Seoul been made, the whole aread might have been cleared promptly and the northward movement could then have begun well ahead of schedule.  The ROKs were in possession of the port by October 11, only nine days after MacArthur's plan had been approved and ordered into execution by the JCS.
Nevertheless, it was October 26 before the Navy could complete its delicate and dangerous job of sweeping a channel through the 2000 mines the enemy had sown in Wonsan harbor.  By this time, however, events had outrun the original plan and new objectives had been decided on.  On October 17 MacArthur ordered a new goal set -- a line some forty to sixty miles below the Manchurian border.  Soon he was instructing his commanders to think of this a merely an intermediate goal.  He was bound to get his forces to the Yalu, despite expressed State Department policy against using any except ROK forces close to the Manchurian border, and despite the obvious fact that, should the Chinese exercise their capability and cross the border in force, MacArthur's forces simply lacked the strength to hold that distant and sinuous line.
On October 26, the very day the 1st Marine Division finally came ashore in Wonsan, the ROK II Corps had pushed advance elements of its 6th Division all the way to the Yalu.  One Walker's left flank, forward elements of the U.S. 24th Division had crossed the Chongchon and were pushing on toward the Yalu, then only seventy miles away.
Elsewhere UN forces were moving toward the Yalu along many different routes, incapable of mutual support or even of maintaining ground patrol contact.  Before any of these maneuvers were well started, a chill warning blew down from the frozen ridges to the northeast.  The 7th Regiment of the ROK 6th Division, first UN forces to reach the Yalu, had turned south to draw back when they were struck by an overwhelming force of Communist Chinese, who rose as it were out of the ground and, in a vicious close-quarter fight, very nearly destroyed the regiment.
Yet through all this period, official reports shone with optimism.  Washington was informed that there was "no confirmation" of the widely circulated press stories that 20,000 Communist Chinese troops had entered North Korea.
Then the blows fell and fell with such devastating suddenness that many units were overrun before they could quite grasp what had happened.
By December 5, Walker had abandoned the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and cleared the area.  The Eight Army was pulling back toward the 38th parallel, while the X Corps began its withdrawal from its beachhead positions around Hungnam.
Still more to follow. . . .
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

13 May 2017, 19:03 #5

It easy to understand MacArthur's eagerness to accomplish his assigned mission -- a mission for which he had pleaded -- the destruction of all hostile armed forces on the peninsula.  And too much blame cannot be attached to his superiors and his colleagues who, after the blazing success of Inchon, hesitated to question MacArthur's military judgement for even the obviously hazardous dispositions of his forces.  MacArthur was surely one of our greatest generals -- far more than a military figure, for almost by power of his own personality he brought defeated Japan from feudalism to democracy and set her on the road to early resumption of her rightful place in the family of free peoples.  His brilliance, his persuasiveness, his diplomatic skills, his personal courage all belonged to a man of heroic mold.
But MacArthur's all-too-human weakness, which marked him as a man rather than a demigod, seemed occasionally to have been granted him in overgenerous proportion too.  No military commander is immune to mistakes, and many commanders at one time or another have perhaps made errors that cost our nation dearly -- any wasted lived being too dear a price.  But it is still the part of a soldier to accept responsibility for blunders and to examine honestly into their origin.  This is one role MacArthur refused to play.  Yet it should have been clear to anyone that his own refusal to accept mounting evidence of massive Chinese intervention was largely responsible for the reckless scattering of our forces all over the map of Korea.
Perhaps there was some justification for his apparent assumption that China was a paper tiger and that her radioed warnings were bluff, even that the appearance of a few volunteers was part of that bluff.  But how could any man, no obsessed with his own reputation, have persisted in misinterpreting detailed intelligence reports and actual events on the battlefield -- not merely the taking of large numbers of Chinese prisoners, clearly belonging to units known to be in the CCF order of battle, but the brutal mauling of a U.S. Regimental Combat Team, and the near annihilation of a ROK division?  And how could the Commander in Chief not have realized that his forces were too meager, and too thinly supplied, to have held the line of the Yalu and the Tumen -- even had he reached it -- against an enemy known to be concentrated there in great numbers?
Later, in extenuation, it was argued that, had he been set free to bomb Manchurian bases, his forces would have been adequate for the job.  It is not at all certain that this is so, but assuming it were, he knew before the jump-off that he would not be allowed to risk total war by bombing those bases.  And it would not have been difficult for him to determine General [Hoyt] Vandenberg's view that for us to carry the war to China this way and to engage her air force (and perhaps Soviet Russia's too) would have, through combat losses and natural attrition, stripped our air power to a point from which it would have taken us two years to recover.  Meanwhile our commitments in other parts of the world could not have been fulfilled.
Some commentators have forgotten that we had nearly complete air superiority in Korea through a sort of unwritten agreement that left our airfields in Korea and Japan immune from attack by the Chinese.  So we too had our "privileged sanctuary" -- without which the Korean War could have been a far more tragic story.
As a matter of fact we had in Korea a prime example of how mistake it is to imagine that an enemy's supply lines can be "interdicted" through air power alone.  We had almost no opposition in the air over the battlefields in North Korea and we were free to attack the enemy's supply lines without hindrance except from ground fire, and not even that during the first year.  As a result we did indeed destroy much of the enemy's equipment and supplied on the road and undoubtedly we hampered him severely and cost him a high price in lives and machinery.  Yet the enemy still remained strong on the ground, where we had to fight him, and he still kept his armies intact and the vital real estate in his possession.
