PEACE BECOMES COLD WAR, 1945-1950
AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY
ARMY HISTORICAL SERIES
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF MILITARY HISTORY
UNITED STATES ARMY
Peace Becomes Cold War, 1945-1950
The United States did not return to its prewar isolationism after World War II. The balance of power in Europe and Asia and the safety of ocean distances east and west that made isolation possible had vanished, the balance upset by the war, the protection of oceans eliminated by advances in air transportation and weaponry. There was now little inclination to dispute the essential rightness of the position espoused by Woodrow Wilson after World War I that the nations of the world were interdependent, the peace indivisible. "We are participants," Wilson had said, "whether we would or not, in the life of the world. We are partners with the rest. What affects mankind is inevitably our affair as well as the affair of the nations of Europe and of Asia." Indeed, in the years immediately following World War II, full participation in world events became a governing dynamic of American life.
In the immediate wake of the war the hopes of the American Government and people rested in the United Nations Organization formed at San Francisco in 1945 to provide a world program of collective security. The fifty countries signing the U.N. Charter agreed to employ ". . . effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression . . .," including the use of armed force if peaceful measures failed. A U.N. Security Council received authority to determine when He peace was threatened and what counteraction was to be taken and to call on member states to furnish military formations when armed force was deemed necessary. Founder members of the United Nations included the United States, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom, China, and France; each of them received permanent representation on the Security Council and the power of veto over any council action. Since the United Nations' effectiveness depended largely upon the full cooperation of these five countries, the primary objective of American foreign policy as the postwar era opened was to continue and strengthen the solidarity those nations had displayed during the war.
A clear responsibility of U.S. membership in the United Nations was to maintain sufficient military power to permit an effective contribution to any U.N. force that might be necessary. Other than this, it was difficult, in the
immediate aftermath of war, to foresee national security requirements in the changed world and, consequently, to know the proper shape of a military establishment to meet them. The immediate task was to demobilize the great war machine assembled during the war and, at the same time, maintain occupation troops in conquered and liberated territories. Beyond this lay the problems of deciding the size and composition of the postwar armed forces and of estate" fishing the machinery through which national security policy would be determined and the military establishment governed.
The Army and Navy had worked separately during the war to determine what their postwar strengths should be and had produced plans for an orderly demobilization. The Navy developed a program for 600,000 men, 370 combat and 5,000 other ships, and 8,000 aircraft. The Army Air Forces was equally specific, setting its sights on becoming a separate service with 400,000 members, 70 air wings, and a complete organization of supporting units. The Army initially established as an over-all postwar goal a Regular and Reserve structure capable of mobilizing four million men within a year of any future outbreak of war; later it set the strength of the active ground and air forces at one and a half million. Demobilization plans called for the release of troops on an individual basis, each man receiving point credit for length of service, combat participation and awards, time spent overseas, and parenthood. The shipping available to bring overseas troops home and the capacity to process discharges were considered in setting the number of points determining eligibility for release, with the whole scheme aimed at producing a systematic transition to a peacetime military structure.
Pressure for faster demobilization from an articulate public, the Congress, and the troops themselves upset the plans for an orderly demobilization. The Army, which felt the greatest pressure, responded by easing the eligibility requirement and releasing half its eight million troops by the end of 1945. Early in 1946, when the Army cut down the return of troops from abroad in order to meet its overseas responsibilities, a crescendo of protest greeted the move, including troop demonstrations in the Philippines, China, England, France, Germany, Hawaii, and even California. The public cry diminished only after the Army more than halved its remaining strength during the first six months of 1946.
