Why the Communists are Winning as of 1976...
Read how Dean Acheson manipulated words of Douglas MacArthur into a statement that caused the Korean War in 1950. A war that is not yet over.
THE TRAGEDY OF KOREA
On January 12, 1950, Dean Acheson delivered a momentous speech for the National Press Club. He defined the American strategic line as extending from the Philippines to the Ryukyu Archipelago and then bending back through Japan and the Aleutian chain to Alaska. The definition deliberately excluded Korea, Taiwan and the Chinese off shore islands from the American defense line.
Like many other Americans, I was certain that this appallingly stupid address would be interpreted by the Communists of North Korea and of China as giving them a free ride into the subjugation of South Korea. I hastily revised my forecast to President Truman of only a month before that a Communist invasion of Burma, Indo-China or Korea was in the wind and that I now considered it imminent. I informed Marshall that my prediction was still pinpointed on Korea.
Five months later, in late June, the Red armies of North Korea moved over the 19th Parallel, the Korean demarcation line, in clear aggression against South Korea. A new war had begun.
Secretary Acheson tried to float an ingenious justification of the definition of the strategic perimeter for United States defense that excluded Korea. He said that he merely reiterating what General MacArthur had said on March 1, 1949. MacArthur had then declared that the U.S. defense perimeter should be extended from the American possessions to the Ryukyu Island, south of Japan. At that time, Nationalist China still held a large part of the Chinese mainland, including the former capital of Nanking. Taiwan then was of little importance. An attack on Korea could be ruled out. MacArthur had no authority to include any part of mainland China within the perimeter, as that would automatically imply American participation in the Chinese civil war.
Acheson’s purpose was the opposite one of narrowing American strategic interests. His suggestion that he was following in MacArthur’s footsteps must not be taken seriously. When MacArthur read Acheson’s disastrous speech on strategy, he felt he was “badly advised about the Far East” and invited him to come out to Tokyo as his guest. Acheson refused to go.
Despite Truman’s positive statement to me some months before that he would never commit American group troops to a guerrilla war in Asia, he reacted promptly and decisively to the Communist challenge in Korea. The President ordered American troops into combat, and began a heavy buildup of land forces and air power. He strengthened the Seventh Fleet in Pacific waters - the most powerful naval unit afloat at that time.
In the United Nation, the United States lodged a complaint that the invasion of South Korea by the troops of North Korea constituted a threat to world peace and asked that the Security Council authorize armed resistance to the invasion. The motion passed the Security Council - but only because the representatives of the Soviet Union, the government that had plotted the aggression against South Korea, boycotted the meeting at that time. The action of the United Nations, without the veto of the Soviet Union, brought in troops from Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines in the Pacific area, and from Canada, Great Britain and far away Turkey, as our Allies. General Douglas MacArthur, commanding the U.S. occupation forces in Japan and our post-war troops in the Far East, was named commander-in-chief of both the U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea, retaining his headquarters in Tokyo.
The story of the Korean conflict is one of “chickens coming home to roost.” With our permission for the Soviet Union to receive the surrender of the Japanese army in Manchuria and North Korea, and thus to control those areas; plus our failure to support the Nationalist regime on mainland China, the Reds proceeded to implement their postwar plan to subjugate all of Asia, bit by bit and piece by piece, beginning with the takeover of South Korea.
Our fighting forces moved through open areas and over mountains to drive the Reds steadily northward, clear to the boundary with Manchuria at the Yalu River. Then the Chinese Communists came into the battle full force, well equipped by the Russians with the Japanese surrendered war materiel not already in use by the North Koreans. The Chinese hordes pushed our men and our Allies back to Seoul, the capital of South Korea; and still farther back, until the U.S. and the U.N. troops stood with their backs to the sea at the southern end of Korea.
Then, our land forces, with the help of strong air power under command of General “Pat” Partridge, took the initiative again and pushed back to retake Seoul and to pause on a ragged line from west to east near the 19th Parallel.