It has always been tempting for men removed from the conflict to envision cheap and easy solutions, through naval blockades and saturation bombing.  But any man who has fought a war from close up must know that, vital as are the sea and air arms of our combat forces, only ground actions can destroy the armed forces of the enemy -- unless, of course, resort is had to obliteration attacks with nuclear weapons.  There is simply no such thing as "choking off" supply lines in a country as wild as North Korea, or in jungle country either.  And when the enemy soldier is self-sufficient, as in Asia, where he carries his supplies and his weapons on his back and where he can move at night or travel by day along foot trails not visible from the air, it is self-delusion to think that he can be defeated by dropping bombs on him.  Even were he to be rendered quiescent for a time by endless bombardment, it would still be necessary to meet him face to face on the ground to subdue him and to keep him subdued.
In looking over the stubborn way in which MacArthur clung to his determination to push on to the Yalu, despite all evidence that prophesied of disaster, I cannot help drawing a parallel with Custer's behavior at the Little Big Horn, when the commander's overriding belief that he alone was right closed his mind to all counsel.  It simply cannot be argued that MacArthur was unaware of the enemy's presence or his capabilities.  He himself at one point, in pushing for permission to take out the Yalu bridges and bomb Manchurian bases, warned the JCS that the Chinese forces along the Yalu "threatened the destruction of my command."  Nor can it it be argued that he did not grasp the difficulties of the terrain that made it impossible for the separate commands in North Korea to render each other mutual support.  While he did earlier propose a solid line across the waist of Korea, and while the X Corps, which he kept under GHQ control, was expected at one point to attack west to relieve pressure on the Eight Army's right flank, it was MacArthur himself who, after the Chinese intervention could no longer be denied, argued that it was impossible to link up the Eighth Army and the X Corps across North Korea.
The JCS suggested, after the mauling of the Eighth Army and the X Corps by the Chinese, that MacArthur consider a junction of his two commands, to close the gap between them, and to establish a continuous line.  MacArthur objected strongly.  He gave as his reasons all the reasons that might well have served to restrain him from plunging toward the Yalu: his forces were too weak to cover so extensive a front: the distances were too great; it was impossible to supply both commands from one port; the Taebaek Range, cutting the peninsula in two sections, was well-nigh impassable.
On December 3, he informed the JCS that, unless positive and immediate action were taken (to bolster his forces or occupy the enemy elsewhere) hope for success "cannot be justified and steady attrition  leading to final destruction can reasonably be contemplated ."  That he had hoped, as some of his critics whispered, to force the administration's hand by getting us into a position where only an attack on mainland China would salvage the situation, is not, I think, a reasonable supposition.  Rather I prefer to believe that, with the prize in his grasp, holding tight to his conviction that Red China was a paper tiger, MacArthur had simply closed his ears to all counsel save his own.  He had won a 5000-to-1 wager just a few months earlier.  Now he meant to do it again, where the stakes were even greater.
To me one of the final ironies in that MacArthur who had so often silenced his critics by chiding them because they simply "did not understand the Oriental mind," should have been so completely misguided in his own attempts to read enemy intentions.
Of course, in making these comments I have the advantage of being able to look back and read the course of events, such as no man could have done in those bitter days of late November and early December 1950.  At the time, while I shared the uneasiness of those few who felt our forces were dangerously dispersed, and while I had little patience with the reluctance of the JCS to give MacArthur a direct order, I had the deepest respect for MacArthur's abilities, for his courage, and for his tactical brilliance.
More to come. . . .
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

14 May 2017, 21:57 #6

The Dismissal of General MacArthur -- so abrupt, so irrevocable, and offering so needless an affront to the General's pride by the crude manner of its execution -- produced throughout the country a surge of angry protest.  The summary cashiering of a great soldier-statesman whose whole life had been spent in the service of his country evoked a bitter division of opinion -- much of it with strong political motivation, it is true -- which made it difficult for the public to distinguish the basic issue.
There were, and doubtless still are, extremists who have ascribed the darkest motives to both sides in this controversy -- that there was, for instance, an almost traitorous "no win" clique (somehow connected with the two British Foreign Service members who had defected to the Soviet Union a short time before) in high places in the administration; or that MacArthur, on the other hand, was bent on embroiling us in all-out war on the continent of Asia.  Both these charges were utterly groundless, as eventually became clear, I think, to the majority of our citizens.
The patriotism and loyalty of our highest government officials, civilian and military, were beyond the slightest question.  The Truman administration was not seeking to appease our enemies but rather to avoid a universal holocaust.  And MacArthur was always opposed to the use of United States ground forces on the Asian mainland.  The real, basic issue was neither the wide divergence of views between Mr. Truman and General MacArthur on enlarging the Korean War nor the clash of two strong personalities.  It was simply, as General Marshall pointed out in his testimony before the Senate Committee, the situation of a local Theater Commander publicly expressing his disagreement with a policy which superior authority had repeatedly communicated to him in the clearest terms.
