This is the second part of a Korean War history. For part one, please see this page.
More Chinese Aggression
By January 1, 1951, Chinese and North Korean soldiers charged across the 38th Parallel. The Chinese repeated their previous tactics of mostly night attacks, with a stealthy approach from positions some distance from the front, followed by a rush with overwhelming numbers, and using trumpets or gongs both for communication and to disorient their foes. Against this UN forces had no remedy, and their resistance crumbled; they retreated rapidly to the south (referred to by UN forces as the “bug-out”).
The British 29th Brigade was attacked north of Seoul on January 3, and suffered heavy casualties. [Barris: 65] Seoul was abandoned, and was captured by Communist forces for the third time on January 4, 1951. Hammers and sickles were drawn in chalk and slogans like “Americans go home” were left on walls. The morning of January 5, the red-starred North Korea flag flew high. [Spurr: 281]
Senator Taft Harangues Truman
On January 5, Taft, an isolationist Republican, went on the Senate floor and gave a 10,000-word speech where he said that Truman had “simply usurped authority — in violation of the laws and the Constitution — when he sent troops to Korea to carry out the resolution of the United Nations, in an undeclared war.” [Kaufman: 126]
On January 8, Republican Senator Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska introduced a measure that no ground troops could be sent to Europe for use by NATO without congressional authority. Taft endorsed this plan wholeheartedly. [Kaufman: 128] Wherry, incidentally, passed on later the same year.
General Dean, Still Missing, is Honored
In 1951, Congress voted General Dean the Medal of Honor for his actions during the defense of Taejon. The Medal was presented by President Truman on January 9, 1951 to his wife Mildred Dean, son William Dean Jr. and daughter Marjorie June Dean. Dean himself was still reported missing in action in Korea.
When General Collins arrived in Korea, General Ridgway gave him a personal tour and showed him that the “invading hordes” were no match for the Allied Forces. The outlook was so good that Collins “ignored MacArthur’s clamor for extending the war to the Chinese mainland.” [Spurr: 310]
Operation Thunderbolt, a combat reconnaissance mission, was launched on January 25.
AP correspondent Stan Swinton wrote his parents on January 30, “The most horrifying part of this last advance has been the hundreds of refugees killed by our strafing. The children weren’t hit; they just tumbled off the mothers’ back and froze to death by the roadside… Do not the enemies we make among the civilian population counterbalance and more than counterbalance the damage we do to the Reds?” [Hanley: 177]
United Nations Votes Against China
On February 1, 1951 the United Nations voted to declare China aggressors in the Korea Conflict. The vote was 44-7, with 9 countries abstaining. [LaFeber: 114] The countries opposed were Burma, India and five Soviet bloc members. The abstentions were Sweden, Yugoslavia, and seven Asian and Arab states. The resolution called on Peking to “cause its forces and nationals … to cease hostilities … and to withdraw from Korea.” [Goulden: 459]
Operation Roundup was an attack launched by US X Corps toward Hongchon and Pyonchang on February 5, 1951.
The Rise of British Socialism
While Communism was being fought in Korea, it was also popping up in England. Britain’s Road to Socialism was first published in February 1951 as the program of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). The first edition of the document famously received the personal approval of Joseph Stalin prior to publication. In contrast to earlier programs of the CPGB, Britain’s Road to Socialism proposes that socialism can be achieved by the labor movement working initially within Britain’s existing democratic structures.
Although Russia was playing no direct role in the Korean Conflict, this did not stop Dean Acheson from tying them in at given opportunities. Acheson claimed, “It is not only the threat of direct military attack which must be considered, but also that of conquest by default, by pressure, by persuasion, by subversion, by ‘neutralism,’…” [LaFeber: 102]
On February 10, UNC troops once again took Seoul. But perhaps this was not to last, because according to J. D. Coleman, the troops had now become “an indefensible balloon inflated into enemy territory.” [Halberstam: 549]
MacArthur sent a request on February 15 for permission to bomb the North Korean port of Rashin, which had been off-limits since September. Reconnaissance planes had spotted 332 railroad cars go through there on a single day, indicating it was a valuable supply port. MacArthur said it was “the last major profitable strategic target in North Korea” and destroying it “will be a major loss to the enemy … conversely, its immunity from attack remains a major threat to our forces.” His request was denied by Marshall. [Goulden: 456]
Anthony Leviero wrote in the New York Times on February 18 that “President Truman’s political prestige happens to be on one of those downcurves… It is likely, however, that he is less concerned about it than are other leaders of the Democratic Party. There is no doubt that the multiplying vexations of his office have sharpened his temper and irritated him. Yet there is no question that his essential confidence and serenity remain intact.” [Phillips: 336]
On February 20, 1951, General MacArthur flew into Korea and told the press that, “I have just ordered a resumption of the offensive.” Ridgway was not very thrilled about this, because it gave the Chinese advance warning of their attack and also implied that MacArthur was making decisions. In fact, MacArthur had no involvement whatsoever in the decision. [Goulden: 452] Earlier that day at Wonju, Ridgway had shown MacArthur an “eyes only” memo laying out the plan for two divisions to cross the Han. [Ridgway: 108]
The Loss of Bryant Moore
On February 24, 1951, IX Corps commander Bryant Edward Moore visited General Myers, 24th Division Artillery, and Myers’ aide James A. “Whitey” Whitmarsh. While leaving, Moore’s helicopter got caught in some wires and fell into the nearby river. Moore was pulled out, wet but unharmed, and brought inside to dry off. Within minutes, he was dead of a heart attack. [Maihafer: 217]
MacArthur forwarded an “urgent” request to the Joint Chiefs on February 26 to bomb the hydroelectric plants along the Yalu River. He was shot down, for the reason that in December MacArthur himself had declared the plants inactive. [Goulden: 456]
Operation Killer was an eight day United Nations offensive that concluded February 28, designed to push Communist forces north of the Han River.
On March 1, Mao told Stalin that he is changing to tactics of attrition, acknowledging that military victory is out of reach.
Operation Ripper was a military operation conceived by General Ridgway, intended to destroy as much of the People’s Volunteer Army of China and North Korean military from Seoul and of the towns of Hongch’on, fifty miles west of Seoul, and Ch’unch’on, fifteen miles farther to the north and to bring United Nations troops to the 38th parallel.
The operation was launched on March 7, 1951 with the I and IX Corps on the west near Seoul and Hoengsong and X and ROK III Corps in the east, to reach “Line Idaho”, an arc with its apex just south of the 38th Parallel in South Korea. Allegedly, this operation resulted in the 1st Battalion of the ROK 2nd Regiment defeating an enemy battalion without losing a man. [Ridgway: 112] By the end of March, United States forces reached the 38th parallel.
MacArthur is Fired
This first part should be incorporated above closer to Walker’s death.
MacArthur had much pressure against him from a variety of sources for his insubordination, disruptive public comments and the loss of his own men’s support in him. In his own defense against “the radical fringe”, he wrote a letter to Carlos P. Romulo on December 26, 1950:
The campaign of vituperation initiated against me as a result of Red China’s entry into the war was not unexpected. I had warnings from various sources, all reliable, long before Inchon that such a campaign was being planned by the radical fringe. Success at Inchon caused the plan to fail to materialize, but the new situation created by the Chinese offensive was apparently seized upon as the most favorable opportunity for its revival and effectuation. [Carroll: 48]
MacArthur went on the identify the radical fringe attacking him:
The dominant group spearheading the drive has of course been the Communists and their friends, but they have received powerful assistance from those who are so infatuated with the safeguard of Europe that they would sacrifice Asia rather than see any support diverted from Europe. [Carroll: 48]
In March of 1951, after a UN counterattack commanded by Matthew B. Ridgway again turned the tide of the war in the UN’s favor, Truman alerted MacArthur of his intention to initiate “cease-fire” talks. Such news ended any hopes the general had retained of leading a full-scale war against China, and MacArthur quickly issued his own ultimatum to China. MacArthur’s declaration threatened the expansion of the war, and was similar to the recommendations the Joint Chiefs made to Truman. He received a mild rebuke.
Operation Courageous was designed to trap large numbers of Chinese and North Korean troops between the Han River (Korea) and Imjin Rivers north of Seoul, opposite the South Korean I Corps. The intent of Operation Courageous was for I Corps, which was composed of the U.S. 25th and 3rd IDs and the Republic Of Korea 1st Division, to advance quickly on the North Korean and Chinese troops and reach the Imjin River with all possible speed.
Operation Courageous was implemented from March 22 through March 28, 1951.
Operation Tomahawk was an airborne military operation by the 187th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) on March 23, 1951 at Munsan-ni as part of Operation Courageous.