President Truman, determined to balance the national budget, meanwhile developed and through fiscal year 1950 employed a "remainder method" of
calculating military budgets, subtracting all other expenditures from revenues before recommending a military appropriation. The dollar ceiling applied for fiscal year 1947 dictated a new maximum Army strength of just over one million. To reach it, the Army issued no more draft calls and released all postwar draftees along with the remaining troops eligible for demobilization. By June 30, 1947, the Army was a volunteer body of 684,000 ground troops and 306,000 airmen. (The Navy was meanwhile reduced to a strength of 484,000, the Marine Corps to 92,000.) It was still a large peacetime Army, but shortages of capable maintenance troops resulted in a widespread deterioration of equipment, and remaining Army units, understrength and infused with briefly trained replacements, were only shadows of the efficient organizations they had been at the end of the war.
While demobilization proceeded, civil and military officials alike wrestled with the task of reorganizing the national security system to cope with a changed world. The basic need, long recognized and proved anew by World War II, was unified control at the national level and at major military command levels. During the war this control had been accomplished through temporary arrangements. After the war, some permanent merger of ground, air, and naval forces under the authority of a single civilian member of the President's cabinet and the establishment of a statutory body where all plans and policies bearing on national security could be integrated seemed necessary. After long arguments over the degree of central authority to be imposed on the armed forces and over roles and missions to be assigned each service, the National Security Act of 1947 was passed as a first effort to achieve these ends.
The principal creations of the act were a National Security Council and a National Military Establishment. The latter, though not an executive department of the Federal government, was headed by a civilian Secretary of Defense with cabinet rank. The Air Force became a separate service equal with the Army and Navy; and all three were designated as executive departments and headed by civilian secretaries who, though they lacked cabinet rank, had direct access to the President.
Members of the National Security Council included the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, the three service secretaries, and heads of other governmental agencies as appointed by the President. One of the appointees was the Chairman of the National Security Resources Board, an agency also established by the act to handle the problems of industrial, manpower, and raw material mobilization in support of an over-all national strategy. In theory, the National
Security Council was to develop co-ordinated diplomatic, military, and industrial plans; recommend integrated national security policies to the President; and guide the execution of those policies approved. In practice, because the responsibility was inherently so complicated, the council would produce something less than precise policy determinations.
The national military establishment included the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense exercised general direction over the three departments. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, composed of the military chiefs of the three services, became a statutory body seated in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and functioned as the principal military advisers to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense. They were also responsible for formulating joint military plans, establishing unified commands in various areas of the world, and giving strategic director to those commands. Under this dispensation, unified commands were established by mid-1950 in the Far East, the Pacific, Alaska, the Caribbean, and Europe. Within each, at least theoretically, Army, Navy, and Air Force troops were under commanders of their respective services and under the overall supervision of a commander in chief designated from one of the services by the Joint Chiefs. But it would take some time for the principle of unity of command to be completely applied in all areas.
Under the Security Act, each military service retained much of its former autonomy since it was administered within a separate department. Interservice accord on roles and missions negotiated in 1948 by James V. Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense, tended to harden the separation. The Army received primary responsibility for conducting operations on land, for supplying antiaircraft units to defend the United States against air attack, and for providing occupation and security garrisons overseas. The Navy, besides remaining responsible for surface and submarine operations, retained control of its sea-based aviation and of the Marine Corps with its organic aviation. The new Air Force received jurisdiction over strategic air warfare, air transport, and combat air support of the Army.
The signal weakness of the act, however, was not that it left the armed forces more federated than unified, but that the Secretary of Defense, empowered to exercise only general supervision, could do little more than encourage cooperation among the departments. Furthermore, the direct access to the President given the three service secretaries tended to confuse the lines of authority. These faults prompted an amendment to the act in 1949 by which the National Military Establishment was converted into an executive depart-
ment and renamed the Department of Defense. The Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force were reduced from executive departments to military departments within the Department of Defense; a chairman without vote was added to the Joint Chiefs; and the Secretary of Defense received the appropriate responsibility and authority to make him truly the central figure in co-ordinating the activities of the three services. In extension of civilian control, the three service secretaries retained authority to administer affairs within their respective departments; and the departments remained the principal operating agencies for administering, training, and supporting their respective forces.