My own feeling toward MacArthur was always one of profound respect, developed through a close association dating from the days when he was Superintendent at West Point and I was in charge of the athletic program, reporting directly to him.  Accordingly, I came to understand some traits of his complex character not generally recognized: the hunger for praise that led him on some occasions to claim or accept credit for deeds he had not performed, or to disclaim responsibility for mistakes that were clearly his own; the love of the limelight that continually prompted him to pose before the public as the actual commander on the spot at every landing and at the launching of every major attack in which his ground troops took part; his tendency to cultivate the isolation that genius seems to require, until it became a story of insulation (there was no telephone in his personal office in Tokyo) that deprived him of the critical comment and objective appraisals a commander needs from his principal subordinates; the headstrong quality (derived from his success in forcing through many brilliant plans against solid opposition) that sometimes led him to persist in a course in defiance of all seeming logic; a faith in his own judgement that created an aura of infallibility and that finally led him close to insubordination.
A few of these traits were, I believe, derived from the extraordinary abilities that, from his early boyhood at Texas Military Academy, made him prominent in practically every activity he entered.  His academic, athletic, and leadership achievements at West Point; his ability to cut through detail and lay bare the heart of a problem; his great personal gallantry; and his willingness to move swiftly and courageously toward a clearly envisioned goal -- these eventually made men reluctant to overrule him or even face him with strong contradictions.  His own persuasive powers, the dramatic manner in which he presented his arguments -- these too tended to cause opposition to melt and doubters to doubt themselves.  He was truly one of the great captains of warfare.
That he was bent on embroiling us in all-out war in Asia -- that was the opposite of his aim.  Indeed he always held that "no on in his right mind" would ever advocate sending ground forces into continental China.  He spoke out again and again against the use of our ground forces beyond the confines of Korea.  What he did argue for earnestly and continually was the use of our great sea and air power to isolate Communist China and to destroy "for a generation" her potential for armed aggression.
The leaders of the government, both civilians and military, were motivated by patriotism no less fervent than General MacArthur's.  The real points of disagreement, however, were not generally understood unto some of the heat had gone out of the Great Debate occasioned by the 1951 Senate Hearings, when MacArthur, after an absence of more than ten years, returned to his homeland to face critics and supporters in a seven-weeks' confrontation.  With the differences between the General and the President finally elucidated, much of the public criticism of the President was stilled.  There did remain, however, and probably always will remain, widespread disapproval of the summary manner in which MacArthur had been dismissed.  (The General himself did not learn of his being relieved until word reached him through newspaper correspondents.)
While neither Truman nor MacArthur sought a land war in Asia, Truman and his advisers simply did not go along with MacArthur's plan for the isolation and devastation of China.  What MacArthur sought was, plainly, a preventive war -- the destruction of China's war-making potential, regardless of the danger that such an effort might bring the Soviet Union into the conflict and result in her overrunning Europe.  Since we were already at war with Red China, MacArthur argued, there was every justification for such action.  And in his view, Europe was already lost, no more than an industrial backyard for the Soviets.  The future of the world, MacArthur believed, would be decided in Asia.
In presenting his arguments, however, MacArthur chose to picture the choice before the country as one between "victory" and "stalemate."  When the choice was stated that simply, there seemed no doubt about which course a patriot should choose.  This concept of "victory," set forth with all a master's consummate skill, proved difficult to oppose.  It has long been MacArthur's watchword.
"Victory, immediate and complete!"  That, said MacArthur in 1931, was the proper objective of any warring nation.  Twenty years later the refrain had not altered as, in his classic address to the Congress of the United States, he proclaimed: "There is no substitute for victory!"  and finally, in May 1962, and he addressed the graduating class at West Point, he repeated: "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."
These words of course are the creed of the American fighting man, on the ground, on the sea, and in the air -- and of those who breed and sustain him in spirit.  Perhaps no rallying cry could have been found better calculated to stir the blood of Americans.  It expresses the do-or-die spirit that inspired our armies through the eight years of the War for Independence, throughout the age-long conquest of the Western lands, through the travail of our Civil War, and through every other conflict in which our forces have engaged.  Americans are not inclined by temperament to fight limited wars.  As in the boxing ring, they want nothing less than a knockout.  What red-blooded American could oppose so shining a concept as victory?  It would be like standing up for sin against virtue.
Yet, as the foot soldier in Korea learned, one "victory" sometimes requires another.  With one hill taken, there was always, it seemed, just one more to reach for, to secure the line or to prevent enemy observation.  And what might have seemed like "victory" to most of our citizenry would have been just the winning of the opening battle of MacArthur's grand design.
When MacArthur spoke of victory, he did not mean merely victory in Korea -- the destruction of all hostile forces on the peninsula and the unification of the country under a democratic government.  What he envisaged was no less than the global defeat of Communism, dealing Communism "a blow from which it would never recover" and which would mark the historical turning back of the Red Tide.  His "program" included not merely driving to the Yalu, but destroying the air bases and industrial complex in Manchuria: blockading Communist China's seacoast; demolishing its industrial centers; providing all necessary support to Chiang's invasion of the mainland; and the transportation of the Nationalist Chinese troops to Korea to beef up our ground forces there.  He sincerely believed that these moves would break the Communist hold on the mainland.  He was convinced that the Chinese masses were ready to welcome Chiang back, and he had persuaded himself that the Soviet Union would not intervene in a conflict of the sort he had in mind.  But if, in the course of waging this preventive war on Red China, the threat of Soviet intervention had jeopardized its success, it is not illogical to assume that MacArthur would have urged the further step of an attack upon the USSR (whose growing strength, he thought, put time on its side).  This would have been merely the logical extension of his ultimate aim, the destruction of Communism throughout the world by the use of armed force.