Operation Tomahawk was the airborne half of the plan. This operation was designed to drop the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team about 30 kilometers north of the then current front line. They did so, parachuting from over a hundred C-119 Flying Boxcar transport aircraft. When they landed they linked up with Task Force Growdon, which was made up of armored elements from the 24th Infantry Division (United States) 6th Medium Tank Battalion and infantry elements from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division. The forces advanced to their goal, meeting weak resistance, mostly minefields, but the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (CPVA) had retreated before they got there.
One hundred twenty C-119s and C-46s dropped 3,437 paratroopers of the 187th Regimental Combat Team near Munsan-ni in the second largest airborne operation of the war.
On March 24, MacArthur ordered the Chinese to surrender in an ultimatum or face “imminent” destruction.
On April 5, Representative Joseph William Martin, Jr., a Massachusetts Republican, read a letter in the House from MacArthur, written March 24. The letter declared:
“It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest, and that we have joined the issue thus raised on the battlefield; that here we fight Europe’s war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words; that if we lose the war to communism in Asia the fall of Europe is inevitable, win it and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you point out, we must win. There is no substitute for victory.” [LaFeber: 119; Brodie: 83]
Following this, Truman wrote in his diary, “MacArthur shoots another political bomb through Joe Martin, leader of the Republican minority of the House. This looks like the last straw. Rank insubordination… I’ve come to the conclusion that our Big General in the Far East must be recalled.” [Halberstam: 602]
Aside: The Hwacheon Dam Attack
At midnight on April 8, North Korea and Chinese forces released excess water from the dam’s spillway which disabled five floating bridges of the United Nations Command downstream. The dam was previously assessed as a problem and key facility in the area due to its hydroelectric power and ability to flood downstream areas. Capturing or disabling it became key. On April 9, the 7th Cavalry Regiment, already executing Operation Rugged in the area, were charged with capturing the dam but were unsuccessful after encountering stiff defense. Between April 16 and 21, Allies had secured the dam but were repelled by Chinese counterattack before being able to destroy the dam’s floodgates. After B-29s failed to neutralize the dam, on April 30, Skyraiders fired Tiny Tim rockets at and dropped a pair of 2,000-pound bombs on the dam, puncturing one spillway gate. On May 1, Air Group 19 assaulted the dam with eight Skyraiders that were equipped with Mk 13 torpedoes and escorted by twelve Corsairs. Seven of eight torpedoes struck the dam and six exploded. The attack alleviated the dam as a flood threat, destroying one sluice gate and damaging several others. One of the participating U.S. Navy squadrons, VFA-195 was renamed from Tigers to Dambusters. This raid constitutes the last time globally that an aerial torpedo was used against a surface target, and was the only time torpedoes were used in the war.
By early April 1951, the Joint Chiefs decided MacArthur had to go for military reasons — they had lost confidence in his strategy. On April 9, the Joint Chiefs (including General Bradley, the chairman) all agreed MacArthur had to be relieved. Secretary of Defense Marshall agreed with their assessment. Truman had already decided by this point that MacArthur had to go, but this support from the military made his decision far more politically acceptable to Congress and the American people. [Brodie: 84] Ridgway would replace MacArthur, and Jim VanFleet (who rose to prominence during the Greek Civil War) would replace Ridgway. [Halberstam: 605]
On April 11, 1951 President Truman relieved General MacArthur of his military command at a 1:00am press conference. During his radio address that day, Truman explained:
“If history has taught us anything, it is that aggression anywhere in the world is a threat to the peace everywhere in the world. When that aggression is supported by the cruel and selfish rulers of a powerful nation who are bent on conquest, it becomes a clear and present danger to the security and independence of every free nation.” [Brodie: 62]
Allegedly, a communications mix-up caused MacArthur to hear of his dismissal from aide Sid Huff, who had heard the news on the radio. [Spurr: 311] General Matthew B. Ridgway replaced MacArthur. Ridgway was with Army Secretary Frank Pace, Brigadier General Blackshear Morrison Bryan and Bryan’s aide-de-camp Harry James Maihafer when the call came in from Brigadier General Frank Albert Allen with the news. Both Ridgway and Pace were in shock.
When President Truman dismissed MacArthur, this lead to a storm of controversy. Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that Truman and his advisers must have planned the dismissal during late-night sessions when “they’ve had time to get the President cheerful” on Bourbon and Benedictine. McCarthy declared, “That son of a bitch should be impeached.”
Senator William E. Jenner of Indiana declared on the morning of April 11, “I charge that this country today is in the hands of a secret inner coterie which is directed by agents of the Soviet Union… We must cut this whole cancerous conspiracy out of our government at once. Our only choice is to impeach President Truman and find out who is the secret invisible government which has so cleverly led our country down the road to destruction.”
MacArthur had his own thoughts on why he was released. Truman’s “action was fraught with politics, as he was apparently of the belief that I was conspiring in some underhanded way with the Republican leaders. This was completely erroneous. I had no part whatsoever in the political situation. Although nominally Republican, probably because of my attraction to Abraham Lincoln, I had always expressed admiration for the basic accomplishments of the Democratic Party, and appreciation of its many great leaders. Such criticisms as I have made have never been of parties, but of what I regarded as concrete instances of mistakes and failures by the parties.” [MacArthur: 389] How closely this assessment is to reality is a matter of some debate.
When Ridgway last saw MacArthur, it was in the Embassy library in Tokyo on April 12. MacArthur had an “apparent lack of rancor or resentment. He was as calm and courteous as ever, and seemed to have accepted the decision with better grace… than most men similarly situated might have done.” [Ridgway: 158] MacArthur said to his replacement, “I hope when you leave Tokyo you will be Chief of Staff. If I had been permitted to choose my own successor, I’d have selected you.” [Ridgway: 159]
MacArthur Returns to America
General MacArthur expected the worst reception from the American people and told his aides, “We’ll just slip into San Francisco after dark while everybody’s at dinner or the movies.” His predictions were wrong, however; over 500,000 cheering admirers awaited his return. Millions attended ticker-tape parades across the country. [Carroll: 50] In New York, it was estimated that 7.5 million people lined the streets to see MacArthur and that 2850 tons ticker tape, confetti and streamers were thrown. [Spanier: 65]
Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk went on television April 15 and stated, “What we are trying to do is to maintain peace and security without a general war. We are saying to the aggressor, ‘You will not be allowed to get away with your crime. You must stop it.’ At the same time we are trying to prevent a general conflagration which would consume the very things we are now trying to defend.” When Senator Saltonstall asked MacArthur his opinion of this, he replied that it introduced “a new concept into military operations — the concept of appeasement, the concept that when you use force, you can limit the force.” [Phillips: 316]
On April 19, 1951, MacArthur addressed Congress and ended with the line, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” President Truman remarked that the speech was “nothing but a bunch of damn bullshit.” [Carroll: 50]
Truman’s popularity plummeted as MacArthur’s gained. He was booed by a crowd when he showed up to throw the first pitch of the season for a baseball game. Multiple state legislatures slammed him for his “irresponsible and capricious action.” Some Republicans even voiced the possibility of impeachment. [Spanier: 65]
Truman Loses Some Love
According to the April 23, 1951 issue of Life, a Houston clergyman became so agitated in dictating a telegram to Western Union (“Your removal of General MacArthur is a great victory for Joseph Stalin…”) that he was stricken in mid-sentence and fell dead. Western Union also objected when a woman from Charlestown, Maryland wanted to call Truman a “moron”. Instead, they compromised on the word “witling”. [Goulden: 498]
Around this time, the allies were facing the “most dangerous Chinese thrust towards Seoul”, on April 29, when 6000 Chinese soldiers attempted to cross the Han in small boats west of Seoul along the Kimpo peninsula in order to outflank the city. [Ridgway: 173]
The Supreme Court and Communism
On April 30, 1951, the Supreme Court split right down the middle, 4-4. The question was whether a government employee has a right to confront the accuser in a loyalty hearing. The employee involved was 40-year-old Dorothy Bailey, an $8,000-a-year training officer in the United States Employment Service. She had been called Communist by undisclosed FBI informants who did not testify under oath. She denied being Communist. Since the Court couldn’t reach an agreement, the lower court’s verdict stood: that Miss Bailey had no right to face her accusers, and had been properly fired. Justice Jackson declared this was “justice turned bottom side up.”
That same day the Court did deliver a blow to the Justice Department’s smear campaign, when the Court held, 5-3, that the Attorney General could not list an organization as subversive without a hearing. This was in the case of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, Inc., and the International Workers Order, Inc., all tagged as Communist-front groups. Justice Harold H. Burton, writing the majority opinion, held that the Attorney General’s listing was “arbitrary.”