Unification also touched the military school system, although each service continued to conduct courses to meet its own specialized needs. Three schools were opened to educate senior officers of all the services and selected civilians: an Armed Forces Staff College to train selected officers in planning and executing joint military operations, an Industrial College of the Armed forces to instruct senior officers in the many aspects of mobilizing the nation's resources for war, and a National War College to develop selected officers and civilians for duties connected with the execution of national policy.
A new Uniform Code of Military Justice applying to all the armed forces was enacted by Congress in May 1950. This code, besides prescribing uniformity, reduced the severities of military discipline in the interest of improving the lot of the individual serviceman. In another troop matter, part of a larger effort in the area of civil rights, President Truman directed the armed forces to eliminate all segregation of troops by race. The Navy and the Air Force abolished their all-Negro units by June 1950, whereas the Army, with more Negro members than its sister services, would take some four years longer to desegregate.
Throughout demobilization about half the Army's diminishing strength remained overseas, the bulk involved in the occupation of Germany and Japan. Another large force was in liberated Korea, along with a Soviet force, both armies having sent units to accept the surrender of Japanese troops stationed there and to occupy the country.
Under a common occupation policy developed principally in conferences at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945, the Allied Powers assumed joint sovereign authority over Germany. American, British, Soviet, and French forces occupied separate zones, and national matters came before an Allied Control Council composed of the commanders of the four occupation armies. Berlin, itself lying deep in the Soviet zone in eastern Germany, was similarly divided and governed.
In the American zone, Army occupation troops proceeded rapidly with disarmament, demilitarization, and the eradication of Nazi influence from German life. American officials meanwhile participated as members of an International Military Tribunal which tried 22 major leaders of the Nazi party, sentencing 12 to death, imprisoning 7, and acquitting 3. An Office of Military Government supervised German civil affairs within the American zone, working increasingly through German local, state, and zonal agencies which military government officials staffed with men who were politically reliable. A special U.S. Constabulary, organized by the Army as demobilization cut away the strength of units in Germany, operated as a mobile police force.
Each of the other occupying powers organized its zone along similar lines. But the Allied Control Council, which could act only by unanimous agreement, failed to achieve unanimity on such nationwide matters as central economic administrative agencies, political parties, labor organizations, foreign and internal trade, currency, and land reform. USSR demands and dissents were chiefly responsible for the failures. Each zone inevitably became a self-contained administrative and economic unit, and some two years after the German surrender very little progress had been made toward the reconstruction of German national life. The eventual result, first taking shape in September ~949, was a divided Germany: the Federal Republic of Germany in the area of the American, British, and French zones; a Communist government in the Soviet zone in the east.
The occupation of Japan proceeded along different lines as a result of President Truman's insistence that the whole of Japan come under American control. Largely because the war in the Pacific had been primarily an American war, the President secured Allied approval of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, for the occupation of Japan. A Far East Advisory Commission representing the eleven nations that had fought against Japan was seated in Washington; and a branch of that body, with representatives from the United States, Great Britain, China, and the USSR, was located in Tokyo. These provided forums for Allied viewpoints on occupation policies, but the real power rested in General MacArthur.
Unlike Germany, Japan retained its government, which, under the supervision of General MacArthur's occupation troops, disarmed the nation rapidly and without incident. An International Military Tribunal similar to the one that functioned in Germany tried twenty-five high military and political officials, sentencing seven to death. MacArthur meanwhile encouraged reforms to alter the old order of government in which the emperor claimed power by divine right and exercised rule through an oligarchy of military, bureaucratic, and
economic cliques. By mid-1947, the free election of a new Diet and a thorough revision of the nation's constitution began the transformation of Japan into a constitutional democracy with the emperor's role limited to that of a constitutional monarch. The way was thus open for the ultimate restoration of Japan's sovereignty.
West of the Japanese islands, on the peninsula of Korea jutting out from the central Asian mainland, the course of occupation resembled that in Germany. USSR forces, following their brief campaign against the Japanese in Manchuria, had moved into Korea from the north in August 1945. U.S. Army forces, departing their last battleground on Okinawa, entered from the south a month later. The 38th parallel of north latitude crossing the peninsula at its waist was set as the boundary between forces as the two nations released Korea from forty years of Japanese rule, the Americans accepting the Japanese surrender south of the line, the Soviets above it.