His plan, therefore entailed the very considerable risk of igniting World War III and the consequent overrunning of Western Europe, with the loss of our oldest and staunchest allies sure to follow.  It should be remembered too that we would have been running those risks when our own nation was lamentably unprepared, with our general reserve reduced to a single combat-ready army division.
This then was the "victory" MacArthur had in mind when he uttered his war cry.  It was an ambitious and dangerous program that would demand a major national effort.  Yet the program was not not rejected out of hand by MacArthur's superiors.  The highest echelons of the United States government -- the President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the National Security Council, the Armed Services Secretaries, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as leaders in Congress, pondered and discussed every question MacArthur raised.  They examined it first against the background of the Far East Command, its responsibilities, and the local situation in Asia.  They considered it further in the light of the worldwide situation, of current United States capabilities and limitations, of the state of West Europe's defenses, and of the extend to which the adoption of any or all of MacArthur's recommendations might be the precipitant of World War III.  These officials gave the proposals sober, mature, and deliberate study.
Still more to follow. . . .
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

14 May 2017, 23:45 #7

These officials gave the proposals sober, mature, and deliberate study.
They did not agree that our Air Force could bomb Red China into submission.  I have mentioned General Hoyt Vandenberg's feeling that our "shoestring air force," should we try to knock out the Manchurian bases, would be so reduced by attrition and combat losses that it would be two years before we could rebuild it sufficiently to meet a test, if one should come, in another part of the globe.  Beyond this, General Vandenberg had no taste from "pecking at the periphery" by bombing Manchuria -- for paying a high price merely to nick the edges of the enemy's military power.  Nor was the Pentagon at all convinced that China's source of industrial strength could be eliminated quite so swiftly as MacArthur seemed to believe.  The bombing would surely involve the slaughter of thousands of innocents -- millions, if A-bombs were used.  And unless we bombed out the Trans-Siberian Railway -- an action requiring sustained operations that might have been beyond our capacity and that would surely have brought on World War III -- Communist China could still have received military supplied over that rail link while the USSR remained untouched.
Furthermore, the Truman administration and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were aware that any attack on the Manchurian bases or even on the Yalu bridges would put an end to the unspoken agreement that kept our South Korean and Japanese bases inviolate and had limited the war to the Korean Peninsula.
As for blockading the Chinese coast, that would be an act of war.  A blockade would be recognized by the neutral nations only if effective, and it could not be made effective unless Hong Kong, a British Crown Colony, as well as the ports of Dairen and Port Arthur were included.  If we did extend the blockade to those ports, the reaction of Great Britain and the Soviet Union would not likely have been such as to lighten our difficulties.
An invasion of China by Chiang's forces would have no hope of success, in the Pentagon view, unless it received major United States naval, air and logistical support -- which of course MacArthur meant it should receive.  But we had little of this strength to spare, and what little we did have could be used more effectively in Korea.  And even if an invasion should draw Chinese troops out of Korea and thus ease the pressure there, it was highly possible that a few reverses for Chiang's ground forces would bring wholesale defections, such as had occurred the last time Chiang's troops had met the Communists head-on.
The Pentagon had little faith in the fighting capacity of Chiang's soldiers, and MacArthur himself had only shortly before expressed his own lack of confidence in their battle-readiness.  Their training levels were low.  We would have to supply all heavy weapons, such as artillery and armor, and provide training in their use for an extended period before we could dare to rely on these troops in battle.  But to divert badly needed material of this sort from the troops already in the field could not be justified.  In addition, we had to reckon with Syngman Rhee's firm opposition to the introduction of Chinese troops into his country when, by his thinking, there was still Korean manpower not being properly utilized.
Nor did the administration share MacArthur's feelings about the relative unimportance of Western Europe.  The industrial skills, the manpower, the technology, the mills and factories, the quickly exploitable raw materials, the badly needed air bases, and above all the close ties of blood and culture -- all these persuaded Washington that Europe must come first and Asia second.  The loss of Western Europe would promptly and decisively tip the scales in Russia's favor.  NATO would be dissolved and the United States isolated.  We would not be allowed time enough to make ready for a two-front war, if that should develop.
The Pentagon thought long and hard about the proposal to open a second front in the south to divert Chinese strength, and the rejected the plan.  The use of Chiang's troops was wholly unacceptable to the British and other countries of the Commonwealth.  The extension of hostilities to the Formosa area would greatly enlarge our tasks in the Pacific.  And we would be faced with the certain disruption of the delicately balanced alliance we had put together for the Korea action.
And here was another point of disagreement between the General and the administration: whether to adhere to our policy of collective security within the United Nations or to go it alone.  MacArthur quite clearly had decided that, if our allies would not stand by us in a confrontation with Communist China and the Soviet Union, we should shoulder the whole burden by ourselves.  The United States, however, had long been committed to the course of collective security.  While the actual manpower contributions of our member nations to the United Nations were not great, our ability to operate under the United Nations flag lent a moral flavor to our actions in Korea that was of inestimable value in our dealings with the rest of the free world.