And there a “no win” policy came into full effect. The United States had never recognized this as a “war,” but as a “police action.” Its purpose was not to win victory in the traditional sense of completely defeating the enemy, but rather to discourage him from further aggression. Rules for combat action were issued which made this type of conflict obligatory for our commanders, such as prohibition of any air strikes against Manchuria and restrictions upon land forces “invading” north of the 19th Parallel.
Meanwhile during 1950, I was enjoying a change of pace from official positions in the government by devoting my time to reorganizing the transportation system of Havana, Cuba at the request of President Carlos Prio Socarras. On December 12th I received a fresh summons to active duty that would directly involve me once more in maneuvering against the Cold War enemy.
Roy Howard cabled me on that date, to Havana, asking me to come up to New York on an urgent matter. The origin of his request dates back to the late 1940's when a group of influential and concerned Americans had been meeting informally in New York City to discuss the Chinese and Far Eastern situations to determine if there was anything that could be done to avert the total disaster to U.S. interests in the Orient which I have described previously.
Among that group had been Henry R. Luce of Time, Roy Howard of Scripps-Howard newspapers, including the widely read New York Sun and New York World Telegram; Congressman Walter H. Judd, Admirals Yarnell and Hart and several other retired generals and admirals who had seen service in the Pacific. All were able to exert a powerful influence on public opinion, and I respected their judgment, as well.
Even at this late date, Roy wanted me to have another go at President Truman - this time with a plan to salvage as much as possible from Chiang’s loss of the Chinese mainland, which was already a fait accompli. He hoped I could persuade Truman that vigorous U.S. support might still enable Chiang to regain control over his divided nation and thereby extricate us honorably from the quagmire of the war in Korea. No business or other considerations could have prevented me from accepting Roy’s invitation.
“Although I had a six year irrevocable contract here,” I wrote to a friend concerning my Cuban operations, “I have turned the company over to the Cuban Government and plan to leave here shortly for Washington, where I hope to be able to do something constructive in regard to our national difficulties.” 1
When I arrived in the Capital, a massive Chinese Communist offensive was in full swing in Korea, locking both sides in a desperate winter battle. My friends and I believed that the major issue was this:Were we going to fight this terribly costly war for Dean Acheson’s limited objective of restoring conditions to those in effect prior to the Communist aggression? Or were we going to fight to win, and follow up the victory with a settlement calculated to insure lasting peace?
The Acheson clique’s policy of a “return to the status quo,” we contended, could only lead to a still bisected Korea and to a continuing dominance of mainland China by the Reds. It promised no inkling of hope for lasting peace. It was a foregone conclusion, based on past performance, that the Communists wound undertake new aggressions against pro-Western nations in Asia as soon as their resources permitted.
We were well aware of the unenviable position of commanders in the field who were carrying out orders loyally, but with the bitter knowledge that orders they were obligated by our State Department to obey, prevented effective military action. The policy was contrary to the best interests of their county, to say nothing of their men, who were being maimed or killed or tortured in prison camps under the worst conceivable game plan if victory was the aim.
The policy which we now advocated was all out support of Generalissimo Chiang’s splendidly trained and commanded armed forces of Nationalist China in an amphibious invasion of the mainland. This was referred to by the liberal media, in alarm, as the ‘unleashing of Chiang Kai-shek.”
If ever a man was willing and able to be so unleashed, it was Chiang, for he knew that the struggle would change overnight from a no-win war to the liberation of his homeland from a tyranny so ghastly in terms of abasement of the individual, let along the slaughter of millions of his countrymen in the name of a dictatorship of the common man, as to numb the imagination. He, and we, were convinced that U.S. forces should get as quickly as possible out of the ground war business in Korea, and that we should heed MacArthur’s warning that at all costs we avoid such commitments of our troops in Asia.
It seems obvious to us that should we steal a leaf from the notebook of the Soviet Politburo: “Let the other guy do the fighting. Arm, train and advise Asian communist armies without risking a single Russian soldier in battle.” Turning this around, the United States was in an excellent position, by virtue of overwhelming military and industrial power, to train, arm and launch armies of Asians, not American, to fight Asians, with a dramatically keener incentive; To deliver their country from slavery.