According to wartime agreements, Korea was to receive full independence following a period of Allied military occupation during which native leadership was to be regenerated and the country's economy rehabilitated. Very quickly the 38th parallel represented a complication in restoring Korea's sovereignty. For while the parallel had been designated only as a boundary between forces, the Soviets considered it a permanent delineation between occupation zones. This interpretation, as in Germany, ruptured the administrative and economic unity of the country.
Hope of removing this obstacle rose when the United States presented the problem during a meeting of foreign ministers at Moscow in December 1945. The ministers agreed that a joint U.S.-USSR commission would develop a provisional Korean government and that a four-power trusteeship composed of the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and China would guide the provisional government for a maximum of five years. But in the meetings of the commission, the Soviet members revealed a willingness to reunite Korea only if the provisional government was Communist-dominated. Persistent Soviet demands to this end were matched by equally persistent American refusals. The resulting impasse finally prompted the United States to lay the whole Korean question before the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 1947.
The Rise of a New Opponent
Soviet intransigence, as demonstrated in Germany, in Korea, and in other areas, dashed American hopes for Great Power unity. The USSR, Winston Churchill warned in a speech at Fulton, Missouri, early in 1946, was lowering
an "iron curtain" across the European continent. It successfully, and quickly, drew eastern Germany, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Albania behind that curtain. In Greece, where political and economic disorder led to civil war, the rebels received support from Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. In the Near East, the Soviets kept a grip on Iran by holding troops placed there during the war beyond the time specified in the wartime arrangement. They also tried to intimidate Turkey into giving them special privileges in connection with the strategic Dardanelles. In Asia, besides insisting on full control in northern Korea, the USSR, it appeared, had turned Manchuria over to the Chinese Communists under Mao Tse-tung and was encouraging Mao in his renewed effort to wrest power from Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang government.
Whatever the impulse behind the Soviet drive, whether it was a search for national security or a desire to promote Communist world revolution in keeping with Marxist doctrine, the USSR strategy appeared to be one of expansion. The United States could see no inherent limits to the outward push. Each Communist gain, it seemed, would serve as a springboard from which to try another; and a large part of the world, still suffering from the ravages of war, offered tempting opportunities for further Soviet expansion. The American response was a policy of containment, of blocking any extension of Communist influence. But, viewing the European continent as the main area of Soviet expansion, the United States at first limited its containment policy to western Europe and the Mediterranean area and attempted other solutions to the problem in Asia.
China, in any case, presented a dilemma. On the one hand, it was doubtful that Chiang Kai-shek could defeat the Communists with aid short of direct American participation in the civil war. Such participation was considered unacceptable. On the other hand, an attempt, through the efforts of General of the Army George C. Marshall following his Army retirement, to negotiate an end to the war on terms that would place the Kuomintang in full authority proved futile. The United States, consequently, adopted the attitude of "letting the dust settle." Part of the basis for this attitude was a prevalent American view that the Chinese Communist revolt was more Chinese than Communist, that its motivation was nationalistic, not imperialistic. Hence, though the dust appeared to be settling in favor of the Chinese Communists by the end of ~948, there was some hope that American-Chinese friendship could be restored whenever and however the conflict ended.
Next door in Korea, the division between north and south had become a reality by the end of 1948. After the Korean problem was referred to the United Nations, that body sent a commission to supervise free elections throughout the
peninsula. But USSR authorities, declaring the U.N. project illegal, refused the commission entry above the 38th parallel. The U.N. then sponsored an elected government in the southern half of the peninsula, which in August 1948 became the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The Soviets countered during the following month by establishing a Communist government, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), above the parallel. Three months later, they announced the withdrawal of their occupation forces. The United States followed suit, withdrawing its troops by mid-Ig4g except for an advisory group left behind to help train the South Korean armed forces.