In the course of the now historic Senate Hearings, these conclusions were restated and reconfirmed by most if not all of the principals who had earlier reached them: Acheson, Marshall, Bradley, [Admiral Forrest] Sherman, Vandenberg, [General J. Lawton] Collins, and many others.  These men were under oath.  Their testimony was recorded.  They were questioned and cross-questioned.  Ultimately, that testimony, after deletions for security, was published, and the reasons for rejecting MacArthur's program were made a matter of public record.  It would seem preposterous then for anyone to allege that these officials, and the President and Vice President as well, had any less desire for "victory" than their critics; any narrower view of the world situation; any less determination to serve the best interests of their country.  Yet such were the charges leveled against the administration, either in open, stinging criticism or by implication; while refusal to approve the MacArthur proposals was branded as appeasement.
It was not therefore a "no-win" policy insinuated into our high councils by faceless subversives that guided the administration in its rejection of MacArthur's recommended program.  It was essentially adherence to a basically different policy: a different interpretation of the word "victory"; a different view of the facts based on a better knowledge of the world situation.
It is clear that the nation's top civilian and military leaders, using a wider-angle lens, with deeper sources of information on the atomic situation in the Soviet Union, and with more comprehensive estimates of the possible consequences of general war in Europe, had a much clearer view of the realities and responsibilities of the day.  In their view, the kind of "victory" sought by the Theater Commandeer, even if it were attained in Korea, would have incurred overbalancing liabilities elsewhere.  They though their view was right.  They believed MacArthur's view was wrong.  Neither rightness nor wrongness could have been proved then, nor can it be demonstrated now.  It was their duty to advise the President, which they did.  It was his duty to decide, and he made the decision.
The administration's conclusions, together with the thinking behind them, were communicated promptly to the United Nations Commander.  Moreover, that they might not lack emphasis and unmistakable clarity, the President himself explained them in a personal letter to MacArthur, dated January 13, 1951.
All disagreements finally came down to matters of opinion.  MacArthur's beliefs, however keen his perceptions, were based in part on less information on the world situation (and of course on still less information on domestic political factors completely outside his purview) and in part on demonstrably erroneous evaluation of intelligence by the Theater Commander himself.
As far as I can recall, only once prior to Korea, had the authority of the President of the United States been in any way questioned by a military officer on active duty.  That was during the Lincoln administration, when General George B. McClellan openly flouted the orders of his Commander in Chief.  Mr. Truman himself notes this parallel in his Memoirs, where he writes: "Lincoln would issue direct orders to McClellan and the General would ignore them.  Half this country knew that McClellan had political ambitions which men in opposition to Lincoln sought to use.  Lincoln was patient -- but at long last he was compelled to relieve the Union Army's principal commander."
Nearly a century later, history repeated itself.  Even before 1950, according to Mr. Truman, MacArthur treated the presidential authority with disrespect, insidiously at first, then with increasing boldness.  Finally MacArthur clearly disregarded, if he did not deliberately ignore, the lawful orders of his superior.  Mr. Truman characterized MacArthur's actions as "insubordination."  Others have used politer terms, ranging from from "defiance" to "open revolt."
It was MacArthur's privilege, and his duty, to give his views as to the rightness of a contemplated course, and to offer his own recommendations, before the decision was rendered.  It was neither his privilege nor his duty to take issue with the president's decision after it had been made know to him.  In the heat of of selfish political partisanship, and in the shame and frustration of the stinging reverses of late fall and early winter, 1950, a substantial segment of the American public seems to have lost sight of these elementary points.
These were the issues that underlay the confrontation of the two dominant figures of the American scene in the Korean War, and the issue of civilian authority vs military authority was the most sensitive that the war produced.
On March 20, 1951, the Joint Chiefs of Staff informed MacArthur that the State Department was planning a presidential announcements to the effect that the UN was preparing to discuss conditions of a settlement in Korea.  By March 24, the announcement was almost in final form. . . .  But on March 24, General MacArthur's own announcement cut the ground from under the President, enraged our allies, and put the Chinese in the position of suffering a severe loss of face if they so much as accepted a bid to negotiate.
On December 6, 1950, President Truman had issues a specific directive to all officials -- including General MacArthur -- to abstain from any declarations on foreign policy.  But a specific directive was actually superfluous.  It is never within the province of the soldier, under our Constitution, to make foreign policy.  That is solely, specifically, and properly a function of elected officials, regardless of anyone's assessment of the "rightness" or "wrongness" of current policy.  Only under a dictatorship does a military leader take council solely with himself in deciding what course the nation should pursue in its intercourse with other sovereign powers.
One sentence of MacArthur's wrecked the State Department plan to issue its announcement.  For MacArthur said: "The enemy, therefore, must by now be painfully aware that a decision of the United Nations to depart from its tolerant effort to confine the war to the area of Korea, through an expansion of our military operations to his coastal areas and interior bases, would doom Red China to the rick of imminent military collapse."  This statement so obviously suggested a radical shift in United Nations policy that it is hard to imagine anyone's pretending it was merely, as some said, an expression of a willingness to accept a military surrender.  Even a call for surrender, which MacArthur's statement contained, implied a sudden hardening of the United Nations line and involved a humiliation that we simply had not the strength to impose at that moment upon China.
It was the setting of the stage for a showdown between military authority and the civilian authority.  And the showdown came at once.  The outcome was inevitable, as it always should be in a democracy.  The civilian authority is and must remain supreme.