The Luce-Judd group thought I was the logical one to try to get our mutual views on China to the attention of the President, because of my close association with him and previous assignments in Government. They even expressed the hope that Truman might make me his advisor on Far Eastern Affairs. At their insistence, I went to the White House to see the President, and during the conversation, he proposed that I be made Special Assistant to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, with the rank of Ambassador, to advise on these and other foreign policy matters with which I was familiar. I pointed out to the President that Acheson and I were miles apart in our philosophies about the Far East and that he night not welcome me as a Special Assistant. But the President let me know in no uncertain terms that his wishes would prevail and with characteristic decisiveness, he picked up the telephone and informed Acheson that he wanted me in “as soon as possible.”
Truman got action. At my induction ceremony, in February, with the oath being administered by Justice of the Supreme Court Tom Clark, I was gratified that George Marshall took time out to attend. Afterward he and Mrs. Marshall entertained Edna and me and a few close friends at an enjoyable luncheon at the Pentagon, where, after an all-too-brief and well earned vacation, he had taken over as Secretary of Defense. It says a lot about Marshall that Congress passed a special law to break precedent in approving him as our first non-civilian Defense Secretary -“non-civilian” in the sense that Marshall, even in retirement, would remain a 5-star General of the Armies for life.
I knew that I would be returning to the State Department under less than auspicious circumstances. But fortunately I had many friends there, among them Gerald Brophy, my attorney from Flying Tiger days and a Special Assistant to Acheson, and George McGhee, an Assistant Secretary, for the Middle East.
Sure enough, almost immediately I ran into the bureaucratic static, with Under Secretary Jim Webb being the instrument.
“Bill, you and I have been friends for a long time,” he told me painfully, and I could see that he was not enjoying what he had to tell me. “I hope you won’t take it amiss, but at a meeting this morning in the Secretary’s office, to which you were not invited, purposely, it was decided that you are to see no paper dealing with the Far East, you are to participate in no conference that is held in the Department or anywhere else in government dealing with this matter, and as a favor to the Secretary, just don’t discuss Far Eastern matters.”
He added that some people in the Department considered me a reactionary.
“The Department has its views on what ought to be done, and they don’t coincide with yours, and therefore we don’t want any trouble,” he said.
I struggled to retain my composure, faced with so flagrant an undercutting of the President’s wishes in sending me over to State in the first place, on the heels of our discussion of specifically Far Eastern affairs. Webb knew full well that I had not been sworn in to advise Acheson on our policy in some place like Finland.
“Jim, when we get to the point in the State Department,” I finally replied, “where a man with the years of experience in the Far East that I have had - and few high officials of Mr. Truman’s government had any - when we get to the point where such a man is ruled out even as devil’s advocate, then I think we are in all kinds of trouble.”
“That’s the way it’s got to be, Bill,” he answered grimly.
“One question,” I continued. “Was this decision made this morning in order to get me to resign?”
“That I don’t know.”
“Well, you can tell Dean Acheson that I am not resigning.”
I hastened over to the Pentagon, where I informed General Marshall of my strange briefing from Jim Webb. I was determined to find a way to remain in State in spite of this attempt to have me resign. After a lengthy conversation, Marshall came up with a brilliant idea. He said: “All policy papers that originate in State go over my desk: therefore, each time that such a document reaches my office, I will see that you are advised in order that you can review it.”
It worked. Few papers on China came out of the Department while I worked there that I did not see. On at least two occasions, I discovered plans being made to recognize Red China and bring her into the U.N. This was called to General Marshall’s attention, and as neither of these attempts prospered, I had to assume that Marshall’s influence prevailed.
Now that the aggressive war in Asia which I had predicted and feared had come to pass, the Acheson-Jessup plan to abandon Taiwan and the Chinese Nationalists had become politically impossible. I was appalled at the stupidity of committing American ground forces en masse against North Koreans and Chinese.