MacArthur and the Senate
On the morning of Thursday, May 3, General MacArthur walked down the marble hallway of the Senate Office Building to Room 318. He wore a battle jacket with no emblems, dark slacks, khaki shirt and tie. Multiple aides followed behind him, as he waved to the reporters and photographers. [Goulden: 513]
Ridgway met with Ambassador Muccio, General Van Fleet and Rhee on May 9. Rhee was informed that ROK Chief of Staff, General Chung, had their “full confidence” but that the average soldier was not of high enough quality to adequately defend South Korea. [Ridgway: 176]
On May 13, Mao Zedong submitted armistice terms to Stalin that sought no more than a restoration of the prewar status quo along the 38th parallel. [Buzo: 81]
The Canadians Receive a Special Delivery
Sometime around May 25, 1951 (Barris says late June, but his source, Bill Boss, says otherwise) the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade received a very special delivery: 3,440 cases of Labatt 50 beer. The men were each given two beers, with Private Bob Lusty half-jokingly saying, “With two beers a day like this, I’d gladly stay here six months longer.” Lusty’s tour length is unknown. [Barris: 106]
Launched June 3, Operation Piledriver was a vital push by the UN army, which eventually lead to a complete change in the type of the war. This was to be the last major Eighth Army offensive, with I Corps and IX Corps advancing to Line Wyoming, twelve miles north of the Main Line of Resistance (MLR). [Berebitsky: 79]
On June 4, 1951, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of eleven American Communists, Dennis v. United States. They fought the Smith Act and lost. Chief Justice Vinson wrote that the Communists pushed “a policy which worked for the overthrow of the Government by force and violence”, were “adept at infiltration into strategic positions, use of aliases, and double-meaning language”, and would “tolerate no dissention”. A deciding factor was whether there was “clear and present danger”. Vinson implied there was, while Justice Douglas, who dissented, said the Communists were “miserable merchants of unwanted ideas” and thus were no threat, easily protected by free speech.
On June 14, Senator McCarthy gave a three-hour speech on the Senate floor accusing Marshall of “losing” China to Communism, engaging in “black” conspiracy and being “steeped in falsehood.” [Weintraub: 467]
The 1951 French Legislative Election (June 17)
The Korean War affected far more than Korea, its neighbors, and America. The repercussions were felt in France, where people did not appreciate American pressure to rearm.
The anti-American yet conservative Rally of the French People, led by Charles de Gaulle, received 21.93% of the vote, and became the largest bloc in the French Assembly, occupying 117 of 627 seats. The French Communist Party had the largest percentage of the vote — 26.27% — and claimed a fair amount of seats for themselves. This was even more impressive when one recalls that Secretary of State Marshall publicly emphasized in 1948 that if Communists were voted into power in Europe, American aid would end. Given the recent destruction of France in WWII, any and all aid was essential.
Ultimately, the Communist opposition was not without its faults, and was not as anti-war as may be assumed. During the 1950s, the French Communists critically supported French imperialism during the Indochina War (1947-54) and the Algerian War (1954-62), although many French communists also worked against colonialism.
Russian Hopes For A Ceasefire
Jacob Malik, the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations, made a radio broadcast denouncing the United States on June 23, 1951. But he also hoped “for a cease-fire and an armistice providing for the mutual withdrawal of forces from the 38th parallel.” A newspaper in Peking endorsed this proposal two days later, and Truman asked Ambassador Alan Kirk to reach the Soviet government on this matter. [Brodie: 96]
Talks of peace brought several visitors to Tokyo on June 29 to discuss foreign affairs, including Admiral Forrest Percival Sherman, Arch Alexander and New York Governor Thomas Edmund Dewey. [Ridgway: 182] (Coincidentally, Admiral Sherman passed away less than a month later.)
After some debate on the meeting place (Ridgway initially wanted to meet on the Danish hospital ship Jutlandia in Wonsan Harbor), talks began in Kaesong.
By the summer of 1951, the Korean War had reached a stalemate as peace negotiations began at Kaesong. Air Force Colonel Andrew J. Kinney flew by helicopter into Kaesong on July 8.
On July 19, Nam Il challenged the bargaining faith of the UN. “War is not travel and troops are not tourists,” he said. “Should the cease-fire be ordered and armistice achieved, [and] the foreign armed forces still stay where they are, it is clear that the intention… is not… to let them enjoy the scenic beauties of Korea…” [Goulden: 565]
On July 26, the negotiating parties agreed to an agenda that included the creation of a military demarcation line, a demilitarized zone, the creation of a Military Armistice Commission to enforce the armistice, and the exchange of prisoners. [Buzo: 81]
On August 6, during lunch recess, a company of armed Chinese soldiers marched through the truce area, within 100 yards of the house assigned to the UN delegation. This disturbed the UN, but was ultimately not made into too big of an issue. [Goulden: 571]
The opposing armies faced each other across a line which ran (with many twists and turns along the way) from east to west, through the middle of the Korean peninsula, a few miles north of the 38th parallel. U.N. and communist forces jockeyed for position along this line, clashing in a number of relatively small, but intense and bloody battles.
On the home front, Democratic Senator William Benton of Connecticut made a stand on August 6, calling for Senator McCarthy to be expelled on ten charges of perjury, deceit, fraud and lack of fitness for the office. [Phillips: 393] Benton is notable for having won his seat by defeating Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of two future presidents.
Battle of Bloody Ridge
The Battle of Bloody Ridge took place during the Korean War from August 18 to September 5, 1951. Located in hills north of the 38th parallel in the central Korean mountain range, it was fought between the communist North Korean forces of the KPA (Korean People’s Army) and U.N. (United Nations) forces consisting of ROK (South Korean) units and the 2nd Infantry Division of the United States Army.
Bloody Ridge began as an attempt by U.N. forces to seize a series of hills forming a ridge which they believed were being used as observation posts to call in artillery fire on a U.N. supply road. The 36th ROK Regiment made the initial attack. It succeeded in capturing most, but not all, of the ridge after a week of fierce fighting that at times was hand to hand. It was a short-lived triumph, for the following day the North Koreans recaptured the mountain in a fierce counterattack.
The next U.N. assault was made by the U.S. 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Division. The battle raged for ten days, as the North Koreans repulsed one assault after another by the increasingly exhausted and depleted 9th Infantry. After repeatedly being driven back, it succeeded in capturing one of the hill objectives after two days of heavy fighting. The weather then turned to almost constant rain, greatly slowing the attacks and making operations almost impossible because of the difficulty in bringing supplies through “rivers of mud” and up steep, slippery slopes.
Fighting continued, however, as casualties mounted. The 2nd Division’s 23rd Infantry Regiment joined the attack on the main ridge while the division’s other infantry regiment, the 38th, occupied positions immediately behind the main ridge which threatened to cut off any North Korean retreat. The combination of frontal attacks, flanking movements and incessant bombardment by artillery, tanks and airstrikes ultimately decided the battle. Finally, on September 5th, the North Koreans abandoned the ridge after UN forces succeeded in outflanking it.
The American soldiers called the piece of terrain they had taken Bloody Ridge, which indeed it was: 2,700 U.N. and perhaps as many as 15,000 communists were casualties, almost all of them killed or wounded, few prisoners being taken by either side.
After withdrawing from Bloody Ridge, the North Koreans set up new positions just 1,500 yards away on a seven-mile-long hill mass that was soon to earn the name Heartbreak Ridge.
Kaesong Talks Crumble
On August 23-24, the Chinese and North Koreans accused the United Nations Far East Air Forces (FEAF) of bombing the conference site at Kaesong, causing the “unlawful murder of a CCF platoon leader.” This effectively put an end to ceasefire talks. The evidence for the bombing was “ludicrous”, and included “bomb fragments” which appeared to actually be “part of an aircraft oil tank and an engine nacelle”. [Kaufman: 205] The whole event was judged to be staged by the Communists, as an “excuse to bring an end to the negotiation.” [McWilliams: 33]
French Warfare in Vietnam
Before the Korean War was concluded, the American government was already laying the groundwork for its presence in Vietnam. French General de Lattre de Tassigny visited Washington in September 1951, and the State Department gladly endorsed his aims and methods in Vietnam. [LaFeber: 116]
The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge was fought between September 13 and October 15, 1951, in the hills of North Korea a few miles north of the 38th parallel (the prewar boundary between North and South Korea), near Chorwon.
Operation Hudson Harbor
Operation Hudson Harbor occurred in October 1951. It is notable for being the battle when Truman began asking himself seriously whether the Americans can use nuclear weapons.
At the same time, Operations Commando and Polecharge were underway roughly from October 3 through the 19th. The U.S. I Corps (including four U.S. Divisions, the 1st Commonwealth Division and the 1st South Korean Division) seized the Jamestown Line, destroying elements of the 42nd, 47th, 64th and 65th Chinese Armies. This prevented the Communist forces from interdicting the UN supply lines near Seoul.