More to come. . . .
Last edited by Flattop on 14 May 2017, 23:47, edited 1 time in total.
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

20 May 2017, 19:15 #8

On July 19 [1952] . . . a final agreement was reached at Panmunjom.  It took a week -- a week of relative quiet all along the front -- for liaison and staff officers to draw up the boundaries of the de-militarized zone.  On July 27 and 10 A.M. General Harrison, for the United Nation, and General Nam Il, for the Chinese and North Koreans, signed the agreement.  The shooting stopped at 10 P.M. that same day.  There was no wild celebrating or fraternizing such as had marked the end of other wars.  Men just grinned at each other for flopped wearily on the ground, or gathered about a jug of whiskey to share their joy.  Along the ridges, raked bare by artillery, it was almost joy enough just to be able to cling up out of a hole in the ground and look out over the countryside without getting shot at.
It was three years, one month, and two days since the war began and just about an even three years since Task Force Smith, that outnumbered, outgunned, ill-prepared but gallant band of run-of-the-mill GIs, staged the most brilliant delaying action, and the least celebrated, in our recent military history.
After so many lives had been lost an uneasy peace which, as General Eisenhower ward the nation, was "just an armistice on a single battlefield" in a worldwide struggle, it was to be hoped that whatever lessons had been so dearly bought would be well-learned and well-applied.  Yet voices still persist that the old discredited slogans.  And those great national objectives so clearly outlined in the Great Debate of May and June 1951, when American Far East policy was subjected to critical analysis in the Senate -- even these seem to have been forgotten by many of our citizens.
At that time Senator Richard B. Russell made this statement:
"We may differ on the proper policy to be applied in the Far East.  We may separate on questions of strategy.  We may divide on personalities.  But we shall remain united in our devotion to liberty and justice; be single-minded in our will to preserve our institutions.  We hope that they may be preserved in peace.  But preserve them we shall -- the objectives of the people of the United States are unchanged by anything that has transpired during this ordeal of controversy."
The objectives, of course were, and remain, the security of the nation and the preservation of its independence, its moral principles, and its fundamental institutions.  All our dealings with the rest of the world must be directed ultimately to the attainment of these objectives, and our leadership of the free world imposes on us the need for a strong foreign policy.  Korea, if it taught us nothing else, taught us the folly of trying to implement such a policy with inadequate armed force to back it up if it should be challenged.  Or rather Korea repeated the lesson to us after we had first learned it at the time of World War I.
After World War II, perhaps no statesman or politician alive could have persuaded our war-weary people to keep their sons under arms.  The press, the radio, the voices of office-seekers and of plain citizens everywhere quickly drowned out the few who warned against tearing down our great military machine with such improvident haste.  Once demobilization had begun, nothing could stem the tide.  Safe behind our Maginot Line -- our faith in the United Nations and the deterrent power of our atomic bomb -- we turned our thoughts to making money, to ball games, to new cars and homes, to new machines to make life easy, to vacations, and to the purchase of a thousand small necessities we had too long been without.
But in that day it seemed the height of illogic to imagine we would ever fight anything shot of another world war, the danger of which seemed remote indeed.  The concept of limited war was yet to be recognized.  And our people found it easy to persuade themselves that they might fight and win any war without ever setting their feet on hostile ground, doing it all through air and naval power and the nuclear bomb.
Our tragic misreading of the future could not be laid to any lack of strategic or tactical intelligence.  No, we simply failed to properly evaluate the intelligence at hand.  We neglected to plan for contingencies both foreseeable and probable.  We forgot that our diplomacy could be no stronger than the military muscle we maintained to support it.  We had hardly any Army left in the Far East and what troops we did have there were, in MacArthur's words, tailored for occupation rather than combat.  The situation in Europe was little different.
It was cruelly unfair to put on the firing line the men who had but recently caught their breath after years of war.  But we could not take green, newly drafted youngsters and fly them to combat with the dispatch necessary to keep the enemy from driving our pitifully weak forces in Korea into the sea.
But could we have avoided the conflict altogether?  Could we have written off Korea, as our country had so often done before, and let the infant Republic expire?
The question went straight to the White House, the only place where it could have been answered.  Never before had the issue of peace or war faced a President of the United States with such explosive suddenness, and attended with such limitless potential for disaster.  Other foreign wars had always evolved from a long train of events that had shaped and solidified public opinion sufficiently to enable the Chief Executive to muster public support.  The long history of cruelty against Cuba that led to our war with Spain; the three years of hostile acts and violations of neutrality that helped to ready our people's minds for the first war with Germany; the treachery at Pearl Harbor that rocketed us into World War II -- all these facilitated, for Presidents McKinley, Wilson and Roosevelt, the making of the fateful decisions.
But in June of 1950, war burst upon us without prelude.  While the jolting surprise of the event was comparable to that of Pearl Harbor, there was no such clear-cut choice of alternatives.  In 1950, President Truman might have chose to dodge the issue and the public protest would have been minimal.  But the President met the challenge with decisive dispatch.  To his everlasting credit he decided we must fight.
It did not take long for our people, once they had time to assess the situation, to concur in his decision.  The United States could not in honor have allowed Korea to be overrun.  The real challenge was militant Communism, unmasking its intent to use naked armed force to extend its grasp.  It was a direct challenge to our security which, if permitted to go unanswered, would have led step by step to World War III.