During the first few months of the Korean War in 1950, even while still involved in reorganizing Havana’s transportation, on intermittent trips to Washington, I had several discussions with General Marshall on the subject of the Far East, and in January 1951, I submitted a memorandum to him at this request, which outlined a bold plan. I proposed that we assist the Chinese Nationalist forces on Taiwan to establish a beachhead in Red China and initiate a social revolution to liberate the Chinese people from their Communist yoke. American participation in this venture was to be clandestine in its initial phases, but open as the operation gathered momentum. The memorandum read, in part:
“Very confidential. MEMORANDUM. January 9, 1951.
TO: General Marshall
FROM: William D. Pawley
“I know that you, the President, the Secretary of State, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are considering every possible aspect of the Far East situation with the view of extricating the United States and the United Nations from the present perilous position. Here are some thoughts which I offer, based on my fifteen years experience in the Orient.
“Alternatives: So long as we and the United Nations have freedom of action and decision in the matter, the alternatives in Korea are to stay on, or get off. If we pull out, the moral blow to the United Nations and to the United States is tremendous. It will open all Asia, without further hindrance, to the Communist onslaught. The psychological effect on Japan, Formosa, Indo-China, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and India will be obvious.
“If we stay on, assuming we can hold a static defense line, both the political and military effect will remain doubtful, in the present circumstances. Militarily, it is simply wasting material and American and Allied lives. Politically, we would simply retain a vantage point from which we could continue to threaten the destruction of Korean and Chinese towns and property and lives while the moral standing and prestige of the Western democracies deteriorated in the eyes of Asiatics.
“How, then, when it becomes desirable, can we find a way to withdraw successfully from Korea without loss of prestige to the UN or the U.S. and at the same time not abandon all Asia to Communist conquest?
Review of Russian position: Before discussing specifically a method, it might be well briefly to note the Russian position in China. The Sino-Soviet pact is looked upon as a trigger in a general war. I believe that is a false assumption. I believe the pact is nothing more than a straw man. The strong evidence is that Russia will make up her own mind when the general war is to be started, and will go to war only when she is ready - not when any Chinese Red predicament dictates it.
“How to reverse positions or U.N. and Russia in China: The key to possible successful withdrawal (if and when it becomes necessary) in Korea and to a successful anti-Communist campaign in Asia lies in the army of the Nationalist government on Formosa and the guerrillas on the mainland. The Nationalist forces can and should be landed on the Chinese mainland. The U.S. Seventh Fleet can see to this and insure proper logistical support. The United States has already started a movement of arms and ammunition to Formosa. This logistical supply can be kept up through Formosa itself.
I pointed out that the landing on the Chinese mainland should be made in an area from which an advance could be made quickly, and where U.N. food and supplies could be used to the greatest strategic and political advantage among the Chinese people and the anti-Red guerrillas.
I urged that the Chinese landing and advance into China should be accompanied by American military advisers, economists, and technicians. I referred to the fact that the Chinese Nationalist government was still the legal government of China. I summarized the effects such action would have:
1. All Asia would see a sizable and forceful group of Asiatics fighting communism, destroying the myth that the present struggle is between western “capitalistic” forces and the people of Asia.
2. I would certainly divert some of the best Chinese Red forces from their present aggression in Korea.
3. And, if done in time, it might relieve or end pressure on Indo-China from the north.
4. Further, it would relieve Britain from her present fears that Hong Kong is threatened, thereby easing the British tendency to work independently of us with Red China. The present rift between Britain and the United States on this issue is inciting public opinion in this country to the point that our whole peace structure is endangered, particularly at a time when American foreign policy is under domestic attack.
5. Above all, it would permit early U.N. withdrawal from Korea, if that becomes desirable, without too great a loss of prestige.
In my memo, I recognized that the plan was hazardous, but that the course could be pursued with honor, in a legal and practical manner. I concluded with these words:
“If we do it and succeed, as I feel confident we can, we will have regained the initiative in one of the most vital areas in Asia.”
Then Secretary of the Army Frank Pace told me recently that he was fully familiar with the plan, and I know that it was presented to the Joint Chiefs for consideration. However, I doubt that it was ever passed along to the Department of State, where approval would have to be given for its implementation. Marshall and others at Defense were well aware that Dean Acheson would never approve such a proposal to seize the initiative and carry the war to the enemy in Asia.