In the main arena in western Europe and in the Mediterranean area, blunt diplomatic exchanges finally produced a withdrawal of Soviet forces from Iran. But it was around American economic strength that the United States constructed a basic containment strategy, a resort based on judgment that the American monopoly on atomic weapons would cause the USSR to forgo direct military aggression in favor of exploiting civil strife in those countries prostrated by the war. The American strategy hence was to provide economic assistance to friends and former enemies alike to alleviate the conditions of distress conducive to Communist expansion.
To ease the situations in Turkey and Greece, President Truman in 1947 obtained $400 million from Congress with which to assist those two countries. "I believe," the President declared, "that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures . . . that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way . . . that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes." This philosophy, to become well known as the Truman Doctrine, was limited in application at the time, but it was destined to have wide significance for it, in effect, placed the United States in the position of opposing Communist expansion in any part of the world.
A broader program of economic aid followed. General Marshall, who became Secretary of State in January 1947, proposed that economic recovery in Europe be pursued as a single task, not nation by nation, and that the resources of European countries be combined with American aid within a single program. This "Marshall Plan" drew an immediate response wherein sixteen nations (who also considered the needs and resources of western Germany) devised a four-year European Recovery Program incorporating their resources and requiring some $I6 billion from the United States. The Congress balked when President Truman first asked for approval of the program but appropriated funds for the first year in April 1948, after the USSR had engineered a coup d'etat that
placed a Communist government in power in Czechoslovakia. The USSR, though invited in a last effort to promote Great Power unity, had refused to participate in the program and discouraged the initial interest displayed by some countries within its sphere of influence. In further counteraction, the Soviet Union in October 1947 had organized the Cominform, a committee for coordinating Communist parties in Europe whose aim was to fight the Marshall Plan as "an instrument of American imperialism."
Meanwhile, to protect the Western Hemisphere against Communist intrusion, the United States in September 1947 helped devise the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), the first regional arrangement for collective defense under provisions of the U.N. Charter. Eventually signed by all twenty-one American republics, the treaty served notice that armed aggression against one signatory would be considered an attack upon all. Responses, by independent choice of each signatory, could range from severance of diplomatic relations through economic sanctions to military counteraction.
In March 1948, a second regional arrangement, the Brussels Treaty, drew five nations of western Europe—Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—into a long-term economic and military alliance. The signatories received encouragement from President Truman, who declared before the Congress his confidence ". . . that the determination of the free countries of Europe to protect themselves will be matched by an equal determination on our part to help them...." Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan followed with a resolution, passed in the Senate in June 1948, authorizing the commitment of American military strength to regional alliances such as the Brussels Treaty.
Out of all of this grew the real basis of postwar international relations: West versus East, anti-Communists against Communists, those nations aligned with the United States confronting those assembled under the leadership of the Soviet Union, a cold war between power blocs. Leadership of the western bloc fell to the United States, since the fortunes of war had left it the only western power with sufficient resources to take the lead in containing Soviet expansion.
The Trends of Military Policy
Although pursued as a program of economic assistance, the American policy of containment nonetheless needed military underwriting. Containment, first of all, was a defensive measure. The USSR, moreover, had not completely demobilized. On the contrary, it was maintaining over four million men under arms, keeping armament industries in high gear, and rearming some of its
satellites. Hence, containment needed the support of a military policy of deterrence, of a military strategy and organizational structure possessing sufficient strength and balance to discourage any Soviet or Soviet-supported military aggression.