Yet the answer, while given promptly, was not given without deliberation or without consultation within the executive and legislative branches of our government and within the United Nations.  For the immediate question implied a further question that was fraught with dangers we could scarcely measure.  Should we move in concert with other nations or should we go it alone?  This question would bedevil us again during the war as we considered expanding our blockade or our air attacks.  But at the start President Truman determined that the morality of our decision to use force in Korea would be upheld before the peoples of the world if we fought under the aegis of the Untied Nations, to whose principles we subscribed.  Such a course committed us to consultation with our allies in matters of strategy, or at least to consideration of their interests and possible reactions.  It may be said that this requirement hampered our operations, and to a certain extent it did.  But it also laid a restraining hand on military adventures that might have drawn us into deeper and deeper involvement in Asia.
It is true, of course, that our original objective -- to repel aggression, to expel the invaders from South Korea, and to restore peace in the area -- underwent drastic change once the Inchon success put us in a position to push north across the 38th parallel.  We then tacitly altered our mission to encompass the occupation and unification of all Korea -- the goal that had long been the dream of Syngman Rhee and the prize that beckoned to MacArthur.
The entry of the Chinese into the war force another modification, until finally we were ready to settle once more for keeping South Korea independent of Communist control.  But at no time, except briefly after the first success and again after the pull-back from the Yalu, did we operate in a mission vacuum or without specific political or military objectives.  Our objectives were always within our capabilities, or what we judged our capabilities to be.  At no time did our top authorities feel free to escalate the conflict without restraint, or without clearly defined political, military, and geographical objectives.  There was no pursuit of a vaguely envisioned "victory" without definition of dimensions.  The willingness to settle for stalemate, provided the status quo ante, or a facsimile of it, was restored, was all that brought peace to Korea.  We knew we did not then have unlimited forces to call upon, and our civilian authorities well understood that our people would not sanction a war that might spread over much of continental Asia and require the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of lives.  We had finally come to realize that military victory was not what it had been in the past -- that it might even elude us forever if the means we used to achieve it brought wholesale devastation to the world or led us down the road of international immorality past the point of no return.
More to follow. . . .
Last edited by Flattop on 23 May 2017, 00:30, edited 1 time in total.
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant

Joined: 17 Nov 2008, 18:31

21 May 2017, 21:44 #9

The issue of civilian vs military control over our foreign policy -- or more properly the place of the military in determining foreign policy -- seemed to have been settled in the clash between President Truman and General MacArthur.  After tempers had cooled and the facts had become known and time had been allowed for sober reflections, there was reason to hope that the clear provisions in our constitution for civilian supremacy in setting foreign policy would be honored in every heart.  Yet General Eisenhower, on leaving the Presidency, felt the need to warn the nation against the possible growth of a military-industrial combine that might take over from an unperceiving people the formation as well as the implementation of our foreign policy.  The persistent contention by some of our own private citizens as well as military men that wars, once started, should by shaped and conducted solely by the military indicates that, improbably as it now may seem, and incompatible as it is with out whole way of life, military dominance over our affairs "could happen hear."
Under today's conditions, when men have control of machines capable of laying a world to waste, there must be a close interweaving of political and military goals, lest some misstep set us suddenly beyond the hope of salvaging more than a few scraps of our civilization.  Civilian authorities, therefore, need to work closely with military authorities in setting attainable goals and in selecting means to attain them.  A war without goals would be most dangerous of all, and nearly as dangerous would be a war with only some vaguely stated aim, such as "victory" or "freedom from aggression," or "the right of the people to choose their own government."  Generalities like these make admirable slogans, but authorities today must be hardheaded and specific in naming exactly what goal we are trying to reach and exactly what price we are willing to pay for reaching it.  Otherwise, we may find that, in spite of ourselves, the whole conduct of the war will be left in the hands of men who see only victory as the proper objective and who never had to define that word in terms plain enough to be understood by all the world's people.
In the past, the military man has too often aimed only at the complete destruction of the enemy in the field.  He should not be the one to set the political objectives our military effort seeks to attain.  But in the complex  warfare of today he must be more than ever free to speak up frankly and boldly in the highest councils of our country concerning the policies our civilian leaders are considering.  Once a policy is set, however, it is the military man, in keeping with the oat he takes and with the very phrasing of his commission, who should either execute that policy or resign from the service.
There are many other questions raised about the conduct of the Korean War and the means chosen to bring about the cease-fire.  Was it really a choice between an armistice and a third world war?  Was it sound strategy to limit our troop commitment?  Were we prompted by groundless fears when we failed to respond to Chinese intervention with the full use of our power, including the atomic bomb?  Was this a tragic backing down for which future generations will have to pay?  Were the truce talks but a Communist trick that robbed us of the victory that lay within our grasp?  Some of these questions must remain unanswered until the judgement of history is rendered.  And we cannot divine, no matter how earnestly we seek parallels in the past or in the present, exactly what the outcome might have been had we made other choices than we did.
It can be shown, however, that some of today's misconceptions are based on inadequate information and that some of the supposed "lessons" of Korea have been improperly drawn.  While I have full respect for the motives and the patriotism of many who believe with deep sincerity that the Korean War was a shameful military, political and psychological defeat, involving outright appeasement and accompanied by loss national self-respect, I disagree with them utterly.