Proof that my plan for the employment of the Nationalist Chinese forces to carry the struggle into the heart of China had the support of General Douglas MacArthur, came to light early in 1951. In late February of that year, Secretary Dean Acheson invited the “freshmen” members of the House of Representatives, those elected for the first time in November 1950, to a briefing at the State Department. Almost all of the 50 new members were present.
Acheson stood before the group of congressmen, with a huge map behind him, showing Japan, Korea, Manchuria, and the edge of Northeast China. With a pointer he explained the division of Korea into North and South along the 19th Parallel. According to the on-the-spot notes of one Missouri congressman, Acheson declared that the purpose of the American and United Nations forces in Korea was “to prevent Communist invaders from taking over South Korea.” Acheson pointed out that the American and United Nations forces would not be allowed to cross the Yalu River, either by land troops or by planes flying over North Korea.
Acheson:“This is a limited war. It is not a war in the traditional sense. It is a police action.”
Congressman:“Mr. Secretary, do you mean that is our policy simply to fight the Communist invaders until we hold them at the 19th Parallel?”
Acheson:“Well, that is true. You see, we are in this action with the United Nations, including the British. We are in accord with our British Allies as to our rules of combat.”
At this point Congressman William J. Bryan Dorn from South Carolina, who had served one term in the House, had dropped out to run for the Senate, and was elected again in 1950, spoke up with this question:
Congressman Dorn:“Mr. Secretary, does this mean that we intend merely to hold back the Communists of North Korea and China, and that we do not intend to win a victory in Korea?”
Acheson:“It means that our policy must conform to that of our Allies, which is to oppose the conquest of South Korea.”
The two congressmen that had questioned Secretary Acheson were not satisfied with his answers. They decided to use their forthcoming Easter vacation to go to Korea and investigate for themselves.
As guests of General Partridge of the Air Force, the congressmen were flown all over South Korea. They talked to Generals Ridgeway, Allen, Partridge, Nichols; to other high officers in both the Army and the Air Force, and to G.I.’s all down the line. They found ample proof that the fighting men were sent into combat almost literally “with their hands tied behind their backs.”
The congressmen put this direct question to General Ridgeway, as he stood with his staff and the visitors on the banks of the Han River near the 19th Parallel, on April 1, 1951:
“General, can we win the war, under the restrictions you and your men have to observe?” This was the answer:
“No. We cannot win. Furthermore, we are not supposed to win. Our orders are to discourage the enemy so that they will desist in their aggression.”
On the Saturday following, the congressmen had an hour’s conference will General MacArthur in his Tokyo headquarters. Present also were Lieutenant General George Stratemeyer, commanding the Air Forces of the Far East, and General Nichols. MacArthur was clearly under great tension. He expressed dissatisfaction at the restrictions placed upon him and all the forces under his command. Finally the general said:
“I want you two members of Congress to do an errand for me. I have a plan to win the war - if they will let me. I want you to fly down to Formosa and confer with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. He will explain to you the plan we have agreed upon. It is feasible. I want you to go back to Washington and do what you can to have it supported.”
The South Carolina member explained that he would have to return home for a longstanding engagement. The Missouri member volunteered to go to Formosa (Taiwan). Next day he was briefed by General Stratemeyer on MacArthur’s plan. Standing before a huge map of Korea and Manchuria, Stratemeyer explained:
“Here is Korea. To the north is Manchuria. Beyond is mainland China. Our intelligence has given us the location of every air field, every military depot and staging area in North Korea and Manchuria. We could bomb all of them out within a few days and end the war. We are not permitted to do that. However, the plan General MacArthur referred to is this:
“In brief, MacArthur and Chiang Kai-shek have agreed that the Nationalist troops on Taiwan should be used to invade the mainland and thus put the squeeze on the Communist forces of China in Korea. Chiang has about 450,000 effective, well- equipped troops on Taiwan. He would divide them, starting out with about half the number to establish a beachhead on the mainland. If needed, the other half could be thrown into the action.