During Operations Commando and Polecharge, the UN forces inflicted heavy losses on the Chinese forces, in order of 16,000 men, and forced the Chinese to retreat north to their next line of defense, Yokkok-chon. The 1st Cavalry Division had suffered 2,900 casualties, including losses incurred during Operation Commando, and was withdrawn to Japan the following month.
On October 24, the captain of the destroyer HCMS Cayuga received word that one of his men was an impostor. The captain, J. Plomer, confronted the ship’s doctor, Joseph St. Cyr, about the revelation. St. Cyr produced a notarized birth certificate and his physician’s sheepskin, and then went back to his cabin where he overdosed on barbiturates and slashed his wrists. The man was really Ferdinand Waldo “Fred” Demara! After given first aid, he was shipped back to Canada and discharged from the Navy. [Barris: 112]
Demara had previously masqueraded as several people and professions, including a civil engineer, a sheriff’s deputy, an assistant prison warden, a doctor of applied psychology, a hospital orderly, a lawyer, a child-care expert, a Benedictine monk, a Trappist monk, an editor, a cancer researcher, and a teacher.
Ban on Color TV
On October 25, 1951, ODM ordered a halt to the mass production of color television sets by CBS. CBS had developed a color system which was partly mechanical and partly electronic in nature. RCA had already developed a purely electronic color television system, and was engaged in a long and bitter legal battle with CBS before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over which system would be adopted. Although ODM had determined that research on color TV occupied the time of critically-needed scientists and technicians, the research also had defense applications and could therefore proceed. However, production of the CBS color TV sets was not essential, and was banned. The ban on mass production of the CBS color television set led the FCC to choose the RCA system by default in 1953.
Soviet Offers on Nukes
The General Assembly of the United Nations met November 6 in Paris. The Soviet Union wanted “an international conference on banning the atomic bomb, a peace meeting that would include Communist China, and a Korean armistice along the 38th parallel.” [Kaufman: 212]
President Truman spoke to the American people on November 7, and said he would consider international arms reductions and discussions with the Soviet Union. He claimed that Moscow was full of “deceit and broken promises”, but still felt arms reduction was important. “Nevertheless, as responsible men and women, we must try for disarmament in spite of all difficulties.” [Kaufman: 232]
A Truce Possible?
On November 27, 1951, an Australian with Chinese press credentials, Wilfred Burchett, informed the press that both sides had agreed on a potential truce line. [Barris: 154]
General Dean is Alive, and Speaks
General Dean had no contact with the outside world until he was interviewed on December 18, 1951 by left-wing Wilfred Burchett, who was acting as a correspondent for Le Soir, a French newspaper. This was the first time anyone had any idea he was still alive.
This same day, the Communists released a list of UN prisoners. They claimed to hold 4417 UN POWs (3198 American) and 7142 ROKs, for a surprisingly low total of 11,559. [Goulden: 589]
On December 23, Syngman Rhee organized his personal support base into the Liberal Party.
Eisenhower sent a letter to Truman on January 1, 1952, after Truman had hoped that Eisenhower would run for president as a Democrat. Eisenhower wrote that he did not feel that he had “a duty to seek a political nomination, in spite of he fact that many have urged to the contrary. Because of this belief I shall not do so.” [Weintraub: 471] This, of course, was not only a lie, but soon Eisenhower would declare himself a Republican, much to Truman’s dismay.
On January 2, 1952, the United Nations introduced the doctrine of “voluntary repatriation” into the peace talks, which the Communists met with “shock and dismay”, calling the doctrine “absurd” and “unreasonable”. [McWilliams: 41]
Commentary From Dr. Richard Hornberger
Richard Hornberger, a MASH doctor and the future creator of the book “MASH” (which, in turn, spawned the movie and television series), was full of humor and looked upon the war in the best spirits possible. In January 1952, for example, he wrote:
“Off and on we get some interesting work to do, some of it caused by the Chinamen, much of it caused by our own soldiers being hit by our own mortars, or trying to cross our own minefields. If we stay here long enough, the American Army may annihilate itself.” [Carroll: 51]
Not surprisingly for those who have seen the “MASH” television program, many of Hornberger’s letters revolved around baseball games, late-night poker and a fair share of drunken revelry.
The Brits Speak Out, Foreshadow the Vietnam War
Eden spoke at Columbia University on January 11, 1952: “It should be understood that the intervention by force by Chinese Communists in Southeast Asia — even if they were called volunteers — would create a situation no less menacing than that which the United Nations met and faced in Korea. In any such event the United Nations should be equally solid to resist it.” [Kaufman: 235]
Americans Used For Propaganda
Lieutenants Kenneth L. Enoch and John Quinn were shot down in their B-26 on January 13, 1952. The Chinese interrogated the men for five weeks until they would “admit” that the United States had begun plotting biological warfare in August 1951, and started to implement it on January 3, 1952. Their statements were both written and filmed. [Goulden: 600-601]
Winston Churchill Speaks
On January 17, Winston Churchill spoke to Congress, warning that “our two countries are agreed that if the truce we seek is reached only to be broken, our response will be prompt, resolute, and effective.” He then spoke of Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos): “It would not be helpful to the common cause — for our evils all spring from one center — if an effective truce in Korea led only to a transference of Communist aggression to these other fields. Our problems will not be solved unless they are steadily viewed and acted upon as a whole in their integrity as a whole.” [Kaufman: 235]
On January 18, the ROK National Assembly rejected a constitutional amendment for direct popular presidential elections.
Toxic Gas Accusations
On February 2, 1952, Jacob Malik (Soviet ambassador to the UN) accused the United States of using bullets filled with toxic gas in Korea. [McWilliams: 42]
On February 18, 1952, guards entered a prisoner compound (“Compound 62”) and were attacked by 1500 prisoners (from a total population of 5600) with iron bars, clubs, steel-tipped poles and barbed wire. After the fight, 77 POWs had died (55 immediately, 22 later) and 140 were wounded. The United Nations lost one man and 38 were wounded. [Goulden: 594]
Communists Accuse America of Biological Warfare
Also on February 18, Moscow radio accused the United States of spreading smallpox and typhus in North Korea, as well as secretly sending in lepers. On March 8, the Chinese Communists alleged that America had dropped insects, rats, shellfish, and chicken feathers containing disease on China and North Korea.
On February 23, the propaganda continued, with the Communists protesting the “sanguinary incident of barbarously massacring large numbers of our personnel”, referring to the Compound 62 riot. [Goulden: 594]
On March 3, 1952, a revised US strategy identified lack of sufficient military pressure as a chief reason for failure to conclude an armistice. [Buzo: 82]
On March 11, Secretary of State Dean Acheson asked the Red Cross to look into the allegations of biological warfare, but the Chinese and North Koreans denied them on the grounds “that the Red Cross was dominated by Americans.” [Kaufman: 265]
A Push For Stevenson
Adlai Ewing Stevenson had still not fully committed himself to running for president as of March 29, but was given a sudden push by President Truman. Truman appeared at the National Guard Armory in Washington for the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and announced to everyone there: he would not run again. [Goulden: 605] After a long speech, he concluded: “I shall not be a candidate for reelection. I have served my country long, and I think efficiently and honorably. I do not feel that it is my duty to spend another four years in the White House.” As Stevenson ultimately lost, the argument could be made that by bowing out, Truman opened the door of defeat for the Democrats.
James Barrett “Scotty” Reston wrote in the New York Times on April 6, reflecting on Truman’s time in office: “From beginning to end the great projects of his administration — the noble efforts to bind up the wounds of the great war, the attempts to build a new security system throughout the world, the defense against Communist aggression in Korea and elsewhere — have all been obscured by petty political bickering or by acrimonious and sometimes even squalid personal squabbles.” [Phillips: 414] (Reston would later appear on Nixon’s enemies list.)
The American Steel Strike
Sometimes wars are fought just as much militarily in the field as they are politically in the domestic arena. Such a case can be made of the steel strike that began on April 9, 1952. When the mills were to shut down, Truman seized the mills and justified his actions in a radio address, stressing that steel production was crucial to the war effort. As Commander-in-Chief, he was allowed to keep products being made to support the armed forces. This action was highly unpopular.
Rhee Against Armistice
Syngman Rhee spoke out against armistice on April 24: “I am still opposed to any cease-fire which leaves our country divided. No matter what arguments others may make, we are determined to unify our fatherland with our own hands.” [Goulden: 615]
General Dodd Captured
On April 29, the North Korean officers of Compound 76 asked to meet with Lt. Col. Wilbur Raven, a military police officer and enclosure commander. The meeting was supposedly to resolve Raven’s suspension of a cigarette ration after North Korean army officers refused to serve on work detail. Raven and a South Korean interpreter entered the “headquarters” hut just inside the wire and began listening to a barrage of demands. Suddenly more than a hundred cadremen flooded the building. They screamed at Raven and one tried to force-feed him bean soup. Then the POWs produced an EE8 field phone and told him to call General Frank T. Dodd. After Raven passed on the prisoners’ demands — which General Dodd rejected — the POWs released Raven. The whole bizarre episode was a rehearsal.