I knew to a certainty that there was no doubt in the collective mind of the Eighth Army of its ability to push on at least to the western stretches of the Yalu in the summer of 1951 and to administer, with the support of the naval and air arms of the United Nations Command, a tactical defeat on whatever Chinese Communist or North Korean ground troops might have sought to contest its advance.  But this would have been the only the opening of a whole new page of our military history.  For we would still have had facing us the prospect of endless guerrilla warfare and our certain knowledge of the inability of the ROK ground forces to hold the region unaided.  Perhaps the American people would eventually have resigned themselves to the retention of large forces on the Asian mainland on a pacification mission that had no clear end.  Undoubtedly there are some who feel we should have blockaded the Chinese coast, bombed the Manchurian bases, and even dropped the A-bomb.  But I was not the only one who saw in such actions no promise of military victory.  The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are on official record that they did not think the probable short-range gain would be at all commensurate with the long-range loss.
When Communist China launched her secretly massed armies against our forces in North Korea in the surprise offensive of November-December 1950, there would have been much justification for an open declaration of war, even for the dropping of the A-bomb on her troops south of the Yalu and her military bases north of that river.  Such action was maturely debated and finally rejected by the United States authorities responsible for such decisions.  It was concluded that our objectives in Korea -- except for a brief period following Inchon should remain what they had been from the beginning -- namely, the defeat of the aggression, the expulsion of the invaders, the restoration of peace in that area, and the prevention of an expansion of the conflict into a third world war.  In those decisions the great majority of the non-Communist members of the United Nations strongly concurred.
As for the armistice itself, I firmly believed and the Pentagon agreed, that the Communist leaders actually desired a truce.  The ground war had been in a condition of stalemate since June and both sides were maintaining large armies along a static battle line as a cost far exceeding the military value.  Both sides had a simple choice: either broaden the war to reach a decision, or arrange a truce.  The Chinese had no desire to extend the war to other areas or to invite air or naval bombardment of their own soil.  A truce would obviously be mutually advantageous.  The truce negotiations were to prove fantastically difficult, but there was never any doubt in my mind that there was no justifiable alternative to undertaking them.
The armed aggression had been stopped.  The invader had been expelled.  A far better defensive zone had been seized and held, much more of it on the North Korean side of the 38th parallel than on the South Korean side.  It is true that, when the truce was about to be signed after months of negotiations, the Chinese opened a strong offensive.  But it was not, as some have charged, the largest of the war, not by any means.  And it succeeded in winning not more than a few outposts and territory of no great strategic value, all well above the 38th parallel.  It was merely a final and vain attempt to push us into a less easily defensible truce line and to end the war with some sort of "victory."  We held on to our strong defenses and we turned aside the proposed policy of striking directly at China.  In view of all this, and of the fact that the Chinese also wanted to bring the fighting to a halt, was it not time to start talking in order to stop the shooting?
I do not believe that our people lost any self-respect as a consequence of holding the truce talks.  I do not believe that we suffered any abridgement of our national independence or diluted our deep-rooted beliefs in moral values, our faith in God, or our dedication to the ultimate triumph of right.
There was a time when men refused to consider negotiation even after the bankruptcy of force as a national policy had been clearly demonstrated.  In World War I, the Nivelle offensive of April 1917 and Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig's Flanders offensive the following October blew into bleeding corpses hundreds of thousands of the strong and vibrant sons and strapping husbands of England, France, and Germany.  Yet history will surely question whether any gain to any cause was purchased by this shattering sacrifice.  The ghastly toll did awaken some statesmen to sanity, but with a chance to negotiate beckoning to them in that year, they lacked the vision and the courage to do more than press on to "victory."  A military stalemate existed and both sides were nearly drained of blood; it would have been an act of simple wisdom to stop the fighting at that point.
Lloyd George, after he had visited the front said: "If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don't and can't know.  The correspondents don't write and the censorship wouldn't pass the truth.  The thing is horrible and beyond human nature to bear, and I feel I can't go on any longer with the bloody business."
In Korea, however, when an opportunity offered to stop the killing, our government welcomed it.  The attempt to break up the United Nations' collective effort and leave the United States to go it alone failed.  The conclusion of the armistice found the sixteen allies with combat forces in Korea solemnly reaffirming their resolve to respond promptly if the aggression should be renewed and, in that event, not necessarily to limit themselves to operations on the Korean peninsula.
So, regardless of our having missed "total victory" in Korea, we did deliver to international Communism its first resounding defeat.  We proved that collective security was indeed workable.  Nor did the United Nations crumble into impotence as it might have done if it had not, under United States leadership, picked up the iron gauntlet thrown down by the Communists.
Finally, on the purely military side, in less than three months -- July 5 to September 10 -- the Communist thrust into South Korea had been met and brought to a stop, and the invading force all but destroyed.  In less than two weeks the Communist offensive, begun on New Year's Day, was halted.  And in exactly three weeks from the second evacuation of the South Korean capital on January 4, 1951, the United Nations Command passed over to the offensive.  This offensive, with only temporary checks, was maintained until the aggressor was expelled from all but a small fragment of relatively indefensible ROK territory and with a far larger segment of North Korea under ROK control, where it remains today.
Ridgeway, M. B. (1967). The Korean War. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
"It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view."
-- Oscar Levant