“As an option, the other half could be used to go into Korea and mop up the Reds there. In either event, the mainland thrust would split the Communist Chinese armies in Korea, with many, if not most, pulled out to meet Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on the mainland. The plan has the support of the bulk of our commanders in Korea.”
The Missouri Congressman flew in an unheated, unlighted DC-3 freight plane of General Claire Chennault’s flying service, to Taipei. He addressed the Nationalist Yuan (Parliament) the first evening there. President Chiang had arranged a dinner in honor of the American visitor for the next evening. Before the guests could assemble for the dinner, a telegram arrived at the American Embassy announcing that President Truman had relieved General MacArthur of all his commands in the Far East.
Thus the man who led the U.S. and Allied forces to hard won victory over the Japanese in World War II, and who had commanded the occupation of defeated Japan who was then commanding the Allied forces opposing the Red aggression against the Republic of Korea, a five star general for life, had been summarily dismissed from his commands without so much as a hearing before any military or civilian group. MacArthur first learned of this discharge when his wife told him she heard the news on the Tokyo radio, picked up from Washington.
At the dinner for the visiting Congress, President Chiang Kai-shek appeared deeply shocked by the discharged General MacArthur. With Madame Chiang interpreting, he asked several questions:
Chiang: “Does this news mean that the United States government will abandon the fight in Korea?”
Answer: “I do not think so. Surely we will go on, under a new Supreme Commander.”
Chiang: “But does this mean that your country will abandon us here on Taiwan?”
Answer: “I cannot believe so. The American people are strongly in favor of resisting the Communist challenge wherever it occurs. You will not be abandoned.”
Chiang: “But will the British policy toward China now become the American policy:”
Answer: “Again, I do not believe that Great Britain, whose principal aim is to trade with Red China, can control the policy of the American government.”
The explanation given the public asserted that MacArthur was fired for “insubordination” and that he had “disobeyed the President’s orders.” But in all that was written about the affair, both by enemies and friends of General MacArthur, no specific disobedience of orders of his civilian superiors was ever cited. The nearest his enemies could come to proof of that accusation was a letter written to Republican leader of the House of Representatives Joseph Martin in March 1951, in which General MacArthur was critical of some of the restrictions placed upon combat action in Korea, thereby resulting in tremendous loss of lives and resources.
Later it became generally known by members of Congress and officials in State and Defense that Truman’s action was taken principally because of pressure by Secretary Acheson, who was himself under great pressure from the British Embassy in Washington to “get rid of MacArthur.”
In April, 1951, General James A. Van Fleet, another outstanding general, was given the command of the Allied land forces in Korea. Under the policies dictated by Washington, however, the war dragged on for nearly two years. So called negotiations to end the war went on endlessly at Panmunjom with the Reds holding equal status at the table with the Allied representatives with no abatement of the fighting. This farce continued until some months after General Eisenhower was elected President. Eisenhower let it be known that he wanted an agreement within one week, otherwise he would use whatever ammunition might be needed to blow the Communists our of their stalling tactics, including the atomic bomb. That brought the Reds running to the conference table to sign an armistice.
But the agreement only ratified the stalemate created by our refusal to win a victory. For many years since that sad day in 1953 the United States has kept about 40,000 troops on the “demarcation line,” with a frightful wastage of men and weapons in readiness for combat, should the Communists open the war again. That they fully expected to do when they signed the armistice.
General MacArthur returned to Washington and made a farewell speech before a joint assembly of Senate and House of Representatives on April 20, 1951. He uttered a sentence hard to forget by officials and citizens alike who have watched the steady erosion of courage and initiative of the Free World, and the defeat snatched from possible victory in a later war in Vietnam. MacArthur declared.
“There is no substitute for victory.”
General Van Fleet who witnessed the beginning of the permanent stalemate in Korea, wrote:
“If we must again send our sons abroad to fight for freedom I hope they go unshackled’ and that none appears to have chains that bind their arms behind their backs.”
General Mark Clark, who was given the odious task of negotiating an armistice with a thoroughly beaten but still insolent enemy, later wrote:
“In carrying out the instructions of my Government, I gained the unenviable distinction of the being the first U.S. Army commander in history to sign an armistice without victory.”
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