On April 30, 1952, Judge David A. Pine handed down a sweeping decision calling Truman’s seizure of steel illegal and granted an injunction restraining the Secretary of Commerce from taking the steel mills. That same day, the circuit court of appeals stayed the injunction pending the Administration’s appeal to the Supreme Court.
On May 7, 1952, Brigadier General Francis T. Dodd visited Compound 76, one of the prison compounds under his command, to listen to complaints aired by the Communist leaders of the camp. He had been previously warned by the intelligence that plans existed to capture him. While standing near the gate of the compound, he and one of his subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur Raven, were forcibly seized as the gate opened to allow a work detail to pass through. The work detail consisted of about twenty POWs emptying latrine sewage, a job known as “honey bucket detail”. Raven grabbed hold of a gatepost long enough for the American guards to rescue him (which included bayoneting a POW in the face), but Dodd was taken into the center of the camp and held hostage.
For the next 78 hours, Dodd was in captivity. By his own admission he was treated well as hurried negotiations went on for his release. His living quarters was equipped with a straw mat, a built-in bunk, and even a vase of flowers.
On May 9, Van Fleet, the Eighth Army commander, came to Koje-do to review the plans to break Compound 76’s resistance and save Dodd, though the latter was a secondary concern. The general had company: Ridgway and Clark. Both urged Van Fleet to give the POWs plenty of opportunity to surrender. They agreed there would be no media coverage of the Koje-do crisis. The critical matter, they thought, was massing firepower to neutralize the 19,000 POWs outside the hard-core Compounds 76, 77, and 78. Only then would American soldiers enter Compound 76, using tear gas and other riot-suppression equipment.
General Charles F. Colson was rushed to the island to take command, and he ordered a telephone rigged up to allow communication with Dodd. The chief Communist demand was essentially an admission that UN forces had been responsible for bloodshed in the camps. This demand was granted by Colson and Dodd was eventually freed.
Both generals (Dodd and Colson) were criticized for handing a propaganda victory to the Communist side rather than risk a forcible rescue of Dodd.
Change in Command
On May 12, Ridgway left Tokyo to relieve Eisenhower. Mark Clark, who had considered retirement, instead replaced Ridgway in Tokyo. [McWilliams: 46]
Truman on Prisoner Repatriation
On May 20, 1952, President Truman spoke about prisoner repatriation at West Point during their Sesquicentennial celebration. He made his position clear:
“Up to now… the communists have not agreed on a fair and proper exchange of prisoners of war. The communists have continued to insist that all the prisoners we have taken must be handed over to them — regardless of whether or not they are willing to be sent back behind the Iron Curtain, and regardless of what their fate would be if they were sent back.”
He continued: “It is perfectly clear that thousands and thousands of the prisoners we hold would violently resist being returned to the communists because they fear slavery and/or death that would await them. It would be a betrayal of the ideals of freedom and justice for which we are fighting if we forced these men at bayonet point to return to their ex-masters. We won’t do it. We won’t buy an armistice by trafficking in human slavery.” [McWilliams: 44]
Harrison Replaces Joy
Major General William K. Harrison, Jr. replaced Admiral Charles Turner Joy as chief negotiator for peace on May 22.
Resulting from his actions, Dodd was relieved of command and reduced in rank to colonel on May 23, 1952.
Internally, President Rhee had dozens of assembly members arrested on May 24 for “communist connections”, strengthening its right-wing members. Following this action, he pushed for an anonymous vote to amend the constitution in favor of electing the president by popular vote.
Eisenhower Reveals His Platform
On June 2, Dwight Eisenhower spoke in his hometown of Abilene, Kansas. He called for a “decent armistice” in Korea without criticizing the policies of the Truman administration. He was more focused on “liberty versus socialism”, the removal of “useless” federal agencies and the “rooting out” of “subversive elements” in the government. (Taft, two weeks later, was more critical of Truman and vowed to return MacArthur to the government in some unidentified way.) [Goulden: 607]
The Supreme Court decision came down in early June (when exactly?), 6-3 against Truman. Justice Black wrote “we cannot with faithfulness to our constitutional system hold that the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces has the ultimate power as such to take possession of private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production. This is a job for the Nation’s lawmakers, not for its military authorities.”
The Supreme Court informed the President he had no such authority to seize the mills, the press was in favor of the Court’s decision, and Congress had no desire to grant Truman the legitimate authority to go ahead with the seizures.
When the mills were returned to the owners, the strike continued for fifty-three days. Upon the end of the strike, the price of steel was greatly inflated, leaving Truman with even more reason to want to bring this war to a quick halt. [Brodie: 101]
Upon returning to California from Korea on June 8, 1952, Major General Daniel Harrison Hudelson spoke at a press conference. When asked if he thought the UN troops could hold back Communist forces, he replied, “I certainly do not.” He said the Chinese “have too much manpower” and could push the UN out of Korea “any time they decided to attack”.
Power Plant Strike
Between June 23 and June 25, American planes attacked a large Korean power plant, Suiho, along the Yalu River. On June 24, a very large force of approximately 500 Carrier and South Korean land based Navy and Marine Fighter-Bombers attacked the power plant and transformer yards at the base of the dam, on the south side of the Yalu, 2,950 feet or just about a half mile away from Manchuria. That attack knocked turbines and transformers out of commission, and pockmarked the vertical downstream face of the dam only slightly, with no breaching intended. A blackout followed that lasted for two weeks.
The Battle of Old Baldy refers to a series of five engagements from June 26, 1952 and March 26, 1953 for Hill 266 in west-central Korea.
On July 4, the ROK National Assembly passed a constitutional amendment for direct popular presidential elections.
The Political Battle in America
The war in Korea did nothing to stop the Republicans in America from getting into squabbles with the Democrats over a variety of issues. With regards to communism, the Republican Party accused the Democrats of “selling out” Eastern Europe and betraying Chiang Kai-shek. The official Republican Party platform of July 7, 1952 (which Dwight D. Eisenhower stood behind) declared:
“[Roosevelt and Truman] flouted our peace-assuring pledges such as the Atlantic Charter, and did so in favor of despots, who, it was well-known, consider that murder, terror, slavery, concentration camps and the ruthless and brutal denial of human rights are legitimate means to their desired ends. Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam were the scenes of those tragic blunders with others to follow. The leaders of the Administration in power acted without the knowledge or consent of Congress or of the American people. They traded our overwhelming victory for a new enemy and for new oppressions and new wars which were quick to come.” [Spanier: 71]
This case against the Democratic Party and the idea of containment (which, in this author’s opinion, was poorly executed) had a resounding impact on the American people, as the elections of 1952 were soon to show.
On Friday, July 11, the Republican delegates voted and gave Eisenhower 595 votes to Taft’s 500. 604 were needed for an absolute majority. A second vote was requested, but before it could happen, Minnesota conceded its 19 votes for former Minnesota governor Harold Edward Stassen to Eisenhower, who then won 614-500. (Also on the ballot were Earl Warren, who took 80 votes and Douglas MacArthur, with a meager 10.) Richard M. Nixon was announced the Vice Presidential candidate a few hours later. [Phillips: 420]
A Tale of Two Prisoners
Colonel Frank H. Schwable, the chief of staff for the 1st Marine Air Wing, was shot down on July 8, 1952. He was easily identified, and became the second highest ranking American captured during the war (behind General Dean). The Chinese did not treat him well, denying him blankets and latrine privileges. After many long months, Schwable cracked on January 21, 1953, and signed a confession admitting to his knowledge of germ warfare. He name other officers involved and gave detailed information on the composition and personnel of marine units and of aircraft technology. [Goulden: 602-603]
In contrast, Master Sergeant John T. Cain was shot down by the Chinese on July 18, 1952. He did not have identification on him, but because of his gray hair, he was presumed incorrectly to be a higher ranking official. He was taken to Pichongni prison camp and stuck in a hole five feet square and six feet deep. In October, the rain would freeze around his feet, and he was made to stand at attention for five to eight hours a day. By mid-November, they blindfolded Cain and put him before a firing squad, giving him one last chance to speak. He refused to, and the Chinese then let him return to a POW camp. He divulged no informatio nand survived the war. [Goulden: 602]
RKO Pictures released “One Minute to Zero” on July 26, 1952, starring Robert Mitchum as Korean War soldier Colonel Steve Janowski. Although the Pentagon supported the film prior to its release, they quickly backpedaled when they saw the finished product. In one scene, Janowski has his men open fire at a column of refugees (not unlike No Gun Ri). A Pentagon memo noted their concern: “This sequence could be utilized for anti-American propaganda.”