Postwar military policy, however, did not develop as a full response to the needs of containment. For one reason, mobilization in the event of war, not the maintenance of ready forces to prevent war, was the traditional and current trend of American peacetime military thinking. A principal feature of mobilization planning was an effort to install universal military training. This effort was a particular response to technological advances which had eliminated the grace of time and distance formerly permitting the nation to mobilize its untrained citizenry after a threat of war became real, and which therefore posed a need for a huge reservoir of trained men. Late in 1945, President Truman asked the Congress for legislation requiring male citizens to undergo a year of military training (not service) upon reaching the age of eighteen or after completing high school. Universal military training quickly became the subject of wide debate. Objections ranged from mild criticism that it was ". . . a system in which the American mind finds no pleasure" to its denunciation as a "Nazi program." Regardless of the President's urgings, studies that produced further justification, and various attempts to make the program more palatable, the Congress over the five years following the President's first proposal refused to act on the controversial issue.
Without universal military training, the provision of trained strength with which to reinforce a nucleus of Regular forces at mobilization depended almost entirely upon the older system of using civilian components. This Reserve strength, like that of the Regular forces, was affected by limited funds. Enrollment in the National Guard and Reserves of all three services at mid-1950 totaled over two and a half million. But, owing in large part to restricted budgets, members in active training numbered less than one million. The bulk of this active strength rested in the Army's National Guard and Organized Reserve Corps. The National Guard, with 325,000 members, included twenty-seven understrength divisions. The active strength of the Organized Reserve Corps, some 186,000, was vested mainly in a multitude of small combat support and service units, these, too, generally understrength. A final source of trained strength was the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, it which at midterm in fiscal year 1950 about 219,000 high school and college students were enrolled.
Also inhibiting a response to the military needs of containment was the influence of World War II, above all, the advent of the atomic bomb. The
tendency was to consider the American nuclear monopoly as the primary deterrent to direct Soviet military action and to think only in terms of total war. Obversely, the possibility of lesser conflicts in which the bomb would be neither politically nor militarily relevant was almost completely disregarded.
Budgetary limitations to a great extent governed the size of the armed forces. From the figure reached at the end of demobilization, the total strength of active forces gradually decreased under the limited appropriations. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps suffered losses in strength, whereas the Air Force actually grew somewhat larger. About a third of the Air Force constituted the Strategic Air Command, whose heavy bombers armed with atomic bombs represented the main deterrent to Soviet military aggression. Louis A. Johnson, who became Secretary of Defense in March 1949, gave full support to a defense based primarily on strategic air power, largely because of his dedication to economy. Intent on ridding the Department of Defense of what he considered "costly war-born spending habits," Secretary Johnson reduced defense expenditures below even the restrictive ceilings in President Truman's recommendations. As a result, by mid-1950 the Air Force, with 411,000 members, was barely able to maintain forty-eight air wings. The Navy, with a strength of 377,000, had 670 ships in its active fleet and 4,300 operational aircraft. In the Marine Corps, which had 75,000 men, the battle units amounted to skeletons of two divisions and two air wings. The Army, down to 591,000 members, had its combat strength vested in ten divisions and five regimental combat teams. The constabulary in Germany was equal to another division.
As evident in the strength reductions, mobilization strategy, and heavy reliance on the atomic bomb and strategic air power, the idea of deterring aggression through balanced ready forces had little place in the development of postwar military policy. The budgetary limitations made clear that military policy, caught as it often is between conflicting domestic pressures and foreign challenges, had responded more to domestic interests; and the roles played by traditional thinking and the influence of World War II invite the observation that, while foreign policy was being adjusted to a new opponent and a new kind of conflict, military policy was being developed mainly with earlier enemies and an all-out war in mind.
The Army of 1950
As the Army underwent its postwar reduction, from 8 million men and 89 divisions in 1945 to 591,000 men and 10 divisions in 1950, it also underwent numerous structural changes. At the department level, changes were made in
1946 to restore the General Staff to its prewar position. The principal adjustment toward this end was the elimination of the very powerful Operations Division (OPD), where control of wartime operations had been centralized. The prewar structure of the General Staff was restored with five coequal divisions under new names: Personnel and Administration; Intelligence; Organization and Training; Service, Supply and Procurement; and Plans and Operations. Also in 1946, Headquarters, Army Service Forces, was abolished, and the administrative and technical services serving under that headquarters during the war regained their prewar status as departmental agencies. In 1948, Army Ground Forces was redesignated Army Field Forces.