The 19th Communist Party Congress
Surprisingly, in August 1952, Joseph Stalin called the 19th Party Congress to convene on October 5. This was surprising because despite the Party’s policy of meeting every three years, they had not had a prior Congress (the 18th) convene since 1939 — thirteen years ago. One could assume that Stalin expected the Congress to perform a specific function, quite possibly related to Korea. [LaFeber: 141]
The second ROK presidential election was held on August 5, and Rhee took 74% of the vote, running against disorganized opposition candidates. [Buzo: 85]
Republican In-Fighting: Eisenhower Attacks Taft
Eisenhower was pushed on August 21 to explain how his policies would differ from those of Truman and Acheson. He instead went after the proposed policies of Taft and MacArthur, saying their plans would get us into a war with China that would be “far more difficult to stop than the one we are in now.” But what stood out for many was Eisenhower’s inaccurate retelling of history:
“The terrible record of these years reaches its dramatic climax in a series of unforgettable scenes on Capitol Hill in June of 1949. By then the decision to complete withdrawal of American forces from Korea — despite menacing signs from the North — has been drawn up by the Department of State.”
In actuality, the recommendation for withdrawing troops came in May 1947, from Secretary of War Robert Patterson, a Republican. On September 26, 1947, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said America had “little strategic interest” in Korea, and thought troops would be put to better use elsewhere. Most damning? One of the signatories of this JCS memorandum was none other than General Eisenhower, the chief of staff for the Army!
A Case Of Poor Medical Treatment
Captain Molton A. Schuler, Jr. was involved in fighting in Chorwon, where the Chinese outnumbered the United Nations forces three to one. Schuler was hit by shrapnel, resulting in wounds to his neck, back and right leg. After being treated at a MASH unit, he was sent to a hospital in Tokyo, Japan. Schuler wrote to his wife:
“By now you have no doubt been notified that I was scratched up a bit on the morning of the 16th ‘in the vicinity of Chorwon, Korea.’ I only wish I could have beat the wire with a letter — this letter — for I know you were shocked.” [Carroll: 55]
Captain Schuler was right in reassuring his wife about his “scratches”, as the wounds were judged to be non-fatal. However, the medical attention he received was flawed: the blood transfusion he was given contained tainted blood plasma. Schuler died of hepatitis on August 24, 1952.
The Presidential Candidates Speak Out
Adlai Stevenson II spoke in Grand Rapids, Michigan on September 1, pointing out that he and Eisenhower share similar foreign policy goals. Stevenson said of Eisenhower, “He has gone further to set himself against the views of important members of his party who have called for enlarging the Korean war. I think he has done us all a service by saying these things.” [McKeever: 241]
On September 4, 1952 Republican nominee Dwight Eisenhower explained that the United States must protect “the far corners of the earth” which provide America with “materials essential to our industry and our defense.” This was far stronger language than Ike would use a month later. [LaFeber: 135]
Stevenson spoke at the commissioning ceremony for his son, Adlai III and his fellow Marines, at Quantico, Maryland, on September 20, 1952. “Why must you defend the country when your country seems to lie in peace around you? …It is not to make good the errors of the past that you are here but to make good the promise of the future. The fighting in which we are now engaged in Korea is fighting undertaken in the name of the common collective security of the great majority of the nations of the world against the brutal aggressiveness of one or more of them.”
Peace Talks Falter
On October 8, 1952, General Mark Clark called a halt to the “travesty” of the peace talks in Panmunjom (which Ted Barris says was little more than a “shattered village”), with the approval of Washington. America told China and North Korea that no plan would move forward until the Communists agreed to release American prisoners of war. Thus, the talks took a recess for six months. [Brodie: 102]
The Canadians, often forgotten, were struggling to defend what they called Hill 355 (and what Koreans called Kowang-san) on the evening of October 23. The Chinese artillery continuously bombarded this hill, destroying the protective minefields and barbed wire. Bunkers had caved in and telephone lines had been cut. It was about to become another slaughter.
The Presidential Candidates Speak Out, Part Two
Adlai Stevenson (who LaFeber calls the “literate” candidate) suggested on October 24, 1952 that American troops cannot leave Korea and allow “Asians to fight Asians”, like Eisenhower wanted. To do so “would risk a Munich in the Far East, with the probability of a third world war not far behind.” Stevenson saw the Asian upheavals rooted in nationalism — not international Communism, as Eisenhower did. [LaFeber: 135]
On the same day (October 24), Eisenhower spoke in Detroit at the Masonic Temple with much less militaristic language. He pledged that he would go to Korea, and saw the way of stopping Communism in Korea was by shaping “our psychological warfare program into a weapon capable of cracking the Communist front.” [LaFeber: 135] Said Eisenhower of ending the war in a speech written by Emmet John Hughes, “That job requires a personal trip to Korea. I shall make that trip. Only in that way could I learn how best how to serve the American people in the cause of peace. I shall go to Korea.” [Kaufman: 292]
Eisenhower’s pledge upset Truman, who felt this would weaken America’s power to negotiate. Stevenson tried to laugh off Eisenhower’s comments, joking that “If elected, I shall go to the White House.” But he could only laugh so much — Eisenhower had won the hearts and minds of Americans. Pro-Stevenson polls at the beginning of October had shifted.
Stevenson spoke in Brooklyn on October 31, questioning Eisenhower’s motives for going to Korea, and pointing to 50,000 POWs who “would rather kill themselves than return to their homeland.” [McKeever: 244] But the people had moved on, and Stevenson’s speeches were futile.
Eisenhower Reverses Course
In the middle of the war (November 1952), Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President of the United States with 33,936,234 (55.2% of the vote), compared to Stevenson’s 27,314,992 (44.3%). This is even more of a victory when seen as 442 electoral votes to 89. His policies can be viewed as contrary to the policies of Truman. Eisenhower was the first Republican president since 1932.
Also running, but receiving small fractions of the vote, were Progressive Vincent Hallinan, Prohibition candidate Stuart Hamblen and even General MacArthur.
On November 29, 1952, U.S. President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower fulfilled a campaign promise by going to Korea to find out what could be done to end the conflict.
Within his first year as president, he ended America’s involvement in the Korean War and began to decrease both troop levels and defense spending (both of which went down over the next few years).
General MacArthur Pushes for the Bomb
MacArthur went to the National Association of Manufacturers on December 5, and claimed to have a plan to end the Korean War without threat “of provoking universal conflict”. When he met with Eisenhower in mid-December, this plan proved to be far more risky than advertised. He suggested that America and the Soviet Union agree to make Germany, Austria, Japan and Korea neutral. If not, destruction of North Korea would ensue.
“This could be accomplished through the atomic bombing of enemy military concentrations and installations in North Korea and the sowing of fields of suitable radio-active materials, the byproducts of atomic manufacture, to close major lines of enemy supply and communication leading south from the Yalu, with simultaneous amphibious landings on both coasts of North Korea,” offered MacArthur.
Eisenhower responded that “if we’re going to bomb bases on the other side of the Yalu, if we’re going to extend the war, we have to make sure we’re not offending the whole world.”
By the end of 1952, the outstanding debt of the US Treasury totaled 61% of GDP. Truman got out of office at the right time, leaving Eisenhower a few messes to clean up.
Another Prison Riot
On December 14, 1952, a riot broke out at the POW camp on Pongamdo Island. UN guards ordered a group of prisoners to stop engaging in military drills, which ran counter to prison rules. In response, the prisoners began to pelt the guards with stones. By the end of the fighting, 85 prisoners were killed and another 113 were hospitalized, the biggest prison death toll of the war. [Kaufman: 302-303]
On February 7, 1953, DPRK Foreign Minister and South Korean Communist leader Pak Hon-yong made his last public appearance. He and his colleagues were publicly accused of factionalism.
General VanFleet Retires
On February 11, 1953 General James Alward VanFleet was relieved of duty by President Eisenhower so that he could go into retirement. His replacement as commander of the Eighth Army was Lieutenant General Maxwell Taylor, who would go on much later to be a central figure in the Vietnam War. [Brodie: 103]
Senator Pat McCarran Speaks
Senator Pat McCarran went to the Senate floor and spoke, March 2, 1953, “I believe that this nation is the last hope of Western civilization and if this oasis of the world shall be overrun, perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished. I take no issue with those who would praise the contributions which have been made to our society by people of many races, of varied creeds and colors. America is indeed a joining together of many streams which go to form a mighty river which we call the American way. However, we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible blocs which have not become integrated into the American way of life, but which, on the contrary are its deadly enemies. Today, as never before, untold millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States… I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this legislation succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond recognition, they will have contributed more to promote this nation’s downfall than any other group since we achieved our independence as a nation.”