These and other organizational changes instituted or planned over the first five postwar years became a matter of statute with passage of an Army Reorganization Act in 1950. The act confirmed the power of the Secretary of the Army to administer departmental affairs. Under him, the Army Chief of Staff was responsible for the Army's readiness and operational plans, and for carrying out, worldwide, the approved plans and policies of the department. He had the assistance of general and special staffs whose size and composition could be adjusted as requirements changed. Below the Chief of Staff, the Chief of Army Field Forces was directly responsible for developing tactical doctrine, for controlling the Army school system, and for supervising the field training of Army units. Most of the training and schools were conducted within six Continental Army Areas into which the United States was divided.
Under the new act, the Secretary of the Army received authority to determine the number and strength of the Army's combat arms and services. Three combat arms—infantry, armor, and artillery—received statutory recognition. The last represented a merger of the old field artillery, coast artillery, and antiaircraft artillery. Armor was made a continuation of another older arm, now eliminated, the cavalry. The services numbered fourteen and included The Adjutant General's Corps, Army Medical Service, Chaplains Corps, Chemical Corps, Corps of Engineers, Finance Corps, Inspector General's Corps, Judge Advocate General's Corps, Military Police Corps, Ordnance Corps, Quartermaster Corps, Signal Corps, Transportation Corps, and Women's Army Corps. Army Aviation, designated neither arm nor service, existed as a quasi arm equipped with small fixed-wing craft and helicopters.
The better Army troops at mid-1950 were among a large but diminishing group of World War II veterans. The need to obtain replacements quickly during demobilization, the distractions and relaxed atmosphere of occupation duty, and a postwar training program less demanding than that of the war
years impeded the combat readiness of newer Army members. The new Uniform Code of Military Justice, because it softened military discipline, was considered in some quarters as likely to blunt the Army's combat ability even more.
Half the Army's major combat units were deployed overseas. Of the ten divisions, four infantry divisions were part of the Far East Command on occupation duty in Japan. Another infantry division was with the European Command in Germany. The remaining five were in the United States, constituting a General Reserve to meet emergency assignments. These included two airborne infantry divisions, two infantry divisions, and an armored division. All ten had undergone organizational changes, most of them prompted by the war experience. Under new tables of organization and equipment, the firepower and mobility of a division received a boost through the addition of a tank battalion and an antiaircraft battalion and through a rise in the number of pieces in each artillery battery from four to six. At regimental level, the cannon and antitank companies of World War II days were dropped; the new tables added a tank company, 4.2-inch mortar company, and 57-mm. and 75-mm. recoilless rifles. The postwar economies, however, had forced the Army to skeletonize its combat units. Nine of the 10 divisions were far understrength, infantry regiments had only 2 of the normal 3 battalions, most artillery battalions had only 2 of the normal 3 firing batteries, and organic armor was generally lacking. No unit had its wartime complement of weapons, and those weapons on hand as well as other equipment were largely worn leftovers from World War II. None of the combat units, as a result, came anywhere near possessing the punch conceived under the new organizational design.
The Cold War Intensifies
The deterioration in military readiness through mid-1950 proceeded in the face of a worsening trend in international events, especially from mid-1948 forward. In Germany, in further protest against western attempts to establish a national government, and in particular against efforts to institute currency reforms in Berlin, the USSR in June 1948 moved to force the Americans, British, and French out of the capital by blockading the road and rail lines through the Soviet occupation zone over which troops and supplies from the west reached the Allied sectors of the city. General Lucius D. Clay, the American military governor, countered by devising an airlift in which U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force troops, with some help from the British, loaded and flew in food, fuel, and other necessities to keep the Allied sectors of Berlin supplied. The success of the airlift and a telling counterblockade in which shipments of goods formerly
reaching the Soviet sector from western Germany were shut off finally moved the Soviets to lift the blockade in May 1949.
Meanwhile, in April 1949, the United States joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance growing out of the Brussels Treaty. NATO joined the United States with Canada and ten western European nations under terms by which ". . . an armed attack against one or more of them . . . shall be considered an attack against them all," a provision specifically aimed at discouraging a Soviet march in Europe. The signatories agreed to earmark forces for service under NATO direction. In the United States, the budgetary restrictions, mobilization strategy, and continuing emphasis on air power and the bomb handicapped military commitment to the alliance. An effort at the time by some officials to increase the nation's conventional forces against the possibility of a conflict in which atomic retaliation would be an excessive answer was defeated by the basic budget ceiling and Secretary of Defense Johnson's ardent economy drive. Through NATO membership, nevertheless, the United States certified that it would fight if necessary to protect common Allied interests in Europe and thus enlarged the policy of containment beyond the economic realm.
Concurrently with negotiations leading to the NATO alliance, the National Security Council reconsidered the whole course of postwar military aid. Under different programs, some of them continuations of World War II aid, the United States was by 1949 providing military equipment and training assistance to Greece, Turkey, Iran, China, Korea, the Philippines, and the Latin American republics. The National Security Council recommended and President Truman proposed to the Congress that all existing programs, including those conceived for NATO members, be combined into one. The result was the Mutual Defense Assistance Program of October 1949. The Department of the Army, made executive agency for the program, sent each recipient country a military assistance advisory group. Composed of Army, Navy, and Air Force sections, each advisory group assisted its host government in determining the amount and type of aid needed and helped train the armed forces of each country in the use and tactical employment of materiel received from the United States.
A new and surprising turn came in the late summer of 1949 when, from two to three years ahead of western bloc estimates, an explosion over Siberia announced Soviet possession of an atomic weapon. On the heels of the USSR's achievement, the civil war in China ended in favor of the Chinese Communists. Chiang Kai-shek was forced to withdraw to the island of Taiwan (Formosa) in December 1949. Two months later, Communist China and the USSR negotiated a treaty of mutual assistance, an ominous event for the rest of Asia.
The loss of the nuclear monopoly prompted a broad review of the entire political and strategic position of the United States, a task carried out at top staff levels in the National Security Council, Department of State, and Department of Defense. A special National Security Council committee at the same time considered the specific problem posed by the Soviet achievement. Out of the committee effort came a decision to intensify research already begun on the development of a hydrogen bomb to assure the United States the lead in the field of nuclear weapons. Out of the broader review, completed in April 1950, came recommendations for a large expansion of American military, diplomatic, and economic efforts to meet the changed world situation. The planning staffs in the Department of Defense began at once to translate the military recommendations into force levels and budgets. There remained the question of whether the plans when completed would persuade President Truman to lift the ceiling on military appropriations, but as a result of events in Asia this question was never put to the test.
After the Communist victory in China, the United States applied its policy of containment in Asia. In January 1950, Dean G. Acheson, who a year earlier had become Secretary of State, publicly defined the U.S. "defense line" in Asia as running south from the Aleutian Islands to Japan, to the Ryukyu Islands, and then to the Philippines. This delineation raised a question about Taiwan and Korea, which lay outside the line. These areas were not completely disregarded. Secretary Acheson pointed out that if they were attacked, ". . . the initial reliance must be on the people attacked to resist it and then upon the commitments of the entire world under the Charter of the United Nations." The question was whether the Communist bloc would construe this statement as a definite American commitment to help defend Taiwan and Korea if they came under attack.
In the case of Korea, the question would be answered in June 1950 following the armed invasion of the Republic of Korea by forces of the Soviet satellite above the 38th parallel. Until then, with the emergence of a bipolar world, the USSR and its satellites on one side, the United States and its allies on the other, the United States had responded with a policy of containing the political ambitions of the Communist bloc with the objective of deterring an outbreak of war. But by mid-1950 the United States had not yet backed that policy with a matching military establishment.
page updated 27 April 2001
Return to the Table of Contents
Return to CMH Online