The Death of Joseph Stalin
Stalin died on March 5, 1953 of a brain hemorrhage. He was succeeded by the proactive and conciliatory Georgy Maximilianovich Malenkov, who spoke on March 15, saying there were no disputes between Moscow and Washington “that cannot be decided by peaceful means, on the basis of mutual understanding.” [Kaufman: 306]
Stalin’s death is debatably the key turning point in the war, as Russia had lost their strongest leader. As Eisenhower wrote in his memoirs, “The new leadership in Russia, no matter how strong its links to the Stalin era, was not completely bound to blind obedience to the ways of a dead man.” [Goulden: 628]
When Stalin passed away, the leadership of the Communist Party died with him. Who was to take his place? Mao Zedong, the leader of China and a powerful force in the Korean Conflict against America, assumed (and probably rightly so) that he was the most powerful Communist in the world. Regardless, the leadership was handed down to another Russian, Nikita Khrushchev. To say Chairman Mao was upset would be an understatement. (Malenkov’s reign as Soviet president was short, with him not being the strong leader the Russian people wanted, making statements such as “a nuclear war could lead to global destruction.” Malenkov’s successor, Nikolai Bulganin, also served a short time before Khrushchev stepped in.)
Stevenson Goes to Korea
Adlai Stevenson, despite losing the 1952 election, landed in Pusan on Sunday, March 15, 1953 and was warmly met by the locals. Eisenhower had not visited this part of the country, so this was as close as they could get to an American leader. The next morning, Stevenson was driven to Seoul to have tea with Syngman Rhee. “The Democrats saved Korea. I hope now the Republicans will finish the task,” said Rhee. “I hope so, too,” Stevenson replied. [McKeever: 282]
Operation Little Switch
Premier Kim Il Sung of North Korea and General Peng Teh-huai, head of the Chinese Communist volunteers, surprised Clark on March 28 by accepting his offer to exchange sick and wounded POWs. They even went so far as to say this should settle the POW issue and lead to an armistice “for which people throughout the world are longing.” [Goulden: 630]
Chinese propaganda came from a loudspeaker near T-Bone (held by the Chinese) on the night of April 15. A woman’s voice announced, “If the UN goes home, the CCF would go home to China and leave Korea.” This was followed by a man’s voice inviting UN forces to “come over and get good chow”, saying “if you don’t, we will come over and kill you.” [McWilliams: 91]
Eisenhower gave the following speech at the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 16, 1953:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
On April 20, Operation Little Switch began, where sick and wounded POWs were exchanged at a point along the 38th parallel known as “Freedom Village”. The exchanges continued for almost two weeks. The UN returned a total of 6,670 POWs: 5,194 NKPA, 1030 CCF, and 446 civilian internees. In exchange, the UN received a total of only 684 POWs: 471 ROKs, 149 Americans, 32 Britons, 15 Turks and 17 other UN personnel. [McWilliams: 125]
Rhee Speaks Out (Again)
On April 26, 1953, the day before peace talks were to pick up again, President Syngman Rhee declared he could not accept any armistice that involved Chinese troops being left on Korean soil. [Brodie: 103]
The Air War Escalates
In early May 1953, American bombers destroyed hydroelectric power plants stationed along the Yalu River. Dams were also destroyed, flooding twenty-seven miles of farmland, turning it into nothing more than a swamp. The Air University Quarterly Review calculated these dams to be responsible for 75% of North Korea’s water supply for their rice production. Says the Review: “[T]o the Communists the smashing of the dams meant primarily the destruction of their chief sustenance — rice. The Westerner can little conceive the awesome meaning which the loss of this staple food commodity has for the Asian — starvation and slow death.” The Review further asserts the importance of these attacks when it says: “These strikes, largely passed over by the press, the military observers and news commentators in favor of attention-arresting but less meaningful operations events, constituted one of the significant air operations of the Korea War.” According to journalist Seymour Hersh, this “was the first deliberate military attack on irrigation targets since Hitler’s Luftwaffe destroyed dikes and dams in Holland late in World War II.” [Hersh: 52]
Clark, Rhee and Nuclear Weapons
President Rhee met with General Clark on May 12, where Rhee rejected the introduction of any neutral troops into South Korea — especially Poles, Czechs or Indians. He thought of them as political spies, saboteurs and
agitators. [Kaufman: 311]
A Garrison State?
Eisenhower turned to the idea of the “garrison state” towards the end of the war. At a May 14 press conference, he said, “We don’t want to become a garrison state. We want to remain free. Our plans, our programs, therefore, must conform to the practices of a free people, which means essentially a free economy. That is the problem that, frankly, this administration meets on, discusses, works on, every day of its life. There is no easy problem.”
He returned to the topic on May 19 during a radio address, saying “It is fact that there is no such thing as maximum military security short of total mobilization of all our national resources. Such security would compel us to imitate the methods of the dictator. It would compel us to put every able-bodied man in uniform–to regiment the worker, the farmer, the businessman–to allocate materials and to control prices and wages–in short, to devote our whole nation to the grim purposes of the garrison state. This, I firmly believe, is not the way to defend America.”
Battle of Yoke
May 19 and 20th featured the Battle of Yoke. It was summed up as follows:
“As a feat of arms by a small body of men, it was matchless. No other entry in the book of war more clearly attests that miracles are made when a leader whose coolness of head is balanced by his reckless daring becomes attended by a few steady men. Victory came not because of the artillery but because (Zeneke) Asfaw believed in it, willed it, then planned it.” [Marshall: 233-249]
On May 20, the National Security Council discussed what actions should be taken if the Communists did not accept the terms of the peace talks. The council decided on air and naval operations “directly against China and Manchuria” including “extensive strategical and tactical use of atomic bombs.” [Goulden: xxv]
In his memoirs, General Clark makes it known that on May 23, if the Communists rejected the final offer from the United Nations, he was authorized to “carry on the war in new ways never yet tried in Korea.” By this, Eisenhower meant nuclear weapons. [Clark: 267]
Third Battle of The Hook
The third Battle of the Hook was a battle that took place between a United Nations force, consisting mostly of British troops, supported on their flanks by American and Turkish artillery units against a predominantly Chinese force. It ran from May 28 to May 29, 1953.
Talks of Armistice
President Eisenhower wrote a letter to President Rhee on June 6, urging Rhee to accept terms of an armistice in order to bring the war to a halt. [Kaufman: 326]
NSC executive secretary James S. Lay (successor to Sidney W. Souers) presented a note to the National Security Council on June 15. He was concerned of what would happen if a truce was signed and then later breached. “The consequences of such a breach of the armistice would be so grave that, in all probability, it would not be possible to confine hostilities within the frontiers of Korea.”
Rhee responded to Eisenhower’s June 6 letter on June 16, writing that the Korean people appreciated Eisenhower’s offers of economic and military assistance. He rejected the armistice, however, on the grounds that “to accept such an armistice is to accept a death warrant.” Furthermore, “We cannot avoid seeing the cold fact that the counsels of appeasers have prevailed in altering the armistice position of the United States.” [Kaufman: 327]
In an effort to undermine the looming armistice, Rhee’s government broke free 25,000 North Korean POWs from four prison camps on June 18. Korean civilians were waiting to provide the escapees with food and shelter. As Rhee had acted without United Nations approval, this became a propaganda tool for the Communists, who had less reason to accept an armistice now. [Kaufman: 327] One of the early morning officers on duty at the Pusan POW compound was Sergeant Tim Maddox. Maddox recalled catching the escapees in the act. “The gate was wide open and the North Korean prisoners were running through on the double, carrying their ditty bags. I ran over to one of the ROK noncoms — they were just standing, watching — and asked what the hell was happening. He just shrugged and smiled.” [Goulden: 639]
On June 27, Rhee announced that Eisenhower had agreed to his terms, and wanted them put into writing. But before such an agreement could be written up, Rhee added more conditions. He wanted a larger army than twenty divisions, and requested that the United States provide full military support against the North Koreans if the country’s reunification did not happen within 90 days. [Kaufman: 330] Since clearly the reunification was unlikely, especially so soon, this was essentially a request to continue the war, not to call a truce.
Walter Robertson had spent some time with Rhee and did not think he was a man to toy around with. “I consider it inadvisable to make a threat of withdrawal unless we are willing to carry it out,” he cabled on July 2. “Rhee is a zealous, irrational and illogical fanatic and might well call our bluff.” [Goulden: 642]
Second Battle of Pork Chop Hill
On the night of July 6, 1953, using tactics identical to those in an April assault, the Chinese again attacked Pork Chop, a hill in the dead center of where the demilitarized zone would soon be. The hill was now held by Company A, 17th Infantry, under the temporary command of 1st Lt. Richard T. Shea, Jr, its executive officer. Company B of the same regiment, in ready reserve behind the adjacent Hill 200, was immediately ordered to assist, but within an hour, Company A reported hand-to-hand combat in the trenches. A major battle was brewing and division headquarters ordered a third company to move up. The battle was fought in a persistent monsoon rain for the first three days, making both resupply and evacuation of casualties difficult. The battle is notable for its extensive use of armored personnel carriers in both these missions.
On the second night, the Chinese made a new push to take the hill, forcing the 7th Division to again reinforce. Parts of four companies defended Pork Chop under a storm of artillery fire from both sides.
At dawn of July 8, the rain temporarily ended and the initial defenders were withdrawn. A fresh battalion, the 2nd Battalion of the 17th, counter-attacked and re-took the hill, setting up a night defensive perimeter.
On both July 9 and July 10, the two sides attacked and counter-attacked. A large part of both Chinese divisions were committed to the battle, and ultimately five battalions of the 17th and 32nd Infantry Regiments were engaged, making nine counter-attacks over four days. On the morning of July 11, the commander of the U.S. U.S. I Corps decided to abandon Pork Chop Hill to the Chinese and the 7th Division withdrew under fire. During the fight, on July 9, Syngman Rhee finally agreed to cease obstructing armistice talks. [McWilliams: 380]
Four of the thirteen U.S. company commanders were killed. Total U.S. casualties were 243 killed, 916 wounded, and nine captured. 163 of the dead were never recovered. Of the Republic of Korea troops attached to the 7th, approximately 15 were killed and 120 wounded. Chinese casualties were estimated at 1,500 dead and 4,000 wounded.
The War Ends, Casualties Counted
One last condition was met for armistice on the morning of July 27: the Koreans had to take down two large blue and white peace doves they had nailed over the negotiation building’s entrance. UN Command considered these to be “communist propaganda symbols”.
The Korean War came to an end with a ceasefire on July 27, 1953 at 10a.m. America and North Korea each sent a lieutenant general to meet in a special hut (called the “Peace Pagoda”) in Panmunjom, where they did not speak and each signed eighteen copies of the armistice agreement. Representing America and the United Nations was Lt. General William Kelly Harrison, allegedly a descendant of President William Henry Harrison. The North Korean People’s Army was represented by Nam Il. The entire event was over in seven minutes, with the ceasefire to go into effect at 10p.m. [McWilliams: 425]
According to Goettel, the American forces had 157,000 casualties with 53,000 deaths. [Goettel: 195] Brodie’s numbers differ considerably. He records 33,629 dead and 103,284 wounded Americans. The South Korean military suffered a staggering blow with 415,004 dead and 428,568 wounded — these figures not including those gone missing or the massive civilian deaths. The other United Nations allies had over 3000 dead and more than 12,500 wounded or missing. [Brodie: 106]
Such a large number of casualties would be unthinkable in 21st century warfare; the Iraqi conflict from 2003-2007, for example, had just over 3000 American deaths — 6% of Korea’s figures (although this number is increasing as the war is ongoing as of this writing).
When Eisenhower pulled the troops from Korea, the conflict was considered a stalemate. While America successfully prevented a North Korean takeover of South Korea, they failed to remove Communism from North Korea. For all practical purposes, nothing changed in the few years spent in Korea.
Creation of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
In the ceasefire of July 27, 1953, the Demilitarization Zone (DMZ) was created as each side agreed in the armistice to move their troops back 2,000 meters from the front line, creating a buffer zone four kilometers wide. The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) goes right down the center of the DMZ and indicates exactly where the front was when the agreement was signed. The armistice agreement was never followed by a peace treaty and technically the two Koreas are still at war.
Owing to this theoretical stalemate, and genuine hostility between the North and the South, large numbers of troops are still stationed along both sides of the line, each side guarding against potential aggression from the other side. The armistice agreement explains exactly how many military personnel and what kind of weapons are allowed in the DMZ itself. Soldiers from both sides do patrols inside the DMZ, but they may not cross the MDL.
The North failed in several assassination attempts on South Korean leaders, most notably in 1968, 1974 and 1983; tunnels were frequently found under the DMZ and war nearly broke out over the axe murder incident at Panmunjeom in 1976. In 1973, extremely secret, high-level contacts began to be conducted through the guise of the Red Cross, but ended after the Panmunjeom incident with little progress having been made.
Operation Big Switch
On August 3, there were major show trials of Southern Communists in the North. The major defendants were sentenced to death.
Starting August 5 and continuing for a month, POWs were returned. The UN returned 75,823 prisoners (70,183 North Koreans and 5640 Chinese). The North returned 12,773 men (3597 Americans and 7862 South Koreans). The United States made an announcement through the United Nations to the Communist nations on August 7 concerning reviving the war: “The consequences of such a breach of the armistice would be so grave that, in all probability, it would not be possible to confine hostilities within the frontiers of Korea.” [Goulden: 647]
On August 15, the ROK government returned to Seoul from Pusan.
Canadians Denied Benefits
Following the war, some Canadians found themselves with no benefits. Private George Griffiths was released from POW camp on August 23, 1953. After delousing and a good meal, he received medical attention — shrapnel was still buried in his body.
Griffiths went to the Kingston Veterans Affairs office to request $700 for a down payment on a house, but was in for a shock. According to the civil servant, “You have no benefits. It wasn’t a war… Not officially, anyway.” [Barris: 7]
The war came home to America in its own way. On September 2, 1953, Arthur H. Hunter was in an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. After a bit of drinking, he exploded with rage, punching his wife and mother-in-law. He threw furniture out the second-story window, grabbed a baby, and ran into the street while swinging the child over his head. Five policemen were necessary to wrestle him down and strap him to a gurney; he was wheeled off to Fort Belvoir for treatment. This breakdown lead to Hunter’s military benefits being revoked, despite previous commendations for bravery and having been seriously wounded by a missile.
On October 1, the ROK-USA Mutual Security Pact was signed, constituting the cornerstone of ROK defense.
Changes happened following the end of the war, but they were relatively moderate. Syngman Rhee held on to power for a few more years until resigning in 1960, political activity was repressed in the South in December 1958 with the National Security Law, and Russia continued to break ties with China. The dissolution of Sino-Soviet relations was due more to the death of Stalin than to any outcome of the war, however. Could Communism have been stopped without intervening?
The Military-Industrial Complex
Looking back on the Korean War, we are left thinking that much of this death and bloodshed was unwarranted. Little if any advantage was gained by America. George Kennan’s moderate positions ignored, the country began down a new path — a path where military might overshadows the other great powers of the American people.
Eisenhower, upon leaving the presidency on January 17, 1961, warned the nation of the ability for the military and a military-based economy to overtake the country and its priorities:
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience; we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
If America’s annual defense budget, or its entry into such wars as Vietnam or Iraq, is any indication, the words of President Eisenhower fell on deaf ears.
South Korean Troubles, Post-War
Although North Korean repression of its citizens is well known, South Korea had its own troubles.
In May 1961, Major General Park Chung-hee overthrew Prime Minister Chang Myon and declared himself the new president, a post he would hold on to for 17 years. He would be the target of assassins himself, almost killed by an explosion at the National Cemetery in 1972. In August 1974, Communist sympathizer Mun Se-gwang opened fire at the National Theater, causing Park to duck behind a podium. His wife, First Lady Yuk Young-soo, was struck and died. (Their daughter, Park Geun-hye, became South Korea’s president in 2013.)
Park himself was assassinated on Friday, October 26, 1979 at 7:41pm during a dinner at a Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) safehouse inside the Blue House presidential compound, Gungjeong-dong, Seoul by Kim Jae-kyu, who was the director of KCIA and the president’s security chief. Park was shot in the chest and head, and died almost immediately. Four bodyguards and a presidential chauffeur were also killed.
Park was draconian in keeping down dissent and was not above using torture. His time in power did have a positive side effect on the economy, however. Because of Park’s commitment to helping American forces in Vietnam, there was a great deal of American investment in the country throughout the 1960s and 1970s. South Korea became a leader in iron and steel production, commercial shipbuilding, automobiles, electronics, chemicals and other consumer goods.
Principle among the businesses that profited from American investment was Samsung, a company that began in the 1930s but really took off in the 1960s. Notable Samsung industrial subsidiaries include Samsung Electronics (the world’s largest information technology company measured by 2012 revenues, and 4th in market value), Samsung Heavy Industries (the world’s 2nd-largest shipbuilder measured by 2010 revenues), and Samsung Engineering and Samsung C&T (respectively the world’s 13th and 36th-largest construction companies). Other notable subsidiaries include Samsung Life Insurance (the world’s 14th-largest life insurance company), Samsung Everland (operator of Everland Resort, the oldest theme park in South Korea), Samsung Techwin (an aerospace, surveillance and defense company) and Cheil Worldwide (the world’s 15th-largest advertising agency measured by 2012 revenues).